Children deserve a rich, powerful literacy education. As such, Whiz Kids International uses The Units of Study for Teaching Reading and Writing developed by Lucy Calkins at the Teacher's College of Columbia University in New York City. The engaging lessons build students' skills and confidence as readers and writers, and support the idea that effective instruction involves demonstration, guided practice, and individualized feedback. The Units are built on 30+ years of research in countries across the world. In addition, our students have access to an online library with more than 2,500 leveled books at 29 different levels, which support instruction in comprehension, vocabulary and fluency. As well, our students are provided with digital phonics/spelling and grammar activities as needed to enhance learning.
Our workshops make it clear to children that when they apply strategies, work hard, and get help, their reading and writing gets visibly and dramatically better.
Phonics (or word study) is an important component of literacy instruction. During the phonics workshop children are directly taught about letters, words, and spelling patterns, and they apply their knowledge to reading (decoding) and writing (encoding) words. Children learn to master letter sounds and word patterns in a predictable order (beginning with initial consonants, then final consonants, short vowels, digraphs, blends, long vowels, etc.). Even when students develop at different rates, their progress still follows this predictable order – they just move through the stages at different times.
Children cultivate a curiosity about words by discovering common spelling features and by using critical thinking to categorize words. They develop accurate recognition and production of words, and children realize that phonics instruction matters because it enables them to read and write.
Our reading workshops are structured to allow for children to learn and practice reading skills. Children need exposure to the texts they are growing into next, thus teacher and students read and examine a text together that is 1-2 reading levels higher than what children are reading. The teacher models the following skills and strategies:
Research shows that children should be reading texts that they can read with at least 95% fluency, accuracy and comprehension. Therefore, reading levels are assessed and children are matched to texts that support their growth in reading. Children "shop" for books at their level from our online library to practice reading skills and strategies.
The reading workshop is designed to inspire enthusiasm for books and stories, and teach the skills to successfully decode, understand and analyze texts. Children develop a repertoire of strategies that they can draw on whenever they are reading to support learning and school achievement.
In order for children to improve as writers they need instruction to learn skills and strategies for planning, drafting, revising, editing and publishing their texts. When children are taught specific skills, the overall quality of their writing improves, as well as their spelling, vocabulary and grammar. Many of the children who participate in our writing workshops produce work eligible for publication in their local newspaper.
Workshops are offered for narrative, opinion, and informational writing, and lessons at any given moment are tailored to the learner or small group. Instruction is planned according to students' needs.