Reimagining Secondary Literacy: The Humanities Accelerator Course

Authors: Tina Starks, Kate Crist, Katie Keown, David Liben, Adrienne Williams

  • Description
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  • The Humanities Accelerator Course (HAC) is an approach to secondary literacy instruction that seeks to respond to the following problem statement:

    “How might we provide a “hard reset” that radically overhauls the 6th- and 9th-grade experience for students so they themselves are centered in their learning? How can we best incorporate culturally responsive pedagogies and research based literacy practices to accelerate the capacities of all students—particularly those who find themselves behind (and far behind) in literacy?”

    We propose a new way to do 6th and 9th grades with the development of a one-year humanities course aimed at radically overhauling how students experience their entry into middle and high school. It is not a remedial model. It is an acceleration model that offers students a high-quality course anchored in student identity and in developing community, accelerating literacy, and honing criticality. The model is centered on improving the experience and outcomes for students who haven’t yet had the opportunity to be literate at grade level. This centering of those students most marginalized is because we know if their experience and outcomes improve, so will everyone else's. 

    There are three stark differences from traditional approaches to ELA instruction offered by the Humanities Accelerator Course (HAC) model:

    • HAC’s intentional, equity-focused structure. As a course for everybody, not just a subset of the school population, HAC classes cannot be segregated by any form of tracking. 
    • HAC’s focus on four tenets: identity, community, literacy, and criticality. The HAC model is designed around a robust set of literacy accelerators that center on honoring student identity and extending it to include being critical members of society. This work is embedded in humanities coursework matched to local and state standards for social studies and English coursework, and is chosen to maximize engagement, reflect cultural relevance, and allow elements of student choice and individualization. Foundational skills support, when needed, will be embedded into these elements rather than pulling students out.
    • HAC’s 3 period class structure: HAC takes advantage of three periods in order to address the 4 tenets adequately and allow students the time and support they need in order to achieve grade-level work.

    As part of this introduction to HAC, we’ve included our proposal for making a shift to your secondary literacy model, the tenets that serve as a foundation for course design along with a unit analysis tool to plan for them, a framework to support a key part of the model called Third Period, and notes on implementation. Additionally, we have designed instructional resources that are excerpted from the Launch Module. Explore these resources and read more about HAC using the buttons below.