57. How to articulate between middle and high school levels. How and where to begin.

This is an excellent question that MUST be addressed by ALL teachers at ALL levels.

I would like to answer this question from the perspective of language development.

Indeed, a student cannot be said to "KNOW" a topic or subject matter unless and/or until that student can VERBALIZE – i.e., talk, discuss, express himself/herself intelligently, coherently, using the appropriate subject matter terminology--, the ideas, the concepts, the issues relating to the topic or subject matter.

TALKING, VERBALIZING, EXPRESSING ONESELF, DISCUSSING, EXPLAINING, PERSUADING, all of these ORAL LANGUAGE activities provide evidence of understanding, of knowing, of learning, of mastery of the topic or subject matter. When a student confronts a reality or an idea and ORALLY can analyze it, talk about it, and dissect it, that students KNOWS, has mastered the key concepts contained within the idea, or within the reality.

In my opinion, it is through oral language that ARTICULATION must take place, from grade to next grade, from elementary to middle, and from middle to high school. HOW?

Let me give an idea of what I am trying to explain: I see no reason why Kindergarten students never LEARN to ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTIPLY, DIVIDE, DO FRACTIONS, DECIMALS, PROPORTIONS, STATISTICS, etc. Now, I DO NOT mean that Kindergarten students learn the OPERATIONS for adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, fractions, decimals, etc. I mean that Kindergarten students, through manipulatives, through very concrete experiences using concrete objects, learn to add, subtract, multiply, divide, learn fractions, decimals, etc. AND, THROUGH THESE VERY CONCRETE INSTRUCTIONAL ACTIVITIES, Kindergarten students learn to TALK, VERBALIZE, EXPRESS THEMSELVES, DISCUSS, and EXPLAIN ADDITION, SUBTRACTION, MULTIPLICATION, DIVISION, ETC.

Thus, in the earlier grades, students should be provided lots of meaningful CONCRETE experiences through which they learn to PERCEIVE and TALK about the concepts and ideas that, in other more advanced grades, they will learn through conceptual means, i.e., operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc.

At this time, students may not be provided sufficient instructional activities to develop ORAL LANGUAGE skills to express themselves in the content areas. In my opinion, students are SELDOM provided CONCRETE experiences. Rather, the ABSTRACT concepts are explained and introduced and practiced as ABSTRACTIONS, with little or no connection to reality or to language development.

Thus, AT EACH GRADE, students are introduced to the abstract operations required in mathematics, and to the abstract concepts presented in other subjects. In the previous grades, however, there is little or no preparation through CONCRETE and through ORAL LANGUAGE development activities to perceive and TALK and EXPRESS oneself about these abstract concepts in the different subject matters. There is little or no articulation.

Let me give an example: The 7th grade Social Studies teacher our own children had in middle school, told us –and told every parent every year—that her 7th graders were totally unprepared for the kind of examination she required in her course. According to the teacher, every year her 7th graders would write "SA Exam" instead of "ESSAY EXAM" when she would ask them to title the answer booklet for her first exam in her course. Now, this is one of the best examples I know of total lack of articulation between elementary and middle school.

The elementary school teachers should have known that essay exams were required in the 7th grade Social Studies class. The elementary school teachers should have planned many instructional activities in which –ORALLY—students were given opportunities to develop a topic, or respond to a question, or present a story or some current event. These teachers needed to develop, concretely, with their elementary students the idea of an "essay," the idea of TALKING about a topic, ORALLY DEVELOPING a sequence of interconnected ideas, TELLING a story, EXPRESSING a point of view, ORALLY RESPONDING to a question or concern, etc. These teachers could have used the word "ESSAY" or "ORAL ESSAY" to refer to what the students were learning. When these students would reach middle school and be asked to "write" an ESSAY, these students would have had plenty of ORAL experiences to help them tackle the same task in writing.

Thus, there will be little articulation between elementary and middle, and middle and high school, until we help students, orally, in the lower grades, to perceive and learn to TALK about the concepts and abstractions they will encounter in the upper grades.




For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.


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Educational Consultant, Program Evaluator

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