Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Date: January 3, 2012 10:35:07 PM EST
Subject: Elementary Academics
Good Evening Mr. Fitzhugh,
I read your article in American Educator, “Meaningful Work” with great interest. As I was reading the article, I felt myself cheering quietly inside as I agree wholeheartedly with your conclusions. I teach 4th grade reading and writing and have high expectations for my students. Your suggestion that a student be assigned a research paper, one page per grade level with the same number of resources, should be a requirement in every elementary through junior high classroom.
In the article, you also state K-12 teachers have been focusing on reading comprehension strategies—main ideas and audience—without texts which build knowledge and vocabulary. I too tire of the endless rhetoric from our ISD curriculum advisers telling us that we should be constantly utilizing summarizing, character traits, and so on in fiction short stories which are part of “diversity” education. Teachers must center on learning objectives being certain the students “get” what is trying to be taught, and “turn and talk,” “best practices,” and other pedagogy which have overtaken discussion and reason. If a teacher digresses from the supposed best practices and objectives, we are marked as unwilling supporters toward pursuing measurable goals for “achievement.” Thus, as you well know, the student is left behind in the foray of verbiage, rankings, and “performance” levels.
We need to get back to the basics. Yes, the social media and technology have severely changed students’ attention levels which in turn affects performance, like it or not. Do we as educators need to give in to media-tizing, or do we educate as perhaps we have learned by hard work and dedication to learning for learning’s sake?
Therefore, I have a question for you. I want to enable my 4th graders to read and write at a level which would aid them to eventually be college ready. I want to lay the necessary foundation for them to build their knowledge and vocabulary. Instead of practicing reading comprehension strategies for main idea and audience, what can I do? Where do I begin as far as life-long comprehension skills to teach my 4th graders? I need them to be reading more nonfiction and serious fiction, but our district has tight guidelines we must follow. How can I impart love for learning along with true life skills? I have always made it a practice to tell my students why we are learning/doing a skill and how it relates to the real world. Where else do I start?
Have you heard of the Core Knowledge Curriculum by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.? What do you think about it? My feelings are it is a great method of learning sequence, but department heads in our ISD have not even heard of Core Knowledge.
I would really appreciate your feedback as I would like to be the best possible teacher for my students. Thank you and have a blessed day—