First, We Must Teach Each Student

For this week, I read two chapters in ADOLESCENT LITERACY. The first chapter was called “The Measure of Our Success,” by Kylene Beers, one of the editors of this text. I really enjoyed reading this excerpt, as Beers raises some valuable points.

First, I would draw our attention to the problems that arise from teaching to a test. Beers describes the problems that come along with NCLB. She suggests that it would be too hard to teach to a test when there are gaps in the communities in which these students live. If we address the gaps that are evident in other social institutions, then we might then talk about a student’s performance on a high-stakes test. Her last paragraph in the first section is great…

“But, of course, NCLB mandates that schools do something that no other insitution has been mandated to do. And my fear is not that we won’t be able to accomplish this, but that we will” (5).

What Beers is getting at is the fact that teaching in this method will leave kids without the appropriate literacies that they will need to survive in today’s day and age. She is describing the shift in literacy demands. “[…] literacy is a set of skills that reflect the needs of the time. As those needs shift, then our definition of literacy shifts” (7). It is certain that what was working in an ELA classroom many years ago will not hold up to the rigors of today’s society.

So, when we discuss this tomorrow night, I would ask you to think about this question:

Would we be able to give our classrooms a face-lift? What if students worked not only independently but sometimes in groups in the school, community, or even across the globe? Would we be able to setup a classroom that values multiple literacies with a curriculum based on technology? These are just some of the changes that Beers suggests.

I would also draw attention to the chart on page 12 called 21st CENTURY LEARNING. Figure 1-1.

Ray H.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “First, We Must Teach Each Student

  1. sunyprof

    Ray, what most resonates w/you in the contrasts on that chart? You have been “teaching” in 307 and 506 now since last January. When you look at that chart how does it reinforce what it is you (we) have been doing in these courses? How does the chart challenge what we have been doing? KES

  2. mandygrl101

    Ray: I like your idea of a “face-lift” for classrooms. You suggest that students should in a variety of ways, including working individually, which would give them a sense of uniqueness; working in groups, which would teach them how to be part of a team; working within the community, which would give them greater understanding of how to work with people outside of a classroom, perhaps more importantly people across a range of social statuses; and also working across the globe, which if done literally, would be amazing, but is also possible through the global online community as well. Further, I think these varied approaches would not only appeal to individual student preferences, but would also allow them to explore other modes of learning, making them well- rounded individuals. All of these different approaches have the potential to value multiple literacies as you suggested, and instead of teaching for a test, we are teaching for the real world.

  3. allison

    I also liked the “face-lift” idea. Its a very clever way of saying that we need to update. You ask “Would we be able to give our classrooms a face-lift? What if students worked not only independently but sometimes in groups in the school, community, or even across the globe? Would we be able to setup a classroom that values multiple literacies with a curriculum based on technology? These are just some of the changes that Beers suggests.”

    I am glad that you bring up these issues. I was just speaking with my mentor and the person whom I will be observing for 505. We were just discussing how to make the classroom feel like a family and work together. This is probably easier to do with a smaller class, but should not be abandoned in a larger one. I think its important to start conversations in these classes. We should get these students talking about their personal responses to the text and relating it to their lives. This is how students can connect and bond- like in Gruwell’s classroom. From there, I think interactive activities based on the text can create deeper connections. This could be done with or without technology. Getting up and acting out a scene from a play can create bonds. What can be more powerful, though, is videotaping the performace and watching the tape together.

    I have also just been reading the podcasting article in the English Journal. I think this would be a good way to create a “quality product.” These podcasts could be posted on the web for the community to use and listen to.

  4. jexter1

    Ray,

    I too like the “face-lift” idea. NCLB is a fascinating concept for the advancement of schools and success of their students. Unfortunately, it was introduced and promoted with large gaping holes, unanswered questions, and an unrealistic goal: every student will do well on standardized tests. Without hands-on experiences and a welcoming classroom environment, how does the system expect to work? Technology, becoming familiar with the classroom and students that one will be working with and putting a modern twist on curriculum are a start to the over-due “face lift.”

  5. rayhedrick

    Thanks, everyone, for the valuable insight.

    As for the chart on page 12…

    What I wanted to point out is the fact that literacy in the digital age is different from what we know and are used to. (We see this in a lot of the readings we have done).

    Along with our students, we need to be more creative. We need to focus on a different set of skills, ones that will help us cope with the increasingly “flat” world.

    The chart does a brilliant job of focusing-in on the aspects of what 21st-century learning should look like. The key to true academic achievement.

    More to come in class.

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