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Literacy Program

UCSD #1 Reading Program

Uinta County School District #1 has undergone a collaborative comprehensive research guided process to identify and select a English Language Arts program. The Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) program met the guiding principles established by the committee. The program has an extensive research base aligned with the recommendations of the National Reading Panel. The following overview of the CKLA program provides a description of the important components and philosophical base for ELA instruction in UCSD #1.

Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA)

Program Overview:  

CKLA believes that we will close the third grade reading gap and make students college and career ready only by preparing them to encounter complex written text in Kindergarten (and earlier). That requires systematic exposure to knowledge-rich content, often above grade level, so that students can develop the necessary vocabulary and connections to understand new, unfamiliar texts.

Increasing bodies of research identify that students must not only learn to decode in the earliest grades but must build up the background knowledge, vocabulary, and analytical skills that allow them to access and understand complex texts in late elementary school and beyond (see the Research Guide for more details). That is the core of Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) philosophy.

The Simple View of Reading:

To read, a person needs to be able to decode the words on the page and then make sense of those words. The first task is made possible by decoding skills and the second by language comprehension ability. Students who cannot decode the words on the page will not be able to achieve reading comprehension, no matter how much oral language is understood. But decoding the words on the page is still no guarantee of reading comprehension. Attempting to read sentences but not understanding while reading aloud makes it unlikely that understanding will occur during independent reading. Reading experts often refer to “the simple view of reading.” This philosophy, associated with reading researchers Philip Gough and William Tunmer, expresses this combination of decoding skills and language comprehension ability.

It is the coupling of rigorous decoding and skills instruction with research-based knowledge instruction that makes CKLA unique. This is why, in its early grades, CKLA has a two-strand structure—Skills and Knowledge.

Students need both decoding and language comprehension; however, it is hard to learn both simultaneously. The initial cognitive load of decoding text leaves little cognitive attention or energy for mastering knowledge and complex vocabulary. The two often interfere with each other. This creates a challenge. We know that exposure to complex texts in their earliest years is critical. However, this is precisely the time when students’ limited decoding skills make this most challenging. In addition, numerous studies show that students’ listening comprehension far outpaces reading comprehension at this stage and beyond. Knowledge and vocabulary can be taught more rapidly and efficiently through oral instruction in the early grades.

That is why CKLA separates the Skills Strand (which focuses on foundational skills in reading and writing) from the Knowledge Strand (which builds knowledge, comprehension, and vocabulary, including through oral instruction). The Skills Strand is built upon a large research base including the National Reading Panel and others. The Knowledge Strand combines research on comprehension and vocabulary with a unique knowledge sequence. This sequence defines the subject of the domains taught in K–2 and their order.

The CKLA Knowledge Sequence has been developed over decades. Its key insight is that informational texts should be presented to students in a sequenced, coherent manner to build a broad foundation of knowledge. The sequence was developed in consultation with almost 200 specialists from across the educational sector including, but not limited to, teachers, principals, district officials, and research scientists.

The sequence has been tested in a number of studies since its inception—including a study in the state of Oklahoma, a Johns Hopkins study of a number of schools using the sequence, and a three-year study of an early incarnation of CKLA. All showed substantial and measurable gains in student performance. This content-rich approach is not only suitable for students with English as a first language but also for English language learners (ELLs) who need content-based instruction to maximize the speed of second language learning.

Although the strands are separate, each offering 60 minutes of daily instruction, it is very important that they both be part of a language arts program. Together, they make a complete ELA program. Neither will prepare students fully for later elementary without the other.



Grades 6-12 English Language Arts

During the 2017-2018 school year, the English Language Arts (ELA) teachers in grades 6 through 12 researched different content resources to determine the best fit for UCSD #1 and its students.  After much research, deliberation, and several pilots, the teachers chose the StudySync program from McGraw-Hill. Please select the link below to access the publisher’s description of the program.