“At a time when there is so much emphasis on basic skills for their own sake, teachers may be tempted to focus on exercise of a skill rather than performance in an expressive context.” These are the words of John Shaughnessy, an assistant superintendent in St. Louis, Mo., from an article in the December 1978 issue of Educational Leadership, but they sound uncannily relevant today.
Read the article: Sowing Seeds of Promise: To Create Meaningful Contexts for Skills (PDF)
Shaughnessy gives examples of “including component skills in larger contexts of meaning.” One novel example is of a language arts teacher who embedded language usage skills in a careers project. Students invited area professionals into the class who explained how different language arts skills were important in their jobs.
Developing basic skills through meaningful lessons certainly isn’t a new idea but, as this article reveals, neither is the problem of not putting them properly in context and making them meaningful.