Language! – Comprehensive Literacy Program

“Everyone push in your chairs and stand up! Let’s get warmed up!” said Washington Middle School teacher Pricilla Menzies. “Let’s start with sounds. Listen to me. I am going to say a word and you are going to repeat it and then we are going to say the sounds. Are you ready? Say ‘track.’

“Track,” said the students.

“Say track,” said Mrs. Menzies.

“Track,” said the students again.

“What’s the last sound in track?”

“/k/”, said the students. This drill continued with additional practice words including stick, wreck, slick, shock and attack.

“Now, let’s do our segmented words drill. Each sound gets a finger point. Say slick,” said Mrs. Menzies as she pointed a finger at her chest and said each sound in the word.

“Slick,” said the students as they all pointed to their chest and repeated each sound in the word.

“What’s the last sound in slick?”

“/k/” said the students.

“Can you give me more examples with the “/k/”, sound?”

“Trick,” said one student.

“That’s right. Remember when the /k/ sound follows a short vowel sound like in the word ‘trick,’ the /k/ sound is spelled ck,” said Mrs. Menzies who continued to practice with words with the same skill pattern.

Washington Middle School Special Education teacher Mrs. Menzies and Reading Specialists Amy Anderson and Special Education teacher Stacey Daniels all use LANGUAGE!, a comprehensive literacy curriculum that contains the six components of literacy – phonemic awareness/phonics, word recognition and spelling, vocabulary/morphology, grammar and usage, listening and reading comprehension and speaking and writing. The program is currently being used at all Jamestown Middle Schools and Jamestown High School.

“Jamestown School district has been working very hard to improve our ability to teach literacy to our high need’s learners,” said Mrs. Anderson. “LANGUAGE! is an excellent program because it combines all of the good strategies and six literacy components into cohesive 90 minute lessons.”

“In the past, we used a wide-variety of materials and incorporated them into our instruction but they were not necessarily connected,” said Mrs. Menzies. “LANGUAGE! is organized and deliberate in its instruction. In struggling readers the right and the left side of the brain doesn’t always work together, LANGUAGE! helps bridge that gap. It is an interactive English Language Arts instruction that uses their minds and bodies to connect what they are learning in a unique way.”

A Comprehensive Literacy Program

LANGUAGE! is a comprehensive literacy program designed specifically for students who benefit from explicit instruction in a structured curriculum. LANGUAGE! is recommended for use in both general education and special education classrooms, and is particularly structured to support the needs of students who are reading two or more years below grade level. LANGUAGE! has also proven to be highly effective in supporting the literacy development of English language learners.

Instruction in the LANGUAGE! classroom includes carefully sequenced, systematic, cumulative and explicit instruction aligned to students’ individual learning needs. The LANGUAGE! curriculum encompasses all aspects of literacy, including reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, as well as spelling, grammar, and writing skills. Students are instructed in small, flexible groups according to their level of mastery.

More than 25 years of research supports the foundation and instruction behind LANGUAGE! and was developed to address No Child Left Behind legislation and includes facets of the Reading First initiative, such as the five reading components identified by the National Reading Panel. LANGUAGE! also aligns with the new New York State Common Core Standards. The district has provided in-depth LANGUAGE! training for all teachers and the program includes instructor’s manuals, lesson plans and resource guides to assist in teaching the content of the program, as well as substantial background information about the knowledge required to effectively teach the content.

Explicit and Rigorous Instruction

Language! helps readers, writers, speakers, and spellers who are challenged and provides explicit, systematic, research-based instruction. Cumulative and sequential multi-sensory activities engage students while establishing skills in phonemic awareness and phonics, word recognition and spelling, vocabulary and morphology, and grammar and usage. With this foundation, students:

• Read and listen to multiple levels of text selections

• Build content background, vocabulary, comprehension skills, and fluency

• Organize thoughts, write increasingly sophisticated text, and communicate effectively through the writing process

“We love using the LANGUAGE! program,” said Persell Middle School teacher Lisa Stahlman-Colby. “It creates a common language with our students and becomes second nature to them. LANGUAGE! hits all the major components of literacy. A benefit of the program is that it continually reviews the skills as you go along to help build, and understand, literacy. We also like that much of LANGUAGE! is non-fiction, which aligns with the Common Core Standards.”

Meets Individual Student’s Needs

With multiple entry points, LANGUAGE! places students according to skill level. LANGUAGE! weaves all the necessary strands of literacy into the six steps of a daily lesson, accelerating the learning process.

