The arts of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and reasoning are necessary to students’ development as apprentice investigators in diverse disciplines. As students practice these arts, they develop the skills in critical and imaginative thinking that are essential to IMSA’s mission of encouraging integrative thinkers and ethical leaders. More specifically, we strive to educate students in the skills of literacy in its broadest sense (that is, reading, writing, listening, speaking, and viewing). The ultimate purpose of such literacy as it informs both national and IMSA standards, is to enable students to pursue life’s goals, including personal enrichment and participation as literate members of our society. The IMSA English program encourages students to engage the diverse voices of literature and to develop their own voices. Students are introduced to critical, reflective, and recreative thinking, to concepts that recur in and connect literature, the arts and sciences, and to the development of understanding and fluency in multiple uses of language. The IMSA English program enables students to gain an awareness of themselves as learners and to consider the richly layered cultural contexts of their learning in other disciplines. To this end we aspire to serve as a resource to the entire IMSA community and to engage in a dialogue with other school systems within Illinois and across the nation about English curriculum development.
- foster interdisciplinary literacy in the practices of reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and making visual representations; in critical and imaginative thinking; and in the artistic and literary heritage of our heterogeneous culture;
- guide student encounters with literature, which lead to familiarity with ethical, philosophical, historical, and scientific positions, and to increased understanding of social, personal, and cultural values;
- emphasize the importance of learning and practicing ethical behavior in individual work, in collaborative work, and in assessment situations;
- lead students to discover, develop, and enjoy their own powers of oral and written expression;
- develop the ability to write with clarity, accuracy, insight, and power;
- cultivate students’ sensitivity to and love of language;
- enhance students’ aesthetic appreciation and enjoyment of literature;
- challenge students to use appropriate technology to enhance learning and communication; and,
- provide students with the tools, activities and assessments needed to learn about themselves and about worlds presented through literature.
A concept is a guiding idea; a paradigm; an organizing, comprising structure. One recognizes concepts; one discovers them. That recognition and discovery emerge from practice and experience. The mind’s encounter with a concept is an organic process, and the formation of the concept is both a beginning and an end.
The concepts recognized here (Language, Vision, Identity, and Tradition) have grown organically from our practice. In our teaching, we do not address only these concepts. Nor do instructors attempt to address all concepts at once or any one concept in each class. Rather, these unifying concepts are ones that great literature suggests again and again. They also function as tools to enable students to forge interconnections among mathematics, science, the arts, and the humanities.
It is helpful to think of the development of these concepts and processes as a spiral, moving higher (or deeper) with each recursive experience of reading, viewing, discussing, and writing. It is this coherent and logical progression (the spiral) which governs instructors’ curricular decisions.
Although the order in which these concepts are presented implies no priority,
language is the basis for the other concepts, since it is through articulation of language that one communicates vision, identity, and tradition. It is equally true for other disciplines that the language used to articulate their theories, their findings, actually shapes those findings.
Language is a system of symbols which makes meaning, a system by which one talks and writes about the world. Language gives shape to perception, and allows communication, self-knowledge, and understanding of the world. Language reflects larger philosophical considerations having to do with the meaning of experience and of ideas. As the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein has said,
The limits of our language mean the limits of our world.
Instruction in the uses of language includes the development of an understanding of precision and ambiguity, as well as consideration of form. It involves learning the difference between reading for information and reading for enjoyment. By lingering over a text long enough to discover its meanings and richness, long enough to see the connections between the text and one’s personal life, an individual moves beyond simplistic,
either-or thinking. Instruction in the uses of language means learning how to ask defining questions; and finding and using evidence to support argument. These language processes all contribute to cognitive development.
The concept of vision includes observation, perspective, interpretation, and insight. Close observation (looking and looking again) is necessary in order to form hypotheses. Observation and hypothesis formation play critical roles in the humanities and in the sciences. By developing a sense of perspective, one learns to consider the ways in which previous experience and personality shape what one sees. This sense of self as observer allows one to become more aware of the process of seeing. It leads one to consider the idea that in both science and literature, the observer changes the thing observed. Awareness of vision includes training in interpretation and insight; and, it is through interpretation and insight that one learns not only what constitutes a problem of meaning, but also how to recognize and define questions that pursue problems of meaning in a text.
Identity is the concept of the self. In order to understand identity, one must consider the ways in which the self is formed by moral and ethical choices, and the ways in which habits of mind structure an individual’s thoughts. To paraphrase Ernst Cassirer, in
An Essay on Man, human beings live in a symbolic universe…They have so enveloped themselves in linguistic forms, in artistic images, in mythical symbols or religious rites that they cannot see or know anything, except by the interposition of this artificial medium.
