Writing is powerful, but for students with language-based learning differences, it presents a daunting challenge. This is why our English classes emphasize explicit writing instruction. At Greenwood, our students learn that writing is a form of self-exploration and expression, a tool for learning and discovery, and ultimately a way to leave one’s mark on the world.
Writing is also highly demanding, drawing on more simultaneous cognitive processes than any other academic activity our students face. At Greenwood, we provide our students with highly structured writing instruction that breaks down these demands into a manageable, predictable process. We teach the writing process by repeatedly working through the steps of prewriting, organizing, writing, editing, revising, and publishing. With each new writing form introduced, students analyze and deconstruct model pieces. Teachers demonstrate the process before repeating the steps collaboratively with students. Finally, students use the strategies that work best for them to complete the process on their own.
Over time, our students gain stamina and develop a personal writing process that employs traditional methods along with technological strategies. We believe it is vital to teach our students how technology supports the writing process. With this instruction, our students change their minds about what writing entails.
Initially, many of our students believe putting their thoughts on paper is the final product. At Greenwood, students learn that working through a set of predictable steps often results in unpredicted ideas and outcomes which necessitate extensive rewriting. For students who struggle with the demands of writing, it takes time to build a firm trust in this process. However, with this trust, students not only gain confidence in writing, but they come to see themselves as writers.
While English class at Greenwood is heavily focused on diagnostic prescriptive writing instruction, academic writing is largely based on text analysis, so reading is, of course, an important part of the curriculum as well. Using a variety of literary and expository texts, teachers build theme-based units with a clear progression of skills with increasing text complexity.
Teachers draw from classic works of literature as well as new material that is timely and relevant to the students’ interests and lives. Teachers are not bound to a fixed set of texts or curriculum and lessons are flexible, following organic strands of inquiry and interest. Starting with a base framework of four categories - Reading for Meaning, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language - teachers pursue objectives based on common core standards but also have the flexibility to adjust the amount of work spent on developing specific skills depending on the individual needs of the students in each class. This is the benefit of small classes and diagnostic prescriptive teaching.
We meet students at their current level and develop specific lessons in order to close the skills gap. However, this is not accomplished at the expense of academic rigor. Our goal is to maintain a healthy balance of challenge, accommodation, and remediation in order to ultimately prepare our students for postsecondary demands in reading and writing and to foster a positive, enriching outlook on the written word.
- High School English
- Theme-based course examples:
- HS ENGL - People and Power
- HS ENGL - Finding our Voices
- HS ENGL - Responses to Change
- HS ENGL - World Perspectives
- HS ENGL - Transformations
- Creative Writing (Poetry, Playwriting, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction)
- Advanced Literature examples:
- Ihuman - Exploring what it means to be human through the study of science fiction.
- Dramatic Literature - Survey of drama from ancient Greek comedy and tragedy to modern works for the stage and screen.