Building a Community of Learners

In order to build a community of learners, my classroom will utilize both reading and writing workshops. As Peterson and Hittie note, workshops are an important part of an inclusive classroom because they allow students of different levels and abilities to work together, yet each student is also motivated to set their own personal goals (Peterson and Hittie 433). Workshops are a natural fit for an English Language Arts classroom because they offer authentic and active opportunities for students to develop skills in reading and writing (Peterson & Hittie 360). Workshops typically begin with an engaging introduction and then a mini-lesson to teach particular skills. Students then work as individuals and in pairings or small groups on an end product, typically a piece of writing or a project that demonstrates reading comprehension.

In addition to workshops, I will use the following community-focused instructional strategies:

Literature Circles can be done within a reading workshop and are a great way to allow students of varying ability levels to work together (Peterson and Hittie 417). In this strategy, students meet in small groups of 3 or 4 and take turns reading assigned literature aloud and discussing different elements of the literature. Teachers can provide prompts of certain passages that students might want to discuss, or they can allow the students to take the lead. As students take turns interpreting and discussing portions of the text, they learn about each other’s perspectives and opinions. Brandvik and McKnight note that literature circles can be created according to interests, so that students who might not normally interact with each other will find they have interests in common (Brandvik and McKnight 177).

Jigsaw is another collaborative learning strategy that allows each student to act as expert and teach his or her peers. With Jigsaw, students are placed into heterogeneous groupings and each group is assigned different portions of course material, such as a book chapter or a character in a novel. Each group discusses their content and decides on the key points. The groups can either present the information to the entire class or can assemble into new groups so that each “expert” teaches their content to the other new group members. Jigsaw is an effective inclusive teaching strategy because it depends upon cooperation and it allows each student to act as an expert on his or her particular material.

Open-Ended Group Projects can be used to allow students with various abilities and skills to work together on a project. For English Language Arts, the possibilities for this strategy are endless as reading, writing, viewing, listening and speaking are all skills that can be incorporated. Additionally, students with different intelligences and strengths can contribute as their skills allow. For example, students could produce a video of a play so that some students act, others paint scenery, others direct and organize the production, and other film and edit. Another example could be the creation of a news or creative writing publication in which students write material according to their interests, some students edit the writing, others create artwork to accompany the writing, and others format the layout of the publication. With Open-Ended Group Projects, the success of the project depends on having students with different skill sets involved, so it teaches an important lesson on the need for diversity in classrooms and in the workplace.

To further address multiple intelligences and multimodal thinking, my English Language Arts classroom will not only utilize books and traditional forms of literature, but also digital and computer technology; films; music; audio recordings of books and plays; visual art; drama; and dance. By recognizing that each student can bring something special to the subject of English Language Arts, I hope to incorporate these inclusive strategies.