A new way to approach teaching has been stewing in my brain since several weeks ago. I was interviewing Dr. Sheri Mycue, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas, and she talked about her stressors as a teacher.
The first was a lack of time. Can’t we all relate to that one? She also shared with me some of her favorite lessons: social studies gallery walks, working with globes, doing experiments. Then she explained how she wished that schools were structured so that social studies and science were viewed as the foundations of curriculum, and math and reading were integrated as tools for learning.
What If Things Were Different?
If we look at how skills are acquired outside of the classroom, the process is very distinct. If I want to teach someone how to bake beautiful wedding cakes, we don’t start by measuring flour accurately over and over again, first one cup, then half a cup, then a one-third a cup, then beating one egg, then separating eggs. Instead, we bake cakes. What if I wanted to teach you to repair cars? Yes, you have to read the manual, but will you practice unscrewing bolts over here, and now tightening them properly, and then once you master that, you can remove alternators? No.
If we are preparing students to use reading and writing as tools for communicating ideas for jobs in science, government, teaching, and engineering, why aren’t we teaching them how to think in those fields with reading and writing as the tools they hone as they learn? When science and social studies are a full-fledged part of the curriculum instead of squeezed into incredibly tight schedules, we can integrate literacy tools, introducing and reinforcing reading skills while the student explores and prepares for authentic experiences. This framework could give us more time to explore fundamental topics fully without sacrificing literacy learning.
Classroom libraries and reading collections have been historically weighted toward the most easily available texts: literary texts. But now, with more access than ever before to interesting science and social studies texts and resources that are diverse and rigorously correlated to standards, we can anchor learning in formerly neglected content while using the literacy methods in a hands-on and meaningful way.