Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Adult Literacy Experience in the High School Classroom

When I say adult literacy, I guess I could also be talking about college level literacy, because often times, the literature used is more on the adult edge than anything else (although I encountered a number of books that I now consider to be young adult literature in undergraduate level courses).

The most enjoyable college literature courses for me were always the special topics courses. The way I believe it works at NMSU is there is a course called ENGL 211, which is basically books across a topic chosen by the instructor. When I took it, we read science fiction by female authors (you know, Frankenstein and stuff like that). I like the idea of forming a class around a genre, or a very specific topic, and moving forward from there.

For example, I have been a fan of dystopia (the opposite of utopia) themed literature. Books like 1984, A Brave New World, and even down into children's books like The Giver and The City of Ember. Imagine in a high school lit/comp class, instead of reading books like Wuthering Heights and Lord of the Flies (both classics in their own rights, but ultimately books I never felt a connection with as a 17 year old high school student), surveying the class (or even making the decision yourself, as a teacher), and reading books across that specific theme that's chosen. I would have been reading day and night if my senior English class was themed around zombie literature (OK, too much of a stretch?) or even historic fiction out of a certain period, say the Civil War or World War II.

Basically, look at it this way. As a teacher, what are your interests? You'd be surprised how just showing what you're interested in, letting your passion for that subject come to the surface, and sharing your knowledge can change the way students think about that topic. I'm quite interested in World War II and am passionate about some of the books I choose to read to my 5th graders, and many, if not most of my students end up sharing that passion and interest. It's just a continuing step in taking back the field of education, throwing down the test preparation materials, and doing what we should have been doing all along, teaching with passion and interest, teaching students to really learn about the world instead of teaching them to fill in bubbles on a test sheet.