Welcome to the English Language Arts

The Prince William County Public Schools English Language Arts program promotes the development of a continuum of literacy skills and strategies for students in kindergarten through grade twelve. This continuum includes processes critical to reading, writing, speaking, listening, information management, and the use of technology.

PWCS K-12 Language Arts Belief Statement

PWCS K-12 Language Arts Belief Statements

Language Arts instructional framework teams, represented by elementary, middle, and high school teachers, constructed the following tenets to guide instructional decisions:

We Believe:

  1. Students construct meaning through prior knowledge, experiences, and by making connections. Therefore we will...
    • Provide opportunities for students to read, write, discuss, and share their perspectives and reflections.
    • Provide instructional materials that activate the students’ prior knowledge in preparation for new lessons.
    • Provide experiences to build and extend background knowledge.
  2. Students dialogue respectfully in oral and written forms of communication. Therefore we will...
    • Model and teach effective communication strategies.
    • Provide opportunities for students to share their perspectives, to give and receive feedback, and to co- construct their knowledge with others.
  3. Students use reading and writing strategies to discover that literacy has authentic purpose. Therefore we will...
    • Provide opportunities for students to experience and apply literacy in multiple mode with real-world applications.
    • Model how to use literacy in our own lives.
    • Provide opportunities for students to expand their authentic uses of literacy through technology, presentations, literary analysis, and research.
    • Provide opportunities for students to analyze information through purposeful dialogue.
  4. Students are naturally curious thinkers. Therefore we will...
    • Provide opportunities for students to think actively, critically, inferentially, reflectively, and independently.
    • Illustrate concepts with materials, field trips, guest speakers, and student collaboration across schools representing multiple cultures and perspectives.
    • Provide opportunities for inquiry, research, and engagement through student choice of materials, processes, and products.
    • Provide opportunities for students to both create and innovate.
  5. Students given the opportunity to choose will find, develop, and extend their learning through multiple modes of literacy. Therefore we will...
    • Provide opportunities for students to use technology and electronic devices at differentiated levels for academic purposes.
    • Provide opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom.
    • Confer with students to scaffold their needs as learners.
  6. Students need to read, write, and discuss a variety of texts in order to develop their literacy skills. Therefore we will...
    • Foster inquiry by providing both fiction and non-fiction texts in classroom libraries.
    • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate and discuss global and social issues.
    • Teach literacy as a tool for empowerment in a global community.

PWCS Position Statement: Independent Student Choice Reading

In order to improve students' literacy skills (phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension), critical thinking, and stamina, Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) educators will prioritize daily opportunities for students to read books of their choice independently in the classroom and at home. PWCS recognizes the value of independent reading and the important role student choice plays in developing background knowledge across disciplines, empathy for others, and self-confidence as readers. Further, the Virginia Department of Education states in the Curriculum Framework for English that "teachers should provide opportunities for independent reading with options for student choice," as early as first grade, and further expands student choice to explicitly include fiction and nonfiction texts beginning in sixth grade.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) defines Independent Reading as "a routine, protected instructional practice that occurs across all grade levels. Effective independent reading practices include time for students to read, access to books that represent a wide range of characters and experiences, and support within a reading community that includes teachers and students. Student choice in the text is essential because it motivates, engages, and reaches a wide variety of readers. Independent reading as an instructional practice aims to build habitual readers with conscious reading identities."

PWCS educators facilitate independent reading by providing access to texts that appeal to students' diverse interests, backgrounds, and cultural and linguistic identities. PWCS trusts educators to help students identify and select materials as they develop and explore their identities as readers. Students may be drawn to texts that address complex issues for a variety of reasons. Through independent reading, students are engaged in questioning, considering, and reflecting on the relationship between their lived experiences and those encountered through reading. However, PWCS does not require students to read texts that contradict their personal or family values.

PWCS actively encourages parents to read with and engage their students in conversations about texts. We affirm that it is the right and responsibility of all parents and guardians to guide their students' education and respect decisions regarding their student's reading choices without adversely affecting the student's grade. PWCS also believes that individual convictions should not infringe on the academic freedom of students nor interfere with or obstruct student access to academic resources. Therefore, texts will not be automatically excluded from recommendations or classroom libraries due to controversial content but rather considered for their literary merit as a complete work. Parents who do not wish their student to read certain materials are encouraged to communicate with the teacher so that alternate texts can be offered.

