Building Life Skills in a Middle School Classroom
Quinton A. Granville was a seventh-grade social studies and reading teacher for Atlanta Public Schools when this blog entry was written. He is now a literacy consultant at SREB.
Quinton Granville has been using the Literacy Design Collaboration framework in his seventh-grade classroom for nearly a year. He says he’s come a long way since he was introduced to LDC through a districtwide initiative.
“At first, I was skeptical,” Granville admits. “Some of the programs we hear about seem to be focused more on entertaining students than improving student performance. What caught my attention was LDC’s focus on building transferrable skills — skills such as close reading and other strategies for understanding complex texts that you can transfer directly from the classroom to real life.
“When I had a chance to implement my first module, I instantly saw a difference in how students internalized the content so that they were able to develop verbal skills and use academic language — terms specific to the standards. I could hear them use words in context and transfer that skill to using words in context in their writing. Students were able to make better connections. With mini-tasks, they can prioritize skills to focus on.”
Students were genuinely interested. They were invested.
Granville also credits LDC with improving students’ attitudes and motivation.
“What I’ve noticed during eight years of teaching middle school students is that when they act out, it’s not necessarily a behavioral issue. When I see kids with their heads on their desks or with apathetic attitudes, it’s because they’re not engaged or interested or challenged.
“Before LDC, I saw that some students were removed from class discussions — or if they were participating, they were really just going through the motions. With LDC, the level of engagement in the text and in minitasks increased; students were genuinely interested. They became enthusiastic during group work. Students were invested.”
The culture of the classroom transitioned, he said, and students felt free to make mistakes and learn from them. He says students’ attitudes changed from “Why do I have to write this?” to a competitive situation in which students would challenge each other: “How many pages did you write?” He laughs when recalling earlier struggles persuading students to get words onto the page. “I had to tell them to stop using 24-point type. At first, it was difficult to get them to write three paragraphs; within a short time, they were complaining that three paragraphs weren’t enough!
The perfect practice that leads to perfect writing
“In the classroom, I see that students are capable — it’s just that they have not been exposed to the perfect practice that leads to perfect writing. I’ve seen the results.
“My students are not honors students. They’re considered remedial, but if you could see them working on LDC mini-tasks, doing peer editing, you would think they were honor students.
“LDC can open doors to life opportunities for students. I think about this a lot,” he says. ”I wonder where my students are going to be in 10 years and if what they’re learning now will help them with that.”