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Reading & Writing in the Disciplines

English in the Real World: A Sports Journalist

Follow sports writer Ken Shulman in his efforts to document youth skateboard culture on an Apache reservation.

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The Real World videos in the Reading and Writing in the Disciplines course support teachers’ daily efforts to effectively teach students using the Common Core State Standards as benchmarks for success. Through stories of professionals working toward social justice in different disciplines, these videos can serve as a tool for showing students the role that literacy plays in mathematics, science, history, and the English language arts in creating dynamic career paths. When students ask how these core discipline areas are relevant to their lives, this video series presents passionate professionals as career role models who are making a positive difference in the world. From the development of technical, social, and critical thinking skills to the advancement of social justice and community development, the videos will benefit both students’ professional and personal development.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts

Concepts from the grades 6–12 standards highlighted in this video include:

  • Production and Distribution of Writing: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.
  • Key Ideas and Details: Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
  • Craft and Structure: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.

In the Classroom

This video demonstrates the interactive relationship between content knowledge, literacy practices, and social justice action in the workplace. Students often wonder how the work they do at school relates to their own lives and ask questions such as “How is this relevant to my life?” or “How can English be used to change the world?” These videos can help students answer these questions and consider the types of careers that will inspire them and perhaps have a positive impact on the world and their community.

Ken Shulman speaks to the unifying element of sports and how it brings people together and highlights global community needs. This video shows students that they can have a career in sports beyond the court or the field as journalists. It also shows the impact of writing and journalism on people’s lives.

Connections to selected classroom videos (see links below):

The Video

This video follows sports writer Ken Shulman in his efforts to document youth skateboard culture on an Apache reservation. This video is a tool for teachers to show students the essential elements of literacy through journalism and sports writing and to inspire students to improve their reading, writing, listening, communication, and documentation skills.

Through his study of Apache youth culture, Shulman highlights the challenges to young people’s educational development everywhere, including poverty, lack of positive role models, and cultural differences. Curricular strands in this episode include reading, writing, literacy, language, communication, and critical thinking. Relevant core disciplines include English language arts, journalism, media studies, and essay writing.

For Shulman, sports writing can serve as a vehicle for developing young people’s literacy, communications, and critical thinking skills, positioning them for careers in writing. “The skills needed for research as a journalist or a sports writer are very similar to the skills needed for research in school. You need to be able to read. You need to be able to analyze. And you need to be able to summon that information. Moreover, you need to be able to express yourself both verbally and in writing, concisely, directly, and convincingly,” says Shulman. He places great emphasis on the positive impact that writing about sports played in his personal and professional development and encourages students to explore sports writing as a career path.

Through sports writing, Shulman attempts to highlight vibrant cultures and the realities faced by people all over the world. When sharing the stories of his subjects, Shulman works to advance causes of social justice. “I like to use sport as a way to call attention to situations in our country and beyond our country, situations of injustice, situations of human rights, political situations, cultural situations. Just to use sport as an entrée and as a portal to get people interested.”

This video shows connections to literacy instruction through highlighting the writing process, which includes planning, drafting, revising, documentation, and editing. Reading is emphasized through the process of research and source verification. Communication skill development is highlighted through the interview process and significance of cadence and tone.

Suggested questions for viewing the videos with students:

  1. What are the reading and writing practices that you see?
  2. How do they support and promote the goals of the professional in this video?
  3. Who benefits by the use of those practices in the video?

These questions give students the opportunity to see literacy in a real-world context. They become aware of a diverse array of people using a variety of literacy practices. And they can imagine or speculate about their own potential for creating value in the world through their literacy practices.

Social Justice Education Reference Texts

  • Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Written Word by Linda Christensen
  • Unlearning Indian Stereotypes by Rethinking Schools
  • Rethinking Popular Culture and Media by Elizabeth Marshall and Ozlem Sensoy
  • A People’s History for the Classroom by Bill Bigelow
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire

Series Directory

Reading & Writing in the Disciplines


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation. 2015.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-906-4