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Helen F.

Olson just happen; it is planned, implemented


and supported.
The English language arts program,
in any school district, can be just as good
as the school personnel and the citizens
of the community wish it to be. For ef
Language Arts fective teaching and learning, the pro
gram must be so developed and im
plemented that it can be described as
in the Curriculum providing for (a) adequate coverage of
the important content, (b) arrangement
of content to meet the needs of all stu
dents, (c) use of appropriate teaching
methods, (d) conditions which foster
A look at organization superior teaching and maximum learn
and approach ing, and (e) recognition of the impor
tance of the work.
An effective program centers on a basic
course of study. A good program ensures
that high school graduates will have, in
THE English language arts are common, a certain background knowl
concerned with communication, or the edge of English. They will not all have
receiving and expression of ideas. They learned any aspect of the subject to the
are concerned also with composition, same extent or to the same depth. Yet
which is thinking the organization and each will have had the opportunity to
composing of thought for speech and learn, to the best of his abilities, those
writing. Therefore, the language arts in aspects of English \vhich, in the twen
clude both content and skills. Although tieth century, a young person needs in
the content may range as wide as the order to succeed in useful work, to go
interests and purposes of students en to the college of his choice, and to take
gaged in communication, the special con his place as a thinking individual and a
tent areas of the English language arts worthy citizen.
are: (a) the nature and development of What is to be taught must be allocated
language and (b) literature. The skills to the various grade levels, kindergarten
of language arts are: (a) observing and through grade 12, in such ways that cer
listening, (b) reading, (c) speaking, (d) tain content and skills are introduced and
writing, and (e) the related language emphasized at each grade level. For in
skills. stance, the reading program begins with
the prereading activities of kindergarten
An Effective Program
and continues through grade 12. An ade
quate reading program is four-faceted;
The place of the English language it provides for basic reading skills instruc
arts in the curriculum is fundamental, tion, functional reading, development of
because these are the content and skills
upon which most learning is based. A Helm F. Olson i» I'irpclor of Language Am.
good language arts program does not Public Schools, Seattle, Washington.

302 Educational Leadership


literary appreciation and development ing ability is demonstrably greater than
of independent-reading habits. To have their current reading level.
adequate coverage of the subject, the An effective course of study frees the
course of study must include materials teacher by providing for diversity within
or information concerning sources of unity. Diversity is encouraged through
materials: language texts, spellers, read teaching procedures which utilize the
ers, literary anthologies, literary works, creativity of the teacher and allow adap
records, film strips, films, magazines, tation to the individual classroom situa
newspapers. tion. Unity is assured when each teacher
Good literature, appropriate to the covers what is to he taught at each grade
maturity of the pupils, should be taught level. Thus, the teacher following the
at all grade levels, from the primary basic course knows that he will cover
grades through grade 12. content and skills to be taught and feels
An effective course of study is suffi free to apply his energy and creativity
ciently specific and yet sufficiently flexi to finding ways of inducing maximum
ble to meet the needs of all students. learning in young persons. A section of
Since every teacher of each grade level the course of study might present nu
has the complete course, he is able to use merous ways of teaching various phases
it to suit any particular classroom situa of the work at different grade levels.
tion. For inadequately prepared pupils, Teachers manuals for approved text
he utilizes material from previous grades. books and readers should be made avail
With slow learners, he selects only the able. Bulletins may be issued from time
most fundamental parts of the course so to time describing teaching procedures
that there will be time for thorough used successfully in the school system or
learning of these. With accelerated stu in other school systems. The well-trained
dents, the teacher may move ahead to teacher studies these suggestions and
the work of the next grade or of succeed adapts them to the needs of the indi
ing grades. The only limitation is that viduals in his classroom.
materials textbooks, readers, literary An effective course of study is charac
works allocated for all-class or group terized by teaching conditions which
work at a certain grade, should not be foster superior teaching and maximum
used in previous grades. A good program learning. However clear the course of
provides for enough sufficiently varied study, however available the materials,
materials that selection for individual however superior and well-trained the
classroom situations is possible. teacher, teaching and learning tend to
A good English language arts program be influenced by the conditions of the
makes additional provision for individual teaching.
interests and abilities by offering nu The teacher's load must be reason
merous electives and special programs. able. Ideally, a teacher in the elementary
Electives may include speech arts, school should have 25 or fewer pupils. A
journalism, writing laboratory, drama, teacher of English in the secondary
senior writing, and advanced literature. school should have not more than five
"Special programs are important at all classes of 20 or fewer students. Where
grade levels. For instance, special classes financial considerations make such class
in reading improvement should be of size impossible, other means should be
fered for students whose potential read used to reduce the load to one where

