Enrichment English at SchoolPlus by Elizabeth Breau, North Brunswick
K-8 English classes at School-Plus offer an excellent enrichment curriculum that has been designed to address all aspects of English/Language Arts: reading comprehension, writing, critical thinking, vocabulary and grammar. Classes are small and each child receives individualized attention.
Designed to address the difficulties of ever-changing school curricula and standards, our classes prepare students to perform on the highest level by presenting well-written, thoughtful workbooks and a wide range of writing assignments that prepare children to express themselves clearly and fluently in a variety of formats, including persuasive, expository, personal narrative and creative writing. For example, children may be asked to imagine themselves stranded on a desert island, challenged to write a series of clues in a mystery, or to focus on secondary characters in a book we are reading.
Since very few children read enough these days, School-Plus has replaced texts that provide children with short excerpts from longer books with a "whole book" philosophy that encourages students to think about entire stories in depth and in details. Our reading materials include classics such as Old Yeller, Caddie Woodlawn, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series as well as contemporary must-reads such as the Harry Potter series, Inkheart and Dragon Rider. These action-packed adventure stories are stimulating and fun to read; in fact, some children speed through these books so quickly that they do not retain much of what they have read! We read (or reread) the books more slowly as a class, using a detail-focused approach that asks children to focus on plot details, story structure, characterization and theme. In the second book in the Harry Potter series, for example, children are asked to think about how J. K. Rowling creates such suspenseful plots with questions such as, "How is the enchanted car an example of effective foreshadowing?" These answers are read aloud, discussed, and even debated in class.
Children are asked to do 1-2 hours of homework every week. Typically, this includes the reading assignments discussed above, vocabulary, grammar, and writing. Answers are shared and checked in class in a round-robin discussion format that encourages active participation from each child.
We recognize that School-Plus is designed as an enrichment program and that children may need to prioritize school homework or other commitments from time to time. However, we also know that completing assignments is key to a child's ability to benefit from the class. In time, even the most reluctant children generally begin to complete more assignments so that they, too, can participate when the class reviews work or shares writing.
Children enjoy our classes and become much more enthusiastic about reading and writing. Many parents have proudly reported that their children earned top scores on PARCC and that their children have been placed in the Gifted and Talented programs at their schools.
ENRICHMENT IN WRITING
"Write a paragraph about a girl named Dot--without using any letters that have dots (in other words, no "i" and no "j").*
This challenge, and others like it, asks children to think creatively about their word usage. For example, the rules prevent writing, "There was a girl named Dot," and force alternate wording: "Dot was seven years old. She loved to play soccer. She also took ballet after school on Thursdays."
"Tell an entire story in two sentences. It must have a beginning, middle and an end."
"There was a boy named Matt who loved chocolate. One day he went with his school to Hershey Park and had a wonderful time."
Most kids write something like the above description when they first attempt to complete this assignment. After sharing their work in an open class discussion, they realize that the story contains neither a problem nor a solution; they gain deeper insight into story structure and are more likely to produce something like this:
"When Matt, who loved chocolate, went with his school to Hershey Park, he got lost because he was too busy eating chocolate. While he waited to be found, he ate so much chocolate that he felt sick and was very happy when the teacher found him."
ENRICHMENT IN READING
Our reading curriculum consists of popular children's classics and bestsellers, books that excite children and make them enthusiastic about reading. Questions about the weekly reading ask children to use their critical thinking skills by asking "how" and "why" more often than they ask "what." Sharing their answers in class generates eager participation, even heated debate, and our biggest problem is preventing "spoilers" from kids who read ahead!
Compare/contrast: The authors of both Misty of Chincoteague and The Black Stallion both include ships that sink at sea during terrible storms. Why do you think that is? What do these storms add to the stories?
Self-to-Text: "The Island," is mostly about Alec's search for food. Can you imagine having nothing to eat but berries, fish if you can catch them, and carrageen? Write a paragraph of at least 5 sentences speculating about what it would be like for a picky eater to be in Alec's situation.
Alternative Storytelling: Professor Snape is a BULLY! You can only imagine how awful he makes Harry feel! What would you say to Professor Snape if you were his target? What would you say to defend Harry? MUST BE APPROPRIATE LANGUAGE--but GOOD VOCABULARY lets you say what you want without being inappropriate.
Test Prep: Find 5 examples of figurative language in this chapter. List them and explain how they add to the suspense and emotion of the story. (Look for simile, metaphor, personification and imagery.)
Test Prep: How does the Black respond to his chance to run on the racetrack? Use RACE writing to answer this question.**
**RACE is an acronym for "Restate, Answer, Cite, Explain/Extend" a popular method used to teach children how to write complete, document-based answers about what they read.
Below are some examples of actual answers to discussion questions:
About Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague (3rd grade)
How do the ponies react to the island of Assateague? How is it different from Spain? How do they adapt to its weather? What other challenges do they face?
The ponies were happy and joyful to be on the island of Assateague. The island is different from Spain because the island is wild and wild. The ponies adopted the colder winter by huddling together and growing thick coats. The leaves under the ice stay green and the ponies ate them through the winter. The other challenged they faced were flies, which were pesky and annoying. The ponies were swatting them with their tails.
About Fred Gipson's Old Yeller: (5th grade)
How does Old Yeller tame Spot?
As Spot tries to chase Travis she crashes into the bushes as Old Yeller rolls her into the bushes. Then when Spot gets up she is very hypnotized not knowing what to do. Then suddenly she sees Old Yeller and chases him. Old Yeller runs as he is scared to death and gets in the thicket and is coming behind spot. Suddenly Old Yeller jumps up and bites on Spot's nose, which makes him fall down with all four legs dangling up with no energy left. So Spot gives up and didn't turn against Travis and Old Yeller anymore.
About J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (4th grade)
What do you think the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures will decide to do about Buckbeak? Is Hagrid right to despair? Give evidence to support your opinion.
I think the Committee of Disposal of Dangerous Creatures is going to kill Buckbeak. He bit Malfoy, and therefor he hurt a student. Hagrid was accountable for it, but he warned Malfoy that hippogriffs are sensitive. Malfoy didn't listen and went on. It was Malfoy's fault, and just because of him Hagrid may get fired and Buckbeak killed. No matter what Hagrid tries to do, Buckbeak will be gone.