Reading Response #2

Much of the reading from Brown and Knowles' chapter 9 provided input about middle level teachers' and schools' experiences of curriculum to someone who may have little knowledge about it, but since I am in this setting, it was not all new information for me. However I really enjoyed how the chapter opened up with "What is curriculum?" I found this to be very powerful as we use and see the word extremely often, but to stop and think about what exactly it is, or should be, is something some teachers or schools may forget to do, which is also an idea that outlines this chapter. It stuck with me to read the list about what curriculum "is not" and realize that often times when we refer to textbooks, or a program of study to be completed by the end of the year that we are talking about curriculum. This chapter allowed me to keep in mind curriculum as a "plan that involves students in learning" and the "experience of students at school" which I also want to spread to colleagues. 

Some of the repetitive content in the chapter included the need for curriculum to be challenging, exploratory, integrative, and relevant. I would hope/expect most middle school teachers to already know this but the concern is whether or not these goals are actually being met for the students, even though as teachers we may think so. The chapter brings up teachers working in teams again to connect and correlate content among disciplines, but also draws upon this issue that this causes teachers to be too concerned with meeting standards. This allowed me to think, "maybe teachers should not work on a team?" I of course understand the purpose and advantage of team work, but it has been coming up often as an issue, such as artificial connections and just sticking to standards, that perhaps there is another approach. On page 139 Brown and Knowles discuss how thematic or interdisciplinary units can lose power if not clearly and appropriately connected, and I feel that teachers may not always completely succeed at this just to make the work fit with each of the subjects and work as a team. However, in the article about STEM-D and ELLs I felt differently about the way some subjects have the ability to clearly connect. 

Science, technology, engineering, math and design all come together nicely for interdisciplinary curriculum in a way that teachers working together on a team in these subject areas can enhance learning. What I liked most about this reading, as a language teacher, was the connection to ELL students. As I read I tried to think about how to make similar connections with learners of a second world language. I first thought that ELLs in STEM-D learning and classes are certainly being provided with a challenge. One thing that stuck with me was "experience the concept, then teach the vocabulary" (p.91). I often take this approach with my students as a way to create "stickiness" in the classroom. The students are likely to remember the experience and what they saw, even without having any knowledge yet. 

I also want to know more about the concept of "constructionism." I enjoyed reading about this and understanding that students should not get ideas, they make ideas. This allowed me to think about our Maker Space where I teach, where students go and create and invent anything they want. I had never realized the power of a middle school student to "make" ideas and am reflecting on how to see more of this in my classroom. I believe that students making their ideas, rather than being given or told them, will also create stickiness in a classroom and in a curriculum. Similar to the way that students can reflect on what the questions they have about themselves and about the world to be used towards creating a relevant learning plan, students should make their own ideas based on the content of their learning environments. Their own ideas, as long as they are supported by the content and learning, are more likely to stick with them than unconnected and irrelevant information that is told. 

    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito

      Jenna,

      As always, your reading response is thoughtful and thorough. Since you wrote so much about the importance of connections, I enjoyed seeing the connections you were making to your own practice as a teacher.

      For whatever reason, "curriculum," which comes from the later for route or way, almost always seen as a linear thing instead of a rich map. As in rich map, connections are plentiful and every path has potential meaning. And exploration is the vehicle for all of this. I urge you to continue pulling at this thread.

      I strongly encourage you to delve more deeply into "Constructionism." Here is a good place to start. Be sure to keep sharing your progress as you do so.

       

    ED 524 Summer 2017

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