The writing demands, and by that I mean the required monthly student work, in Grade 3 is driving me. We are asked to produce a student response to reading sample monthly – something that is sorely needed by my students. MCAS, soon-to-be replaced by whatever literacy testing the Core Curriculum invents, asks our students to read and respond to a text. On the surface that doesn’t sound too awful, but it usually end up being very challenging.
Starting at “ground zero” as we often do in urban districts, our students seem to not have much experiential background, and therefore schema, for connecting texts to the outside world. With funding cuts, the schools are no longer able provide the field trips needed to expand this knowledge base and that’s really hurting students, especially second language learners and high-poverty students whose families don’t have means to expose them to “things”.
Most, if not all, of my students have never been to Boston – a 17 mile trip from Lowell. When we talk about the State House, when we talk about Lexington or Concord… these are all just theoretical places to them. How I wish we could take our students to walk the Battle Road, to see where the laws that impact them are made, to connect to the world around them. Even though we live about an hour’s drive from the ocean, many of my students have never walked along the beach front or heard its thundering roar.
If I was in charge of education funding, I would be sure to include these experiences for learners. They provide invaluable schema with which to make connections and that is something the unending rounds of testing can never achieve.