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English Language Arts Curriculum

The development of English language learning skills is a continuous, lifelong process. UCSD’s English—Language Arts program helps students use language interactively for all of its functions, differing purposes, and varying audiences. Learning experiences focus on meaningful uses of language as students acquire powerful strategies for critical, logical, and creative thinking and language learning. This program focuses on communication situations in reading, writing, speaking, visual and non-verbal expression, listening, and viewing. An effective, integrated English—Language Arts program is language-oriented and student-centered; appealing to all learning styles. This approach beckons students to engage, to explore, and to discover the power and joy of language use, and prepares them for the diverse literacy demands of the future.

The Iowa Core Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy have been studied as educators have worked to revise the UCSD English—Language Arts Curriculum to align with Iowa Core Literacy. Iowa Core K-12 Literacy sets cross-disciplinary literacy expectations for students to enter college and workforce training programs ready to succeed. The grade-specific standards define end of year expectations and cumulative progress to meet college and career readiness expectations.

English/Language Arts Program

“Words their Way” is a word study program for grades K-5. The authors of Words their Way define word study as “the integration of phonics, spelling, and vocabulary instruction.″ Word study teaches students to closely examine words to discover the regularities and conventions of English spelling. It takes the place of traditional spelling and vocabulary approaches, such as skill instruction, scope and sequence, or repeated practice. There are two main purposes for word study. First, students develop a general knowledge of English spelling. They learn how to examine words through active exploration using a hands-on, manipulative approach. Students also discover generalizations about spelling, instead of just spelling rules. They learn the regularities, patterns, and conventions of English needed to read and spell. Second, word study increases students’ knowledge of vocabulary. As they manipulate words and word parts the students build an understanding of the meanings of words.

A Balanced Literacy approach is used in grades kindergarten through grade five.  Balanced Literacy integrates several approaches to reading instruction, using frequent formative assessment to monitor students’ progress and adjust instruction to meet their needs.

What Urbandale Educators Are Saying

“My passion is learning and being a lifelong learner. I believe in providing a positive environment that encourages working together and taking risks. The best way to tackle a tough topic, like literacy, is TOGETHER! The literacy block in my classroom is structured in a way where students can choose the best learning style for them by providing a variety of whole group, small group, collaborative and independent instruction. The choice in materials students use, stations they go to, and people they work with creates the student-centered learning environment I strive to achieve. This approach is used during our word study, reading, and writing time to meet all learners’ needs” – Lindie Truitt, First Grade Teacher, Jensen Elementary

“As a language arts teacher, I know the importance of reading and writing. In the last couple of years, as we’ve become more comfortable with the Iowa Core, we have been able to offer our students so much more choice in not only what they read and write, but in how they present and demonstrate their skills. It is wonderful to see kids at the 8th grade level who are still excited about a book they’ve read, or a piece of their writing. This excitement, I believe, comes primarily from the choices that we’ve been able to provide. Because of this, we are able to turn non-readers into readers, and reluctant writers, into confident ones. These students are taking ownership in what they do and produce, along with being proud of their skills. As a teacher, that is so rewarding to see.” – Kandi Brittain, M.S., M.Ed., 8th Grade Language Arts, Urbandale Middle School

UCSD Implementation

It will be an expectation that all elementary buildings implement Words their Way by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Buildings may choose to start implementation at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year or 2014-2015 school year. As a building comes on board to implement Words their Way, they will not use Sitton Spelling anymore. Additionally, extra whole class word study programs and materials (example PALS, REWARDS, Phonics for Reading, etc.) may no longer be needed as students work in a targeted time each day on word study activities appropriate to their learning.

UCSD Board-Approved Curriculum

Detailed curriculum information by grade level is provided below. Click on each section to view the associated curriculum PDFs.




Learn More

Iowa Core Literacy – The Iowa Core Literacy Standards were adopted by the Iowa State Board of Education and integrate the work of the Common Core State Standards Initiative with an additional seven standards that apply exclusively to Iowa schools. The standards are broken into the categories of English Language Arts for grades K-12 and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects for grades 6-12. Teaching and Learning Strategies – On this site you will find information on some of the best researched and the most widely implemented methods of helping all students to learn more successfully.

Teaching and Learning Strategies – On this site you will find information on some of the best researched and the most widely implemented methods of helping all students to learn more successfully.