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Modern Learning with Free Literacy Blocks

There are many students that love fiction for the world it creates, the brand-new world that exists only within the front and back cover of the book. The country and culture of its origin don’t always matter. Neither does the life experiences of the author. Every writer brings their experiences with them when they write, but they also set them down on the side so they can create art for everyone, not just themselves.

But many students don’t appreciate that imaginary world, and they need to see their own world and life in the words on the page. They want to know why it’s still important to read fiction, just like they want to know why it’s important to memorize formulas. They want to clearly see the intersection between the fictional story and the real story. And not just the story of the writer’s life and time, but their own story living in a complicated, beautiful, exciting, and sometimes disappointing world.

What better way to give them time to do just that: explore the world they live in and make sense of it. This is, of course, a job for history and social studies teachers, but language teachers know how to help students imagine an argument and a philosophy all their own. Once they get the chance to talk about all the interesting issues of the modern world, they will make connections to the characters and plotlines in novels, short stories, and poems.

Just as we create essential questions to open up class conversations about literature, they can also be used to open up conversations about literary nonfiction in podcast, videos, and essays. We want our students to think deeply about the world they live in, just like all the greatest writers. In Free Literacy Blocks, students get the opportunity to spend a short amount of time each week exploring modern topics. They learn how to voice their opinion and also respect and consider the opinion of others. It’s an important life skill even as kids spend more and more time communicating with the exchange of short virtual texts and images.

At the end of the project, students choose what to read, watch, or listen, and they also choose how to express what they learned all year.

Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers

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