English Language Arts

Students in Kindergarten through Fifth grades receive 120 minutes of ELA instruction daily. A balanced literacy approach is used at Shepherd for English Language Arts. This approach is to provide students with opportunities to engage in a wide variety of texts, writing opportunities and speaking and listening activities and to differentiate learning experiences to meet the literacy needs of all students. The components of the literacy block include Foundational Skills, Reading, Research and Writing, and Small Group Literacy.


Foundational Literacy Curriculum: Heggerty and Fundations

With Heggerty, students in Kindergarten receive daily Phonemic Awareness instruction. All activities are auditory and include the skills below aligned to Common Core State Standards:
  • Rhyming
  • Identifying beginning sounds
  • Identifying ending sounds
  • Identifying middle sounds
  • Adding phonemes (or syllables, words, etc.)
  • Deleting phonemes (or syllables, words, etc.)
  • Substituting phonemes (or syllables, words, etc.)
  • Blending phonemes
  • Segmenting words

Fundations is a systematic phonics, spelling, and handwriting program that is facilitated in our kindergarten to second grade classrooms. Fundations is taught in the whole-class setting, but can also be taught in a small group or 1:1 setting, for students who may require additional time for learning in these areas.

Key features of this program include the following, and are presented from Unit to Unit and year to year:

  • Instruction in Letter formation, using scripted language of “sky line, plane line, grass line, worm line”
  • Instruction in Phonological Awareness
  • Instruction in Sound-symbol Correspondence knowledge, teaching students a letter name, its key word, and its sound(s)
  • Instruction in Phonics, word study, and advanced word study
  • Irregular (trick) word instruction (for both reading and spelling)
  • Vocabulary
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension strategies
  • Written composition (spelling and handwriting)

Reading, Research, and Writing: Passport to Learning

Passport to Learning is our DCPS ELA Curriculum. For K-5 ELA studies, the year is divided into comprehensive segments that utilize different books following a similar theme. At Shepherd, K-5 students engage in units of study with an inquiry approach to learning skills aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and gain deeper understanding of the world in which we live. Students also participate in authentic experiences and field trips that support the units. Each unit cumulates with an overarching cornerstone or IB project. 
Small Group Literacy
Students receive explicit targeted instruction in small groups based on children's observed and assessed needs in specific aspects of literacy development including decoding, vocabulary, comprehension skills, and more. During this component of the literacy block, students also engage independent literacy activities to support reading and writing skills previously taught. Students rotate through work stations such as Independent Reading, Writing, Word Work, Inquiry, Oral Language, and Fluency. Students are putting skills into practice through games and various activities.