Big Ideas in Literacy
The English language arts classroom has always been the primary place where students are taught academic literacy practices. These days, as teachers of other subjects, like math and science, are asked to incorporate academic literacy into their classrooms, some English teachers ask each other, “If reading and writing are taught in science, math, and social studies classes, do we still need English class?” The answer is yes!
Although all content areas share some reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking practices, English is still unique. In English class, students study the English language and all its contexts and manifestations most directly through reading, thinking about, and responding to literature of several types (novels, memoirs, biographies, plays, poetry, editorials), written at different points in history and for varied audiences. They engage in reading and critical analysis of written text and oral text (speeches, debates). With respect to both written and oral language, students are readers and listeners as well as writers and speakers, creating stories and constructing arguments. A unifying theme throughout English class is the study of language in its many variations, formats, purposes, and audiences. It is a place where students learn not only about English literature, but also about language in general.
English as a discipline is often characterized as concerned only with reading and writing about literature, poetry, and fiction. These genres are important, but the discipline also addresses other areas of language study, reading comprehension, and written and spoken expression, such as the analysis of style in spoken and written texts.
The next four units of this course examine the practices of English studies. The first unit explores significant ideas currently being discussed at many levels of English teaching and the education profession, such as policy, research, teacher education, and teaching. The second and third units focus on reading practices and instructional strategies in English and a similar review of writing in English. The last unit brings these ideas together and discusses broader instructional design.