A trip down memory lane: Part six
Thanks to Facebook memories, I was reintroduced to my first literacy blog I created for a grad school assignment. I am going to be reposting my old posts here. They are a reminder of why I became a teacher. They are a reminder of how I developed my teaching style. They are a reminder of my pedagogical philosophy. Many of the posts I have reread, still ring true to me and are embedded in my daily practice as a teacher.
Originally Posted on I'm Making Readers & Writers For Life December 9, 2011.
"Make It Rain"
So I reference my own education on here a lot because I got a damn good education, so it acts as a model for what works (most of the time, I am not going to get into my inability to spell anytime soon). Oh did I ever mention it was a public school? Well it was. Yes, I grew up in a privileged household, privileged neighborhood, but my public education has proved me well. Through my current studies it is highlighted even more how much I have benefited from my great educators. We have discussed the impacts of testing on the classroom and how certain subjects take the brunt of it. Even though reading, writing and arithmetic take the driver’s seat there are so many ways to teach students about Social Studies, Science and the Arts by using the “important” subjects as vehicles to teach.
My education was comprehensive. Looking back my 2 favorite subjects were Social Studies and Science, even though I was the captain of the Math team senior year (Go Trojans!). Yeah those are the ones some districts consider “less important.” It was comprehensive because my teachers mastered the art of interdisciplinary education (Rény, 2000). In third grade we studied the rainforest. I can thank Ms. Nielsen for creating an environmentalist who now brings her recycling to campus because her apartment complex does not provide that service. The final project for the rainforest unit was for each student to study a plant or animal that inhabited the rainforest and to write an informational speech. Then we made costumes, dressed up and celebrated the day by having other classes come to our exhibit. The other students would step on our button and the creatures would come to life and say their speeches.
So how does this science lesson have anything to do with teaching literacy in schools? It has EVERYTHING to do with teaching literacy. First off it was the student’s responsibility to consult informational texts to research the information on their animals. I did not have a text book that had extensive information on the Ruby Throated Humming bird, but I needed to tell the visitors of the rainforest as much as I could about this little creature. This teaches students the purpose for their reading. They have to go to the library and check out books and try and find information to add depth to their speech or whatever project they are working on. Students are gathering information to synthesize facts. Additionally students must learn how to pick and choose the details that are most important to include. Everything they read will first sound important but they must think should it be included for all to hear.
After all that reading and research is done the students had to create a speech. Here comes the writing. We had to take all that reading and research and organize it into cohesive thoughts that would make sense when spoken aloud. So students had to work on their writing skills and create an interesting speech where visitors would want to step on their button to hear the informational speech. They would also have to work on the tone of the speech to make sure that it was interesting and educational. The goal was to have people keep stepping on that button.
So think hard. Look at standards. Which ones are punching you in the face right now? Not the science ones. I see more English skills being tapped into with the clear goal of teaching science. Had I read in the text book that the Ruby Throated Hummingbird flaps its wings over 120 times a second, I probably would not be writing it here today over 15 years later without looking it up (ok go Google it and prove me wrong. I am humble enough to admit when I am wrong). You can argue that because I committed the speech to memory is why I can recall that fact. Can I recall my Torah portion from my bat mitzvah that was also committed to memory? NO WAY, and that was only 10+ years ago. Students can be challenged to learn new vocabulary words. They need to be able to first comprehend what they are reading in order to communicate it to an audience. When writing a speech they practice the fluency that may exist in their head but when heard aloud needs to be edited for others to understand. Interdisciplinary education creates a passion for learning and the ability to demonstrate this learning through their work. It creates interested students who unfortunately become easily bored when they are taught in the traditional one subject at a time method. This interdisciplinary approach creates a connection for students where they stop asking why, but understanding the why. It flexes problem solving skills which students solve in the most creative ways known to man (Rényi, 2000). General George Patton Jr. said it the best “If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you'll be amazed at the results.” Us as teachers have to scaffold the students to be able to leap off and learn. The power of using language arts to teach students is incredible. They have the lasting impact that one can remember this fact. I doubt I will use it in my everyday life unless Alex Trebek gives me a ring, but the skills I developed from this process were permanent. They created a learner, who can use texts and writing to communicate her understandings. Every day I must tell myself that I will be creating learner of the world’s classroom and I want to give my students the tools to make the most out of this classroom.