Our Reading classes come to the library monthly for lessons and activities. Last month, our reading teachers requested that we develop a lesson on external text features -- think: bold print, italics, tables of contents, glossaries, etc. Text features are a fairly dry topic so we turned to one of our go-to instructional strategies: stations. Stations allow for lots of student movement, the ability for us as teachers to push into smaller groups that need extra support, and offer room for lots of differentiation. And, stations let us meet our goal: making text features a lot more accessible and a bit more interesting for our students.
Amy, an English teacher, facing the 8th grade Writing SOL (Virignia's standards of learning tests) in the upcoming weeks, came into the library with an idea to help her students review. She was armed with data from assessments showing the specific skills on which her students needed extra support and was hoping we could help her build a lesson. After some planning with Amy, Susanna (my co-librarian) and I delved into the 8th grade writing standards to figure out exactly what we needed to teach. What evolved was a review activity that surprised even us with the level of student engagement.
As I watch the headlines unfold day after day, and hear conversations among friends (both Democrats and Republicans alike) that our nation is more divided than ever, I can't help but feeling that educators (or maybe education policy gurus) are missing something - something vital to our democracy. The talk of late is about STEM and STEAM, about how we need to teach children to code, to experiment, to engineer and calculate. And we do, 100 percent. But by emphasizing some subjects over others, we are acting as though the humanities (subjects like history, civics, philosophy, geography and literacy) somehow don't matter as much as math and science.
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