I currently teach two English 10 classes and three AP English Literature classes. All my lessons aim to enhance the understanding, interpretation, analysis, and evaluation of a written text, but our new curriculum requires applying these skills to a variety of texts which include written texts – fictional and informative visual texts, films, paintings, and commercials without excluding oral texts. My students' approach to the interpretation of the text is quite superficial because they are not used to spending time either reading and reflecting or looking at the many different details the text presents. The same applies when they are asked to listen to someone's story. They accept and believe anything the internet and media say without reflecting and deciding independently, or they dismiss whatever they read or hear as meaningless. I believe my students need to understand what the written, oral, or visual message really conveys. I want them to understand that any text has a purpose and addresses a specific audience.
My school is an art school and our mission is to cultivate different artistic talents while maintaining a high level of rigor in the academics. On one side, this aspect is an excellent tool I can use to encourage the interest of the strugglers or to introduce difficult topics or concepts each class is rich of individuals with a vivid creativity in many different fields and a great variety of learning styles. At the same time, my students often miss regular instructions in the academics because they are involved in numerous rehearsals throughout the school year.
This particular context opens up a variety of possibilities in the selection of teaching strategies and learning styles. To begin with, the AP students do not reflect the "traditional" population of students who enter the class with adequate skills and knowledge. These students have good writing skills but they have never been exposed to a rigorous curriculum covering a variety of texts from all literary genres like drama, fiction, poetry from the sixteenth century on. Their first hardship is reading and understanding canonical texts, not to mention poetry since our curriculum does not include it. The College students struggle because they lack motivation and because of reading difficulties they proudly hide with the commonest excuse: this text is slow and boring. My students learn through continuous and differentiated modeling and scaffolding – a useful combination of I do (I show them how to write or what strategy they need to follow for reading and understanding), we do (we repeat the same writing or reading together so it becomes more familiar), and they do (they have learned and can write or read proficiently) in combination with continuous references to the visual arts.