The ELA Department presented the findings of its most recent Curriculum Review to the school board in December of 2019.
That Curriculum Review Report laid out a plan of implementation for the department over the next several years. Among the key findings and recommendations were:
- The three shifts in the PA Core Standards are (1) a focus on building content knowledge through reading, (2) writing from texts, and (3) regular practice with complex texts.
- Students benefit most from a writing curriculum that is focused, standards-driven, and tied to reading critically in all content areas. (National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE], 2014)
- Students should be provided with more opportunities to write beyond formal, core essay assignments. Learners should be able to write for a variety of audiences in different modalities, using modern media (multimedia presentations, podcasting, journalism, website building, etc.). (NCTE, 2018)
- Students should use a common approach to writing across the curriculum. (National Writing Project [NWP], 2003)
- Incorporating grammar instruction within context is more effective than teaching it in isolation. Learners are more encouraged to follow grammar usage rules if explained within context so that they can see exactly how the structures are utilized. Students can then use these experiences as a model for their own writing, including the correct application of the grammar rules. (Adler-Kassner, 2018)
- Close reading instruction, an effective learning strategy, enhances students’ progress with the Core Standards. Incorporating challenging texts, consistency of themes, and the range of picture books to collegiate lessons are the appropriate means to test student understanding and comprehension of a text. Adolescent Literacies: A Handbook for Practice-Based Research (Catterson & Pearson, 2017)
- Current PA Core Standards focus is on expository text and literary nonfiction that holds a high interest to students. Cross-curricular nonfiction text is necessary in literacy instruction. (Young, 2013)
- Creative non-fiction texts are beneficial in the classroom versus traditional nonfiction articles. Students become disengaged when they read dull, impersonal nonfiction articles. Young adult authors are writing nonfiction books that engage students with humor, excitement, and creativity while respecting the authenticity of the history. Many nonfiction novels may also include primary sources. (Young, 2013)
- To support students’ development of global competencies, the Review Team concluded that it is necessary to include a more diverse selection of core texts as part of the Curriculum Writing process. Texts should be selected with consideration of thematic differences, cultural point of view, and critical analysis of multiple genres of text (fiction, nonfiction, current events, etc.) to promote critical and cultural literacies. In addition, the ELA Department will be a catalyst within the District to promote critical literacies within other content areas, such as Social Studies, Science, and Family and Consumer Sciences. (“Reloading the Canon,” 2019)