National Writing Project

Behind the Curtain: A Teacher's Quest to Better Understand, Write, and Model Poetry

By: Valorie Stokes, Angela Kohnen, Amy Lannin, Nancy R. Singer, Katie Kline, Amy E. Knowles
Publication: English Journal
Date: November 2014

Summary: A group of professors and teachers from the Missouri Writing Projects Network share their experience designing and implementing literacy-focused professional development for content-area and career/technical teachers. They propose that the National Writing Project's "teachers teaching teachers" model, emphasizing the value of content-area specific literacies, is an effective way to address the Common Core State Standards' challenge to spread literacy education throughout the curriculum.

 

Although the CCSS challenges all teachers to share a responsibility for literacy, we recognize that to be literate in the ELA classroom requires different skills than literacy in other content-area classrooms. There is some overlap—if a student can't read and write, it will be more challenging for him or her to communicate in the field. However, literacy in the content-area and CTE (career and technical education) classroom means being able to communicate effectively using tools of the trade—fixing, solving, creating, analyzing, organizing, explaining—while literacy in the ELA classroom might mean that students can decode certain kinds of texts and write in specific academic genres.

A first step in many of our programs was to recognize the literacy expertise of non-ELA teachers. Even in CTE centers where 'classrooms' include welding stations and construction sites, successful students must read a variety of texts. These include written texts (recipes, instructions, warnings, codebooks, policies, industry standards, etc.) but also 'texts' such as patients (health careers), automobiles (automotive repair), and soil (agriculture). Although facilitators welcomed this expanded notion of literacy, in many of our programs non-ELA teacher participants worried that CCSS in general and our professional development programs in particular were asking them to take on the job of the ELA department. Facilitators knew that we needed to emphasize that our programs honored the literacy expertise non-ELA teachers already had."

About the Authors

AMY LANNIN is an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, and is the director of the Missouri Writing Projects Network.

ANGELA KOHNEN is an assistant professor at Missouri State University, and is the co-director of the Ozarks Writing Project.

KATIE KLINE is a lecturer at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and is the director of the Greater Kansas City Writing Project.

NANCY SINGER is an associate professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and is the director of the Gateway Writing Project.

VALORIE STOKES is a professional development mentor at the Prairie Lands Writing Project, and is a librarian for Platte County R-3 High School.

AMY KNOWLES is a student teacher supervisor at Missouri State University, and is the co-director of the Ozarks Writing Project.

Lannin, Amy, Angela Kohnen, Katie Kline, Nancy Singer, Valorie Stokes, and Amy Knowles. "From English Language Arts Teacher to Literacy Expert: Reimagining Our Roles." English Journal 104:2 (2014) 54-60. Copyright ©2014 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Reprinted with permission.

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