St. Paul’s Academy Develops Strong Writers
The small class sizes at St. Paul’s Academy mean that student work is checked, edited, and revised constantly. One of the signature highlights of a St. Paul’s Academy student is that as a collective school we develop very proficient, confident, and capable writers.
This essential foundation begins in our preschool with students’ consistent exposure to letters, sounds, and sight words.
In Kindergarten, literacy is focused on each and every day (students read at their own reading level). Students work on publishing regularly throughout the year as they learn the writing process step-by-step, and journal stories are edited and shared with the class. Kindergarten student Lucy G. commented, “I like that we can publish books and write about topics we are interested in. I write about my favorite stuffie, family, elephants, field trips, and animals.”
In second grade, students build on what they have learned about sentences to now format a proper paragraph. They do this by using the metaphor of a hamburger. The top bun represents the topic sentence, the fillings of the hamburger all of the details, and the bottom bun is the concluding sentence. Second-grade student Max N. commented, “I learned that in second grade you have to start each sentence in different ways, and a paragraph has a beginning, middle details, and closing statement.”
Starting in fifth grade in our middle school program, writing is taught through exposure to classical literature. All students learn how to summarize stories they read, which offers a gateway to the writing process, even for reluctant writers. All summaries are edited and students are expected to revise their work. For example, the fifth graders have been very busy in literature and language arts the past two weeks. They have read “Greyling,” by Jane Yolen; “Abuelito Who,” by Sandra Cisneros; “The Open Road,” by Walt Whitman; “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me,” by Maya Angelou; and “Who Knows if the Moon’s,” by E. E. Cummings. In their reading strategies, they have recently discussed how predicting and drawing inferences help them understand their readings. Their literary analyses discussed conflict, plot resolution, and free verse. Their spelling strategies covered the uff sound spelled ough and how to spell compound transition words.
In middle school, grammar and vocabulary skills are enhanced with Wordly Wise and Write Source, which cover parts of speech, sentence construction, and mechanics. Armand G., a current 6th grader stated, “Moving on from 5th grade, I feel like I understand punctuation and can write a comprehensive essay regarding one subject that avoids fragmented sentences.”
Through consistent feedback, instruction, and guidance, our eight grade students are producing truly high quality pieces of writing. Eight grade student Cate W. commented, “I began learning how to write for an audience and know how to apply the writing process with Mr. Rodrigo’s guidance. Our school is lucky to have someone with over 15 years of publishing experience. Did you know that she is writing a science fiction novel and wakes up at 4 A.M. almost everyday to write?”