Thursday, November 14, 2013

Journal Article for School: How Do We Learn?

The general movement of a learning community is upward. Otherwise, it is not a learning community. An individual can only learn so much on his or her own, in the absence of community. I like to think of all learners, myself included, as gradual ascenders up an imagined, “knowledge mountain”, open space for exploration on either side. Along the mountain’s path there are checkpoints, that to us signify successful completion of something tangible; in this example, all coursework specific to the content of a single class, 11th Grade ELA, for a given year. Along the way, learners may have to backtrack, if unable to demonstrate understanding of one or more crucial competencies; for upward trek, is, in these instances, contingent upon mastery. Occasionally, learners should be encouraged to reflect on ground already covered. This too, serves a purpose, easing the process of instructional scaffolding. Every step of the way, learners should have an open window opportunity for looking out over the horizon; scanning, touching, breathing, hearing, speaking the “space” communities “create,” with all five of their senses; allowing for the unbridled exchange of alternate perspectives regarding how we make sense of information as it is gathered and presented; some perspectives, of which, may drastically impact early learners’ growing, shifting, shaping voices the world will eventually come to know. The ELA instructor should select longer texts that ALL students can connect to, regardless of cultural, economic and social background. There are texts that fit the criterion: texts with clear cut universal themes anyone can relate to. Longer texts are not the end all be all for in-class instruction. Novels, rather, are “foundation layers”. The ideal classroom novel becomes a medium, allowing different minds, eyes, ears, and voices to come together in likeness, and discuss amongst themselves what brought them here, to this point in time. Commonality is a threadwork for unity, paving the way for open dialogue with respect to inherent differences; that allows for true growth and upward mobility in both traditional and nontraditional ways. To grow as learners in a communal setting, students must first come together. Supplemental texts and visual materials can be anything and everything on either side of the mountain, connecting back to the foundational text of the novel itself. This type of thought processes empowers students. By validating all students’ current knowledge, teachers encourage their students to go out and search for more. Students bring up other books and articles they have read that make them think of a particular part of the novel, maybe a side narrative, one of the major themes, or turning points. Students draw upon their extensive knowledge of movies, television shows and music lyrics, making connections. The learning community welcomes all of these artifacts as worthy supplements to the unit. Teachers also come forward and share (articles, videos, paintings, poems) supplemental resources, that perhaps, open students’ eyes to historically marginalized alternate viewpoints, with respect to the given theme, idea, or movement under examination. The hope, to open students’ hearts and minds up to the endless possibilities out in the world, and to inspire in them, the drive to look, is what keeps teachers going.

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