Education Reform From the Teacher's Perspective

Monday, August 19, 2013


I wrote in a recent post about the challenges of the Common Core for English Language Learners. I made reference to the work of Dr. Kate Kinsella in her push to increase the rigor in the classroom by using academic language. For those who may be unaware, academic language is the collection of words in English that are used across academia in varying subject matter. The vocabulary is far more precise than "everyday English."

The Common Core is full of this academic language that the proponents of the standards believe are important in college and career. The standards that have been used for the past decade (or longer) have not pushed this usage of English and instead, educators tend to speak and teach in more of the everyday language with which our students are accustomed.

In my own teaching practice, I have always spoken using this more precise academic vocabulary to my students but I have not always taught my students how to use it correctly. I recently began teaching a new curriculum to my class of English learners that focuses on academic vocabulary and getting students talking to each other and to the class using it. I have been amazed at the levels to which my students have risen in an extremely short time.

Academic language is the language of knowledge. I have an axiom I call one of "Dr. Norwood's rules for life" in which I state: If you sound smart, even if you aren't smart, people will think you are smart. Conversely, if you sound stupid, even if you aren't stupid, people will think you are stupid." While this may seem like a harsh statement, it is true. The Common Core pushes for a higher level of thinking as well as a higher level of speaking. I cannot help but believe that this is a good thing that will only benefit our students.

For more information, check out the following articles:


Dr. James Norwood is a middle school teacher (English/Language Arts and Drama). He is very passionate about true education reform that reaches all students and all parents. Dr. Norwood possess a PhD in the area of curriculum and instruction and spends much of his time working with his school and district developing a more holistic approach to the curriculum. Contact me james@drjrn.us

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