An immodest proposal

Here’s a thought: what if we ditched our “language arts” textbook entirely and implemented our language arts performance standards through readings in our social studies and science curricula?

I’m going to use our Frederick Douglass example, with the essential question, What was the biggest obstacle Douglass had to overcome, and what in his life most helped him overcome it?

What if we had:

  • a brief biography of Douglass
  • Pink and Say, by Polacco
  • Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, by Hopkinson
  • Follow the Drinking Gourd, by Winter
  • a recent in-depth article on the impact of free schools in Africa from the New York Times [Pushed by world monetary forces, African governments are lifting school fees, which though low are still prohibitive for most citizens. The result is first-grade classes with 150 kids in them as children flock for the opportunity to learn to read and write.]
  • perhaps an excerpt from Booker T. Washington’s autobiography in which he describes the day freedom was proclaimed on his plantation, when he was six years old.

But that’s too much to read! We’d never get through it!

We would if we didn’t have “weekly selections” and all those worksheets to do. Those would be our reading selections. We’d use our brief bio as the main selection, then branch off from there.

Go look at the third grade GPS language arts curriculum. Can we not cover (and by “we,” I mean classroom teachers, of course) almost all of these standards by reading the above items? And what we don’t cover with Douglass, we can cover with Revere, Anthony, Bethune, the Roosevelts, and Chavez. Or with materials for our science studies.

And we can also cover our social studies standards at the same time, using our readings as the basis for further research into Douglass’ life and times as we try to answer the essential questions.

Is part of the answer to our overall question of what media’s role is in all this, is that we can provide this kind of thinking/design/implementation in collaboration with teachers?

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