The name of this unit, “Our Class,” is a statement of perspectives: our investment as teachers in a class we have created and wish to further
develop, and our specific goal for students -a sense of ownership of their own learning experience.
During the past two academic years we have team-taught a class for students who read well below grade level, have difficulty expressing themselves coherently—or at all—in writing, and who have little or no experience in orally articulating their feelings, thoughts, and ideas in an academic setting. The way we teach this class, and the unit we will write about it, reflect our view that classroom environment and curriculum content need to be consciously integrated. By classroom environment we mean a general recognition of the effects of how and why students interact with each other and with the teachers. By curriculum content we mean the specific reading, writing and conversation topics used both to expand the students’ skills and involve them in the class.
Within the class we have goals for individual students and goals for the teachers. For the students we would hope to see an improvement in reading, writing, and oral communication skills and an overall growth in self-confidence and ability to learn in a school environment. For the teachers the goals are to promote a cooperative non-competitive atmosphere, to act as facilitators of learning rather than disseminators of information, and to encourage risk- taking so that mistakes are accepted as a normal and essential part of learning. This overall structure is designed to support freedom of thought and expression within the limits of clearly structured, non- threatening assignments.
This curriculum unit will be divided into three sections. In the first
section we will discuss our view of learning and place it in a larger social and educational framework. In the second section of the unit, which forms the main part of the paper, we will describe and explain in detail the structure, environment, and curriculum content of “Our Class” as it presently exists. The third part of the unit will explain our method of choosing and using reading materials. It will introduce a group of stories not previously used in the class and include several sample lesson plans.