In the process of considering their own identities, students tell their stories in writing; they imagine themselves as the readers an author addresses, trying those identities on for size. They become more conscious of their own processes of reading, writing, perceiving, and thinking. They come to know themselves in those endeavors and to take responsibility for their own learning, thereby identifying themselves as members in a community of interpretation: as sharers of inquiry, as communicators of discovery, as collaborators in investigation.
Tradition is a coherent system of shared perceptions, ideas, and symbols of reality. Traditions mediate both individual and societal beliefs about the nature of the world. Tradition includes conscious and unconscious elements–what Alfred Lord Whitehead calls “the secretive, imaginative background of thought.” Individuals within given cultures share traditions that make the communication of perceptions, ideas, and understandings both possible and significant.
The study of tradition enlarges the frame in which identity and myth are considered. It encourages the exploration of alternative traditions and alternative human experiences. In such an exploration, debate is inevitable. Debates include issues of gender, and ethnic and racial diversity.
The IMSA Learning Standards are adapted from the NCTE and IRA Project: Standards for the English Arts.
Students studying English at IMSA will:
- read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the many dimensions (e.g. philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
- apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.
- employ a wide range of strategies in their use of spoken, written, and visual language to create print and non-print texts that communicate effectively with a variety of audiences.
- conduct research on issues and interests, and communicate discoveries in ways that suit purpose and audience.
- develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
- participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g. for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
IMSA English Learning Standards are cross-referenced as follows:
- IMSA’s Standards of Significant Learning [SSL-II.B]
- Illinois State Learning Standards [IL-2.A.5d]
- National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE-2]
- McREL Language Arts Standards [McREL-6.IV]
A. Students studying English at IMSA will read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the many dimensions of human experience by: [NCTE-1]
A.1 developing automaticity in skills, concepts, and processes that support and enable complex thought. [SSL-I.A] A.2 observing and identifying perceptions before interpreting. [SSL-IV.A] A.3 describing relationships between and among the author’s style, literary form (e.g. short stories, novels, drama, documentaries, poetry) and intended effect on the reader. [SSL-IV.C; IL-2.A.4c] A.4 identifying and analyzing the philosophical assumptions and axioms underlying an author’s work. [SSL-II.A; McREL-5.IV] A.5 evaluating the influence of historical context on form, style and point of view of literary selections from American, British, world, and ancient literatures. [SSL-II.A; IL-2.A.5d] A.7 demonstrating insight which penetrates literal or one-dimensional facts. [SSL-I.C] A.8 providing evidence to support insight and intuition. [SSL-I.C] A.9 recognizing ambiguity within a text, including how it affects a character’s choice. [SSL-II.B] A.10 drawing upon their work in other disciplines and their understanding of concepts in other disciplines to gain new insights into literature. [SSL-I.B] A.11 applying knowledge gained from literature as a means of understanding contemporary and historical economic, social and political issues and perspectives. [SSL-III.B; IL-2.B.5b] A12 recreating thebeautiful conceptionsthat give coherence to structures of literary thought. [SSL-III.C] A.13 developing an aesthetic awareness and capability. [SSL-IV.D] A.4 evaluating the ethical and social ideas suggested by the characters, events, motives, and causes of conflict in texts, as they relate to personal experience. [SSL-II.A, V.C; IL-2.B.5b McREL-6.IV]
B. Students studying English at IMSA will apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts by: [NCTE-2, NCTE-3]
B.1 previewing reading materials, clarifying meaning, analyzing overall themes and coherence. [SSL-III.B, IL-1.B.4a, 5a] B.2 using questions (factual and interpretive) and predictions to guide reading across increasingly complex materials, and to open a work to closer observation. [SSL-I.B, IV.A; IL-1.C.5a] B.3 examining logic, rhetoric, and grammar. [SSL-IV.A] B.4 summarizing and making generalizations. [SSL-I.D, IV.A; IL-1.C.4d, 5d] B.5 identifying and analyzing complex literary techniques and devices, applying knowledge of word origins and derivations, and explaining relationships between and among literary elements and their influence on the effectiveness of the literary piece. [SSL-I.B, I.D, II.A, IV.C; IL-1.A.5a, IL-2.A.4a-c] B.6 identifying and analyzing the defining characteristics and structures of a variety of complex literary genres. [SSL-IV.C, IL-1.B.4b, 5b] B.7 analyzing how authors and illustrators use text and graphic art to express and emphasize ideas (e.g. imagery, multiple points of view, complex dialogue, persuasive techniques). [SSL-I.B, III.C, IV.C-D; IL-1.C. 4e & 5e]
