• Home.
  • About Us.
  • Admissions.
  • Academics.
  • Development.
  • Campus Life.
  • KeysNet.
Main photo

Language Arts / English

Keys immerses students in the world of literacy. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills are fostered in authentic contexts throughout the curriculum. Students read extensively, gaining exposure to classical and contemporary works from a wide variety of genres and writers. They work to develop the mechanics and craft of writing so that they can express themselves clearly, coherently, and imaginatively. They engage in critical analysis and discussion of texts, learning to articulate well-supported ideas with confidence and clarity, as well as to listen respectfully and respond thoughtfully to those of others.

In the early grades, students are learning to read. They participate in word study activities to solidify their knowledge of letters and sounds, as well as shared, guided, partner, and independent reading activities that help unlock key decoding strategies. Read-alouds provide opportunities for students to form opinions and find connections to other texts, to their own lives, and to the outside world. Diverse reading selections also serve as “mentor” texts, guiding students to identify and apply techniques that enhance writing. In the upper elementary grades, students make the shift toward reading to learn. They delve more deeply into comprehension strategies, making inferences and drawing conclusions using text evidence. They also analyze features of various genres, using this knowledge to read and write more effectively and with greater enjoyment. By Middle School, students are reading texts with a critical eye, analyzing author techniques, exploring universal themes and critiquing works. They become deeper readers and writers, able to discern the power of books and emulate the traits of great writers. These rich and varied learning experiences provide a strong foundation for future learning and a lifelong love of literacy.

Highlights of the program include:


  • » Develop phonemic awareness by matching and manipulating sounds
  • » Write letters and solidify sound/symbol correspondence
  • » Begin to recognize basic sight words and decode simple word families
  • » Browse developmentally appropriate books, reading by words or pictures
  • » Listen to and discuss a variety of texts to develop comprehension and vocabulary
  • » Demonstrate knowledge of left-to-right writing progression
  • » Dictate, illustrate and use invented spelling to create stories and journal entries

First Grade

  • » Continue developing phonemic awareness
  • » Solidify word analysis and decoding strategies
  • » Develop comprehension strategies (use context clues, reread, ask questions, make predictions, retell)
  • » Develop fluency and expression by rereading and adding character voices
  • » Learn basic writing conventions (capitalization, punctuation)
  • » Identify key story elements (character, setting, problem, action, solution)
  • » Craft personal narratives, how-to stories, poetry; write and edit multiple drafts
  • » Practice directionality and letter formation
  • » Use inventive spelling; learn basic spelling patterns (sight words, CVC words, short and long vowels, blends)

Second Grade

  • » Build fluency, expression and comprehension in reading; develop reading stamina with more complex texts
  • » Begin to apply inference skills and identify author’s message
  • » Develop spelling patterns; begin to transition to conventional spelling
  • » Read a variety of genres; understand the features and purpose of each
  • » Learn to retell a story in sequence using main events and relevant details
  • » Write every day, in response to reading and across the curriculum
  • » Develop and apply knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation

Third Grade

  • » Strengthen comprehension strategies (monitor understanding, summarize, make connections)
  • » Learn to write clear, coherent sentences and paragraphs
  • » Study literature from different genres; practice literary devices
  • » Craft persuasive, descriptive, narrative, expository, and creative writing pieces
  • » Learn word study rules and spelling patterns in context and through direct instruction
  • » Gather information from a text for research writing
  • » Correctly apply capitalization, punctuation, grammar rules and sentence structure

Fourth Grade

  • » Revise written drafts, focusing on both craft (leads and endings, details, dialogue) and mechanics (organization, spelling, punctuation, grammar)
  • » Expand sentence structure and paragraph writing through longer essays
  • » Read information texts across disciplines
  • » Refine and apply understanding of spelling, punctuation and grammar rules
  • » Practice active reading skills such as questioning, predicting, making connections, inferring, visualizing and sequencing
  • » Read independently and think critically about the text
  • » Learn to navigate text features of various genres and incorporate into own writing
  • » Expand vocabulary; utilize more sophisticated and precise words in writing and speaking

Fifth Grade

  • » Understand how an author constructs characters, plot and theme
  • » Distinguish between main ideas, supporting facts, and opinions in non-fiction texts
  • » Draw inferences and conclusions, and support them with textual evidence
  • » Refine spelling, grammar and vocabulary through own writing, literature, and other subject areas
  • » Explore and expand thoughts and ideas through writing
  • » Evaluate and experiment with different characteristics of writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, mechanics
  • » Practice with different styles of writing including narrative, fiction, memoir
  • » Focus on revision and editing through partner work

Sixth Grade

  • » Understand the way language is used in literary texts (metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia, alliteration, personification)
  • » Practice using appropriate verbal and nonverbal techniques for reading aloud and giving oral presentations (intonation, pacing, expression, enunciation, gestures, and posture)
  • » Use imagination, imagery and rich vocabulary in creative writing
  • » Craft topic sentences, supporting details and paragraphs
  • » Evaluate and experiment with different characteristics of writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, mechanics
  • » Practice with different styles of writing including expository, poetry, reports
  • » Focus on revision and editing through partner and independent work

Seventh Grade

  • » Read a variety of classical and contemporary literature with strong interdisciplinary connections to science and social studies
  • » Engage in literary discussions and written assignments considering elements such as setting, character development, conflict, theme, and author’s technique
  • » Develop more advanced discussion and analytical skills, with an eye toward expressing constructive, well-supported and original opinions
  • » Engage in all stages of the writing process (organization, editing, style revision)
  • » Develop essay skills (thesis idea, support, transitions)
  • » Write creatively, incorporating description, narrative, dialogue, use of senses, voice, rich vocabulary, and perspective

Eighth Grade

  • » Read across literary genres, with some texts having strong integration with social studies in content and themes
  • » Analyze author techniques and explore themes of justice and racism, considering autobiography as a personal view into historical events
  • » Develop the skill of writing about oneself
  • » Engage in an in-depth study of various genres, including the short story and short fiction
  • » Practice literary discussion and writing that delves into the elements of setting and mood, historical relevance, character development, conflict, theme, and the author’s style and technique
  • » Develop more complex writing with an eye toward original thinking, precision in vocabulary, clear idea development, and polished fluency and mechanics

Keys School - Lower Campus · 2890 Middlefield Road · Palo Alto, CA · 94306
Keys School - Middle Campus · 3981 El Camino Real · Palo Alto, CA · 94306

Phone: 650-328-1711