Teaching ELA: My Final Overview/Take

(A 30-year senior-high ELA teacher-presenter-author looks back)

10 Teaching Approaches Common to Each of the 4 ELA Areas
(Language, Literacy, Literature, Electronic Media)

All four main areas, as well as all print texts, print media, and electronic media can be studied:

1) …as language and thought (the latter includes ideas, information, arguments).
When one studies any text, one looks at the language (both verbal and visual)
and the thought within the communication situation. This includes both expressive and receptive modes of language and thought. (The expression of emotions through language would similarly be part of this approach.)

2) …using critical thinking. This would include understanding of expressed meaning, interpretation, recognition of patterns, themes, and other structures. This approach is associated with inquiry, metacognition, problem-solving, and decision-making, and is an integral ‘connecting’ process within strategic reading practice, thematic study, and cross-curricular work.

3) …in terms of the so-called ‘basics’ literacy perspective of reading and writing, as well as the other four communication skill strands. These strands include the receptive skills of listening, reading, and viewing to reach understanding, and the expressive skills of speaking, writing, and representing to communicate that understanding. (A note with regard to reading as it practised across the four ELA areas, that strategic reading is considered a fundamental ‘basic’.)

4) …interactively in a collaborative manner. Students need to practise language and thought with others, sharing and exchanging experiences, views, and work. ELA activities facilitate interpersonal and social learning–a reflection of the essential communal and social aspect of language.

5) …transactionally via the interactions of readers or viewers with texts. Sense, meaning and purpose are constructed via the interactions between students and texts. As well, relative to 4), Louise Rosenblatt has pointed out, more diverse takes in understanding and meaning-making are made possible when one shares thoughts and experiences, transactionally, with others.

6) …for subject matter and content. Regardless which of the four ELA areas one is working within or developing understandings, there always is a ‘what’ that is being studied in a given lesson. Usually, there is a genre (e.g., short story, Internet) that provides the main content. Then the information of whatever lesson or selection can be examined, discussed, responded to, and so forth.

7) …for form, technique, or style. Often the structure of a text (e.g., narrative patterns, comparison-contrast) and literary elements of a selection (e.g., audience, point of view, conflict) are studied in order to learn more about the “how”, or the way in which the four areas can be illuminated. Similarly, language and its uses (e.g., connotative words, diction, syntax, grammar) are referred to for the same purpose.

8) …using the imagination and creative response. Canadian critic Northrop Frye saw literature and literature study, for instance, as educating the imagination. In one sense, this is related to the development of empathic and critical response, but in another, it also leads to creative response or acts of the imagination in response to what is received and taught. In many ways, text creation becomes as important as text study for student work in all four areas.

9) …intermedially, blending different genres and platforms (i.e., print and electronic), and across the four areas (i.e., mixing language, literacy, literature and electronic media). No longer is an ELA course a series of separate silos (as in the passé genre-study approach) It is now a more comprehensive integrated experience in which a teacher may move between short story and YouTube, or ‘do’ literacy and electronic media at the same time.

10) …in terms of process, context, and choice—experienced receptively and expressively–within whatever communication process. Whatever moment or lesson relative to any of the four ELA areas can be understood or expressed from those three aspects. It is through the consideration of these three aspects that purpose and meaning can be established or understandings thereof arrived at.

(copyright 2020 Richard Davies)

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