C. Students studying English at IMSA will employ a wide range of strategies in their use of spoken, written, and visual language to create print and non-print texts that communicate effectively with a variety of audiences by: [NCTE-4-6]
C.1 using speaking and discussion skills to participate in and lead group discussions. [SSL-I.A, IV.B; IL-4.B.5b] C.2 delivering formal and informal oral presentations that are intended for specific purposes (e.g. to defend a position, to entertain, to inform, to persuade, to dramatize). [SSL-III.A, C, IV.A-B, D; IL-4.B.4a, 5a, McREL-8.IV] C.3 asking a reader’s questions of their writing, describing and explaining their writing process, and identifying and resolving problems in their writing. [SSL-I.A-B, II.B] C.4 responding to questions and feedback about their own presentations. [SSL-I.A, D, II.A-B, III.C, IV.A; McREL-8.IV] C.5 using techniques for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of oral messages, including non-print media. [SSL-I.A-D, II.A-B, III.A-B; IV.A, C; IL-4.A. 4b, 5b] C.6 writing in the expressive, as opposed to transactional mode (e.g. as a means of discovery, as a means to explore emotional reactions, as a means toward self-assessment of learning in progress, as a rehearsal for writing that will communicate learning). [SSL-I.A, III.C, IV.B] C.7 imitating distinct styles and literary techniques of a variety of authors. [SSL-III.C] C.8 producing documents prepared according to accepted manuscript forms, specific to the language arts. [IL-3.A.5] C.9 using contemporary technology for the production, editing, revision and formatting of work for submission and/or publication. [SSL-III.A, V.B, IL-3.B.5]
D. Students studying English at IMSA will conduct research on issues and interests, and communicate discoveries in ways that suit purpose and audience by: [NCTE-7, NCTE-8]
D.1 generating ideas and questions, and posing problems. [SSL-I.B] D.2 using techniques for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of data from a variety of sources. [SSL-I.A-B; IL-4.A.4b, 5b, McREL-7.IV] D.3 choosing, evaluating, and correctly citing primary and secondary sources (print and non-print). [SSL-I.D, III.A, IV.A; IL-5.B.4a, 4b, 5b] D.4 using discussions with peers as a way of understanding information. [SSL-I.A-B; McREL-7.IV] D.5 creating a research presentation related to academic topics and presenting the findings in oral or multimedia formats, using contemporary technology. [SSL-III.A, IV.B, V.B, IL-3.B.5, 5.C.5a]
E. Students studying English at IMSA will develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles by: [NCTE-9]
E.1 considering those influences which shape a reader’s response to a text (e.g. personal values, perspectives, and experiences). [SSL-II.A; IL-1.C.4b, 5b] E.2 questioning their own and others’ assumptions. [SSL-IV.A] E.3 identifying and analyzing the philosophical assumptions and basic beliefs underlying an author’s work. [SSL-II.B; McREL-5.IV] E.4 comparing and evaluating oral, written, or viewed works from various eras and traditions. [SSL-I.B, III.B; IL-2.A.4a, 5a; 2.A.4d] E.5 evaluating the influence of historical context on form, style, and point of view of a variety of literary works. [SSL-I.B, III.B; IL-2.A.5d] E.6 applying knowledge gained from literature as a means of understanding contemporary and historical economic, social, and political issues and perspectives. [SSL-I.C, III.B; IL-2.B.5b] E.7 discussing and evaluating motive, resulting behavior, and consequences demonstrated in literature. [SSL-I.C-D, II.A-B, IV.A; IL-2.B.4c] E.8 reflecting upon the ethical and social ideas suggested by the characters, events, motives, and causes of conflict in texts. [SSL-II.A, V.C; IL-2.B.5b McREL-6.IV]
F. Students studying English at IMSA will participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities by: [NCTE-11]
