Curriculum Details for
Content Expert Reviewer
Sara Pollock DeMedeiros works as the Assistant Program Director at Tenacity, a youth development program that supports Boston youth in the summer and after school by fostering their literacy, tennis, and life skills. She supports staff in structuring high quality after-school programs for middle school students, and leads the development of Tenacity's literacy curriculum and instruction. Before coming to Tenacity four years ago, Sara taught 7th grade English as a Second Language in Washington, DC, and received her Masters in Education from Harvard University's Risk and Prevention Program.
- Curriculum covers various aspects of literacy, including reading comprehension, reading fluency, oral language skills, and attitudes toward reading and learning.
- This review is based on the elementary curriculum, and one aspect of the middle school curriculum called Choices.
- Each elementary theme includes lessons and activities based on a number of picture books and novels.
- The Choices curriculum is more content based, including sections about fine arts, math, performing arts, science, sports, and writing.
- The content throughout the curriculum appears to be accurate and compelling to the age group it serves.
- Phonemic awareness
- Vocabulary and writing
- Some components also have a “Litematics” section which teaches math skills that link to the day’s reading.
- Suggestions on how to structure a homework center
- Non-Academic Skills
- Social-emotional learning
- Nutrition and health
Alignment to Standards
- The curriculum is aligned with English Language Arts standards in reading comprehension, writing, and oral communication and covers these expectations well.
- The training guide includes a description of each standard for grades K-6 and lessons that are aligned with that standard.
- LitART LEARN comes with a number of pre- and post- assessments.
- These include: SIMPLE (Student Information Monitoring for Purposeful Learning Evaluation) which tests reading skills, a student interest and attitude survey, a journal task rubric, and a book talk/oral presentation rubric.
- Also included are worksheets that can be reproduced and used as periodic assessment to gauge student understanding.
- The curriculum is extremely structured, including specific reading and activities that the instructor is expected to use.
- Teachers can create their own extension activities, but are encouraged to follow program guidelines.
- There is some flexibility in terms of how much time a program devotes to LitART. These levels of involvement are: standard, plus, deluxe, extreme, and they range from 60 to 180 minutes.
- The training guide includes many literacy and behavior management techniques and lessons that would be valuable to any program, regardless of whether they are using LitART.
- Lessons are largely teacher-directed. Student input and opinions about readings are valued, but students do not determine what they read or what activities they will complete.
Addressing Diverse Student Needs
- Curriculum is relatively adaptable to individual needs.
- There is a wide range of activities, allowing instructors to focus on those that are best suited to their students.
- Training Guide includes information about behavior management and handling transitions throughout program time that can help instructors think about and appeal to their students’ needs.
Learning Styles Addressed
- Each component is well-tailored to a particular age group, and is broken down by grade (1-2, 3-4, 5-6). For example, one element of the curriculum, “Daily Wisdom,” teaches idioms to grades 1-2, riddles to grades 3-4, and proverbs to grades 5-6.
- The middle school Choices curriculum involves shorter, high interest reading and a good deal of personal response and creativity, appropriately geared toward young adults.
- Students use multiple ways of thinking in a one-hour session.
- Movement/spatial learning: students do active games, including Opening Magic, word games, pantomime and other movement games.
- Interpersonal learning: There are a number of get-to-know you, meeting games, and group identity activities. Students are also expected to work in partners or small groups, and often share their thoughts with peers.
- Artistic learning: theater games, making puppets, creating collages.
- Curriculum was created for “hard to reach” students, such as English Language Learners and special needs students.
- The readings reflect a variety of social, racial, and linguistic backgrounds.
Strengths and Challenges
Challenges and Drawbacks
- Includes many different components that appeal to a variety of ages and learning styles.
- Activities are created to increase reading and writing skills, as well as a love of and engagement with reading.
- Once familiar with the curriculum, instructors would not need much planning time for implementation.
- Activities and format, while structured, are still creative and allow for a lot of student imagination and voice.
- It is complete and well-suited to the specific needs of afterschool programs.
- Many components to juggle; instructor would need to determine actual length of activities and make sure not to overload their students.
- Eleven discrete activities in one afternoon might be too much for some students.