Magazine article Techniques

A Match Made in Heaven: The Integration of Enterpreneurship and Language Arts

Magazine article Techniques

A Match Made in Heaven: The Integration of Enterpreneurship and Language Arts

Article excerpt

When I approached language arts teacher Angie McLane about an innovative integration of entrepreneurship, my area of specialization, and hers, language arts, McLane respectfully declined the opportunity with a quick "no." At first glance, it seemed that career and technical education (CTE) and language arts had nothing in common. However, my persistence opened the door for an eventual collaboration that would innovate K-12 classrooms at Brookwood cluster schools, in Gwinnett County, and beyond.

Entrepreneurs solve problems; they are trained to innovate. On the surface, my successful entrepreneurship program appeared to have it all. The programs philosophy, based on elements of the Lean Startup Approach, encourages students to launch an authentic business rather than to learn only theoretical entrepreneurship principles. Most of the student businesses focus on creating value by solving a problem or pursuing a passion using the skills and abilities they already possess. Through an "Entrepreneurship Alliance" with the City of Snellville, student businesses are provided local entrepreneur/business professional mentorship, a special-issue business license, and an opportunity to pitch their business startup for angel investment funding. To date, nearly $15,000 has been awarded to student entrepreneurs in the program. However, I realized that my entrepreneurship program had a distinct weakness. While students were motivated to succeed in their business venture, they fell short on the literacy skills needed to be successful moving forward. Using the very problem-solving skills taught to my students, I found an innovative solution-integrate the entrepreneurship program with language arts.

On the language arts end, McLane noticed that reluctant learners often work diligently to avoid anything associated with literacy. In an age where "SparkNoted" is now a verb to the average high school student, few students are reading long, difficult texts. Some students actually read four or five long summaries in order to avoid reading one short chapter in a novel. No matter how much language arts teachers enjoy literature, creative writing, literary discussion and literary analysis, we cannot seem to transfer that excitement to all of our students. Some just do not see the relevance of language arts. We can talk about the nebulous "someday" when students will need to have writing fluency and reading stamina to be successful in careers and in college, but that rationale does not translate to a student's fervor for writing a paper about symbolism in Lord of the Flies.

The Integrated Solution: We Innovate to Motivate

How can we innovate to make language arts instruction more relevant to the disconnected learner? In the workplace, language arts skills are essential to a successful career. In the 2016 workforce skills preparedness report "Leveling Up: How to Win in the Skills Economy," PayScale highlighted the disconnect between hiring managers and college graduates when it comes to skills necessary for success in the professional world. In the report, 60 percent of hiring managers noted that college graduates lack critical thinking and problem solving skills. Forty-four percent saw communication as a weakness. Writing proficiency is lacking, note 44 percent of the managers, while 39 percent cited public speaking as a weakness in college graduates. All these deficiencies are skills associated with the language arts curriculum. Clearly, literacy skills are necessary for success in college and in the workforce. In our program, we motivate students to see the relevance of literacy by integrating language arts and entrepreneurship to provide students with a real-life application of language arts skills.

The Brookwood Entrepreneurship Program: An Integrated Learning Pathway

Education must constantly change to meet the demands of the dynamic world around us. Lessons taught must be authentic, engaging and entertaining. …

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