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The goals of the English Standards of Learning are to teach students to read and to prepare students to participate in society as literate citizens, equipped with the ability to communicate effectively in their communities, in the work place, and in postsecondary education. As students progress through the school years, they become active and involved listeners and develop a full command of the English language, evidenced by their use of standard English and their rich speaking and writing vocabularies.
Students become competent readers of a variety of print materials and are encouraged to acquire a lifelong love of reading. In kindergarten through third grade, the primary goal is to teach all students to read fluently and to comprehend a variety of fiction and nonfiction selections that relate to all areas of the curriculum. In fourth through twelfth grades, students continue to acquire and refine strategies for comprehending and analyzing selections that encompass all literary types, exemplify universal themes, and relate to all subjects. Students in high school become familiar with exemplary authors and classic literary works.
Proficient use of the English language enables students to explore and articulate the complex issues and ideas encountered in public and personal life. Students acquire the ability to make full and effective use of the written language in their future educational, occupational, and personal endeavors.
Organization of the English Standards of Learning
Standards for kindergarten through eighth grade are organized in three related strands: Oral Language, Reading, and Writing. Standards for ninth through twelfth grades are organized in four related strands: Oral Language, Reading Analysis, Writing, and Research. Each grade level is preceded by an overview that describes the major concepts and skills that each student will be expected to understand and demonstrate. The standards reflect a comprehensive instructional program and document a progression of expected achievement in each of the strands. This organization of standards also reflects the gradual progression in the development of skills.
Oral Language includes speaking and listening. In the early grades, students learn to participate in classroom discussion. Over the course of several grade levels, students learn to prepare and deliver presentations and to critique them in order to improve delivery. Students’ homes and cultural languages are the starting point for all language learning; however, competency in the use of standard English is the goal for all students. Therefore, daily speaking opportunities, both formal and informal, should be a part of every English curriculum.
Reading begins with an awareness of the concepts of print and the sounds and structure of oral and written language. Students in the primary grades acquire a strong foundation in phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension strategies. Students continue to study the structure of words and language and refine comprehension strategies throughout all grades. In the middle-school and high-school grades, students focus on the analysis of what they read and the application of what they learn. Daily oral language and reading experiences are essential for all students. Students’ appreciation for literature is enhanced by frequent interaction with a broad array of classic and contemporary literature, which engages the reading skills of students and invites them to develop an appreciation for the power and beauty of the written word.
Writing begins with letter formation and the use of letters to represent speech sounds. From kindergarten through twelfth grade, students become increasingly aware of the structure of language and the writing process. Improvement in written communication is achieved through frequent opportunities to apply narrative, persuasive, expository, and technical skills. Daily reading, writing, and oral language experiences are essential for all students. The combination of teachers reading aloud and of students selecting reading materials is necessary in helping students develop a lifelong reading habit and an appreciation for literature.
Research standards are also developed across grade levels. In grades nine through twelve, research is a separate strand. In kindergarten through eighth grade, research skills are incorporated in the reading and writing strands. Through these standards, students learn to acquire information from a variety of sources to use in planning and delivering presentations and reports.
Student learning is enhanced through the use of computer technology. Data access, retrieval, and processing support instruction in reading, writing, and research. In composition, word processing programs allow students to check spelling, grammar, and style to revise drafts. Information technology is an integral part of student research and helps students produce effective written and oral presentations. However, the use of computer-aided spelling and grammar is not a substitute for learning the rules of English.
Although the strands are developed separately, they are integrated in the classroom. Proficiency in reading, writing, listening, speaking, and research skills allows students to learn and to use knowledge to make meaningful connections between their lives and academic disciplines. There should be a concerted effort to relate required reading selections in English to studies in other core subjects, including mathematics, science, and history and social science. Standards that incorporate rigor in English help students develop the expected performance competencies.