Reading & Language Arts

Our reading program supports and challenges students at developmentally appropriate levels as they progress along the path to becoming lifelong readers. Through a solid foundation of reading strategies, techniques, and responsive assessments, students’ reading abilities develop as they explore a culturally diverse collection of fiction and non-fiction texts. As students proceed through to Middle School, they use those foundational skills to engage texts through critical analysis and discussion.

As writers, students follow a similar path. All students are writers; from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, each student develops as a critic and story teller by learning the writing process. Using Writing Workshop, we emphasize both grammatical precision and the development of personal expression. Teachers work with students one-on-one and in whole class workshops, discussing strengths and areas of growth as students develop their voices. We emphasize editing and revising as key elements of improvement. Through this reflective process, students become thoughtful and creative writers. 

List of 10 items.

  • Pre-kindergarten

    The pre-kindergarten program exposes students to many pre-reading skills. Using engaging and multi-sensory strategies, teachers lead students in learning letter sounds and names. The children enjoy using this knowledge to associate words with particular sounds and letters. Through songs, pictures, body motions, and read-alouds, the students learn to explore books independently and with their classmates. Working one-on-one, teachers assess students' pre-reading skills and select activities that will help them grow as a reader. This exploration helps children develop their phonemic awareness and love of books.
  • Kindergarten

    As students emerge as readers, the kindergarten reading and writing program emphasizes supporting students in their particular developmental reading level. Using the Reading Workshop model, students build their foundational skills such as decoding text by reading alongside the teacher, listening to stories read aloud, word work, and independent reading time. Word work, such as sorting words by sound and manipulating word segments, supports development of phonemic awareness and phonics. Using the Writing Workshop model, teachers work with students in group and one-on-one settings to support each student’s growth. While learning how to form letters, space words on the page, and write sentences, kindergartners publish their first book. Students are encouraged to tell their stories and to notice the words and rhythms authors use to write stories. By going back to their work and adding details such as picture labels and titles, kindergarten writers learn early on that revision is part of the writing process. Students experience a wide range of mentor texts including fictional stories, informative works, and opinion pieces.
  • First Grade

    First graders continue to develop their abilities in phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Using the Reading Workshop model, through activities such as partner reading, readers’ theatre, independent reading, and group discussions, students experience texts from a variety of genres and cultures. Students continue to develop their handwriting as well. As writers, first graders continue to work in the Writing Workshop model, learning grammatical constructions as they author original pieces in genres such as opinion, information, and narrative. Students learn the formal writing process to develop their pieces. They begin with brainstorming, then produce drafts that are edited and revised, and finally published as final works.
  • Second Grade

    Building on work in kindergarten and first grades, students refine reading skills and focus on higher order comprehension such as making inferences and drawing conclusions. Continuing in the Reading Workshop model, reading is taught through guided reading with the teacher, independent reading, partner reading, and read-alouds. Comprehension is enhanced through class discussion and written responses to literature. Students begin to notice author's craft by exploring the patterns in books in a series and the elements of mystery writing. Both the book series and mystery units are often favorites, especially when readers get hooked by a series and can't wait to pick up the next book. In Writing Workshop, students study mentor texts in a variety of genres and create a yearlong portfolio of their own work. Students compose personal narratives, fictional stories, persuasive essays, poetry, and research reports. As part of the writing process, second graders study and apply grammar and punctuation. Expanding vocabulary is a focus in both reading and writing throughout the year.
  • Third Grade

    Third graders explore a variety of genres including historical fiction, mysteries, nonfiction, and the hero’s journey. They read and compare several books within a genre, looking for patterns and deeper meanings. Our hope is that each reader finds a book or series that is hard to put down. A major goal is for third graders to make observations about a character or story and back them up with text evidence. Students read independently, with partners, and in book clubs, often using sticky notes to mark important passages to share during discussions. They also write responses in their readers’ notebooks. By reading books with the eye of a writer, students improve reading comprehension and writing skills. Writing Workshop closely follows the genre study in Reading Workshop. While reading nonfiction, third graders write nonfiction reports, with a clear main idea and supporting details. After reading fairy tales and fractured fairy tales, students write their own fairy tale twists. In addition, they write personal narratives, expository pieces, persuasive writing, and poetry. Students gather ideas, write first drafts, revise, edit, and publish several pieces throughout the year. They work one-on-one with the teacher and in peer-editing groups to revise and edit their work. Students learn to incorporate feedback into their final drafts, and learn to provide constructive feedback to peers.   The study of grammar and punctuation is an important part of the writing process. Third graders continue to work on conventional spelling and building vocabulary by focusing their word study on syllables, prefixes, suffixes, and base words. Cursive handwriting and keyboarding are introduced. 
  • Fourth Grade

