A Message from Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School | March 15, 2023
Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School
Dear Lower School Families,
Students at every grade level are now entrenched in the act of reading and writing nonfiction as part of our Lucy Calkins Reading and Writing Curriculum. Lucy Calkins is the Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University in New York, and the author of the reading and writing Units of Study series, which have been an integral part of our literacy curriculum at BZ for many years.* 
Lucy says, “When we help students become powerful readers of nonfiction, we help them become powerful learners.” And so, students in grades one through four are using mentor nonfiction books to explore text features and build strategies for reading to learn. When students understand a text’s key concepts, make sense of the book’s structure and organization, and identify important text features like table of contents, photos/graphs and captions, they are ready to engage in important learning. Our students in Lower School continue to have exposure to nonfiction reading material so they become increasingly familiar with this genre. 
A recent exciting development has been the shift into nonfiction or informational writing. Each grade level has a developmentally appropriate exposure to this challenging form of writing and outlined below, you will be able to understand how we are scaffolding this learning from grade to grade, ultimately preparing students for the elevated writing demands of middle school.
In first grade, students begin nonfiction writing by exploring How-To books, short tutorials in which students teach their readers how to do something (i.e. tie your shoes or give your dog a bath). Exploring their own areas of expertise and putting together the many steps of the writing process make this first grade writing a challenge. First graders will work toward writing their own All - About Books, expanded versions of the How-To books to include additional pages and text features.
In Second Grade, students are immersed in writing All About books, complete chapter books about a subject on which they are experts. Each chapter presents a new focus and learning target, ranging from narrative paragraphs to labeled diagrams. A significant focus of second grade is an introduction to the editing process. Second graders are expected to use topic and conclusion sentences, transition words, text features and have proper end punctuation and trick word spelling. These books are designed to teach the reader!
Third Graders are also in the process of writing their nonfiction books. One exciting opportunity in third grade involves the planning and preparing phase of writing. Creating a final product that is easy for the reader to navigate is an important learning goal. The introduction of graphic organizers scaffolds this planning process for third grade writers. Once their graphic organizers are complete and sequenced, students draft chapters based on their plans. Some are able to explore chapter subtopics and subheadings for more detailed sections. Ultimately, third graders go through the editing and revising process and publish one complete chapter.
And finally, in fourth grade, students are beginning their non-fiction work, which is connected to their study of immigration in Social Studies. The added layer in fourth grade revolves around integration and research. Students will research interest-based topics related to immigration, including but not limited to Ellis Island and Angel Island. Their non-fiction writing projects will be research-based chapter books with a focus on creating a thesis and supporting claims. 
We continue to celebrate both the writing process and our finished pieces of nonfiction writing, which we look forward to sharing with you at conferences.
Karen Leavitt
Head of Lower School
*You may be aware that Lucy Calkins has come under some critique for her reading units being misaligned with the recent research on the Science of Reading. In using the Units of Study, alongside our Wilson Fundations phonics curriculum, we are confident students are gaining important and necessary skills in reading and writing. I’d be happy to talk in more detail about this, should you wish to learn more.

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