February 1 962 303


adequate discussion of literature and favorable to the revision and reorganiza
handling of written work are possible. tion of an established program. They
Such means include readers to help with must talk with teachers and department
heads, counselors and principals, with
paper correction, clerical assistance, and
individuals and with groups. They ask
rearrangements of classes to vary the size
of groups in accordance with specific questions and listen to comments and
content or skill being taught. For in gradually gain a fairly clear picture of
stance, several hundred high school stu desirable changes. Perhaps a question
dents might be grouped together to see a naire is used, with the findings tabulated
Shakespeare film or to hear a lecture on and reported back to the teachers.
theme writing. The first step is to form a steering
An effective language arts program is committee to head the work of revision.
characterized by general recognition of Since the course of study is to outline
the importance of the content and skills what is to be taught in all areas of the
being taught. The first responsibility islanguage arts at all grade levels, there
the English teacher's. Too many students must be representatives of all grade
move through school without ever being levels on the steering committee. To
made aware of what the language arts insure that administration is actively
program is all about. The teacher's firstinvolved in the program, principals of
responsibility is to explain the goals tothe three levels elementary, junior
the students, to show them how the con high, and senior high should be invited
to serve.
tent and skills are related, to make clear,
each step of the way, what the work is The first work of the steering commit
about, why it is important, and how they tee is to examine courses of study in
can gain satisfaction from their spe cities of comparable size, to study avail
cific, individual accomplishment. Clearlyable research, to assess what can be
stated listings of expected attainments utilized from the previous course of
in the course of study help the teacher study, and then to do some specific plan
to stimulate growth and achievement. ning for a long-time job. Probably a year
is required for this study and planning.
During this time, too, through depart
Developing the Program
ment heads in the secondary school and
Development of the program described principals and teacher representatives in
involves considerable organization. Cur the elementary school, all teachers of
ricula are likely to be most successful language arts are led into discussions of
when the participation in their develop what should be included in the new
ment is extensive. Such participation is course.
notably simpler in a small school system The next step is making sequences and
where al] teachers concerned might trying these out in the schools. The steer
gather in one room. In a large school ing committee appoints a committee in
system, participation must be gained cluding a representative from each grade
through a system of representation, dele level and resource persons from the
gation and reporting. To develop a basic steering committee, for each of the six
course of study in a large city system, major divisions of language arts: read
for instance, the language arts director ing, observing and listening, organizing
and staff must first achieve a climate thought, speaking, writing, and specific

