Your professors might have given you a list of amazing mentor texts, but did they teach you how to discover them for yourself?
They might have trained you to master certain tech platforms or skills. But did they teach you how to seek out new ones as the old ones evolve and/or die out?
They might have shared a phenomenal video that inspired you to your core, but did they share the source and their own process for accessing such resources?
“Teaching a man to fish” has always been serious business in the education world, but the art of curation is a distinct skill, and is becoming increasingly essential amid limitless access. When I graduated from college in 2009, I had yet to recognize the nuance between teaching valuable skills that allow students to gain self-sufficiency, and teaching students to discover the very sources that shape those skills.
This difference is best illustrated by the evolution of my language arts instruction. During my first year, I had been teaching conventions, word choice, voice, etc., with every hope that as my students practiced, they would further build upon their abilities and open more doors for themselves in the future. And they did exactly what I directed them to do. They corrected sentences. They wrote stories. They found impressive synonyms for weak words. But I sensed something was missing.
During my second year, I was introduced to reading workshop units alongside complementary writing workshop units. What I found most striking was the approach of immersing students in relevant, high-quality material at the beginning and throughout each unit.
Suddenly, my students didn’t just correct sentences; they noticed the reasons authors choose different sentence punctuation and lengths to achieve varied effects. The didn’t just write stories; they identified patterns across genres and chose their own story elements with purpose. They didn’t just replace weak words; they explored the power of all words and became more deliberate in their usage.
They had started to search out books and passages that elicited personal meaning, and kept track of them to inform their writing choices. In short, they were becoming curators.
What’s more, I noticed that this shift was causing me to become a better curator, too. I started to always be on the hunt for high-quality pieces to share with my students. And as we more openly sought and shared examples of work that moved, interested, or persuaded us, we all grew as readers and writers. Curation was the common denominator that allowed us to enter a world of authentic co-construction.
Overall, I learned that curation is not just about learning to navigate the massive amount of information. It’s about making sense of the world, while also making it personal.
What are your favorite ways to help students (and yourself) become better at curating? Please share in the comments.
For a great read on curation, check out:
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto