Literacy is the foundation of learning.
The Fairfax County Public Schools Approach to Literacy
The FCPS literacy program is aligned with the Virginia Department of Education English Standards of Learning which includes standards in the larger domains of reading, writing, communication, and research. Literacy instruction in FCPS centers on the components of effective literacy development. These include phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension as identified by the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD] 2000) as well as writing and oral language.
Recognizing the complexity of literacy development and instruction, FCPS takes a comprehensive approach to literacy education. Through this approach, students receive instruction using a variety of evidence-based instructional methods. This approach enables teachers to address the VDOE Standards of Learning and ensure that instruction aligns with the FCPS Learning Model.
FCPS’s instructional approach to literacy is drawn from evidence-based research from a variety of disciplines. Many fields, including developmental psychology, education, linguistics, and the cognitive sciences, have contributed to our collective understandings about how children learn to read and write and the instructional methods that foster literacy development and lead to positive learning outcomes.
FCPS students receive direct instruction in reading, writing, and language development daily, within an evidence-supported instructional framework. To meet the needs of the wide variety of all learners, teachers use a reading and writing workshop structure. Inherent in this structure, teachers employ a variety of evidence-based instructional methods to maximize learning for individuals. Instructional methodologies include providing systematic explicit instruction, as well as opportunities for guided and independent practice, in whole group, small group, and one-on-one settings.
Teachers use a variety of formal and informal assessments to identify students’ strengths and needs and make data-driven instructional decisions. Formal assessments are administered and analyzed several times annually to measure instructional impact and drive instructional decisions. In addition, FCPS uses the iReady Universal Screening tool to identify students for potential reading risk and use additional diagnostics to pinpoint students’ needs.
FCPS’s integrated approach to literacy instruction supports the unique needs of Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners because it draws upon multiple evidence-based instructional methodologies. Classroom teachers analyze multiple data points for students who may need additional learning support and plan instruction to further students’ learning. The workshop structure, along with scheduled intervention blocks, offers additional, differentiated teaching for students who need increased time and more intensive instruction in small group and one-on-one settings.
To further ensure that teachers meet the learning needs of all students, FCPS uses a Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS). In this tiered, data-informed framework educators ensure students have access and respond to FCPS’s rigorous and high-quality core literacy curriculum. For students who need additional time and support with grade level standards, teachers use multiple data points to develop reteaching opportunities or intervention plans. The team creates an individualized intervention plan that includes a timeline for implementation, progress monitoring tools, and an agreed upon date to reconvene and assess the impact of the intervention.
To ensure that all students have access to a high-quality and rigorous literacy curriculum, teachers use the FCPS Elementary Language Arts Planning and Pacing Guide. The pacing guide organizes the VDOE standards into cohesive units of study for students in grades K-6. To support language development in K-2 teachers use the FCPS Word Study Progression charts that follow an instructional scope and sequence and instructional resources in the FCPS Phonological Awareness Site. Students receive daily, explicit instruction in foundational literacy skills, including phonological awareness, oral language development and phonics, using a variety of evidence-based methods. Students also receive direct instruction in comprehension strategies, vocabulary, fluency, and writing. Within the workshop structure students have opportunities to apply and transfer skills through guided and independent practice.
To ensure that all students have access to a high-quality and rigorous literacy curriculum, teachers use the FCPS Elementary Language Arts Planning and Pacing Guide. The pacing guide organizes the VDOE standards into cohesive units of study for students in grades K-6. To ensure that all students have access to effective word study instruction, including spelling and word structure, teachers use the Word Study progression charts that follow a systematic instructional sequence and provide information about linguistic concepts addressed in grades 3-6. Students also receive direct instruction in comprehension strategies, vocabulary, fluency and writing as well as opportunities for transfer and apply skills during guided and independent practice.