304 Educational Leadership


language skills. At the end of the year, the completed book before it is off the
each committee has decided tentatively press. If such is the case, one big step
what should be taught in its area of the toward implementing the course has al
language arts, and at what level it should ready been taken. Thus, as soon as the
be taught. Also, the sequences have been copies of the book have been distributed,
sent out to teachers for discussions in the the work can center on clarifying the
buildings and for written reactions to be emphases of the course of study.
referred to the steering committee. It is important to stress the value of
The next year, the steering committee achieving focus in the English lan
reorganizes so that there are 13 hori guage arts. E ach teacher uses the out
zontal committees, one for each grade line of what is to be taught as a check
level. Each of these committees studies list and makes his own plans for organiz
the six sequences and develops a course ing the year's work into practicable
outline for a particular grade level. The- teaching units. The elementary teacher
steering committee then edits the work must arrange for the timing of language
and prepares the course in four mimeo arts in the daily schedule. He must
graphed sections: for the primary grades, schedule a regular time for the basic
for the intermediate grades, for the junior reading program, for the other facets
high school and for the senior high school of the reading program, for oral work,
years. for written composition, for spelling, for
handwriting, and for the other language
skills.
Clarifying Emphases
The course is tried out for one year Strengthening the Program
each teacher being asked to submit sug
gestions for improvement. During this The secondary school teacher must
year of trying out the course, consulta i plan to relate the various language arts
tion, discussions in buildings, area meet as closely as possible, using one aspect,
ings, talks before parent-teacher and such as literary appreciation, to
other community organizations are even strengthen other aspects, such as oral
more extensive, if possible, than during discussion and written composition. This
the year of initial planning. Librarians, focus can be made through utilizing a
counselors, staff members all are basic, five-step process of composition:
brought into the evaluation; all are kept (a) reading and thinking together; (b)
in tune with the progress of the work. planning for writing; (c) writing the
At the end of the year, the steering first drafts; (d) sharing, evaluating, re
committee goes over all the suggestions, vising and rewriting; and (e) studying
edits the material, and prepares to have some related language skills.
it published as a single book. This process is open to many varia
A course of study is effective only to tions. It may require a day or two or
the extent that it is accepted and put several weeks, depending upon the ex
into practice. If the discussion, consul tent of the activity required for each step.
tation, interpretation, and involvement The value is that such a process com
of the years during the development of bines all aspects of the language arts,
the course have been effective, staff gives them focus, and makes accomplish
members and citizens are asking to see ment easy to evaluate.

February 1 962 305


A program is either becoming con taken at least one course in one or more
tinuously strengthened or it is losing, of the emerging "new grammars," such
little by little, its effectiveness. This as structural linguistics. A secondary
truth is particularly applicable to the school English teacher can no longer
English language arts because of the afford to be ignorant of how to teach the
constant changes in language, the new basic reading skills, nor of the relation
developments in the field of grammar of phonics to reading and to spelling and
and linguistic^, the growing interest in to speech improvement. An elementary
research into methods of teaching read school teacher must have much more
ing and listening, the nation-wide at training in English than can be gained
tempt to raise the level of written com from a three-hour course in "Language
position. Maintaining and strengthening Arts."
the English program calls for at least A constant .search for new materials
five kinds of active leadership. and improved methods is a must. Tele
An effective in-service training pro vision is still in the experimental stage.
gram is essential. All needed materials What can be done through television
for teaching courses of study, bulletins, better than through the traditional pupil-
teachers manuals should be made easily teacher-classroom approach? This pos
available to the teacher. Demonstrations sible avenue to improved teaching and
at all grade levels should be encouraged, learning requires further exploration.
with consequent emphasis upon ex Are teaching machines just expensive
change of classroom visits by interested gadgets promoted by commercial in
teachers. Building meetings, area meet terests? Can useful programmed learning
ings, small-group conferences are im be developed? Is the Carnegie unit the
portant. Workshops and professional ultimate answer to school organization
classes should be available to teachers or can other and more effective schedul-
each year. Most important, over-all plan . ing be devised? If 30 pupils are too many
ning and the development of teacher for effective teaching of written composi
leaders are essential to maintaining a tion, may so small a group be a waste of
high level in all in-service training. The teacher time when a film is to be shown
good teacher is a creative thinker, and or programmed learning is to be used?
the best program is the result of the Accompanying the search for new ways
creativity and the constructively critical of teaching must be continuous evalua
thinking of all staff members. tion of the current program in terms of
The preparation of new teachers must pupil growth and achievement. There
be improved. One who will teach writing must also be evaluation of each new
to young persons must have some train method in terms of its usefulness in
ing in written composition other than furthering the basic program.
that gained through "Freshman Com The English language arts program
position" or through writing term papers holds a position of priority in the cur
for other college subjects. One who is to riculum since the skills and content of
teach grammar and syntax should not English are the foundations upon which
only be thoroughly grounded in tradi other learning is based. The program
tion?! grammar but should also know described in this article is being devel
something of the history and develop oped and implemented in the Seattle
ment of the English language and have Public Schools.

306 Educational Leadership


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Development. All rights reserved.