Jerusha Beckerman

BA, Bard College. MS, Sarah Lawrence College. Adjunct faculty member, Westchester Community College. Former teacher, Ella Baker School (an New York City public school) and Basic Trust Childcare Center. Leader of professional development workshops for teachers and students of education in a variety of settings, including the Art of Teaching Saturday Seminars. Prospect Archives Practitioner Fellow, 2013. SLC, 2017–

Graduate Courses

Art of Teaching 2019-2020

Language and Literacy I and II

Graduate Seminar—Year

This two-semester course focuses on the making of meaning and knowledge through listening, speaking, reading, and writing in early childhood and childhood. All children—English speakers and English-language learners—are recognized as capable of learning and of becoming competent English language and literacy users. Emphasis is on teaching that takes into account each child’s approach to learning and pace in learning, valuing the complexity in developing instruction that builds upon what the child already knows and can do.

  • Learning is a process by which each person actively constructs meaning from experience, including encounters with print and nonprint texts.

  • Language and literacy are social acts.

  • Language and literacy develop in the pursuit of real-life enterprise.

  • Reading and writing, as with spoken language, are best learned in rich, interactive environments where they serve real purposes.

  • Reading and writing do not develop in predefined stages; rather, literacy understanding is complex and unique to the individual.

  • Language and literacy cannot be separated from the total expressiveness of the person.

  • Literacy is power, and children must have every opportunity to know its power.

  • Literacy teaching and learning must be re-envisioned to accommodate a multimodal, multilingual, multimedia world.

We will build our knowledge of language and literacy learning upon these assumptions by reflecting on ourselves as readers, writers, and language users. We will explore how children learn to read and write by observing them as they use language and literacy for real purposes. We will consider new media and technologies as modes of communication and expression and consider how they are reshaping the future of literacy. Our observations of children and our own literacy stories will help us understand the range and complexity of meanings and approaches among any group of learners. Our observations and recollections also will provide an entry point for discussions regarding differences in race, class, ethnicity, gender, and learning style. The challenge for schools to be inclusive of the diversity—to enable each child to differ yet belong to the community of learners—lies at the core of our work. We will—through our child studies, our recollections, and the readings—begin to develop a picture of inclusive classrooms and schools in which children have the “space to dance with others” and the “room to differ” (Patricia F. Carini). The course paper will be an in-depth inquiry focused on language and literacy teaching and learning and on classroom practice and work with children, examined through the lens of your own philosophy, thought, values, and standards.


Observation and Documentation

Graduate Seminar—Fall

In the Art of Teaching program, we place the observation and documentation of children and their learning at the center of teaching. The emphasis is on seeing every child as capable, unique, and knowable and on children as active makers of their own meaning and knowledge. Observing is focused on what the child can do and is interested in and on how each child thinks and learns. We assume that teachers create their knowledge of teaching and learning through longitudinal observation and documentation of each child as a thinker and learner. This knowledge is the foundation for curriculum development and instructional planning that accommodate individual interests and approaches to learning. The ideas and processes developed at Prospect Archive and Center for Education and Research, by Patricia Carini and others, will be the foundation of the work throughout the course. The Prospect Descriptive Processes and, in particular, the Descriptive Review of the Child will give students a formal and systematic framework for drawing together their observations of children over time. In addition, the review processes developed at Prospect Center will be discussed as avenues for collaborative inquiry and meaning-making among educators and parents. Students will participate in a Descriptive Review and will review longitudinal collections of children’s work. They will also learn about descriptive inquiry processes for reviewing curricula and teaching practice. Students will share observations of children in both early childhood and childhood education settings and develop a language of description. We will discuss the importance of creating classrooms where each child is visible through strength. Students will develop a child study that includes: a description of the child using the headings of the Descriptive Review, a collection of the child’s work, and reflections on the implications that the longitudinal documentation of the child holds for teaching.