Does YA Literature belong in the Classroom?

There’s opinions all over the board on what kind of literature should  be taught in the classroom. Tradition dictates that teachers impart the Canon onto their students, making them read the classics and appreciate the literary greatness of the days of yore. On the other end of the spectrum, though, lies the teachers who want their students to read modern works more relevant to their experiences, vernacular, and cultures.

Printz Award winning author Amy King has had discussions with many English teachers who refuse to teach her novels, including her major award winner Please Ignore Vera Dietz, to their classes. Her suspicion, particularly of private schools, is that teachers are worried about preparing students for standardized tests and college classes, not in developing the students into lifelong readers or “modern” individuals.

The whole idea of a canon can be traced back to English colonialism. As a means of ushering in modern “western” standards, laws, morals, values, and religious practices, England introduced its own education system that stressed literature as a way to teach and “correct” the morals of the natives of their colonies and territories. The English canon, since then, has become a source of identity and pride, with its works glorifying Christian morals and bringing its audience to enlightenment and intellectual superiority. Thus, to modern advocates of the canon, the main argument is culture building.

Others, though, argue that forcing only the canon on students makes reading a chore and a distasteful activity, and therefore fails to produce lifelong learners. Legendary author Maya Angelou was once quoted as saying, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Many younger teachers have taken this attitude in their reading selection and tried to offer a wide variety of media (audiobooks, graphic novels, etc) as well as a broad array genres and topics that include culture points relevant to modern times with references to what’s going on in the lives of today’s teens.

Some teachers use a blend of canon and modern books in their curricula and “pair” them to give students some perspective on how similar themes play out differently given different places, times, and cultural cues. Some teachers have abandoned the concept of assigned reading altogether and instead offered a list of books from which students can chose and select the specimen of their desire to study a certain theme or device.

There are benefits and drawbacks to the inclusion and exclusion of YA literature, but the most important question to ask to ensure a positive result is the purpose of the literature assigned. If its historical appreciation and a shared experience, the canon may be the proper source, but for relevance and long-term reading delight, YA literature may do the trick.

Edtech Trends Changing the Classroom in 2017

As we all know technology is ever-so changing. 2016 was the year that really focused on increasing educational trends for next year. In my last blog post, I talked about the next level educational technology will take us to. With 2017 right around the corner, it’s important to keep an eye out on the implementation of these up and coming trends.

Personalized Learning

One of the biggest ways technology will continue to revolutionize the classrooms is to focus on a personalized form of student learning. A personalized learning program will allow each and every student to learn in the classroom at their own pace while striving to reach educational standards. Programs will focus on students learning in a way that they understand. When students aren’t able to keep up with their fears, the begin to establish lower self-esteem and engagement. Through a personalized program, students will be able to learn and use new strategies to reach goals. This will also allow them to learn time-management and interaction skills that they will be able to apply outside of the classroom.

Collaborative Learning

Back when we were young, group work was one person doing the work, while the other members just sat there. Times have changed, however, and collaboration is now being implemented in the learning process. Collaborative learning will allow students to interact through various forms of technology (i.e. social media, google drive, etc.). Students will each be able to contribute their thoughts and ideas for assignments due within the classroom. This will encourage social interaction while implementing problem solving and critical thinking skills. Students will also be more engaged within the classroom and look forward to coming to school. The idea of daily and long lectures will decrease, as students will practice learning methods through the guidance of their teachers and each other.

Flipped Classroom Concept

Another trend that will be implementing a collaborative and personalized learning concepts is the flipped classroom model. The model focuses on completing homework assignments, and interactive learning labs in school, rather than a daily lecture. For homework, the students would go home and listen to lectures and watch videos based on what they are learning. This allows for students to learn at their own level without becoming frustrated and stressed out. This concept works well with the advancement of technology as interactive learning because studies found that children spend a lot of their time after schools on a computer or tablet. The interaction will allow for virtual feedback and help in the learning process while receiving help from a teacher during the school day. They are able to put hands-on skills at schools where they can ask questions and gain critical thinking skills through the process.

Every Student Succeeds Act

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On December 10th of 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, a new bipartisan measure reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a 50-year-old act which outlines our country’s dedication to equal opportunity for all students.

The act is intended to continue building in areas where we’ve seen success, which was achieved by the collaborative efforts of educators, communities, parents, and students across our country. This success can be seen in the our country’s historically low dropout rates, and high school graduation rates, which are at all time highs. These students are going on to attend college in numbers higher than ever before. The Every Student Succeeds Act, also known as ESSA, is the successor of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The NCLB enacted measures to bridge the gap between traditionally underserved students and their peers, while sparking a national conversation about the necessary improvements in public education.

This new act has also revived the measures of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was signed into law by then President Lyndon Baines Johnson, in 1965. President LBJ believed in prioritizing “full educational opportunity” as our “first national goal.” The EASA was a civil rights law intended to benefit low-income student. It offered new grants to districts educating low-income students, and provided federal grants for textbooks and library books. The act also allocated funds for education centers, scholarships for low-income college students, and provided federal grants to educational agencies at the state level so they could improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.

The new act signed by President Obama is meant to “ensure success for students and schools.” Here are some highlights among the many new provisions:

  • “Advances equity by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students.
  • Requires—for the first time—that all students in America be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers.
  • Ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards.
  • Helps to support and grow local innovations—including evidence-based and place-based interventions developed by local leaders and educators—consistent with our Investing in Innovation and Promise Neighborhoods
  • Sustains and expands this administration’s historic investments in increasing access to high-quality preschool.
  • Maintains an expectation that there will be accountability and action to effect positive change in our lowest-performing schools, where groups of students are not making progress, and where graduation rates are low over extended periods of time.”

The U.S. Department of Education has started working with states and districts to begin executing this new act. If you want to stay up-to-date with news about this new act, you can subscribe here.