Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Content Literacy: Content Teachers & Reading Teachers Pair up for Student Success

Reading across content areas is critical to student success. An aligned campus wide literacy approach can lead to huge gains for struggling readers. For example, by strategically matching the expository text, i.e. content, in science and social studies classes with the expository literacy strategies in language arts classes (ELA classes) students interact with both the content and the text structure multiple times for a variety of purposes. It’s takes planning and organization to make the cross-curriculum alignment happen. Campus leadership can provide time for ELA teachers to work with other content teachers to select texts for both classes. Texts selected must meet the literature requirements for a genre study in ELA, but also provide the content needed for other classes. These purposeful interactions can lead to greater retention and increased achievement across the subject areas. Fountas and Pinnell, 2001, remind educators that even advanced students or students reading above grade level benefit from a coordination of content and literacy instruction. Providing a practical example of such integration, Austin ISD boasts of a campus that embraced the notion of content literacy in a campus wide effort to align research and writing across the curriculum.

 One highly effective school began the school year by organizing calendars for research project  assignments across every subject area. (The calendar helped to ensure that students were not slammed with 3 or 4 research papers due at the same time.) …In this school, even the physical  education and fine arts faculty participated. In P.E. students were required to write an article for a sports page in the school newspaper or write a biography of a famous athlete. Students in art class were required to research a theme in art or describe a style common in a certain period of history. At this school, every student was writing a paper for every teacher every 3 to 6 weeks, and the student success in all subject areas was significantly increased. And as a side benefit, no one teacher bore the brunt of grading all of those papers and giving students feedback. All of the teachers accepted their role as literacy teachers. (AISD, 2012, p. 65) 

 Content teachers need not be overwhelmed by the notion of teaching language arts and reading. There are small, yet effective teaching moves that can facilitate the merge of interdisciplinary learning standards. For example, content area teachers can use activities that activate prior knowledge of the academic discipline that do not require laborious reading initially. By working with the reading teacher, content teachers can provide students with instructional leveled reading that allows students to build on the prior knowledge while extrapolating new information from the texts. As the vocabulary and content knowledge build, the complexity of the content text can increase providing more opportunities for students to interact with authentic disciplinary texts, such as journal articles or traditional text books. (Lee & Spratley, 2010) The stronger the planning relationship between content teacher and ELA teacher, the more intentional and effective content literacy lessons become.


 “AISD Comprehensive Literacy Handbook.” Austinisd.org, AISD Department of English Arts, 2012, curriculum.austinisd.org/la/documents/_AISDComprehensiveLIteracyHandbook.pdf. Accessed 10 May 2017.

 Fountas, Irene C., and Gay Su. Pinnell. Guiding readers and writers: teaching comprehension, genre, and content literacy. Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann, 2001.

Lee, C.D., Spratley, A. (2010). Reading in the disciplines: The challenges of adolescent literacy. New York, NY: Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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