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Week 2 Discussion - Reading & Literacy

How is literacy a “right?”

Literacy is a "right" in that every person has the right to an education, and the purpose of an education is for students to achieve literacy in core subjects. No one will become an expert in everything, but leaving school with a functioning knowledge in core areas, and the ability to think about these subjects with some degree of autonomy and the ability to apply knowledge is imperative.

"Every child deserves to know how he or she thinks and learns." (Plaut 2009). By giving each child insight into their own thought processes, we give them the ability to absorb knowledge in the most efficient way possible, and to approach problems in ways that make the most sense to them. In doing this, we create critical thinkers - and critical thinkers are a vital component in a functioning society where people are innovating and creating. We need the students of today to become leaders and thinkers - not just worker bees who follow orders.

What is the teacher’s role in a culturally diverse class?

In a diverse classroom, a teacher must make sure he or she is providing instruction that is mindful of and differentiated for a variety of learners, that is tailored to the specific students in the classroom, and their needs. To do this, the teacher must not only be mindful of other cultures, but have a depth of understanding to help relate to student behavior and understanding.

There are a number of issues that make teaching literacy to ELL students difficult, many of which are outlined on pp. 56-57 of Alverman 2010. To overcome these difficulties, the teacher must be able to "adjust one's lesson in the midst of teaching" and recognize that teaching "decisions are most effective when teachers integrate their subject matter expertise with what they have learned about their students' language and culture." (Alverman 2010).

Beyond educating oneself in regards to particular student languages and cultures, the teacher can then take this information and provide examples and support that all students can relate to, break down high level concepts into chunks that all learners can understand, and make a variety of materials accessible to students for classroom use. In the ELA classroom, teachers can provide reading suggestions to students based on their individual interests and reading level that can spark and appreciation for reading and literature.

How does “seeing to learn” fit into the teacher’s role? Do you feel that you share this vision of teaching beyond boundaries?

Teachers have a responsibility to help each learner in their classroom learn to the best of their ability. In previous classes, this has required lesson plan differentiation and learner-based modifications. We're now going beyond this, and it makes sense that a teacher is responsible for viewing each student holistically, and studying all of the traits that make up each learner for which the teacher is responsible.

Any lesson created in a vacuum, regardless of how well intentioned, will fail if it can't reach the specific learners in the class. Not only must a teacher review and learn about who is in his or her

classroom, but the teacher must constantly assess who these students are, as their needs will shift throughout the year as they develop and learn.

Teachers must work to reach all students. It is not their responsibility to conform for our ease and benefit (although students should and do have a responsibility to behave within the confines of the classroom norms). Our responsibility is to help them identify their best learning abilities and motivations, and give them the tools they need to succeed and become active, metacognitive thinkers.

I do share the vision of teaching beyond boundaries. I like the idea of approaching each student holistically, and seeing each for more than just one or two defining characteristics. Teaching is a profession that is constantly evolving and changing - just like the students. Therefore, "educating all teachers - minority and nonminority - in a manner that helps them to understand the central role of culture in their lives and the lives of all their students" is imperative. (Alverman, 2010). If a teacher is constantly open to new learning experiences, the needs of each student can be met, and students won't feel boxed into a category, or generalized.


Pilato, V. (2014). Seeing to learn. Document posted in University of Maryland University College EDTP 639 9020 online classroom, archived at: http://learn.umuc.edu

Alverman, D., Gillis, V., & Phelps, S. (2013). Content area reading and literacy. Upper Saddle River, NJ:

Pearson Education.

Plaut, S., Theodore, S. (2009) The Right to Literacy in Secondary Schools: Creating a culture of Thinking. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.