Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Literacy in Career and Technical Education

It seems like an odd question to ask… "How do we best teach literacy in CTE?". That's the question I'm dealing with right now and I think as I contemplate answering this question it fits very well with the theme of this blog.

Literacy in CTE has been conceptualized because workplace expectations and duties have become more complex. We must now teach students to read and understand highly complex material. We must also teach students to write more complex thoughts. This is all necessary to communicate in a more collaborative workplace that no longer involves standing on the line and being part of a simplistic piecing together of a manufactured good. Now, to teach, as it were, is a more complex process because of this. In fact, educators shouldn't really be using the word teach at all. That is, until after a student is able to read and write. Teachers have become more like script writers or directors who develop short-term roles for their students as whatever sort of character that pertains to a lesson that involves higher-order thinking skills. These lessons have become a microcosm of the real world. Or, at least, I'd like to think this is how school is evolving.

Much is learned by pretending and imagining ourselves in the shoes of another. When I was growing up movies, books or television shows that I was involved with in the evenings would direct my playtime during the following day. I try to use this idea in combination with the thoughts I wrote in the preceding paragraph to help teachers right these scripts.

I had a discussion today with a couple of literacy specialists that concerned improving literacy scores because our Consortium is in year one of school improvement for literacy. This school improvement status is only for career and technical programs. Here are some outcomes from that discussion that include the concepts at the beginning of this blog:
  • The use of selected pieces of literature that in one way or another incorporate specific Career and Technical programs. Selected chapters within these books will be added to Accelerated Reader programs at the high schools. This way, CTE students will be earning whatever incentives or credits that are available through their Accelerated Reader program as part of their Career and Technical learning.
  • Both specialists said that Battle of the Books was very popular and fun. We discussed a sort of Battle of the Writers contest that would be similar and that would be carried out through the Career and Technical programs. Literacy teachers would assist in evaluating preliminary rounds that took place at the schools. Subjects or topics would be announced prior. The writing would have a technical flair and would be counted toward credit in both Career and Technical and literacy classes. Final rounds would take place at the educational cooperative. The final round would include oral presentations as part of the competition.Winners would be recognized at a banquet and be given prizes and/or other awards.
  • Teams of students in Career and Technical courses could write children books with content provided from what they had learned in their CTE courses. Drafts would be evaluated by literacy and elementary specialists. Finished products would be graded in submitted for publishing and binding. the reward would be having the finished product on the shelf of any school or public library.
 I hope to continually develop these "screenplays" into something that becomes real and by doing this I hope that these modified, real-life activities might increase a student's, or even a teacher's, ability to think creatively, solve complex problems, explain themselves well, and have a good time while doing it all with a teammate.

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