English Language Arts

Welcome to English Language Arts

The Prince William County Public Schools English Language Arts program promotes the development of a continuum of literacy skills and strategies for students in kindergarten through grade 12. This continuum includes processes critical to reading, writing, speaking, listening, information management, and the use of technology.

PWCS K-12 Language Arts Belief Statements

PWCS K-12 Language Arts Belief Statements

Language Arts instructional framework teams, represented by elementary, middle, and high school teachers, constructed the following tenets to guide instructional decisions:

We Believe:
  1. Students construct meaning through prior knowledge, experiences, and by making connections. Therefore we will...
    • Provide opportunities for students to read, write, discuss, and share their perspectives and reflections.
    • Provide instructional materials that activate the students' prior knowledge in preparation for new lessons.
    • Provide experiences to build and extend background knowledge.
  2. Students dialogue respectfully in oral and written forms of communication. Therefore we will...
    • Model and teach effective communication strategies.
    • Provide opportunities for students to share their perspectives, to give and receive feedback, and to co- construct their knowledge with others.
  3. Students use reading and writing strategies to discover that literacy has authentic purpose. Therefore we will...
    • Provide opportunities for students to experience and apply literacy in multiple mode with real-world applications.
    • Model how to use literacy in our own lives.
    • Provide opportunities for students to expand their authentic uses of literacy through technology, presentations, literary analysis, and research.
    • Provide opportunities for students to analyze information through purposeful dialogue.
  4. Students are naturally curious thinkers. Therefore we will...
    • Provide opportunities for students to think actively, critically, inferentially, reflectively, and independently.
    • Illustrate concepts with materials, field trips, guest speakers, and student collaboration across schools representing multiple cultures and perspectives.
    • Provide opportunities for inquiry, research, and engagement through student choice of materials, processes, and products.
    • Provide opportunities for students to both create and innovate.
  5. Students given the opportunity to choose will find, develop, and extend their learning through multiple modes of literacy. Therefore we will...
    • Provide opportunities for students to use technology and electronic devices at differentiated levels for academic purposes.
    • Provide opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom.
    • Confer with students to scaffold their needs as learners.
  6. Students need to read, write, and discuss a variety of texts in order to develop their literacy skills. Therefore we will...
    • Foster inquiry by providing both fiction and non-fiction texts in classroom libraries.
    • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate and discuss global and social issues.
    • Teach literacy as a tool for empowerment in a global community.

PWCS Position Statement: Independent Student Choice Reading

In order to improve students' literacy skills (phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension), critical thinking, and stamina, Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) educators will prioritize daily opportunities for students to read books of their choice independently in the classroom and at home. PWCS recognizes the value of independent reading and the important role student choice plays in developing background knowledge across disciplines, empathy for others, and self-confidence as readers. Further, the Virginia Department of Education states in the Curriculum Framework for English that "teachers should provide opportunities for independent reading with options for student choice," as early as first grade, and further expands student choice to explicitly include fiction and nonfiction texts beginning in sixth grade.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) defines Independent Reading as "a routine, protected instructional practice that occurs across all grade levels. Effective independent reading practices include time for students to read, access to books that represent a wide range of characters and experiences, and support within a reading community that includes teachers and students. Student choice in the text is essential because it motivates, engages, and reaches a wide variety of readers. Independent reading as an instructional practice aims to build habitual readers with conscious reading identities."

PWCS educators facilitate independent reading by providing access to texts that appeal to students' diverse interests, backgrounds, and cultural and linguistic identities. PWCS trusts educators to help students identify and select materials as they develop and explore their identities as readers. Students may be drawn to texts that address complex issues for a variety of reasons. Through independent reading, students are engaged in questioning, considering, and reflecting on the relationship between their lived experiences and those encountered through reading. However, PWCS does not require students to read texts that contradict their personal or family values.

PWCS actively encourages parents to read with and engage their students in conversations about texts. We affirm that it is the right and responsibility of all parents and guardians to guide their students' education and respect decisions regarding their student's reading choices without adversely affecting the student's grade. PWCS also believes that individual convictions should not infringe on the academic freedom of students nor interfere with or obstruct student access to academic resources. Therefore, texts will not be automatically excluded from recommendations or classroom libraries due to controversial content but rather considered for their literary merit as a complete work. Parents who do not wish their student to read certain materials are encouraged to communicate with the teacher so that alternate texts can be offered.

Guiding Principles for Supporting Reading in the Classroom and Beyond

  1. Readers should choose their own reading material (Krashen, 2011). Students can better choose engaging and appropriate reading materials when teachers and family members scaffold their selection of independent reading materials (Reutzel, Jones, & Newman, 2010; Sanden, 2014).

  2. Teachers should provide students with access to a wide range of genres and topics representing appropriate challenge and interest levels for student readers.

  3. Teachers should introduce students to reading materials that they might enjoy (Gambrell, 2011).

  4. Teachers should scaffold school-based independent reading by incorporating reflection, response, and sharing in various ways that may or may not be evaluated. Best practices such as these will benefit students' literacy skills and motivation.

Additional Resources for Parents and Educators

Gambrell, L.B. (2011). Seven rules of engagement: What's most important to know about the motivation to read. The Reading Teacher, 65(3), 172-178.

Krashen, S.D. (2004). The power of reading: Insights from the research (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited; Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

International Reading Association, The Canadian Children's Book Center, and the National Council of Teachers of English. (2014) Leisure Reading: A Joint Position Statement.

National Council of Teachers of English. (2010) Statement on Independent Reading. Miller, D, & Moss, B. (2013) No more independent reading without support. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Parr, J.M., & Maguiness, C. (2005). Removing the silent from SSR: Voluntary reading as a social practice. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49(2), 98-107.

Pearson, P.D., & Goodin, S. (2010). Silent reading pedagogy: A historical perspective. In E.H. Hiebert & D.R. Reutzel (Eds.), Revisiting silent reading: New directions for teachers and researchers (pp. 3-23). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Reutzel, D.R., Jones, C.D., & Newman, T.H. (2010). Scaffolded silent reading: Improving the conditions of silent reading practice in classrooms. In E.H. Hiebert & D.R. Reutzel (Eds.), Revisiting silent reading: New directions for teachers and researchers (pp. 129-150). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Stanovich, K. E., and A. E. Cunningham. 1993. Where does knowledge come from? Specific associations between print exposure and information acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology 85(2): 211-29.