F.1 thinking of themselves as knowledgeable participants in the process of using language to share ideas. [SSL-V.A] F.2 understanding how language usage varies across different contexts and audiences. [SSL-III.B] F.3 working together in a group, using verbal strategies, non-verbal strategies, and listening skills to maintain communication, resolve individual and group conflict, and share insights, interpretations, and knowledge. [SSL-I.A-B, D, II.A, IV.A-B, V.A; IL-4.B.4d, 5b] F.4 recognizing and using their writing and the writing of others as a critical and creative thinking process. [SSL-I.A-D, II.B, III.C, IV.B, D] F.5 communicating information and ideas through various written forms, including both expressive and transactional modes, and using available technology. [SSL-I.A, III.A, IV.B; IL-3.C.4b, 5a] F.6 establishing theirethos” and “personaas writers, allowing readers to feel a secure understanding of the assumptions that lie behind their interpretations of literature or of their own experience. [SSL-II.A, IV.B] F.7 delivering formal and informal presentations, recitations, and dramatic performances that incorporate a variety of explicit techniques. [SSL-I.A, III.C, IV.B, D; McREL-8.IV] F.8 reviewing the creative process of published authors. [SSL-III.C] F.9 critiquing ideas and impressions generated by oral, visual, written, and electronic materials and presentations. [SSL-I.B-D, III.A, IV.A, D; IL-2.B.4a] F.10 making reasoned decisions which reflect ethical standards and acting in accordance with those decisions.[SSL-V.B]
G. Students studying English at IMSA will use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g. for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information) by: [NCTE-12]
G.1 integrating willingly, effectively, and joyfully the knowledge gained through school into their lives outside the classroom. [SSL-V.C] G.2 developing strong learning habits in and positive attitudes toward the English language arts. [SSL-IV.D, V.C] G.3 independently deciding to read more books by authors they have studied or on themes they have discussed in class. [SSL-I.A] G.4 engaging in conversations outside of the classroom about issues and questions that were raised in the classroom. [SSL-I.B] G.5 expressing their views thoughtfully. [SSL-II.A, V.B] G.6 respecting others’ perspectives. [SSL-II.A, V.B] G.7 writing in both expressive and transactional modes. [SSL-I.A, IV.B] G.8 drafting creative works of poetry, fiction or drama in response to literature. [SSL-III.C, IV.B, D] G.9 producing compositions and multimedia works for specified audiences, using available technology. [SSL-III.A; IL-3.C.4b] G.10 applying knowledge gained from literature as a means of understanding contemporary and historical economic, social, and political issues and perspectives. [SSL-II.B, III.B; IL-2.B.5b] G.11 reflecting upon the ethical and social ideas suggested by the characters, events, motives, and causes of conflict in texts, and applying what they have learned to their own lives. [SSL-II.A, V.B-C; IL-2.B.5b McREL-6.IV]
IMSA’s Standards of Significant Learning
IMSA’s English Language Learning Standards
I. Developing The tools of Thought
|A. Develop automaticity in skills, concepts, and processes that support and enable complex thought.||A.1, C.1-6, D.2, D.4, F.3-7, G.3, G.7|
|B. Construct questions which further understanding, forge connections, and deepen meaning.||A.10, B.2, B.5, B.7, C.3, D.4, E.4-5, F.3-4, F.9, G.4|
|C. Precisely observe phenomena and accurately record findings.||A.7-8, C.5, E.6-7, F.4, F.9|
|D. Evaluate the soundness and relevance of information and reasoning.||B.4-5, C.4-5, D.3, E.7, F.3-4, F.9|
II. Thinking About Thinking
|A. Identify unexamined cultural, historical, and personal assumptions and misconceptions that impede and skew inquiry.||A.4-6, A.14, B.5, C.4-5, E.1, E.8, F.3, F.6, G.5-6, G.11|
|B. Find and analyze ambiguities inherent within any set of textual, social, physical, or theoretical circumstances.||A.9, C.3-5, E.3, E.7, F.4, G.10|
III. Extending and Integrating Thought
|A. Use appropriate technologies as extensions of the mind.||C.2, C.5, C.9, D.3, D.5, F.5, F.9, G.9|
|B. Recognize, pursue, and explain substantive connections within and among areas of knowledge.||A.11, B.1, C.5, E.4-6, F.2, G10|
|C. Recreate the
beautiful conceptionsthat give coherence to structures of thought.
|A.12, B.7, C.2, C.4, C.6-7, F.4, F.7-8, G.8|
IV. Expressing and Evaluating Constructs
|A. Construct and support judgements based on evidence.||A.2, B.2-4, C.2, C.4-5, D.3, E.2, E.7, F.3, F.9|
|B. Write and speak with power, economy, and elegance.||C.1-2, C.6, D.5, F.3, F.7, G.7-8|
|C. Identify and characterize the composing elements of dynamic and organic wholes, structures, and systems.||A.3, B.5-7, C.5|
|D. Develop an aesthetic awareness and capability.||A.13, B.7, C.2, F.4, F.7, F.9, G.2, G.8|
V. Thinking and Acting with Others
|A. Identify, understand, and accept the rights and responsibilities of belonging to a diverse community||F.1, F.3|
|B. Make reasoned decisions which reflect ethical standards, and act in accordance with those decisions.||C.9, D.5, F.10, G.5-6, G.11|
|C. Establish and commit to a personal wellness lifestyle in the development of the whole self.||A.14, E.8, G.1-2, G.11|
Learning Standards Correlation
The table that follows details the correlation of IMSA Learning Standards to our SSLs, to appropriate Illinois Learning Standards, and other standards valued in the English learning area.
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy® (1994). Standards of significant learning. Aurora, IL: IMSA.
Illinois State Board of Education (1997). Illinois learning standards. Springfield, IL: ISBE.