Reading the world: literacy outside of books
Chloë Winegar-Garrett

Chloe, thank you very much for sharing the literature that you have utilized before in your classroom. I had never read that short piece before, but you are completely correct when you say it’s “short but poignant.” Humility is a trait that not everyone possesses, but I do believe that anyone who has ever wanted to be a teacher understands how important humility is. Having a position of authority over a bunch of humans who come from places that only they themselves have seen is a call to be humble. To take a step back and realize that your life is not the only life, and your experiences are far from anything they have been through. Classrooms are made to share those experiences and shed light on the beauty of them all, while simultaneously allowing them to just be silent and simply exist. I agree; that’s why it is so much more powerful to study pieces of literature that have some depth to them. Don’t get me wrong, Romeo and Juliet is a fun little play, but in the real world, it’s not necessarily applicable. We should be studying poems and paintings, novels and scripts that not only make us feel something, but do so because each one holds a piece of each of us within it; “building meta knowledge through connecting education with the real world.”

I took a class a few semesters ago and my professor told me one of the greatest things I have ever heard. She told me that there is always a way to make assignments “real world.” At first I didn’t believe her; how can creative assignments relating to Romeo and Juliet be applicable to the real world? Her method was to take a non-fictional element of the story, and turn it into an assignment that students could use outside of the classroom. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, her example was to take the time in the story that they write letters to one another. The assignment for the students is to first pick either Romeo or Juliet to write from their point of view. Then the student has to complete three different genres of writing; (1) a formal email (something they would write to a college professor), (2) a hand-written letter (proper format complete with properly addressed mailing envelope), and (3) a poem (correct format of stanzas, lines, syllables, etc.). This way students can enjoy and have the experience of reading such a famous play, but the work that goes with it is not tedious and unimportant, such as writing a five paragraph essay about the plot. Another example could be read a novel with a strong main character, and write a resume from their perspective; again, interaction with the text, but using a writing format that will be helpful to them in the real world.

So the answer to your question I believe is yes; literacy is a skill that exists outside of books and school. It is our job as educators to make our students see that this connection is possible, and make them believe that they are not actually just “wasting their time” in the classroom.

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