    In fourth grade, Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, handwriting, keyboarding, grammar, and word study expands on the lessons and genre studies introduced in third grade. Fourth graders read novels representing a diversity of characters and settings, genres, themes, and literary techniques. They respond to reading through group discussions, oral presentations, and writing in their reader's notebook. Notebooks include letters to their teachers about both their independent reading and their book club reading. The goal is to form ideas about the reading, supported by evidence from the text. In addition to formal letters, reader's notebooks contain notes about reading strategies, ideas, and observations about the text to bring to class or partner discussion. A highlight of fourth grade reading is performing a play based on either a book read during class or a myth connected to ancient cultures. Students frequently create props or write additional scenes for the plays. As in third grade, the genres studied in Writing Workshop often parallel the genres read in Reading Workshop and/or social studies. Genres include personal narrative, expository writing, persuasive writing, fiction, and poetry. Using the Writer’s Workshop model, students work one-on-one with the teacher and in peer-editing groups to revise and edit their work. They learn to incorporate feedback into their final drafts, and learn to provide constructive feedback to peers. Two teachers work as a team during RLA classes to differentiate instruction and to facilitate one-on-one and small-group revision work. Grammar and mechanics are addressed through stand-alone lessons and through editing and revision work. Prefixes, suffixes, base words, and syllables are the foundation of word study. Fourth graders practice cursive handwriting, publishing at least one written piece in cursive. Students also continue to practice keyboarding and publish at least one written piece using a laptop. Fourth grade readers and writers develop a heightened awareness of the choices authors make and the craft of writing.
  • Fifth Grade

    Transitioning to Middle School, fifth graders build on the skills they have developed from the Lower School. Students continue to develop their close reading of texts, annotation skills, and participation in group discussions. Additionally, they focus on building their stamina as readers. The study of literature focuses around particular thematic issues including prejudice, perseverance, and justice. Students engage in group discussions using the School’s online Learning Management System, and continue to develop their writing skills through peer editing, one-on-one teacher conferences, and refining their own editing process. Students also continue to explore new genres of writing, and build on skills and content developed in the lower school program.
  • Sixth Grade

    In sixth grade, students address questions like, “How does literature bring its readers to a deeper and more complex understanding of the world?” Students read a wide variety of genres written for young adult readers. Selections range from fantasy to historical fiction; through class discussions and seminars, students engage the texts through multiple lenses. The writing program in sixth grade encourages students to reflect on different types of writing and apply the appropriate form to the correct audience. Students write frequently, with assignments ranging from the personal narrative to informational and persuasive pieces. Through mini-lessons and one-on-one conferences, students continue to refine and develop their understanding and application of grammar. Poetry Day, an opportunity to perform is a highlight of the year for the entire Norwood community.
  • Seventh Grade

    In seventh grade English class, students approach their study of literature through a thematic perspective, asking questions like, “How do individuals preserve their cultural identity and find their voices in society?” Students read texts closely and critically and produce analytical, expository, and creative responses to those texts. Among other texts, students take a deep dive into To Kill a Mockingbird, engaging in a close, detailed reading of the book. With small class sizes, teachers lead students in Socratic-style discussions of themes and issues. Using a diverse and wide selection of texts, students demonstrate their learning through a variety of projects and assessments, including literary analysis, scriptwriting, filmmaking, poetry, and letter writing. 
  • Eighth Grade

    Similar to seventh grade, eighth grade English approaches the study of literature thematically. Reading many of the great and diverse voices of the 20th century, students read works in major genres: novels, essays, plays, short stories, nonfiction, and poetry. Students read texts like The House on Mango Street, using the book as a vehicle to develop close reading and discussion skills. The writing program continues to develop grammatical precision in conjunction with narrative voice. Through the Writing Workshop model, students reflect on the strengths and structure of mentor texts, and apply those observations to their own works. Students collaborate as peer editors, and continue to revise and edit works through one-on-one conferencing with their teacher.
Reading and Language Arts in the Lower School (grades K-4) is taught by homeroom teachers in addition to the following teachers. See grade-level pages for a list of homeroom teachers.

List of 7 members.

  • Photo of Carole Freret

    Carole Freret 

    Sixth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    Smith College - B.A.
    Georgetown University Law Center - J.D.
  • Photo of John McCune

    Jack McCune 

    Sixth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    Boston University - B.A.
  • Photo of Janet McDermott

    Janet McDermott 

    Middle School English Teacher and Advisor
    University of New Hampshire - B.A.
    Trinity University - M.A.T.
  • Photo of Sally Morsy

    Sally Morsy 

    Fifth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    University of Oklahoma - B.A.
  • Photo of Susan O'Connell

    Susan O'Connell 

    Middle School English Teacher and Advisor
    Gettysburg College - B.A.
    Virginia Polytechnic Institute - M.A.Ed.
  • Photo of Tara Reilly

    Tara Reilly 

    Fifth Grade Homeroom Advisor
    University of Pennsylvania - B.A.
    Bridgewater State College - M.Ed.
  • Photo of Victoria Wilbur

    Victoria Wilbur 

    Sixth Grade Homeroom Advisor and Middle School Reading and Language Arts Coordinator
    Dickinson College - B.A.
    University of Virginia - M.A.
Located in Bethesda, MD, Norwood School develops students in grades PK-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.