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Exploring and Developing Content Area Knowledge and Skills Essay Sample

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Exploring and Developing Content Area Knowledge and Skills Essay Sample

The English Language Arts (ELA) standards define what students should know about language and be able to do with language. The ultimate purpose of the ELA Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS) is to ensure that all students are offered the opportunities, encouragement, and vision to develop the language skills they need to pursue life’s goals, including personal enrichment and participation as informed members of our society. Although standards are focused primarily on content, it is important to consider the acquisition of learning that is undergone by students. Therefore, as a teacher it is important that I consider the questions of why, when, and how my students grow and develop as language users. It is also important to note that ELA CCGP standards are merely guidelines that provide ample room for the innovation and creativity that are essential to teaching and learning. The organizational piece of the ELA content area is also important to consider. Each of these standards is tied to the others in both obvious and subtle ways—with overlap occurring as well.

As a teacher of the twenty first century, I think that it is important to “buy-in” the interest of student learning. The learning process is more effective when students understand why they are learning specific content and when that content is presented in a relevant manner. I have communicated to students the importance of mastering ELA content area by drawing a connection between the standards and their ability to read or write their own name or even read text presented electronically (e.g. on iPads, iPhones, television, etc.). It is important to prepare students for the literacy demands of today and tomorrow. Literacy expectations are likely to accelerate in the coming decades. To engage fully in society and the work place now and in the future, students will need powerful literacy abilities.

My students will also need to develop technological competencies undreamed of as recently as ten years ago. Growing access to multimedia in both society and the classroom will continue to increase the demand for the ability to read and write using electronic media. Furthermore, reading and writing are essential skills in planning and producing nonprint media. I also take into account the relationship between literacy acquisition and spoken language when developing ELA lessons. Much of our knowledge of language and our acquisition of literacy depend on spoken language. Therefore, it is important that I help my students learn how to accomplish successfully the many functions of spoken language, such as discussing texts, making presentations, or telling stories to family and friends.

Being literate in contemporary society also means being active, critical, creative, users not only of not only print and spoken language but of visual language as well. Teaching students how to interpret and create visual texts such as illustrations, charts, graphs, and electronic displays is another essential component of the ELA content area. Although many parents and teachers worry that electronics encourage students to be passive and unreflective we cannot deny access to multimedia in the classroom if we want students to be successful in a global world. Therefore, I challenge students to analyze critically the texts they view and to integrate their visual knowledge with their knowledge of other forms of language. It was in a district wide training on implementing CCGPS that I learned my kindergarten students will be the first class required to take a computer based CCGPS high school graduation test. Therefore the use of technology in literacy lessons is imperative. I also incorporate non-fiction text and text dependent questions in my lessons to prepare my students for standardized tests.

Decisions about how I present ELA standards to my students are determined by the pre-existing organizational presentation of standards in CCGP documentation, individual student needs, and the vertical pacing map which was developed by grade level teams at Morris Brandon Elementary. To simplify the process for my students I inform them that instruction will be guided by their IEP and personal goals, as well as grade level expectations. In other words, I explain that we will utilize instructional time to address academic deficits (related to ELA) and movement towards mastery of material that is necessary to be successful on the next grade level. The CCGP standards are organized in the following strands: Reading for Literature, Reading for Information, Reading Foundational Skills, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. Although the standards are divided into the aforementioned categories the standards are interconnected. For example, the writing standards require that students write about what they read. Likewise, speaking and listening includes the necessity of presenting findings from research.

The acquisition of reading foundational skills and writing is critical at the elementary level. Therefore, with the use of professional knowledge and judgment I have created a focus on phonics in each ELA lesson that I present to my students. Research which has been presented in professional development such as Georgia Teaching Fellow Seminars and Saxon Phonics training (that I have attended) informs my professional judgment. Saxon Phonics and Spelling is a program that enables most children to develop a solid foundation in phonics and thus become successful readers and spellers. The phonics series builds on prior learning—new learning is presented in small increments that are reviewed daily for the entire year. This method of reinforcement provides my students with the practice they need to achieve success. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development the importance of phonemic awareness and phonics instruction is essential for both beginning and struggling readers (NICHD 2000). When young children receive explicit and systematic instruction in how to identify and manipulate the sounds of language (phonemic awareness) and how to associate those sounds with letters and letter patterns (phonics) children are very likely to succeed at reading. Decoding skills are considered an essential for fluent reading in later grades (Share 1995; NICHD 2000).

Two standards which are shared by both kindergarten and first grade are ELACCKRF2: Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes) and ELACCKRF3: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words. I utilize these standards as the guiding force for the development of phonics lessons. The specific learning goal that I have set for each of my students is for them to move up one grade level in reading—this goal will not be accomplished without rigorous phonics instruction. To reinforce phonics instruction I have used literacy as the vehicle for instruction in other content areas such as math and social skills. For an example, I utilized a book entitled Subtraction Action as a differentiated instruction tool for subtraction word problems. I make a conscious effort to create lessons that require the use of phonic strategies by students in all content areas. Although, I have placed an emphasis on phonics instruction the process has not been free of challenges.

Many of my students experience difficulty with auditory discrimination—they are unable to differentiate between certain letter sounds and blends. Therefore I collaborate with the school’s speech pathologist weekly to discuss progress in speech sessions as well as strategies I can utilize in my classroom to reinforce skills learned in speech sessions (that will ultimately improve phonemic awareness). Addressing deficits in auditory discrimination has been an area of strength in regards to the ELA content area. I provide many opportunities to be exposed to letter sounds with the use of listening activities that are completed in the listening center, on the computer, and with the use of an ipad. I also encourage my students to take note of the positioning of their mouth and tongue as well as the difference in vibration in their throats and on their lips when creating different letter sounds and blends. I have noticed that although my students may not be able to distinguish sounds auditorily they are able to memorize the difference experienced physically (e.g. by mouth, throat, etc.)when forming letter sounds.

References

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 2000. Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Share, D. L. 1995. “Phonological recoding and self-teaching: Sine qua non of reading acquisition” Cognition, Vol. 55: 151-218.

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