Friday, June 29, 2007

I’ve gained some interesting insights lately from Adolescent Literacy, a book I’ve been reading this summer.

First, the negative:

In several articles about the teaching of writing, I again came across an attitude that befuddles and annoys me. The gist of it is that writing teachers should not be “teachers”, but should rather be listeners, suggesters, questioners, helpers, coaches, and friends. The implication is that teachers of writing should be unlike teachers of other skills. A welding teacher, I’m sure, demonstrates how to do various specific welding tasks, and then assigns the students the same tasks. The welding teacher is not afraid to establish guidelines, give assignments, and hold students accountable for completing the assignments as assigned. Why is it that so many writing teachers don’t want to do this? One author I read today even went so far as to say that writing teachers should NOT give assignments, but should allow his students to make their own assignments! Can you imagine what would happen in a welding class if this procedure was followed? (For one thing, a lot of students might get badly burned.)

Now for the positive:

Robert Probst discussed the importance of intelligent conversation in the classroom, and suggested that this skill needs to be taught. I couldn’t agree more.

Jim Burke discussed the skills our students will need to compete in the “flat” world of the future. Students will need to be collaborators and orchestrators, synthesizers, explainers, leveragers, adapters, green people, personalizers, and localizers – and we English teachers need to allow students to practice these roles in our classrooms. I’m going to study Burke’s ideas very carefully in the next few weeks. (I especially like a website he gave, for the National School Reform Faculty – It’s filled with very helpful ideas for teachers. One of the best is “chalk talk”, where a silent classroom discussion is held by inviting students to come to the board and write their comments. )

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