Standards in the Classroom
Decisions about how the English language arts standards will be realized in particular classrooms need to be made locally. As we have affirmed throughout this document, it is the individuals working directly with students who are best equipped to make the judgments and commitments needed to bring the standards to life. Only when students, parents, and communities discuss their vision of language arts education, when administrators work to make the most of their schools' resources, and when teachers attend to their students' particular strengths and needs can these standards be realized.
This chapter offers some perspective on how the standards might be implemented by looking at a selection of classroom vignettes. Students in these classrooms are engaged in challenging, purposeful language experiences that draw on and enhance their competencies in all six of the language arts. These experiences help them gain the knowledge, confidence, and creativity to be fully literate participants in their world. Like the brief examples of classroom practice offered elsewhere in this document, these vignettes are presented as further reflections on the standards, not as models that embody their thorough realization. Although the approaches to teaching and learning depicted in the vignettes are in general positive examples, they are intended to encourage critical review and discussion among teachers and other readers of this document.
The vignettes are not meant to correlate directly with individual standards; in fact, each depicts a rich learning experience that incorporates several standards simultaneously. These examples of classroom practice make clear the important interrelations among the different language arts, as among the standards themselves. In so doing, they highlight both the complexities and the serendipities of literacy learning.
Between five and seven vignettes are presented for each level of schooling: elementary, middle, and secondary. (The vignettes are drawn from actual classrooms and depict real classroom practices; however, some details have been recast slightly to emphasize particular aspects of the standards.) Although the grade levels are typically indicated in each classroom example, the learning and teaching events presented are relevant and applicable for students at other levels as well. We therefore encourage teachers to read through all of these classroom portraits and not to limit themselves to the selections from their own teaching levels.
Each vignette is followed by two or three questions that frame the learning experiences depicted from a wider perspective. Characteristically, these questions focus on alternatives that might be considered in the activities presented, issues not fully addressed, and possible adaptations of the insights reflected in the classroom samples. The questions posed in these sections, like the vignettes themselves, invite readers to participate in an ongoing conversation about classroom practices. We encourage readers to use the questions to consider the vignettes' applicability in their own curricula and as a starting point for discussion among colleagues.
Elementary Vignette 1
Twenty-six first graders in an urban Philadelphia school crowd around their teacher as she pulls a new picture book out of her tote bag. She places the book on her lap, quietly signaling the students to find a place to sit on the rug and get ready to share a very special story.
Once the children settle down, the teacher holds up Snowballs, by Lois Ehlert, and she and the children laugh and talk about the picture on the cover, which shows a snowman with a bird on his head. Before opening the book, the teacher asks the students if anyone can read the title. Lauren replies by sounding out /sn/ and then saying, “Snowman.” The teacher tells Lauren that she used some good strategies to read the title; she used her knowledge of the sounds of the beginning letters along with the clues from the picture on the cover. Then the teacher covers the word snow and asks Lauren to look carefully at the word balls. Lauren sounds out /b/ and scans to the end of the word before saying, “Snowball. Oh, it says snowballs.” The teacher reminds Lauren to be sure to look at the middle and end of a word, as well as the beginning, to gather clues to what the word says and means.
Ravi joins the discussion and says he figured out the title by looking at the two words: snow and balls. The teacher tells the class that Ravi has just given them yet another way to recognize a word. She then quickly reviews the three word-recognition strategies Lauren and Ravi used to figure out the title of the book: looking at and sounding out the letters at the beginning, middle, and end of a word; looking at the picture; and looking for known words within a larger, unfamiliar word. She tells them that after story time, she will add these strategies to their class chart titled “Strategies We Use to Understand What We Read.” She also makes a mental note to introduce compound words to the class at another time, using Ravi's example to demonstrate how compound words are formed and how that knowledge can be used to decode words.
Standards in the Classroom.
In Standards for the English Language Arts (pp. 33-45). , : International Reading Association and National Council of Teachers of English.