By Troylon Griffin, editor-in-chief of The HiLife student newspaper and senior at Clear Creek High School
As Clear Creek High School and its relative schools in Clear Creek ISD start their 2016-17 school year, they face many changes. One of these changes in particular is the beginning of a new method of teaching in English and language arts classes.
The most prominent change in the English curriculum is that school semesters will no longer revolve around one book being read or taught to a whole class. Instead, students will be given a variety of books they can choose to learn from every semester.
William Eastman, the curriculum coordinator for English language and secondary world languages, explained that the idea of making English classes more personalized in learning has been years in the making after the District implemented a new strategic plan around 2013.
“The motivation behind this focus is to make education in the classroom and beyond unique and different for every individual through a curriculum that supports student choice,” Eastman said. “Students come to us from different backgrounds, and with different skills, strengths and weaknesses. We want to cater to each one individually and personalize how we meet their needs with instruction.”
The changes extend well beyond high schools, to the point where all campus-levels are beginning to enact selective reading in classes, whether it be through on-level classes or AP and gifted and talented classes.
“What research has told us for years now, when it comes to what works best in literary practices, is that a reading life is developed when we can hook a student based on their interests and motivation for reading,” Eastman said.
Two Clear Creek English teachers, Megan Thompson and Helen Becker, explained that the integration of student choice was not exactly a change in the curriculum itself, but a change in how the district approaches it. The curriculum is driven by state standards which were revised and established in 2009.
“When students have choice in what they’re reading and also in how they’re assessed, the learning becomes more evident and valued,” Thompson said. “I think trusting my students to take ownership of their learning and think for themselves is my ultimate goal.”
Towards the end of the 2015-16 school year, both Thompson and long-time Clear Creek English teacher Ken Fontenot began to work on a different approach to teaching the AP English course.
“I think we as teachers need to do whatever we can to get students to take ownership of their education,” Fontenot said. “When they do that, they put more effort and passion into it, and that’s what was missing. What I had in my classroom was compliance. If I really want to educate them, I need to get them to choose to participate, not just go through the motions.”
Since this concept is in the transitioning phase, high school students will still read at least one book together as a class. They include the dystopian novel “1984” in sophomore English, “The Great Gatsby” in junior English and “Invisible Man” in senior English.
Star Contributors are journalism students within CCISD whose work is chosen to be featured monthly based on criteria set by the CCISD Communications Department. For more information, click here.