Transformative English Language Arts Education & Reading
It is more critical than ever to know about hegemony and to teach others to see the myriad ways in which they (and we) are taught to think. While education can be liberating, it can also be oppressive. When education serves to reproduce the status quo--without seriously critiquing the flaws in that status quo--it cannot help but be oppressive. As long as a given socio-political system requires winners and losers, it is inherently flawed. Discouraging people from engaging in critical inquiry by labeling certain ideas "common sense" is oppressive. Taking as "normal" the fact that we are inundated with corporate pro-consumerist propaganda is oppressive. Click HERE for more information.
Multi-genre and multi-modal projects are an excellent way to engage students in self-expression, especially in the English Language Arts classroom. While almost always incorporating components of academic writing, they are a much-needed alternative to the traditional prose essay. They allow for multiple forms of expression, they necessarily involve creativity, and they make good use of the myriad technologies that students use and need to use in the 21st Century. Multi-genre writing simply means a piece or pieces of writing from different genres (narrative, informational, argumentative, creative, etc.). Multi-modal refers to the different modalities that one can use to convey ideas (text, images, sound, etc.). CLICK HERE for the ELA multi-genre and multi-modal page.
Teaching students new vocabulary is an essential part of teaching reading, writing, speaking, thinking, and listening (the Language Arts). Unfortunately, far too many educators teach vocabulary in pedagogically ineffective ways that suck the life out of word exploration. Students should be encouraged to be word detectives: to use context clues, semantic features, prior knowledge, and etymology (prefixes, roots, and suffixes) to find meaning in words. At the same time, educators need to make vocabulary development fun, memorable, and social in nature. To that end, I have created and compiled numerous vocabulary building exercises and activities HERE.
It is essential to ensure that the materials you give students to read is neither too advanced nor too easy for them (based upon their reading levels). Readability measures are a tool with which to gauge the level at which a text is written. Click HERE or on the header above to go to the Readability Page.
A key way to engage young adult readers in texts--whether they be fiction, nonfiction, informational (textbooks), etc.--is to get them to encourage them to make predictions about said text. While making predictions is a common focus in elementary classrooms, too few secondary teachers overtly teach their students the importance of doing so with secondary texts. Click HERE or header above for more information.
Far too often, the information students are required to learn in school is divorced from the contexts in which that information originally came about. Students are often asked to read texts without understanding the ultimate meaning of that text. Similarly, when reading, many young people fail to grasp the greater meaning behind what they are required to read. Problem Perspectives--also known as problematizing a text--seeks to help show students the actual problem(s) that a text is describing. Ultimately, everything one learns in school seeks to address some problem or issue. Click HERE or header above for more information on problem perspectives and examples.
Click images to link to sites
YALSA is an excellent resource for finding exceptionally high quality young adult literature. See YALSA's collection of award winning books, especially the Printz Award (adolescent literature).
Goodreads, the social network focused on books, lists its most highly-rated young adult literature.
NCTE, the professional organization for English teachers, provides a wealth of ELA resources for the 6-12 classroom.
While focused more on emergent literacy, ILA nonetheless provides secondary English teachers with numerous resources.
Rethinking Schools has been a stalwart for moving education into the present and away from the hegemony of the status quo. It provides lesson plans and other materials useful for engaging students in critical thinking.
Uniting as educators and advocates for our youth is more important than ever. NEA lobbies on behalf of students by supporting equitable schools, research-based pedagogies, and teacher autonomy.