Primer Series: CSD’s Literacy Programs—Part IV

Here we are on our fourth installment of the literacy primer already. Literacy is a huge topic, and even with this multipart primer, we are just scratching the surface of the information that is available and the various programs and initiatives that are in place just in the district alone.

At Colchester High School, the Humanities department focuses a great deal of energy on literacy, incorporating a number of approaches to it into its curriculum.

For example, in order to earn their required humanities credit, students in grades 9 and 10 are required to meet and demonstrate the established writing standards on two essential writings per year. Ninth- and tenth-grade students also take Degrees of Reading Power assessments, which help determine students’ reading comprehension levels. On-demand writing—like that found in essay portions of the SAT, for example—is practiced routinely. Close reading (a very deliberate and careful examination of text) is also regularly incorporated into the literacy initiatives at CHS.

CHS also hosts poetry slams every year. Poetry slams are events showcasing performance poetry, and performers are judged by the audience, which encourages widespread participation. Experts like the Breathing Poetry Project’s Kim Jordan and Vermont’s Slam Poet Laureate Geof Hewitt have helped out with CHS’s poetry slams in past years, and the annual event has become hugely popular with students.

Student writers are also encouraged to contribute work in published formats. Reflections, a literary journal overseen by teacher Jason Thime, is open to anyone who would like to participate, and The Lakeside Voice, a school newspaper produced by teacher Dennis McCannell’s Journalism class, is another avenue for aspiring writers to publish their work. (The Lakeside Voice has won a meritorious achievement award in scholastic editing and publishing from the New England Scholastic Press Association (NESPA) for three out of the last five years.)

While students receive guidance from their teachers, they also engage in peer conferencing about their writing, and they practice self-assessments. And in addition to the school’s style manual—to which the students’ writing should adhere—CHS educators have designed and implemented a set of rubrics for use with these evaluations and assessments, and this helps to ensure the feedback’s consistency and standardization. Ultimately, the objective is to encourage the students to write abundantly—and to write on an array of subjects of varying length and content.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, literacy is a vast topic, and our goal is to introduce the district’s efforts around it. These articles are by no means exhaustive on the subject! Please stay tuned for additional information about CSD’s literacy initiatives in a forthcoming installment.

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