Team-taught Literacy: Elective and Core

It sometimes seems as if elective and core courses are divided by a big boundary line: On one side are
the required courses for graduation, on the other side are, well, the “other courses.”

I’ve been surprised to occasionally hear elective courses described as “classes students don’t really need.” Such a comment-usually uttered in haste to explain graduation requirements-isn’t meant to offend. But as a CTE teacher with a previous marketing career, my automatic response is to rattle off a “CTE features and benefits list.”

I provide examples of how CTE courses teach literacy skills that help students meet common assessments. I point out that active CTSO participation provides students with opportunities to communicate in a real-world setting. I highlight an effective partnership formed with an English teacher in which we jointly offered credit to our shared students who completed in-depth research projects to present at the international DECA competition.

Such collaboration benefited everyone-me, the English teacher-and, most importantly, our students. But in the busy world of teaching, it seems collaboration is often happenstance, the result of word-of-mouth advertising shared on the fly as teachers rush down the hall to make it to their own classroom.

A recent study from the National Center for Literacy Education supports this reflection. The NCLE report, “Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works,” spotlights successful school teams who are advancing literacy learning. The report finds that educators in many subjects are eager to collaborate to teach literacy. Most educators understand that teaching literacy is no longer only the English teacher’s job. The challenge isn’t a lack of desire on the part of teachers, whether elective or core. Rather, the challenge is a lack of planned collaboration time needed to share best teaching practices and identify joint areas for learning and assessment.

This NCLE report can be a good starting point for conversations about teachers working together across the disciplines. NCLE also has a Literacy and Learning Exchange website in which educators can continue the discussion. Check it out at