Literacy as a Shared Responsibility
NCTE INBOX 9-4-13
Today there is growing agreement that literacy is at the center of helping students prepare to meet college and career-ready standards for learning. The National Center for Literacy Education, a project of NCTE and a coalition of education associations, policy organizations, and foundations, recently conducted a nationally representative survey. In Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works, one of the key findings is that educators from all grade levels, roles, and disciplines agree that literacy is one of the most important aspects of their jobs. What does this look like as it is taken up in schools?
Discipline-specific vocabulary presents a challenge to students in content-area classes, making it difficult to access and critically respond to content-based texts. "'Why Are There So Many Words in Math?' Planning for Content-Area Vocabulary Instruction" describes the 5 Cs, a tool developed to help content-area teachers consider vocabulary as part of lesson planning. By selecting a set of key words for instruction, teachers can help students focus on conceptual understanding and connect new ideas to existing knowledge.
Reading for Learning: Using Discipline-Based Texts to Build Content Knowledge, a book rich in classroom examples, strives not to remake content teachers into reading teachers, but instead to support content teachers in using texts to deepen students' understanding of core ideas, critical information, and ways of thinking in the disciplines. Learn more in the chapter "Developing Academic Vocabulary."
In "Not Just Good Science Teaching: Supporting Academic Language Development," the authors explore ways in which they have worked together in understanding the complexities of academic language within the science classroom. They share specific strategies they have used to teach academic language to young adolescent English Language Learners (ELLs) within inquiry-based science lessons. Read more about Bringing Academic Vocabulary into Everyday Practice on the Literacy in Learning Exchange.
A multi-school writing assignment intended to improve students' science literacy serves as the context for "The Authenticity Spectrum: The Case of a Science Journalism Writing Project."
In "Something to Talk About: Teacher-Led Vertical Teams That Work!" ELA Department Chair Melanie Mayer shares "talking points" from her district's vertical-team meetings centered on writing. A vertical team is a group of educators (teachers, counselors, administrators) from different grade levels who work together to develop a curriculum that provides a seamless transition across grade levels.
"Formative Reading Assessment in Action," chapter three of Beyond Standardized Truth: Improving Teaching and Learning Through Inquiry-Based Reading Assessment, invites us into the classrooms of a ninth-grade English teacher and a high school Ancient Civilizations teacher. In these examples we see the difference between one-time assessments to make course adjustments and ongoing content-embedded formative assessments as a central part of a PLC's work, and how that that guides teachers through instructional decisions.
The Web seminar "Literacy in Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects: Scaffolding Levels of Text Complexity (with Discipline-based Texts)" describes strategies piloted among teams of interdisciplinary teachers, grades 6-12, who implemented reading strategies for complex texts, including primary sources, and facilitated students in conducting research to answer a question, citing evidence to make their claims.
Another upcoming Web seminar, "Evidence-Based Argumentation in Science" will address the call to guide students as they develop science arguments that are supported by research-based evidence.
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