Monday, June 25, 2007

Improving Content Area Literacy

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Report “Preparing STEM Teachers: The Key to Global Competitiveness” was released as part of a Congressional Briefing last week. The document highlights more than 50 programs at institutions across the country dedicated to increasing the number of effective K–12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators. Why does this matter to those of us who teach English language arts and composition? NCTE’s “Teaching Composition: A Position Statement” provides the answer:

In the classroom where writing is especially valued, students should be guided through the writing process; encouraged to write for themselves and for other students, as well as for the teacher; and urged to make use of writing as a mode of learning, as well as a means of reporting on what has been learned. The classroom where writing is especially valued should be a place where students will develop the full range of their composing powers. This classroom can also be the scene for learning in many academic areas, not only English . . . . Teachers in all academic areas who have not been trained to teach writing may need help in transforming their classrooms into scenes for writing. The writing teacher should provide leadership in explaining the importance of this transformation and in supplying resources to help bring it about. [emphasis mine] (“The Scenes of Writing”)
We call this kind of interaction by many names, including reading and writing across the content areas, interdisciplinary learning, integrated curriculum, writing across the curriculum, and writing across the disciplines. What all of these undertakings have in common is their focus on collaboration among teachers who teach different subjects or who have different academic expertise. Here are some additional resources to help you get started on collaborations that can increase student success in every classroom:


Anonymous said...

Traci, I eagerly read your post as I'm a secondary school teacher who has been looking for support among my colleagues about literacy skills being transferred to other content areas. The ability to comprehend, make inferences, aquire vocabulary, etc-- are all skills traditionally taught in ELA and literature courses but so very relevant to drawing conclusions and problem solving in math, science, social studies, etc.

I was hoping that your blog would suggest materials I could use in my classroom and also to recommend to my fellow teachers. I did a search online and the only thing I found was a series by Walch Publishing. I bought one and think it's terrific. I'd love to know if you've seen it and what others think.

Sara in S.C.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps teaching across the curriculum dovetails nicely with the "core knowledge" approach advocated by E.D. Hirsch. I plan to spend time each week with my inner city 6th graders to bring them up to speed on people, places and events outside their neighborhoods, including big ideas from other content areas. Each week, we'll have a Jeopardy style game that will reinforce the acquisition of this core knowledge. It may be a key in teaching students the language of an educated society, and may improve literacy by giving students access to newspapers and books they otherwise might not comprehend.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

I'm finding that teaching content literacy needs to begin as early as kindergarten. Even students who are struggling readers need to be exposed to various types of text. I hope that schools will look at programs that integrate content into literacy when adopting textbooks and programs.