Teachers turn a new page in English curriculum

Kate Cousins, Staff Reporter

Ask a typical student how English class is conducted and the common response will be groans and complaints about outdated literature and monotonous notation that has no applicability to real life. However, for many English Honors and AP Lit and Lang students, the wave of the future is here. More teachers are moving away from traditional teaching methods and expanding their curriculum to include current events that tie lessons in with relatable material.

AP Lang teacher Helen Reed said that her classes do not even use a textbook. In fact, Reed, like other teachers, creates much of her own teaching material or uses supplementary resources created by other instructors. She stresses the importance of orchestrating lessons that allow students to critically discuss topics instead of simply reading and answering questions, “attack[ing the lesson] in a different way,” Reed said.

Many higher-level courses do include units on current events, and teachers are amazed at many basic questions students cannot answer.

“There’s such a lack of knowledge from students about current events. Students do not have an awareness of their own world,” Reed said.

Juniors and seniors are already praising this trend.

“It informs people on things going on in the world that they may not have been exposed to before,” senior Sarah Bradley said. “It allows for in-depth thinking.”

Bradley’s English IV Honors teacher Heather Bent uses similar teaching methods for her AP students. Students spend a considerable amount of time watching clips from popular shows for their unit on satire. They then gather and discuss the current event or issue brought to light in the video clip, sometimes for an entire block period.

Bent’s activities focus on important issues students may not be exploring outside of class. After a particularly in-depth class discussion, her students wondered why such real-world connections were not taught more often throughout high school.

“[State representatives] claim that the Common Core standards will attempt to make more connections between subjects,” Bent said. “Ideally it [would also incorporate] the things we’ve been suggesting in class.”

Bent feels that if students were given more opportunities to connect the lesson to their lives, they would be more engaged and high school dropout rate would decrease .However, she has “low confidence” that such connections will actually happen under Common Core.

As things stand now, topical discussions in the classroom serve as a bridge between student and the real world. Though these discussions are well-received by students, whether they will become a bigger part of the general curriculum remains to be seen.