“I think the LANGUAGE! program is successful with struggling readers because it is a cyclical program that fills in all of the learning gaps,” said Mrs. Anderson. “Each essential step is part of every 90 minute lesson and each lesson builds on the next one. The repetitiveness, as well as the detailed and direct instruction helps to make this program complete and successful. Language! builds their confidence and helps their English Language Arts average.”

“I don’t know of another program that incorporates all learning styles, including kinetic or movement, like LANGUAGE!,” said Jefferson Middle School teacher Stephanie Wilson. “By utilizing different methods, a fast pace, but also remaining at a each student’s level, LANGUAGE! holds students’ attention and increases their feeling of success.”

All Jamestown teachers using LANGUAGE! say they see a huge difference in how their students sit for tests. Students take the tests more seriously and are much more confident in their ability to do well on the test than before they were enrolled in the LANGUAGE! program.

Interactive Instruction

Walk into any LANGUAGE! classroom in the district and you will see students on their feet, moving their arms and hands, working with manipulatives and modeling their teacher’s instruction. LANGUAGE! involves students in the learning process. In a recent Persell Middle School classroom, teacher Lisa Stahlman-Colby asked students to get their interactive text out so they can build multi-syllabic words. One student’s reaction, “Yes. I love doing these!”

“I tell my students when they come in for LANGUAGE! instruction the first time all about brain research and how everyone learns in different ways,” said Jefferson Middle School teacher Amber Promber. “I tell them that they are in this program because we felt that this type of learning, with auditory, visual and kinetic elements was a perfect fit for them. LANGUAGE is interactive, holds students’ attention and hits all the main components in literacy.”

In a Jefferson Middle School classroom, teacher Sue Schrader used spelling blocks and word maps to increase phonemic awareness. Students moved their “pieces” in and out of circles as they spoke, out loud, different words given by Mrs. Schrader. Because of the interactive nature, the students’ attention is riveted on Mrs. Schrader and her lesson.

The LANGUAGE! Program is not for every student. Teachers go through a lengthy screening process by looking at different assessments and data, the student’s personality and his or her skills, to determine if the LANGUAGE! Program is a good fit.

“LANGUAGE! is just one English Language Arts Program that we use,” said Mrs. Schrader. “We use it as a supplemental program, along with our other reading programs to meet the individual needs of our students. We want to use the program that best fits the needs of each of our students. Many times, LANGUAGE!’s focused, interactive and spiraling components work effectively with our students..”


LANGUAGE! has been shown to support significant achievement gains in a number of districts that have adopted the literacy curriculum for struggling students. One experimental study found that, in comparison to a control group who studied in a traditional classroom, more academically challenged students made statistically significant gains in standardized achievement tests after just six months of instruction in the LANGUAGE! program. Students gained an average of three grades in word identification, spelling, comprehension, and composition.

Districts across the country who have implemented the LANGUAGE! program have reported similarly dramatic achievement gains, particularly in the area of reading fluency, which is typically a barrier to reading comprehension for struggling readers. The gains are even more significant in districts that have implemented the LANGUAGE! program with a high degree of consistency and fidelity to the program structure and routines.

“We have seen dramatic results in our students with large increases in fluency in just one year,” said Persell Middle School special education teacher Melissa Forster. “It gives our students confidence in themselves and their abilities. We see a huge difference in how our students are enjoying, and learning, English Language Arts.”

Since Jamestown first introduced LANGUAGE! to district classrooms in Spring 2010, students in the program have made significant gains in their reading and writing skills. As measured by the DIBELS assessment of Oral Reading Fluency, nearly 75% of these students achieved well-below the grade level standard for the number of words read per minute. After just one year of instruction in the LANGUAGE! program, fewer than 50% of students achieved well-below the grade level standard for Oral Reading Fluency. More importantly, more than half of these students were able to reach the grade level standard for reading accuracy, indicating that struggling have acquired the necessary skills to decode and identify unfamiliar words, taking the time to read with care as they work to improve their rate of reading.

LANGUAGE! students also showed gains on the state ELA assessment, which primarily measures reading comprehension and writing skills. Where only 30% of LANGUAGE! students met the basic standard of achievement on the grade 5 assessment in 2010, over 45% of these students met the basic standard of achievement on the grade 6 assessment last year.

“We are very pleased to see the gains that we have with our struggling readers after just one year but we are far from satisfied,” said Annette Miller, K-8 English Language Arts Coordinator. “With explicit and systematic instruction and continuous monitoring of student progress, we expect to see significant growth above and beyond just a one-year grade level growth as teachers become more familiar with the program. They should improve their fidelity to the structures and routines that have proven to make a difference in our students’ literacy efforts.”



posted on 09/22/2011 - filed under: Academics, Spotlight