The goal of the Language Arts Department of East Catholic School is central to understanding the focus of language arts instruction in the school. Five key components drive our goal: Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening and Viewing. While these five pillars are anchored in strong traditional principles of language instruction, they have become even more central to the development of information and technology today and into the future. Each component is structured in a manner consistent with specific grade requirements, and in line with PA Department of Education Standards and the Department for Catholic Education guidelines.
Broadly, the elementary Language Arts curriculum for the Diocese of Pittsburgh has been developed to enable each student to be introduced to language as a viable form of communication, as an invaluable skill, and an art to be enjoyed. Students in grades K-5 center on an integrated approach to Language Arts, developing necessary skills essential for success, including phonetic skills. Students in grades 6-8 learn an appreciation of literature with skillful authors who vicariously open new worlds of adventure, of far off places, times long past, and modern trends of good reading. Having developed a love for good literature, this aesthetic element overflows into the student’s personal oral and written expression.
This segment introduces students to core concepts of comprehension and interpretation of texts, by building on the fundamentals of alphabet recognition introduced at the very basic level (Grade K) while identifying basic styles in sentence structure and basic grammar and phonetic pronunciation of complex words. These concepts are reinforced with practice quizzes, tests, both oral and written. At a predetermined point, speed reading is introduced to enhance and test how quickly students grasp main ideas in texts and how to make connections between specific texts and questions, directly or implied.
The basic techniques of alphabetic character formation are critical who a student’s ability to write clearly and legibly. There is a strict adherence to proper character formation. East Catholic School believes that writing manually, that is, forming traditional habits of writing using basic writing tools, even amidst the fast-paced technological environment, are critical to a student’s ability to conceptualize, think logically and present ideas formally. We differentiate for instance between what can be said, and what is written. We use a variety of basic writing style s and genres of literature, consistent with all grade levels to reinforce this segment of language arts. In Grade 2, we introduce students to the cursive writing style and regularly switch between that and the printing style, until the student chooses the style they are most adept at or comfortable with.
Speaking and Listening
An important function of language is communication. Communication takes places when information is exchanged meaningfully. Speech and voice techniques are constantly a part of how we train our students. By designing in-class oral assignments which organize students to take turns, while participating actively in structured activities, we enable and enhance student aptitudes in speech and listening. We also use a variety of electronic devices to reinforce these abilities. We have specialized speech and other learning techniques for special needs students. Student have additional opportunities to develop public and other speech skills, and build their public confidence, through activities like drama (Shakespearean and other classical work), poetry and participating in bidding prayers during Mass.
Rapid technological advances have dramatically expanded ways in which language and art are used as a medium of communication and as an art form respectively. In a modern context that means the combination of not only the written and spoken word, but also the visual. It is now the rule, not the exception, to enhance language with visual effects, through what humans see in the form of still images and videos; and how people process and interpret that information. Therefore we reinforce our instruction with media appropriate for each grade level.
Language students learn the sounds and syntax of the language and work toward proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students are also introduced to culture. A variety of materials and methods are used for instruction.
Students in grades 1-4 have Spanish once a week, using video tapes – Espanol Para Ti. Students in grades 5-8 learn Spanish online with Duolingo. Duolingo is an online foreign language learning service developed right here in Pittsburgh. Students are working toward proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing of the language. Some students qualify for year two of the language in high school.