“In fourth grade our teacher introduced us to “juicy words.” She was trying to move us past using the words “cool,” “awesome,” or “very” in every sentence we wrote. This year in eighth grade we wrote our metamorphosis myths using a rich, collaborative process filled with juicy words.” – Eva, Class of 2018

Language arts are fundamental in anchoring one’s thinking and communicating one’s ideas effectively. The skills of reading critically, writing forcefully, speaking clearly, and listening actively are key.

As students travel through their time at The Philadelphia School, their facility with and understanding of language animates their work across the disciplines. We see language work interwoven across the day, so that conversations, vocabulary, and craft become a seamless part of reading, writing, speaking, and listening in all classrooms.


To become skilled readers, students must read widely and deeply from among a broad range of high-quality, increasingly challenging literary and informational texts. Through extensive reading of stories, dramas, poems, and myths from diverse cultures and different time periods, students gain literary and cultural knowledge, as well as familiarity with various text structures and elements, including digital media. By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, they build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background needed to be better readers in all content areas. The curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades. 


The act of writing itself enhances one’s ability to make meaning of experience for oneself and others. Creating text expands thinking, generates knowledge, and shares and communicates understanding. Writing involves effort, risk, and purpose; it takes practice, trial and error, exposure, direct instruction, time, and social support.

Over the course of their time at The Philadelphia School, students learn how to generate writing ideas across topics and genres and become increasingly skillful at crafting a polished final piece. They appreciate that writing is a recursive process that involves prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Each year, students demonstrate increasing sophistication in all aspects of language use, from vocabulary and syntax to the development and organization of ideas. 

Speaking and listening

Each day, students take part in a variety of rich, structured conversations—as part of a whole class, in small groups, or with a partner. They learn to contribute accurate, relevant information; respond to and develop what others have said; and analyze and synthesize ideas. Students learn to integrate information from oral, visual, quantitative, and media sources and are encouraged to evaluate what they hear, to use media and visual displays strategically, and to adapt speech to context and task.  


In the early elementary grades, students

  • build foundational skills for reading by developing and attending to a strong phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. 
  • use writing as a way to offer and support opinions, to demonstrate understanding of the subjects they are studying, and to convey real and imagined experiences and events.
  • develop the capacity to build knowledge on a subject through research projects and to respond analytically to literary and informational sources.
  • establish active listening and effective and civil speaking skills and learn the conventions of language through dramatic play, read-alouds, discussions, and sharing. 

In the upper elementary grades, students

  • are becoming proficient readers with the capacity to comprehend texts across a range of genres and disciplines
  • gain a reservoir of literary and cultural knowledge, references, and images by reading literature and literary nonfiction of steadily increasing sophistication
  • develop the ability to evaluate intricate arguments and to surmount challenges posed by complex texts
  • become increasingly proficient in taking task, purpose, and audience into consideration in their writing 
  • become adept at gathering information, evaluating sources, and citing material accurately, reporting findings from their research and analysis of sources in a clear and cogent manner.
  • demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and mechanics when writing 
  • hone their skills as active listeners and clear and respectful speakers in a diverse and scholarly community
  • become increasingly adept at building a learning environment that values cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control