classroom, regardless of the age of the learner, we realize that there are multiple learning styles and responses to divergent stimuli. The modern pedagogical environment is faced with a number of challenges that are directly related to learning. In fact, as an educational pendulum swings, we find any number of methods that are thought to be new and innovative; yet it is sometimes the tried and true methods that are more efficacious. For instance, peer-to-peer learning improves cognitive and higher level questioning, humor bolsters biological reactions to learning, and changing the learning environment improves cognition and attention span (Harlin, 2008).
Howard Gardner, for one, has written extensively about the idea of multiple intelligences in learning. this theory holds that traditionally defined intelligence does not really describe the actual innate intelligence of the person. For instance, a child may learn mathematical forumulas quite easily, but that does not mean they are more intelligent that someone who can create stories and has an active immagination. The theory is controversial, and has yet to be completely verified. Yet, it makes logical sense that differing styles of retention and excellence should be used as at least a partial measure of (Gardner, 2006; Critiques of Multiple Intelligence Theory, 2006).
In a practical sense, most particularly with the increased complexity of the curriculum combined with aggressive performance goals due to standardized testing, teachers are often unable to integrate other important aspects of learning (social stuides, civics, philosophy, even science) into the core mandates of reading, writing, and mathematics. One of the ways that teachers can incorporate the idea of multiple intelligences, learning styles, and a multidisciplined approach to learning is by using literature as a basic philosophy for education. While admitedly, it may not be approprite 100% of the time and in every teaching scenario; using literature as an approach to learning has a number of tested benefits that are transferable to other life-stages, skill sets, and the philosophy of lifelong learning:: 1) Higher self-esteem, achievement, and retention of academic information; 2) Social support and networking -- students are put together in groups in ways they may never experience in a regular classroom; 3) A more positive attitude towards school, attendance, towards peers and teachers; 4) Greater attention to on task behavior and collaborative skills, and; 5) Ability to move higher into more robust questions and reasoning, moving away from rote memorization (Kagan, 1994).
Using Literature in the Classroom - The use of literature to teach reading literacy is well-documented in pedagogy as a way children can enter the world of literature, imagination, and genre while they learn the basic skills of reading and writing. As this progresses through the levels, though, the teacher is fortunate to have an ever increasing toolkit of resources. Literature comprises so many different ideas, concepts and plots, that it can be easily used to buttress core competency in almost every subject. Rather than simply didactic in approach, the relevancy of stories shows children how concepts are taken from theory into practice, and also clearly expand the skills of critical thinking, analysis, and synergy (Lehman, 2007). If a task is pleasant and stimulating, the child will naturally gravitate towards it -- what could be more pleasurable that covertly teaching a science concept through a story about pioneers or ocean explorers.
Using a literature based approach to literacy and other core curriculum areas allows for a greater flexibility within the classroom environment. Different classroom seating arrangements can be used depending on the subject matter, the activity, and the resources available. For example, if one was studying the Columbus Day and the results, the classroom could be divided into three areas representing different points-of-view: the Columbus, the Native peoples, and the European Sponsors or Royalty. A core story or stories would be used to develop competency, and then teacher prepared excerpts with point-of-view thesis from each of the groups handed to individual groups to study, discuss, and develop. Of course, the major point would be why did Columbus come to America, did he find what he expected, and what were the overall results of his trip? Numerous activities could be assigned: illustrating the major point-of-view of the group; developing a presentation to the sponsors assessing the situation, writing a thoughtful feeling-based paragraph about the major issue the group identifies, or even using the basis of the…