A comprehensive revamp of the curriculum in the early grades to increase the ability of students to read and write was unveiled Monday night to the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board.

Nine months in the making, it is outlined in a 37-page guide for use by persons involved in the teaching of literacy to students in kindergarten through the third grade, including those enrolled in the district’s Two-Way Immersion (TWI) program that is taught in both English and Spanish.

District officials hope the new curriculum will reverse disturbing test results over the last few years that indicate a slow decline in literacy skills by all segments of the student body, beginning, in many cases, even before they enter the kindergarten classroom.

The same problem is being addressed communitywide by the new Cradle-to-Career initiative involving many public and private participants.

In fact, Sheila Merry, executive director of Cradle to Career, told a joint meeting last week of Evanston’s two public school boards, District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202, that a major push is on to encourage students to read at least 20 minutes daily during the summer, when schools are not in session.

Merry said that the city’s Park District is scheduling daily reading time as part of its summer camps this year.

The District 65 “framework” was presented in detail Monday night by Stacey Beardsley, the district’s interim executive director of curriculum and instruction.

The foundation of the program is three workshops, on language, reading, and writing, which involve students working on their own and in collaboration with their teachers and fellow students.

According to the framework, “the fundamental purpose of the Language Workshop is to build students’ knowledge of how language works through deepening their speaking and listening skills, extensive guidance and practice with foundational literacy skills (phonics, phonological awareness, print concepts), and vocabulary development that builds linguistic and conceptual knowledge.”

The Reading Workshop offers opportunities for students to write and talk about their reading, with particular emphasis upon developing their comprehension of the written word.

Reading Workshop also consists of many opportunities for students to write and talk about their reading. Furthermore, as students develop as readers, they build their knowledge of the world, learning how to use textual evidence to support their comprehension.

Then the Writing Workshop is a place where the students turn their ideas into the written word. It even provides opportunities for pieces written by the students to be published.

The three-workshop format, Beardsley contends, “creates opportunities for explicit instruction of skills and strategies at the whole group, small group, and individual level, providing the space and opportunity for students to apply these skills and receive feedback.”

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Books needed to support kids
    First United Methodist Church is hosting a Children’s Book Drive to support the Reach Out & Read program at Erie Family Health Center in Evanston.

    We are collecting new or gently used children’s books up to age 10, with a focus on ages 0-5. (Board Books are GREAT)
    Please bring books to the front desk at the church located at 516 Church Street, just 1 Block east of Whole Foods.

    For more information about the program, here is a link to a recent article in the Evanston RoundTable. http://www.evanstonroundtable.com/main.asp…

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.