The intention for FAST to be math and science focused does not mean that literacy is a secondary goal; it means that STEM concepts are integrated into the literacy equation for our students. Literacy encompasses three components for students; Reading Workshop, English Language Arts (ELA) and Writing. These subjects will be taught as a block, particularly in the early grades when students are progressing from learning to read, to reading to learn, so that students have more opportunities to link the concepts together.
One of the key characteristics that sets high progress classrooms apart from typical classrooms is the teachers in these classrooms. Teachers in high progress classrooms do not depend on single programs or approaches to bring about higher achievement. Rather, these teachers have many tools in their toolboxes and know how to use them flexibly and strategically.
A second key characteristic is that teachers in high progress classrooms engage their students in much more text reading and writing than typical teachers, and they limit their students’ work in low-level materials, such as test prep and workbooks. In addition, they are more likely to give students opportunities to choose the texts they read and the topics they write about.
A series of studies on the characteristics of high progress first grade classrooms found that these classrooms consistently featured;
- “Extensive and diverse” reading and writing with kids fully engaged in reading and writing text during most of the time devoted to reading and writing instruction.
- A focus on teaching for self-regulation and decision-making to help students operate as independently as possible.
- Students who were totally engrossed in the work of reading and writing to learn.
- Many books to read at students’ instructional and independent reading levels, both fiction and nonfiction, and of interest to readers.
- Smaller group and individualized instruction.
- More instruction and support for struggling readers.
- Extremely positive environments featuring engaging instruction characterized as positive, low-risk, encouraging, accepting, conveying goals, self-selection, with ownership of reading and writing topics.