Reading & Wr iting to Build Community
Developing Pedagogies
through Knowing Students

Bringing K12 Practice to
Teacher Education Classrooms

Translating Practices
Developing Pedagogies through Knowing Students
The Class
The Context














A central tenet of our elementary teacher education program is to listen and observe students closely in order to understand how to teach them. As a result, our first assignment during the summer is for students to learn about the neighborhoods surrounding the schools with a focus on the resources of those neighborhoods. During the fall semester, the students select a single student for a child study. I introduced this assignment by asking the student teachers to look through Yvonne Hutchinson's website to find an example of how she used her knowledge of students to teach.
Beginning the year:
We Started the year with "Where I am from" poems.

 Child Study Assignment

Extension: Using Vanessa Brown's
site to continue the conversation
student image   Investigating a site:    Students select clips from   Yvonne's teaching
video selection page    Translation: Discussing how to    use these ideas in the elementary    classroom

In our teacher education program—and specifically in my literacy methods class—we are constantly balancing the need to prepare student teachers to follow the District’s mandated curriculum and teach in a climate guided by constant high stakes testing and our belief in the importance of basing the practice and content of teaching on a deep knowledge of students and the local context. On one hand, student teachers hear from the District and from many teachers worried by the pressures of increasing test scores, that there is no time to build community or get to know individual students.  Emphasis must be placed on the curriculum and testing protocol based on the assumption that everyone should learn the same content at the same rate across the district and across widely varying contexts. We need to acknowledge these conditions, while teaching students the value of listening closely to students and learning about the home and community contexts. 

We introduce this stance toward teaching through a series of assignments beginning with a neighborhood study of the community surrounding the field placement school and continuing during a term focused on learners and learning [link to curriculum grid] and a child study assignment [link]. We also teach this stance of listening closely to students and learning about the larger contexts of their schooling through class discussions, modeling (we try to use our knowledge of student teachers to guide our teaching, and course texts.  During the 2004/5 academic year, two sites created by Yvonne Divans Hutchinson and Vanessa Brown were central course texts. Through inquiry into their sites, reflective writing and class discussions, we developed a language and set of images of how these two teachers taught from this knowledge of students. When student teachers were told in their Philadelphia classrooms that there was no time to get to know students, they could witness urban teachers in Los Angeles and Philadelphia making different decisions. Perhaps most importantly, they learned that it wasn’t necessary to choose one stance or another but that they could teach the mandated curriculum through knowing students.