As teachers, we usually go into the first weeks of school assuming full responsibility for building the learning space. But what happens if we put some of that responsibility in our students’ hands instead? Our new students come to us full of ideas, stories, expertise, and curiosity. These are the essential materials for a strong classroom community. Here are a few ideas for how to put those raw materials to use:
Have you tried these or other community building activities? Tell us what works!
March is NCTE’s official Literacy Education Advocacy Month! Literacy Education Advocacy Day in Washington DC kicked off the month long focus on Thursday, February 25, 2016. We know that teachers have the knowledge and classroom experience needed to talk with policymakers, school leaders, parents, and the public about the topics important to literacy teaching and learning. But what about students? Students should also speak out and advocate. The following resources from NCTE share examples of how this can be done.
“Advocacy at the Core: Inquiry and Empowerment in the Time of Common Core State Standards” describes one 7th-grade teacher’s experience as she reconciles the Standards with the critical literacy theories of Patrick Finn (2009) and Paulo Freire (1970). The author creates an “Advocacy Project” that empowers students to identify opportunities for agency in their own lives. Students read and write personal essays proclaiming their passions, investigate the facts surrounding their chosen issue, and present their findings to their peers in presentations and research papers.
A collaborative team of five international teacher educators/researchers examine the importance of student voice for authentic discourse and instructional design in contemporary classrooms in “Using Student Voices to Guide Instruction“. Excerpts from their perspectives on teaching, research, and innovative programs are woven together and include suggested Actions/Reflections for the reader.
Fred Barton describes his use of an advocacy project for writing instruction in
“Walking the Talk: Creating Engaged Citizens in English Class“. He contends that such projects meet the instructor’s pedagogical goals while helping students recognize their place in a democratic society with the ability to influence institutional change.
“Not Going It Alone: Public Writing, Independent Media, and the Circulation of Homeless Advocacy” argues that the teaching of public writing should not neglect issues of circulation and local need. In a series of case studies involving small press papers and homeless advocacy, the authors seek to extend recent work begun by Susan Wells, John Trimbur, and Nancy Welch, which raises crucial questions about public rhetoric in the writing classroom.
Students in college writing courses need to understand world issues, including the oppressive effects of the global economy. But their teachers need to give them a sense of agency and authority, rather than simply telling them what political positions to take. “Student Investment in Political Topic” provides an example of a writing assignment that might engage as well as inform students involves analyzing Parade magazine’s annual list of the world’s worst dictators.
What civic activities do you and your students take part in?