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White Plains Public Schools

At the elementary level, the elements and features of our ELA Program and our instructional framework contribute to enabling children to meet our ELA expectations in the following ways:


Examples of Instructional Contributions

Receptive Literacy


Is a responsive and critical listener
The most common definition of listening is ‘paying attention' or ‘following directions.' These are important behavioral aspects of listening, but for us, listening is primarily cognitive. So we define understanding what is heard as the ability to understand, organize, synthesize, apply and respond to information that is heard.

We define critical listening as the student's ability to analyze and evaluate what is heard, to be able to discriminate between what's significant and what isn't. Finally, we define responsive listening as the student's ability to listen with empathy, considering other points of view. This attribute serves students well wherever information is transmitted orally and has to be understood and acted upon.

  • Explicitly teach and model good listening skills in ELA and across the curriculum.
  • Engage students in building productive habits of mind in critical and responsive thinking, listening (and reading)

What do I already know about this topic?

Whose point of view is this?

What evidence is there to support this point of view?

What other points of view are there? Why does this matter?


Decodes and reads fluently and expressively
By reads fluently, we mean that a student is able to decode continuous text at an appropriate level using reading strategies at a rate that allows accuracy and good comprehension. This includes understanding basic conventions of print, recognizing letters of the alphabet and knowing their sounds, demonstrating phonemic awareness (awareness of the alphabetic basis for the language; the ability to hear, identify and manipulate sounds in spoken words), recognizing sight words (high-frequency words that a reader instantly recognizes without having to sound them out), and having a good basic understanding of text.

We further believe that reading expressively is a valuable skill both in school (e.g., being able to read aloud to peers or a wider audience) and beyond (e.g., reading to one's family). Reading expressively contributes to reading comprehension and provides evidence of understanding.

We expect that reading fluency will be attained by all students by the end of second grade. By the end of second grade, this expectation would only apply to students who have not yet attained it (i.e., have not yet reached Level 28 on the Developmental Reading Assessment).

  • Provide direct instruction in phonemic awareness and decoding skills as appropriate in Word Work, Shared Reading, Guided Reading and Independent Reading conferences.
  • Model fluent and expressive reading from a variety of sources through Read Aloud.
  • Engage children in Shared Reading, Reader's Theater, Partner Reading and other activities that promote fluent and expressive reading.

Understands what is read
Understanding what is read is the heart of our reading program. By understanding what is read, we mean that a student is able to use a variety of strategies to construct meaning from the written word and make connections beyond the text.

Understanding what is read includes the ability to read non-fiction (informational) texts such as textbooks, primary source documents, non-fiction trade books and magazines. It also includes the ability to read fiction (literary) texts in both prose and poetic forums; to understand the literary aspects of these texts such as the way a character is portrayed, the writer's style, the organization or development of a story; and to make personal connections and responses to the work.

Finally, understanding what is read includes the ability to read across texts, to bring one's background knowledge about a topic to bear on the reading, and to construct big ideas and knowledge of the world.

  • Provide direct instruction during shared and guided reading in a variety of explicit comprehensive strategies.
  • Provide direct instruction in text features and comprehension strategies for non-fiction (informational) text.
  • Provide direct instruction in elements and craft of fiction and comprehension strategies for literary texts.
  • Model connections and responses in Shared Reading, Read Aloud, Guided Reading and Literature Study and connect to appropriate genres in Writer's Workshop (e.g., Literary Essay).
  • Design instruction around big ideas; integrate listening, speaking, reading, viewing and writing related to a ‘big idea,' especially those ‘big ideas' in content area curricula; and integrate reading instruction with social studies, science, health and mathematics curricula.
  • Engage students in building productive habits of mind (see critical listening).

Reads widely
Reading widely is a critical ingredient of reading well. By reading widely, we mean two things. First, we mean that students have read a substantial number of books and other material on their own. Second, we mean that they have read a variety of texts across literary genres (fiction, nonfiction, poetry); in different forms of print (books, magazines, newspapers, primary source documents, electronic media); by diverse writers (culture, gender, point of view); for different purposes (information, pleasure, etc.); and from a variety of content areas (e.g., science, social studies, music, art, etc.).

  • Provide a rich selection of books at appropriate levels for students to read on their own during Independent Reading and home reading.
  • Confer with students during Independent Reading to assess their reading and inform further instruction.
  • Provide frequent opportunities for students to share their reading experiences.


Is a responsive and critical viewer
Viewing is making sense of what is seen or observed. Viewing is similar to listening—the student can organize, synthesize, and apply information in a variety of ways. A critical viewer, like a critical listener, can analyze and evaluate what is seen, and can discriminate what is significant from what is not. As literacy in the real world becomes more digital and less purely textual, the ability to make sense of information that combines text, graphics, and video becomes more important.

  • Provide explicit instruction in the skills associated with active, responsive, critical viewing.
  • Integrate listening, speaking, reading, viewing and writing related to a ‘big idea,' especially those ‘big ideas' in content area curricula.
  • Engage students in building productive habits of mind. (See critical listening.)

Expressive Literacy


Communicates ideas articulately
There are two aspects of speaking, one that focuses on the content of what is spoken, and one on techniques. By communicating ideas, we mean that students have interesting and/or relevant things to say. By technique, we mean style, language, audience awareness, audibility, intonation, gestures, poise, and the use of standard English conventions. The distinction between speaking (which is generally defined as making formal presentations), and talking (which is engaging in productive conversation) is critical—and we should emphasize both.

  • Provide instruction in, and criteria for, accountable talk in ELA and across the curriculum.
  • Provide instruction in effective speaking techniques and opportunities to use these techniques purposefully.


Communicates ideas effectively
We want students to communicate ideas in their writing that are significant to them and their readers. Students should be able to write effectively with respect to purpose (expressive, persuasive, informative, etc.); audience (self, familiar adult or peer, wider audiences); and content (the topic and task). They should be able to write in response to both aural and written text.

  • Provide daily experience in writing through Writer's Workshop and writing across the curriculum.
  • Provide explicit mini-lessons related to purpose, audience and content.
  • Provide explicit instruction in listening, reading, note taking, and writing responses on demand.
Develops and organizes writing
We want students to learn how to write logically and clearly, with writing that is well developed and organized. Development and organization refer to the internal structure and the flow within a piece of writing.
  • Provide clear daily mini-lessons and practice in Writer's Workshop.

Uses effective language/style
Using effective language and style is primarily about the writer's voice (differentiating between personal and professional, formal and informal) and learning how to control written language to produce particular effects in writing.

  • Provide clear daily mini-lessons and practice in Writer's Workshop.

Uses correct/appropriate conventions
The conventions of written English include grammar (e.g., tense and number agreement, word order, sentence and paragraph structure, etc.), spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and presentation (handwriting, layout, keyboarding).

  • Integrate instruction in the conventions of written English in Writer's Workshop and across ELA and content instruction.


Communicates ideas effectively in a variety of media
Representing is communicating ideas in a variety of appropriate media (e.g., drawing, photography, role-playing, electronic media, charts, maps, models, graphic organizers, etc.).

Representation is a skill that is increasingly demanded in the information age. Writing is a form of representation, but the ability to communicate ideas in other media is extremely valuable in school and beyond. Students will also benefit from learning techniques for effective representations (e.g., multi-media presentations, drama, etc.).

  • Provide instruction in and opportunities to represent ideas in various media in ELA and across the curriculum.