Balanced Literacy

(The Teacher's College Balanced Literacy Program adapted for use by the Seattle School District for 2016-17.  A new literacy curriculum is currently under review by the school district and will be rolled out in the next few years.)

A successful literacy program has several components; these components in varying combinations result in reading, writing, and thinking skills. For more details, please go to the Teacher's College Website.   At McDonald International, we teach the following:

Reading Workshop – The Reading Workshop consists of mini-lessons on reading strategies, time for practice of those strategies in the form of partner reading and independent reading, and conferencing with the teacher who can offer immediate feedback. 

In the mini-lessons, there are three approaches:

  • Strategy Groups are where we teach a reading strategy to a group who is reading at different levels and abilities.  They apply the strategy (e.g. prediction) to different books gauged to their level. 
  • Guided Reading Groups are where we teach a small group, who is reading at similar levels, a reading skill that is targeted to their ability.  For some readers, we might have them use context or words they know to figure out a new vocabulary word in the middle of a paragraph.  For other readers, we might challenge them to infer meaning from passages in a text. 
  • Individual conferencing is where we work with each child offering a lesson that is just right for him/her at that point in time.  

Writing Workshop – The writing workshop consists of mini-lessons on writing strategies, independent writing time, and 1:1 conferencing to offer feedback and guidance.  Similar to the Reading Workshop, We teach a mini lesson to the whole class.  As they write, we move through the room and conference a few minutes with each child.  These conferences are very simple and take a few minutes.  The goal is to guide them to improve their writing based on what they are ready for in terms of ability.

Word Study (sometimes known as phonics) –  This component is the decoding of the language or how to sound out the words to read and write.  This can come in the form of sight words and within word pattern work like long vowels and silent e combination sounds. 

Interactive Read-a-loud – This critical but short piece of a balanced literacy program are the times when we read a high interest book and ask inference, prediction, connections to self, etc. questions during the reading.  The goal is to foster comprehension.  It doesn’t work if a child can read but has no understanding of what s/he is reading.  The read-a-loud also models fluency so the learner can hear what words should sound like when read with expression.

Shared Reading – These are the times when the whole class reads texts like poems, chants and morning messages together.  Again, this fosters fluency in that everyone is practicing at the same time so they can hear each other speak.  We try to regularly introduce rich words (e.g. independence, peace, robust) to expose them to difficult concepts and to enrich their vocabulary.


McDonald International teaches to the Common Core and State Standards in math using Math in Focus and other resources.  The math team uses the Spanish version of Math in Focus in our Spanish Immersion classes.  Our Japanese immersion staff adapted a math curriculum similar to Math in Focus, but adapted from a number of Japanese sources and translated from English Math curricula.  For more information on MIF, please go directly to the Math in Focus Website.

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We follow the Seattle Public School (SPS) District Science Curriculum after translating the material into Spanish and Japanese.  For details, please go to the SPS Science Webpage.

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Grade Level Curriculum

The intention of these curriculum maps is to offer an idea of what might be taught during the school year.  In addition, the actual content will be subject to change at any given time.  For the most up-to-date information, please contact the teachers directly.

Kindergarten - curriculum map - 2016-17
1st Grade - curriculum map -  2016-17
2nd Grade - curriculum map - 2016-17
3rd Grade - curriculum map - 2016-17
4th Grade - curriculum map - 2016-17
5th Grade - curriculum map - 2016-17
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