Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Essential Question: "What is Language Arts?"

In building the foundation for a year of learning in the language arts classroom I feel it is important to connect students to the big picture.
What is language arts?
In school, language arts often comes in pieces and parts: spelling, grammar, and vocabulary, reading fluency and comprehension, memorizing poetry, AR levels and tests.
I am a big picture learner.
I believe in connecting, as much as possible, the pieces and parts to the authentic purpose. I believe that even young students can connect with big ideas.

So I asked my students, "What is language arts?"
A 5th grader responded:
"Language Arts has a bunch of divided into different activities like, reading, writing, and vocabulary.  Writing improves your spelling and punctuation.  Reading improves your grammar.  Vocabulary improves the way you speak.  The type of tests you do are AR, Spelling, and Vocabulary." (emphasis mine)
This answer shows some insight, but it's totally backwards. Does an athlete play soccer to become better at passing the ball? I worry that it is the teaching of skills without connecting them to authentic literacy is what leads to these disjointed ideas. 
Wordle of student responses

We discussed the connections between reading, writing, communicating and thinking. Then students worked together to brainstorm lists of verbs and nouns that pertained to language arts. 

Finally, with the help of our wonderful art teacher, Shana Gutterman, each student chose one special word to decorate. We are going to create a colorful word wall in the classroom which will hopefully serve as an ongoing reminder to all of us of the beauty, purpose and artistry of language arts.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Andrea! And I love the activity, can’t wait to see the finished product. I agree with you that the bigger picture must be taught. It is important to remember that language is not a collection of separate, unrelated elements, but rather a process which combines all the various elements. It is a beautiful art indeed -- well symbolized by the art activity!

Andrea Hernandez said...

Thank you for commenting. I don't know if this activity will ultimately prove useful. It's sometimes hard to know what actually matters with teaching. However, I think, if nothing else, the wall will serve as a great visual reminder for me to remember to use "Choice Words" that connect the students with authentic literacy. I think it will be pretty, too, and I like a beautiful, student-created space.