Saturday, December 10, 2016
Harlem Academy students know how to make an argument. Starting in sixth grade, they learn to identify the point they want to make and to articulate it clearly.
The foundation for this is a technique taught in our middle school English program called “Literary Analysis Short Answer” (LASA).
“This is an incredibly useful skill,” says English teacher Whitney Wood. “It’s a concrete method that kids can use to make a focused and arguable point around a piece of text. We start in sixth grade with simple, short-form arguments. We keep building on this with more complicated and longerform work, all the way through eighth grade.”
The result is that Harlem Academy graduates leave with a critical tool that helps them succeed in secondary school, not just in English, but other subjects, as well.
“The sky’s the limit,” says Ms. Wood. “Graduates come back to me all the time saying, ‘I use it in Religion, I use it in History, I use it in Latin.’ Whatever they are writing – if they are making an argument, this structure and discipline works.”
Each June, we survey our alumni, and ask them about how they are doing in high school, their preparation, and their challenges. And each June, comments about LASA show up again and again, like this one from Jose Mencia ’13:
“Ms. Wood's LASA structure helped me write great argumentative essays and get high grades in my written homework. Even in history, I was ahead of my class.”
When our graduates tell us something is working for them, we listen. Not only are we reinforcing this technique across our own curriculum, but Ms. Wood is turning her personal approach into a sharable resource that other educators can bring into their classrooms. Watch for that in the “For Educators” section of our website (and check out other resources that are already available).