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Grades 9-12

High School English Language Arts Overview

The English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum is a standards-based curriculum for all students. The curriculum is designed to increase the amount of reading and writing done in the English Language Arts classroom while meeting the demands of the Common Core State Standards. The curriculum consists of the teaching of core texts using strategies that engage students in reading, writing, listening, speaking, thinking, and communicating. Motivation to extend student reading is provided through independent reading. The Independent Reading model offers a choice of interesting texts at various levels of challenge while still extending students’ literacy skills and providing rigor. The writing in the ELA classroom includes both formal writing such as informative/explanatory, narrative and argument, and informal writing such as personal responses to texts. The formal writing takes place during class and outside of the classroom whereas the informal writing occurs daily inside the classroom and as homework. The purpose of the informal writing is to deepen students’ understanding of the text and genre.

Philosophy of Teaching and Instruction

The goal of the English Language Arts (ELA) program of the Stamford Public Schools is to produce a diverse community of critical and creative thinkers and to promote intellectual autonomy and scholarship for all students. As members of learning communities, students become strong, deep independent thinkers and learners through the language experiences of reading, writing, and collaborating. By engaging in collaborative classroom experiences, students transform information into knowledge and experience into understanding. Active engagement in ELA classes develops students as thoughtful readers of literature and nonfiction texts who gain insights about the human condition, appreciate the power of language, and gain a broad range of interpretive strategies as they read and analyze texts. Students exchange ideas about their reading and thinking in a variety of forms, fostering interpretation that reflects multiple perspectives. Students develop as strong, proficient writers who use writing to discover what they think, to develop and extend their thinking, and to communicate ideas to varied and specific audiences.

There are three major shifts in ELA/Literacy that have accounted for in our curriculum in order to meet the requirements of the Common Core State Standards:

  • Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction.
  • Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational.
  • Regular practice with complex text and its academic language.

Our curriculum includes core texts and plays that require our students to grapple with rich and complex texts and examine the nuances of language. Fiction remains a staple of the ELA classroom and array of content-rich literary nonfiction has been added to our grade-level text requirements in order meet the requirements for Common Core State Standards.

In our ELA classrooms, reader response tools are utilized on a regular basis. Students write to learn as they respond to journal-type prompts that ask them to activate prior knowledge, generate ideas, and react/respond. These informal writing moments propel the students into discussions about texts and the world around them that allow them to move forward with analysis. Formal writing is taught as a process, delving into the variety of stages that lead from a kernel of an idea to the final, polished product. Students brainstorm, draft, revise, edit and publish final versions of their formal essays. Giving and receiving feedback throughout those stages is integral to this writing process.

Our curriculum requires students to write in the following modes:

  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Research is a major focus of the Common Core State Standards and therefore a major focus of our curriculum at the secondary level. The Common Core State Standards states that our charge is to teach students to “research to build and present knowledge.” 

How Parents Can Support their Child

Encouraging your child to provide evidence of his/her opinion and conclusion in everyday discussions is helping your child meet one of the key standards of the Common Core State Standards.  

Some resources that your child can read at home are as follows:

  • Scholarly magazines
    • The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, etc.
  • Newspapers
    • The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc.
  • Literary Nonfiction
    • memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, etc.
  • Primary Source Documents
    • historical literature, Presidential speeches, etc.

Encourage your child to have a pencil, post-its, notebook, or any other method of recording thoughts and observations while reading. Some ideas as to what your child can record are as follows:

  • Questions
  • Unfamiliar vocabulary
  • Striking images and/or details
  • “Loaded” phrases
  • The “Ah ha!” moments
  • Opinions (for, against or qualifying)

Click here for more information on how to support your child.