Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What if I were an English teacher? Pt. 2

As part of my preparation for some theoretical Spanish / English split post, I've been looking over Michigan state documents on teaching ELA and the standards and benchmarks.  Mostly I'm looking at the state standards: I haven't yet processed the Common Core standards, although from what I remember by flipping through them way back in March, the Common Core and the existing Michigan ELA S&B's are pretty similar.   Since they're the law of the state, though, I should download and study them.

(I have at least one non-teacher regular reader here.  So a few definitions might help: This post refers heavily to the state Standards and Benchmarks, both in ELA and in World Languages.  This is a list of skills in the respective languages that students need to have by the time they finish a class.  Because of the recursive nature of language learning, they're skills and knowledge that learners need to show progress on from year to year.  The Common Core standards come from a movement to set nationwide, consistently high standards.)

And I keep saying this, but the standards are shockingly similar to the standards for World Languages.  The first strand focuses on expressing yourself through speaking, writing, and visual presentations.  The second, unsurprisingly, is on interpretive skills--reading, listening, and viewing.  Those two correspond nearly identically to the Communication thread in the World Language standards.

The third thread is called "Literature and Culture," clearly an exact match for the Culture thread in WL.  The fourth is called "Language."  The title doesn't say much, but as I started reading the actual standards, this strand has elements very similar to the Comparisons and Communities strands. 

The standard sets have much more in common that differences.  The biggest differences here are that, in ELA, the learner is not assumed to have formal study in another language, the way a high school Spanish learner is.  This seems obvious--as I re-read what I just wrote, I think, "Why would I write something that obvious?"  But it's a striking and important difference.  Part of the goal of studying Spanish is to compare it to English, to improve the learner's skills in both languages.  If I were to walk in to teach an English classroom, I think that would be the biggest change to bear in mind from Day 1 forward.  (That and, of course, not to speak in Spanish.) 

No comments: