As long as writing was seen merely as transcription, as it was by such pioneering linguists as Ferdinand de Saussure and Leonard Bloomfield earlier in the 20th century, its conceptual significance was seriously underestimated.
Reading and Writing in English Classes One of the many features of middle and high schools, and one that has significant instructional implications, is the fact that teachers and their adolescent students do not spend the entire day together.
In elementary school classrooms, teachers integrate their reading and writing instruction while teaching content. Although specific periods of the day are set aside for reading and language arts in elementary school, the focus and strategies used throughout the day and curriculum and can be more cohesive.
Does this mean that we would like to see middle and high school students with one teacher for the entire day? We know that middle and high school students need access to teachers who are passionate and knowledgeable about their respective subject areas. We also know that the texts students read across disciplines are more complex, and students often require instruction to access these texts.
We do, however, believe that we can learn from the elementary school's ability to create an integrated experience for students. In Chapter 2 we explore the role that teachers of the content areas including science, music, math, art, social studies, and physical education play in adolescent literacy.
More specifically, we explore various instructional strategies that teachers and students can use to comprehend content. In addition, we explore the various types of texts that students can and should be reading, and the ways in which teachers can organize their instruction.
However, in this chapter we focus on English teachers. We know that English teachers can improve literacy achievement and that they can do so while addressing their specific content standards. We also know that they cannot create literate students alone and that they must collaborate with their content area colleagues to be successful.
The essential question that guides our thinking about English teachers is this: Are students' reading and writing development and relevant life experiences used to explore literary concepts? As you read in the Overture, we have identified five major areas that support this essential question.
In the sections that follow in this chapter we explore each of these in turn as we consider the role that English teachers can play in improving adolescent literacy and learning. Following this chapter we explore the ways in which content teachers can improve adolescent literacy and learning.
We do not believe that English teachers can serve only as literature teachers. As Slater notes, The study of literature permeates the English classroom to such an extent that one begins to believe that the purpose and function of English instruction in America is to train the next generation of literary scholars rather than to provide an increasingly diverse student population with a knowledge base and strategies necessary to help all students achieve the compelling goal of high literacy.
This one-size-fits-all approach to the curriculum does not respond to the unique needs, strengths, or interests of adolescents. Frankly, it does not work in reaching the goal of improving literacy achievement and creating lifelong learners and readers.
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