EDUC 354

Leah Zuidema, Instructor

Dordt College,
Fall 2010
MWF 9:00-9:50 in CL 1302

Welcome to Education 354, the methods seminar for pre-service teachers. This course introduces approaches to teaching English language arts (ELA) in secondary and middle schools. The focus is on preparing you to teach students to understand and use language well, whether they are writing or reading, speaking or listening, designing or viewing.

By this point in your lives as students and future teachers, you probably realize that some of the most thorough and meaningful learning happens when we approach new concepts with genuine and personal curiosity, with questions linked to our experiences and knowledge. To help you develop this kind of inquiry stance, this course follows an inquiry model by creating opportunities for you to explore questions that are important for ELA teachers. Throughout the semester, we will pair teaching activities with discussion about those activities. You’ll see/experience models and demonstrations of particular teaching methods, and we’ll think together about when, how, and why they work. You will practice the kinds of tasks that are crucial to the daily life of an ELA teacher: designing lessons, units, courses, and curriculum, and assessing and responding to students’ learning. You will be asked to discuss your in-process and polished coursework and to participate in small group activities, discussions, and projects.

Taken together, these activities and assignments are opportunities for you to make our class inquiry topics your own by considering the questions, issues, and problems that arise as we investigate what it means to teach and learn the English language arts. We will use our experiences as well as readings, discussions, writings, and activities to explore these course focus questions:

  • How do our pedagogies—our teaching and assessment methods, our use of texts and technologies, and our plans for lessons, units, courses, and curriculum—reflect what we know about adolescents and their literacy learning needs? When is our teaching “good,” and how do we know? Who decides?
  • How do adolescents learn to write well? What do student writers need, and what kinds of writing should they do? How do we teach students to be good writers, and what do we mean when we talk about “good” writings and writers?
  • How do adolescents learn about language, and what kinds of things do they need to know? What is the place of grammar instruction in the ELA classroom? How should we respond to and teach about language variation? How can we best respond to the needs of English Language Learners?
  • How do adolescents learn to be engaged, skillful readers? What kinds of encounters with literature and other texts are significant for adolescent readers? How do we teach our students to be good readers, and what do we mean when we talk about “good” readings and readers? What texts should we teach, and how should such decisions be made?
  • How can we as ELA teachers continue to learn and grow professionally? What supports are important for beginning ELA teachers?

Our work toward answering the course questions should inform your understanding of ELA education at applied, theoretical, and evaluative levels. Upon completion of Education 354, you should be able to (1) demonstrate your knowledge about ELA education through practice and reflection, (2) offer in-depth answers to the focus questions, and (3) critique and respond constructively to approaches to ELA education that you encounter. By the end of the course, you should also understand how much more there is to learn and have concrete ideas about how to continue to learn and grow throughout your teaching career.



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Created August 28, 2007
Updated August 23, 2010

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