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On teaching the English language arts

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Some proposed standards for practice*

  • Promote learning for all. Select and develop practices that support the learning of all students, including learners of English as a second language, students with special needs and students underserved because of race, class, gender and/or religion.
  • Respond to culture and language. Cultivate culturally and linguistically responsive approaches (instructional models, methods, strategies, materials, design, management, assessment) for teaching the language arts.
  • Foster heritage languages. Foster the maintenance of heritage languages as well as acquisition of second and foreign languages.
  • Structure participation. Organize participation structures that facilitate classroom conversations and include individualized, peer collaborative and dialogical approaches.
  • Create literate environments. Create environments--including technological environments--that encourage language arts development through extensive reading and writing.
  • Assess and plan. Construct and interpret available assessments to inform appropriately the planning and implementation of instruction.
  • Attend to development. Attend to the developmental levels of students when designing and carrying out both daily and long-term planning and instruction.
  • Foster emergent literacy. Foster emergent literacy and basic skills by engaging students in processes of inquiry and critical reflection informed by a student's level of social and cognitive development and preferences as well as the best theories and evidence in the field.
  • Foster higher-order skills. Foster higher-order skills by asking rich questions that cause inferential thinking and that draw on students' insight about their communities and the world.

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Commentary on the standards*

English language arts is an interdisciplinary liberal art that is cross-cutting and foundational for all teaching, regardless of subject matter. Teachers in all disciplines need an understanding of the nature and acquisition of literacy and language as part of their understanding of the role language and literacy play in all learning. All teachers must be proficient in reading, writing, oral communication, listening and viewing.

As a discipline of study English language arts is more broadly conceived in this document, moving beyond traditional views of reading, writing, language and literary study, to include the reconceptualizations that:

  • Provide a balance of skills and holistic experiences to enable students to read authentic texts, write for authentic audiences; develop oral presentations for authentic purposes; critically listen; and view multi-media presentations;
  • Involve a set of productive, performative, creative, interpretive and receptive abilities;
  • Involve the interpretation and production of a wide range of modes and genres for multiple purposes ranging from personal to public, from self-expression and understanding to their uses as instruments of social change;
  • Respond to changes in the nature, forms and consequences of literacy that come with evolving social and technological environments;
  • Address the nature of the existing literary canon and  the need for its continuing expansion, its limitations as taught in K-12 classrooms, and the texts beyond the canon, including digital as well as print, that are deserving of study;
  • View linguistic and cultural differences as resources rather than as problems to be solved;
  • Foster student agency in their uses of literacy to improve and enrich their lives and the lives of others within institutions such as schools and in other community contexts.

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This conception of the discipline includes a particular orientation toward knowledge that is not static, but rather dynamic, situated, recursive, socially constructed, experiential and politically implicated. Teachers with disciplinary knowledge of literacy, literature and language studies are responsible for understanding these subject matter areas as they relate to content standards and school curriculum appropriate for K-12 instruction. Teachers must be knowledgeable about theory and research related to literacy, literature and language. They employ their knowledge of literature, composition and rhetoric, language theory, research methods and emerging areas for making decisions about teaching and learning. Teachers are able to connect knowledge to the diversity of studentsí lived experiences. In the K-12 classroom, teachers develop subject-sensitive instructional and assessment practices that support the learning and achievement of their students.

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*Excerpt from Teachers for a New Era. (2004). Teacher Knowledge Standards. East Lansing: Michigan State University.

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