National Presbyterian School strongly believes reading skills should be built to last and to enrich for a lifetime. This belief is the foundation of the curriculum and directs the instructional program in the five essential components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

The School provides explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics in Pre-Kindergarten through Second Grade. Word Study begins in First Grade and continues through Sixth Grade as students learn strategies to decode and understand vocabulary encountered in increasingly complex texts. At all levels, students learn that reading is an active process, and that they must use various strategies to integrate information from the text into their present knowledge base. In addition, Reading Workshop is utilized in Kindergarten - Sixth Grade as part of a balanced literacy program.

Children enjoy many opportunities to discuss and evaluate the information they gain as they read and are read to. Students are exposed to rich, engaging literature through a variety of reading experiences. You will find Kindergartners reading big books together, Second Graders in a guided reading group, Third Graders dramatizing a favorite scene in Reader’s Theater, and Sixth Graders conducting their own discussion in literature circles. Students in all classes and at all levels enjoy read-aloud books and participate in a weekly Library class to select books for personal enjoyment.

This multi-faceted approach to reading instruction develops strong comprehension skills and nurtures a life-long love of reading and literature. NPS draws from a wide range of resources to best support students in our balanced literacy model including: Zoo Phonics (N-K), Wilson Fundations, Orton-Gillingham, Fountas and Pinnell, and Columbia University Teacher's College Reading Workshop.

Language Arts

Our language arts program is rooted in the belief that oral and written communication skills are essential to helping students develop a sense of themselves and to share their diverse experiences and perspectives with others. Nursery and Pre-K students begin their journey as natural oral storytellers. Homeroom and drama teachers nurture this talent and build upon it with opportunities to reenact events or dictate ideas into a journal. As the children move from Kindergarten through Sixth Grade, teachers introduce them to the Writing Workshop model from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Writing Workshop focuses on select units of study including narrative, opinion/argument, and information writing with the goal of increasing the complexity and sophistication of student work. The School uses Handwriting Without Tears for both print (PK–2) and cursive (3–4) instruction.

Learning in Action

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Literacy Overview



  • Actively engage in read-aloud activities
  • Nursery rhymes to develop phonemic awareness
  • Reading readiness through manipulation of sounds and association of sounds to letters
  • Select books and read independently


  • Dictate ideas and use drawings to share stories
  • Develop fine motor skills for pre-writing foundation
  • Tell stories through dramatic play



  • Handle books appropriately and respectfully
  • Identify the beginning, middle and end of stories
  • Explore literature through read-alouds and parent reading
  • Reading readiness through manipulation of sounds and association of sounds to letters


  • Use symbols and drawings to represent ideas
  • Dictate stories and captions for pictures in journals
  • Identify upper and lower case letters
  • Fine motor skill development



  • Reinforce letter sound recognition
  • Introduce decoding skills
  • Read books with predictable patterns and vocabulary
  • Teacher-directed reading instruction


  • Learn to print: Handwriting Without Tears
  • Use letters to represent sounds in writing
  • Write words and sentences
  • Journal writing, class books
  • Word Wall for sight words

Grade 1


  • Letter-to-sound correspondence
  • Basic and advanced phonetic code
  • Decode one-syllable words
  • Expand sight word recognition and story elements
  • Teacher-directed guided reading instruction based on reading level
  • Introduction to a variety of texts


  • Learn to print: Handwriting Without Tears
  • Word families and word study
  • End punctuation and capital letters
  • Writer’s Workshop
  • Thanksgiving book
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. book

Grade 2


  • Introduction to chapter books and story structure
  • Non-fiction reading and research
  • Independent reading
  • Multicultural Cinderella stories
  • Year-long study of different literary genres
  • Author Study: Munsch, Mo Willems


  • Writer’s Workshop, creative writing and journal writing
  • Poetry journal
  • Sentence structure
  • Paragraph introduction
  • Snazzy Snack handwriting project

Grade 3


  • Plot elements and character analysis
  • Realistic fiction and poetry
  • Reader’s theater
  • Book reports
  • Charlotte’s Web, Roald Dahl’s plays
  • Author study: William Steig
  • Genre study: biography and mystery


  • Mastery of the sentence: punctuation and capitalization, fragments and run-ons, types of sentences
  • Word study, vocabulary, and grammar
  • Introduction to cursive handwriting
  • Personal letters, personal narratives, journal writing

Grade 4


  • Reader’s Workshop
  • Inferences, questioning and summarizing
  • Character development
  • Novel studies
  • Author study: Kate DiCamillo
  • Genre study: tall tales and historical fiction


  • Mastery of the paragraph: topic sentence, supporting details, closing sentence
  • Weekly spelling, vocabulary, grammar and handwriting assignments
  • Writer’s Workshop: research report, biographies, personal narratives, perspective pieces, poetry

Grade 5


  • Prediction, inferences, and summarization
  • Independent reading
  • Reader’s Workshop and Book Clubs
  • Maroo of the Winter Caves, The Bronze Bow, Holes, Favorite Greek Myths, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
  • Author study: Avi
  • Genre study: Greek myth


  • Mastery of the 3-paragraph essay
  • Weekly spelling, vocabulary, grammar and handwriting assignments
  • Culminating research projects: Ancient civilization travel brochures, Ancient Greek alphabet books,
  • Roman newspaper, culminating book projects

Grade 6


  • Genre, figurative language, point of view, tone, theme
  • Esperanza Rising, The Giver, Love That Dog, March Trilogy
  • Nonfiction texts and note taking skills
  • Literature Circles
  • Genre study: poetry and short stories


  • Mastery of the 5-paragraph essay
  • Word study, vocabulary, grammar and handwriting assignments
  • Poetry and short stories
  • Biography journal and monologue project
  • Oral presentations and public speaking

NPS Students Excel at

  • Sharing their thinking about literature through discussion, writing, art, and drama
  • Visualizing, making connections, asking questions, and determining important information
  • Literary analysis and critical thinkingUnderstanding the connection between reading and writing
  • Thoughtfully planning, composing, revising, and publishing their writing
  • Incorporating sophisticated vocabulary and proper writing mechanics into their writing
  • Confidently and eloquently expressing themselves, both orally and in writing

Literacy Program Highlights

  • A diverse selection of fiction and non-fiction texts that allow each NPS student opportunities to identify with characters and experiences
  • Average student-to-teacher reading instruction ratios of 10:1 in Kindergarten through Sixth Grade
  • Two reading specialists and one learning specialist to offer individual and small group instructional support.
  • Annual Author-in-Residence Program
  • Cross-curricular reading projects and presentations
  • Book Week
  • Literature Dress-Up Day
  • Authors’ teas and publishing parties
  • Student publishing opportunities in the Creative Cardinal (student literary journal), Nebraska Avenue Times (student newspaper), and articles in the local Northwest Current newspaper

Beatriz Liles, Reading Specialist

BS, Gettysburg College
MEd, Lesley University

Maureen Gannon, Reading Specialist

BA, Villanova University
MEd, George Washington University
Graduate School, College of Notre Dame