Language Arts


Course No. ED471w, ED571w

How can we best prepare our students emerging from the pandemic to meet the challenges of our times? Social and emotional learning is finally entering the spotlight around the country. But where should students' social and emotional unfolding begin? Of the dimensions of SEL -- building awareness of themselves and others, and developing the skills of relationship, decision-making, and self-management -- the first foundation stone is their discovery of themselves. Designing ongoing strands of curriculum and instructional methods to help students develop self-knowledge is the focus of this course.

The focus on standards and tests crowds out students' self-discovery at a time when young people more than ever need to know what they stand for and be ready to act for the greater good. This course prepares intrepid elementary, intermediate and secondary language arts teachers to design learning experiences to help their students understand themselves by reflecting on their lives to date, discovering what they value, and deciding how they wish to make a difference in the world. 

Building on research into the developmental needs of young people, and my own classroom research on deepening the experience of learning, you'll learn ways to design your students' self-discovery into the reading, writing and conversation strands of your courses. For many students, this self-discovery culminates in a life-changing classroom community rite-of-passage called the Personal Creed Project.

Working with the Personal Creed Project, you join your students as they begin to develop the habit of reflection. Students and teachers come to understand who and what have shaped them. They begin discovering and committing to their values, and learn to stand for something in the world. Adapted in schools and colleges around the country, the Personal Creed experience and the course design and instruction practices it inspires generate enthusiasm, self-knowledge, and the desire to contribute, while deepening academic committment and skills. This makes for unusually rewarding teaching. 

Students today need to think about things other generations never had to consider: How does my behavior affect the behavior of viruses? How do I influence the climate? How does the way I choose to live affect others whose life experience is different from my own? This course coaches you to create a kind of learning for your students that begins with understanding themselves and their connections to others more fully than has been common in school. 

In my classroom alone, over four thousand students have presented their personal creeds to their class communities. One wrote:

The creed reflections helped me organize all of the parts of my identity that were already there. It helped me both recall and truly recognize my influences and values and think about how I want to manifest those values in my life.          ~ Florence Zhao, class of 2022

A member of the first group of teachers to take this course as a team wrote on completion: 

What came from this course was a restructuring of education as a whole... I learned that self-reflection and value evaluation are key pieces in crafting well-rounded children.           ~ Kylinn Irwin, Central Elementary, La Grande OR, Spring 2021

This course is well-suited for individual teachers and especially rewarding to take as a team of school site colleagues.

Course text, used on Amazon: $20-30.

Find out more on John's website.

We advise you to review and download the course syllabus before registering. Syllabus
  1. Understand the developmental needs of your students, and how to nourish those needs;
  2. Engage your students with activities and projects to facilitate their developmental-stage need to build healthy senses of identity;
  3. Become familiar with research on how to cultivate an engaged mindset in learning;
  4. Use teaching and design strategies to help students gain the self-knowledge they need to navigate a healthy transition into adulthood;
  5. Learn to facilitate a community rite of passage in the classroom or online in which students reveal the influences that have shaped them, the values they have discovered, and the difference they wish to make as individuals and citizens in the world;
  6. Consider adapting the Personal Creed Project to fit your own teaching situation;
  7. Discover that teaching students to reflect on their lives is a powerful way to catalyze their engagement in writing;
  8. Begin designing a developmental arc of curriculum to balance your students’ academic progress with self-discovery.

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