English / Language Arts
PUSD bases its core instruction on California State “Standards and Benchmarks” for each academic curriculum, including English / Language Arts. The following is an excerpt from the introduction to English and Language Arts Framework and Standards from the California State Board of Education.
An Essential Discipline
The ability to communicate well – to read, write, listen, and speak – runs to the core of human experience. Language skills are essential tools not only because they serve as the necessary basis for further learning and career development but also because they enable the human spirit to be enriched, foster responsible citizenship, and preserve the collective memory of a nation.
Students who read well learn the tempo and structure of language early in their development. They master vocabulary, variance in expression, and organization and skill in marshaling evidence to support an idea. National Institutes of Health studies indicate that students who are behind in reading in grade three have only a 12 to 20 percent chance of ever catching up.
Fluent Readers and Skilled Writers
Students must read a broad variety of quality texts to develop proficiency in, and derive pleasure from, the act of reading. Students must also have experience in a broad range of writing applications, from the poetic to the technical.
Musicians cannot compose concertos (or play those composed by others) without first learning the scales and practicing them as well as reading and playing the music of the great composers who have survived the test of time. The same is true of young readers and writers and their relationships with the great writers who have preceded them.
Reading and writing technical materials, moreover, are critical life skills. Participation in society – filling out forms, voting, understanding the daily newspaper – requires solid reading and writing competencies. Similarly, most jobs demand the abilities to read and write well. Collegiate and technical courses generally require a high level of proficiency in both abilities. In an emergency, reading and writing with speed and accuracy may literally mean the difference between life and death.
Reading and writing offer the power to inform and to enlighten as well as to bridge time and place. For example, interpreting and creating literary texts help students to understand the people who have lived before them and to participate in, and contribute to, a common literary heritage. Through literature, moreover, students experience the unique history of the United States in an immediate way and encounter many cultures that exist both within and beyond this nation’s borders. Through reading and writing students may share perspectives on enduring questions, understand and learn how to impart essential information, and even obtain a glimpse of human motivation. Reading and writing offer incomparable experiences of shared conflict, wisdom, understanding, and beauty.
In selecting both literary and informational texts for required reading and in giving writing assignments (as well as in helping students choose their own reading and writing experiences), local governing boards, schools, and teachers should take advantage of every opportunity to link that reading and writing to other core curricula, including history, social science, mathematics, and science. By understanding and creating literary and technical writing, students explore the interrelationships of their own existence with those of others.
Students need to read and write often, particularly in their early academic careers. Reading and writing something of literary or technical substance in all disciplines, every day, both in and out of school, are the principal goals of these standards.
Confident Speakers and Thoughtful Listeners
Speaking and listening skills have never been more important. Most Americans now talk for a living at least part of the time. The abilities to express ideas cogently and to construct valid and truthful arguments are as important to speaking well as to writing well. Honing the ability to express defensible reflections about literature will ensure comprehension and understanding. Not long ago listening and speaking occupied central places in the curriculum, but only a few schools have maintained this tradition. The time has come to restore it.
A Comprehensive Synergy Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are not disembodied skills. Each exists in context and in relation to the others. These skills must not be taught independently of one another. Rather, they need to be developed in the context of a rich, substantive core curriculum that is geared not only toward achieving these standards per se but also toward applying language arts skills to achieve success in other curricular areas. The good news is that reading, writing, listening, and speaking are skills that invariably improve with study and practice. Mastery of these standards will ensure that children in California enter the worlds of higher education and the workplace armed with the tools they need to be literate, confident communicators.