The goal of the Lower School Language Arts program is to open and enrich young minds and to promote learning across the curriculum. Strong reading skills are developed through various sequential and structured reading programs and exposure to classic children’s literature. The use of a balanced reading program includes the development of phonemic awareness, strong decoding skills, vocabulary, comprehension strategies and the attainment of fluency. Students are taught to be critical, purposeful and careful readers, thinkers and writers. Written work also stresses clear, neat handwriting, increasingly accurate spelling, and the use of appropriate rules of grammar and punctuation. In addition to their writing, students in the Lower School have a rich tradition of oral communication. Assemblies often feature class presentations of plays, poetry, music and skits, as well as professional presentations by guest speakers. Beginning in second grade, boys participate in the Laura P. Mulfeld Spelling Bee; beginning in third grade, they participate in the Lyman B. Tobin Public Speaking Program and the Betty Jean Johnson Poetry Contest.