Turnbull School

A Private Elementary School in Ottawa

Excellence and Caring since 1992

Language Arts

"Because of the emphasis Turnbull placed on presentations, I now have confidence to speak in front of an audience."

Full Story

Our students experience a very enriching literature program of novels, poetry and short stories, but we also emphasize the importance of developing strong basic skills of grammar, decoding, spelling and technical writing. Our students are set up for success beyond their time at Turnbull School, as they learn to communicate well both orally and in writing, and develop strong critical reading, creative writing and research skills.

Primary and Junior Language Arts

A wealth of resources, including a primary and junior grades Library which houses over 3,000 books with a computerized circulation desk networked to each classroom, results in Turnbull students acquiring strong literacy skills and a real love of reading from a young age.

At the primary and junior level, we launch each school year with a Celebrate Reading time. Special activities, games, and guest readers set the tone that literacy has value and fun at Turnbull School. Visiting authors and poets further promote good literature and the process of writing.

Reading Buddies

Reading buddies are a favourite time of the week when each junior student is paired with and mentors a primary student. Together they share the enjoyment of reading, as well as writing and listening activities. This is yet another way Turnbull School builds nurturing relationships within the school community.


Primary students participate in a Balanced Literacy model. Each day their program includes activities in the following areas:

In addition to the regular Language Arts periods, students engage in many reading and writing activities that are integrated into other curriculum areas (for example, students read the words of a play on the rain forest in science class, or on the continents in social studies activities).

Grades 4 to 6

Students in Grades 4 to 6 are instructed in Language Arts by their homeroom teachers. Each day their program includes a variety of language based activities, and they are evaluated in the following areas:

In addition to the 10 Language Arts periods that the junior students participate in each week, Language Arts activities are frequently integrated into other curriculum areas (for example, plays written and performed in Drama class, reading and writing activities in Social Studies, such as the Model UN).

Students’ abilities in Language Arts are closely monitored by their teachers. Enrichment opportunities are available to those needing to be challenged (for example, enriched level spelling groups, more advanced writing activities, higher level reading and comprehension groups).

Senior English

Our Grade 7 and 8 students enjoy both informal and formal literature studies. The teachers facilitate two or three different novel study units, often at the same time, thus providing varying levels of challenge that meet the learning needs of all students in the class. For example, in Grade 8, the teacher may work with one group of students on a novel such as The Giver, by Lois Lowry, while she teaches another group of students a more ambitious piece of literature typically seen in high school, such as Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

In informal Book Club meetings, senior students explore a wide range of novels and poetry with their peers. In more formal literature studies, students delve into poetry, short stories and novels, and into theme, metaphor and symbol, learning to ask: what is the essential question the author is exploring? Our Grade 8’s also meet Shakespeare in an enjoyable, interactive manner that leaves them looking forward to more of this great literature in high school.

Senior Book Club

While our students experience a very enriching literature program of novels, poetry and short stories, we also emphasize the importance of developing strong basic skills involved in writing. The students focus on the importance of always following the writing process: brainstorming, planning, organizing, revising and editing. We emphasize both creative and expository writing: a major focus for the Grade 7 and 8 students is the ability to develop and express ideas in clear and effective prose, both in formal and creative writing, ensuring that our students are well prepared for the essay writing they will face in high school and beyond. Many cross-curricular assignments bring relevance to their writing as well. To complement the writing program, students are also given a strong grounding in grammar.

Turnbull students graduate with strong literacy skills and an interest in English that leads to much success in high school and beyond.


I am now completing an honours degree in Finance at St. Francis Xavier University. Turnbull helped me to develop several valuable skills that proved useful in giving me an advantage throughout high school and university. Developing effective note taking and study habits is proving especially useful throughout university. I still use many of the techniques taught to me in grade seven and eight study skills class. Preparing for exams is much less stressful when your notes are in order and you have a planned study schedule.

Because of the emphasis Turnbull placed on presentations, I now have confidence to speak in front of an audience. It has proved to be a critical life skill that many of my peers lack. In life, you will have to present in many different situations. Between class presentations, chairing meetings for the St.FX Investment Society and teaching at my Taekwon-Do club, I give a presentation of some sort almost every day of the week.

Austin Carter, Alumnus 2007

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