Journal Entry #1

Content AreaReading– Chapter 1

            In my last two semesters, I had a shift in thinking from believing that a content area teacher should focus on teaching the course content and supporting students’ literacy, but not making it a critical component of the course to believing that is content a teacher’s responsibility to teach students the literacy skills needed to learn and communicate in the context of the content area.  My last course provided some strategies for doing this.  I am very interested in learning more in this course. 

            So far, I really like the style of the Content Area Reading text and find it both easy to follow and interesting.  I like the reading examples that have been provided so far in the Jabberwocky, A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling and the Ordeal by Cheque.  These examples really illustrated the points that the text was trying to make about the different skills employed in reading different types of writing and in making sense of what is written. 

            The Jabberwocky reminded me of the exercise we did in class using that poem.  It is interesting to replace the nonsense words because doing that illustrates what sort of meaning a person drew from the known words and an connotation associated with the sounds or images drawn from the nonsense words.  When I first read that poem I just sort of dismissed it as nonsense rhyme, but when I was replacing words I realized that in some way, I had “made sense” of it.  It also shows how students will fill in meaning when there are unknown words in a text, but if too much of the text is unknown their understanding may be far from what is intended.

            The English Spelling text reminded me of little email texts I get sometimes that show how we are able to read by filling in words with missing characters, or backwards, and how sometimes our minds just delete certain words like “of.”  It also reminded me of linguistic studies in how languages actually evolve and change into different dialects or completely different language branches over time.  By having an idea of how languages work and patterns of change, it is sometime possible to decipher texts in completely unknown languages, if you are familiar with a closely related one

            The Ordeal by Cheque was intriguing and showed how pre-activity and introduction to a style of writing can help make sense of it.  I was intrigued enough by the the story to do some internet exploration and found a few sites that listed interpretations of the story.  Many of the sites were posting results of a class project.  It was interesting to see the many different interpretation and also how you can guess a lot about the age, gender, and outlook of the person writing the interpretation by what they wrote.

Content Area Writing Chapter 1

            This book promises to be an interesting read.  So far, I like the interactive, practical and humours style.

            The authors have definitely made their opinion of standardized tests clear.  From what I’ve seen in a lot of classes itseems to be the cool opinion these days to dismiss standarized tests as ineffective, time consuming and burdensome to authentic teaching.  I am not sure that I agree with it though. 

            I live and tutored in English as a Second Language in Budapest, Hungary, for around 7 years.  There exists there a form of standardized testing that is definitely high stakes.  The pressure is immense and both students and teachers systematically and routinely cheat to get high marks on these tests.  The government responds to this by upping the standards rather than cracking down on cheating. 

So why aren’t I against standardized tests?  Well, my ESL students could tell me more about any subject they were studying (keep in mind they were also speaking in a second language) than I had ever learned through High School.  They not only knew times, dates, names and other factoids, but concepts and had critical thinking skills.  They also had time to take after school tutoring in 2nd languages, played sports and video games, etc. 

Did they forget it all upon leaving school?  I don’t think so.  I often hear that we shouldn’t have kids memorize things, or teach lots of facts that they could just look up if they were interested in a subject.  But, I haven’t yet met an American with a Smart phone who could Google fast enough to keep up with a couple Eastern Europeans just talking current events in a coffee shop. 

I actually came resent my education because I spent the same amount of time in school as these students had, yet they came away with so much more and broader knowledge.  When I substitute teach, I see students at all levels learning subjects that were never taught in the schools I attended.  Perhaps, I went to a bad school, but Eden Prairie Schools were being rated highly at the time I was attending, so I don’t think so.  I think the NCLB and standardized tests are forcing schools to teach more meaningful, broader content to all students than they had been in the past.

I also saw while in Hungary, an apt demonstration on how a conspiracy of educators can sabotage the efforts of government mandated educated.  During the communist era in Hungary, students were required to learn the Russian language.  Although, texts were available and time alotted, as a protest against Soviet intrusion into Hungarian education, teachers refused to teach the language and students refused to learn it.  Tests were given and grades were submitted, but few Hungarians of the time have any real grasp of the language.  These same students, however, are avid language learners with many being fluent to 2 or 3 other languages.  It was quite simply part of the culture to reject the Russian language. 

Another thing the text addressed was the concerns about time when thinking about adding writing to your content course.  Last semester, we did a study on Writing Matters, a book about writing to learn and learning to write techniques.  My initial response was that it would take a lot of extra time.  However, when we built a semester and unit plan as an assignment, I deliberately worked in an essay with learning to write activities and write to learn activities in the unit plan.  As the text has suggested, it was manageable because the write to learn activity are in place of other activities.  Write to learn strategies cover and reinforce the content while teaching literacy skills.  Learning to write activities also cover and reinforce content while encouraging students to analyze the information to answer key questions and to communicate their thoughts in an organized way using facts and examples to support their conclusions.


About susanm2012

I am a teacher licensure candidate at University of St. Thomas. This blog is an assignment in my Reading for 5-12 students.
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