Literacy: "To him who has much, much will be given"

“Literacy is more than simply the ability to decode phonetic symbols. “

In this brief peek into 6th grade at Immanuel, Mr. Shawn Barnett, Upper School Latin and History Teacher, explores literacy in a broader context. Rather than simply the reading of words, deeper literacy involves the understanding of context, which in turn requires a broader basis of knowledge. In helping students to understand the connections between their learning - from language, to history and geography, we help our students to look beyond themselves, our own times and culture as they learn about the world around them. Studying multiple fields of knowledge in an integrated way allows students to develop a deeper literacy and greater wisdom.

Literacy is more than simply the ability to decode phonetic symbols. When students learn another language, especially Latin, they become aware of the frolic architecture of syntax. In detangling the many possibilities of encoded speech, the students become painfully aware of the need for contextual understanding. To read a sentence well one must be able to read a paragraph well, and consequently to read a paragraph well one must be able to read a book well. Moreover, the more one knows, the better one can read a text and derive meaning and further the extent of one's knowledge. The effect is cumulative. In the case of literacy it is certainly true that "to him who has much, much will be given."

Because of this, it important that students read not only intensively, but extensively, widely. It is also important to provide students with a cultural and historical framework to understand the great works of the Western heritage. To this end, 6th grade scholars have been shoring up their knowledge of European geography recently. Students enjoy learning facts and being quizzed in rapid fire. In the process, they gain a wealth of knowledge that gives them a sense of the place of history as it unfolds. Terms like the Dardanelles, when put into a visual context on a map, give meaning to the strategic significance of Constantinople. Would that like Lord Byron, we could swim across the Hellespont.