I believe anyone can write. We are not born with the ability to write well, but writing skills are always expandable. Continual, structured writing practices lead to stronger writers, readers and learners. Writing well will not be the goal in my classroom; to write with confidence and a purpose will be.
Students will be welcome to write what they please as long as they are writing. When students are allowed to pick their topics, they will undoubtedly learn more than they would on assignments they feel forced to do. I believe the end goal is for a student to gain a better grasp of a concept or task, then they should practice within a topic they enjoy. Handing out books to study is telling a class what to learn and not letting them learn for themselves. Teachers are there to teach the class, not to teach the material. Students need to be free to learn for themselves with guidance and not the other way around.
Giving students time is key or else they will resent a subject because they never truly had time to learn it. Deadlines should be fostered to learning; learning should not be monitored by deadlines. Students need time to understand a concept and more importantly, they need to know they will be allowed time to learn it. When a class has adapted to deadlines, they will begin an assignment with the mindset of simply getting it done and do not truly attempt to learn the material. With the allowance of time, they can begin each task with the plan to learn and complete it with pride.
Reading will not accompanied by comprehension questions because they only ask about the words on the page, not the thoughts in the students’ heads. Rather, discussions in small groups will take their place because conversations are free-flowing and allow for thoughts to grow. Questions on a page cannot access the knowledge a student gained from a text. Conversations with other readers and free writing allow the student to explain what they learned and understood. With this method, what they did not learn will also be highlighted. When there is a continual gap in comprehension, then I, as the teacher, know how to approach the next step in a way most helpful way.
When a student asks “Why are we doing this?” or “Why do I need to know this?”, I need to have an earnest answer. If I cannot honestly reply with an academically-beneficial response, then I need to reevaluate why I am teaching it. The students need to know how and why each assignment and activity is helpful to their education. They will work with effort when they understand how each activity will help them learn differently and study deeper.
I know not all students will like or enjoy reading and writing. I think explaining the connection between reading and writing comprehension and learning can help change a student’s attitude. Once a student has acquired accurate comprehension skills, they can take those skills and use them wherever they like to learn whatever they want. The power to understand language is the power to learn and reiterate any information a student chooses. Language is an art and just like any other form, it is constantly changing to adapt to the world humans create. We use language to express our thoughts and communicate in ways other animals cannot. The intricacy of our languages reflects our complexity as human beings. Amazingly, the concepts of language and grammar are best grasped by children because they have not been impressioned by any other set of rules as others have. Each person has their own grammar which enables them to communicate through life. As languages converge, they borrow rules from each other and catalog human history and development within their details and specifics.
By using literature and writing practices to teach the connections between what is on the page and what is just between the lines, a student can see how relating the material to the world, looking at the source through a different lens, understanding word choice and knowing the author’s purpose can all help them understand deeper. With the ability to learn for themselves students can go out into the world and discover about what they are passionate about. I believe teaching a class to understand and expand on some else’s thoughts is to give them the knowledge they need to learn for themselves and for others. The power to understand the written word is the power to learn what you choose.