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Balanced Approach to Literacy (BAL)

RHS is a member of the OUSD Balanced Literacy Cohort.  Together with six other elementary schools in the district, we are becoming a think tank and model school for using a balanced approach to literacy.  We want our students to be independent readers, writers, and thinkers. Through our instruction, we strive to achieve a balance between explicit teaching of skills and the application of skills on authentic reading and writing tasks.

We believe that reading and writing are reciprocal processes, which support understanding of encoding and decoding. Therefore, emergent writing and reading are given equal emphasis in kindergarten.  We teach early reading skills by balancing decoding with use of meaning and syntax cues. We expect that students will become skillful at coordinating their uses of these three cueing systems to become fluent readers with automatic approaches to self-correcting those errors that interfere most with the comprehension of text.  Important components of our program for accelerating and motivating struggling readers include the use of leveled texts for students to read at their own instructional levels and be able to select "just right" text.

Balanced Literacy is a comprehensive program of language arts acquisition that uses both whole language and phonics and includes read aloud, guided reading, shared reading, interactive and shared writing, Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, and Word Study.

The following sections describe the teaching principles that guide our balanced literacy program, and the specific teaching strategies and program components used to significantly improve student achievement at Redwood Heights.

In Reading Workshops, skills are explicitly modeled during mini lessons. The mini lesson has four parts: The connection, The teach (demonstration), The active engagement and The link. The teacher chooses a skill and strategy that she believes her class needs based on assessments she has conducted in her classroom. During the connection she connects prior learning to the current skill she is teaching that day. She then states the teaching point or the skill and strategy she is going to teach. She then shows kids how to do the skill by modeling the strategy in a book the students are familiar with. She often uses a "think aloud" to show students what she is thinking. Students then try that work out in their own books or in her book during the active engagement. During the link she reminds students of all the strategies they can do while they are independently reading.

Writing Workshop follows the same flow. Students are explicitly taught skills and strategies for writing during a mini lesson, then write independently. They choose the skills they are trying out that day. The teacher comes around and confers with students to help them with their goals.

Hands-on Math

RHS uses a blend of traditional and online resources to support student mastery of math concepts. Math Expressions Common Core combines elements of standards-based instruction with the best traditional approaches. Through drawings, conceptual language, and real-world examples, it helps students make sense of mathematics. Math Expressions is proven to be effective in raising student achievement.

Field Science and Garden

Redwood Heights Engineering Extravaganza Family Night

Through our Foss Science Kits and OUSD Elementary Science Curriculum, our students are immersed in hands-on exploration and develop a deep understanding of the concepts of science. The

Science Instructional Reflection and Assessment (SIRA)ensures that students enter middle school with a solid understanding of key scientific principles and practices.

The RHS Field Science and Garden Program (also known as Garden and Ecology and funded by the PTA) complements science learning taking place in the classrooms according to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for each grade level. Children experience hands-on environmental education that supports and extends grade level learning in science and math.  Lessons are age-appropriate and offer a variety of topics ranging from insect and plant life cycles to nutrition to solar energy to recycling and composting.  The topics are chosen in part to coincide with the FOSS science kit the students study in class.  Because it is outdoor education, the weather, season, and natural cycles in the garden influence what is studied. Since half the class comes to the garden while the other half remains in class, the garden program offers an opportunity for class size reduction to facilitate teacher intervention for students who need more challenge or more academic support, or for the split classes to have a directed grade level lesson.

Garden based learning activities provide the following benefits:

  • Higher academic achievement (better test scores) and improved attitudes toward education
  • Increased physical activity, decreased stress, and better performance on tasks that require focused attention
  • Improved immune system functioning (including lower levels of asthma)
  • Healthier eating habits and better nutrition
  • Our field science and garden program includes activities such as 3rd grade study of urban animal life, 4th grade NatureBridge environmental education program, 5th grade Sailing into Science, and ongoing discussions about sustainability.
  • Teachers also host Engineering Extravaganza Family Science Night, an opportunity for parents and students to explore engineering concepts as they work together to build marble runs, towers, electrical circuits, earthquake-proof buildings, and other hands-on projects.


RHS has a comprehensive K-5 music program. At RHS, we believe that music supports academic growth.  Students have opportunities to develop instrumental music and vocal skills throughout the week.  Students work once a week for 30-50 minutes on a variety of musical disciplines including singing, xylophones, drumming, music writing and music creation. There is also an opportunity for advanced instrument learning for 3-5th grade in our before school band.

The Music Teacher collaborates frequently with classroom teachers and Artists to ensure arts and music integration with the curriculum. For example, students have created musical instruments in the Art Studio and then used these instruments during music. Students have also participated in school-wide musicals such as BUGz coordinated through visual and performing arts specialists.

Motor Development

The children participate in a weekly motor skill program developed by Jack Capon.  The children develop such skills as balance, coordination, body awareness, and laterality through a sequential series of stations.  Parent volunteers are a vital part of this program.  If you are interested in volunteering, please talk to your child's teacher or the office about how to become a volunteer.

Library Skills

  • The RHS Library Program joins RHS faculty, staff, parents and caregivers to promote our common goal: a culture of literacy.
  • We help our students develop a lifelong love of reading.
  • The RHS Library provides a selection of materials representing our diverse student body-inclusive of ability, age, race, ethnicity, nationality, economic means, religious affiliation, gender identification, sexual orientation, family structure, and home language-so that all students see themselves and their families reflected.
  • The RHS Library is committed to providing a wide range of fiction and nonfiction book choices that are up-to-date, high quality, age-appropriate, high-interest, and covering subjects that they request, complementing what students are learning in their classrooms, and providing them with tools that prepare them to be future global citizens.
  • K-3 graders visit the library once a week and 4-5 graders visit biweekly to check out self-selected books; hear books read-aloud; and learn basic library and research skills.
  • The library is open Thursdays and Fridays at lunch recess for kids to check out books, read, or draw. RHS Library also hosts fun literacy-related events annually, including an author/illustrator visit and teacher luncheon; the Scholastic Book Fair; and the California Young Reader Medal (CYRM) program.
  • The library program is funded by the RHS PTA and supported by the volunteer Library Committee. The RHS Library Committee meets monthly and welcomes new members to assist in fundraising, planning programs, maintaining the library collection, and helping out during class library visits.

Access the RHS Library Catalog from anywhere! It includes links to help with homework (including research reports and science fair project ideas), suggestions for what to read next, and fun literary games.