Guiding Principles for Supporting Reading in the Classroom and Beyond

  1. Readers should choose their own reading material (Krashen, 2011). Students can better choose engaging and appropriate reading materials when teachers and family members scaffold their selection of independent reading materials (Reutzel, Jones, & Newman, 2010; Sanden, 2014).

  2. Teachers should provide students with access to a wide range of genres and topics representing appropriate challenge and interest levels for student readers.

  3. Teachers should introduce students to reading materials that they might enjoy (Gambrell, 2011).

  4. Teachers should scaffold school-based independent reading by incorporating reflection, response, and sharing in various ways that may or may not be evaluated. Best practices such as these will benefit students' literacy skills and motivation.


Additional Resources for Parents and Educators

Gambrell, L.B. (2011). Seven rules of engagement: What's most important to know about the motivation to read. The Reading Teacher, 65(3), 172–178.

Krashen, S.D. (2004). The power of reading: Insights from the research (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited; Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

International Reading Association, The Canadian Children's Book Center, and the National Council of Teachers of English. (2014) Leisure Reading: A Joint Position Statement.

National Council of Teachers of English. (2010) Statement on Independent Reading. Miller, D, & Moss, B. (2013) No more independent reading without support. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Parr, J.M., & Maguiness, C. (2005). Removing the silent from SSR: Voluntary reading as a social practice. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49(2), 98–107.

Pearson, P.D., & Goodin, S. (2010). Silent reading pedagogy: A historical perspective. In E.H. Hiebert & D.R. Reutzel (Eds.), Revisiting silent reading: New directions for teachers and researchers (pp. 3–23). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Reutzel, D.R., Jones, C.D., & Newman, T.H. (2010). Scaffolded silent reading:  Improving the conditions of silent reading practice in classrooms. In E.H. Hiebert & D.R. Reutzel (Eds.), Revisiting silent reading: New directions for teachers and researchers (pp. 129–150). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Stanovich, K. E., and A. E. Cunningham. 1993. Where does knowledge come from? Specific associations between print exposure and information acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology 85(2): 211–29.

Local Alternative Assessments Grade 8 Writing and Grade 8 Civics and Economics

Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) is taking advantage of the flexibility offered in the November 20, 2020, Superintendent's Memo #307-20 (Word). The Virginia Department of Education's (VDOE) Emergency Guidelines which "allow school divisions the flexibility to choose to administer local alternative assessments in place of administering the required Civics and Economics and Grade 8 Writing Standards of Learning (SOL) tests in the 2020-21 school year." PWCS will substitute local alternative assessments (LAA) for both the Grade 8 Writing and Grade 8 Civics and Economics SOL tests in the spring of 2021. LAA is used to ensure that a course's content and skills are taught and assessed during the school year and are not intended to replicate the SOL test. For the LAA for Grade 8 Writing, students will be completing an on-demand writing prompt in March. This performance task is an existing summative assessment in our current curriculum. For the LAA for Civics and Economics, students will be completing four individual assessments focused on content from the following four reporting categories: constitutional principles, the structure of the US government, federalism, and economics. The assessments will be administered from March to June. 

Because these LAA are not SOL tests, all students are expected to participate. However, students should receive all stated accommodations used in the classroom and on other summative assessments. In addition, we ask that students complete the LAA independently so that the assessments most accurately reflect what students know and can do. Consistent with PWCS grading regulations, students will receive feedback and the opportunity for reassessment. Your student's classroom teacher will share details for individual assessments. Please feel free to reach out to them with any questions. 

In addition to these LAA, the VDOE requires grade 8 students to take the following standardized tests: 

  • Grade 8 Mathematics (or Algebra 1 or Geometry) SOL; 
  • Grade 8 Reading SOL; and 
  • Grade 8 Science SOL.
English Language Arts logo

Elizabeth Davis

Janice Thorpe

Elementary Language Arts Coordinator:
Mandy Livings

Administrative Coordinator for Secondary English Language Arts:
Sarah Crain

Secondary Professional Development Specialist:
Ryan Holt

Follow PWCS Literacy on Twitter - @pwcsela