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Reflecting our Students: SLPs New K-5 Literacy Curriculum

It’s no wonder that students and teachers alike are excited about the new culturally relevant K-5 literacy curriculum adopted this fall. It includes new, inclusive books, such as I like Myself, Our Subway Baby, and many more. 

Surveys from the language arts and literacy design team show that K-5 students hoped for more access to a wide variety of books that represented their diverse lived experiences, and teachers longed for more support, tools and training to adequately meet the needs of all learners. 

Last school year, 68 teachers and literacy specialists across elementary schools piloted three new literacy curriculum. After a several year process to research best practices, gather student and staff feedback, study surrounding school districts, and as noted above, pilot several curriculum, the design team recommended the adoption of a series of new curriculum beginning the 2023-24 school year.

The new K-5 curriculum is a comprehensive, research-based reading instruction that systemically develops foundational skills and comprehension. It involves whole-class, student centered writing instruction that teaches process, conventions and genres. The high-quality fiction and nonfiction reading selections provide equitable representation, and there are opportunities for integrated social skills development for the classroom community. 

As part of the curriculum review process, teachers assessed the curriculum and found that it is academically rigorous and addresses the multiple learning needs of a classroom; helps build cultural competence and empower students in their identities; is critically conscious and offers opportunities for inquiry and learning about, as well as questioning, the world around them; and offers opportunities for students to learn about and see people who are different from them. It includes the five essentials of teaching reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, helps build the knowledge and skill of the teacher, builds upon and aligns to learning from previous units and years, and is aligned to the standards.

This curriculum is in alignment with the values that we hold in St. Louis Park Public Schools around inclusive beliefs and identities. For example, some of the curricular materials, such as books, reflect storylines of LGBTQ+ students and families, as well as racially, culturally and linguistically diverse people. We believe it is important for students to see themselves and their families represented in our literacy materials. 

As part of St. Louis Park Public Schools’ approach to literacy, elementary students receive 90 minutes a day of dedicated reading time and engage in written exercises. Students also receive gifted and talented programming four days a week through STEAM (Science, Technology, Education and Human Development, the Arts, and Math) programming. Prior to the enrichment programming changes, only a small portion of students received only 40 minutes of gifted programming per week. Enrichment teachers and literacy specialists provide support, guidance, and coaching to teachers to ensure every student accelerates, no matter where they are at.