At the start of the 2023-2024 academic year, SCH Lower School integrated a new language arts program into its curriculum. Wit & Wisdom is a rigorous and engaging text-based program designed to encourage critical thinking and organized around an essential question, from “Why do we explore the sea?” to “What does it mean to have a great heart, literally and figuratively?”
“We know when students know a lot about one subject, the more they read about that topic, the more it’ll stick,” says Lower School reading specialist Christy Yaffe. “We’ve created that mental velcro. The more they read, the more they remember. That’s the core of this program.”
This cross-disciplinary approach provides a solid foundation for students as they learn to read and read to learn, preparing them for life beyond Lower School.
“We are excited to add this program to our already well-implemented phonics and phonemic awareness curricula and integrate it with our rich departmental offerings—science, music, and the visual arts—to ensure that SCH students receive the most rigorous and comprehensive instruction in their foundational years,” said Head of School Delvin Dinkins.
In the video and Q&A below, you can also hear what our Head of Lower School Douglas Wainwright has to say about the new program and its implementation.
What is Wit & Wisdom?
Wit and Wisdom is a really high-quality knowledge-building curriculum for teaching language arts that focuses on reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. It’s really all-encompassing around the interconnection among all those skills for our young students.
What are the three most important things to know about the new program?
- We use really high-quality texts,
- We’re focusing on big themes with essential questions where students are building knowledge around one particular topic in complex, deep, and interesting ways, and
- Our students who are at the beginning stages of reading and writing have more mental velcro to stick information to, so rather than reading about a bunch of different topics, they understand more complex texts because they are reading in a content area they’ve been studying.
Why is this program so important?
It’s really important to know information, build knowledge, and ultimately, as students progress through SCH and then through the rest of their lives, to be able to have thoughtful opinions and think critically. We do this through learning important content in these early years.
Why should parents be excited about the addition of Wit & Wisdom to our curriculum?
There are decades of research around reading instruction—certainly about the processes involved in sounding out words—and we have a very well-established structured, sequential curriculum for teaching students the building blocks of reading. Now we’re ensuring that we’re addressing reading comprehension in a similarly structured way; comprehending what you read is more about building up your background knowledge so you can understand more and more rather than spending that time developing particular comprehension skills, per se. By becoming an expert in a specific domain, a student is best supported to understand what they read in that domain. The complexity of the information that students will now be able to discuss with each other, to bring home to their families, to be able to write about, is incredibly high level.
Can you explain how the modules in Wit & Wisdom work?
Each module is organized around something called an essential question, which is best practice in lesson design. We’re thinking about a question that’s complex and deep and doesn’t have one specific answer. Answers to essential questions can be debated and analyzed. For example, our first 3rd-grade module is, “Why do people explore the sea?” There are a lot of different components that form the module. Some of the texts that are examined are fiction and some are scientific. The close analysis of artwork is also a component of the materials.
How are teachers integrating the new curriculum into their days?
Our teachers are working incredibly hard. This is a big project for them. Almost every day of school, they prepare a 90-minute lesson, divided into different time periods for the students. These lessons toggle among students listening to books being read aloud, analyzing the content in the book, talking about the book with partners, writing, and reading books on their own or with a partner.
Why are you most excited about Wit & Wisdom in the Lower School?
We’re really doing everything that we know is best for kids. Teachers are working really closely in teams. We have grade-level teams where the Lower School for Girls and the Lower School for Boys teachers are working in close partnership to plan and execute lessons, talk about feedback, look at student work, and build those teaching relationships. This is a great benefit for all students because there are a lot of professionals designing the content that they’re consuming in their classes. As we move forward, I’m incredibly excited to see how our students fare in Middle School having had even more rigorous and connected instruction as they progress through Lower School.