This semester, I have been surprised by the literacy levels of my students. They are able to analyze somewhat complex texts in class. Last week we gave them an excerpt from the Communist Manifesto, and even though it uses an unusual vernacular. the kids were able to understand the main points. However, I am also surprised at how unwilling kids are today to do any reading outside of class. Now it must be said that I am involved with 2 college prep classes, and at the school I am at, college prep students do not really expect to do any homework. However, we will every once in a while give them a simple reading assignment at home, and most of the kids do not do it.
When I start teaching next year, I hope to have more readings that connect to current events. For example, to compliment the reading of the Communist Manifesto, and have them read something on the Occupy movement, and how the that movement is related. I tried to connect the two movements in class, and I started to realize that the kids didn't really know what I was talking about. I think that a mistake that I have made this year is that I assume that the kids have some interest in current events and many of them do not. Another thing that I would like to do in my classroom is to use film and movies to compliment the content. Literacy should not just be reading , but using using other forms of media as well. especially in this era of YouTube and having 500 TV Channels. For example, I could give them a prompt and ask them if they see a connection between The Dark Knight Rises and the French Revolution. I feel like this may engage students that do not like reading by using different mediums.
As the course goes on, the more experience kids haven in reading and analyzing, the deeper I think that could get. I know that the Common Core is all about Primary Sources, which are usually hard to read. What I would like to do is to have my students be able to read those documents,and then relate them to other events on their own. In the example above, I gave them a secondary event to relate it to, but maybe as the kids become more advanced, they could figure out this secondary event on their own. For example, as we talked about the Industrial Revolution and the problems of urbanization, they could maybe do a bit of research and finds that it could relate to the slums in many countries in the global south. Hopefully this would engage them by having them figure out the connections on their own, and they can start taking ownership of their own ideas.
By the end of the year, I hope that the kids are able to put everything together and they are able to write a research paper, where they are coming up with the ideas themselves. In the earlier ideas, the students were given at least one of the topics, but in this instance the kids are totally in control of the project, and will hopefully go deep in to the topic. This will hopefully motivate them to do well on the project and be interested in the content.