Guide to Content-Area Reading

June 19, 2010 at 11:31 am | Posted in uncategorized | 12 Comments

In their book, Subjects Matter, authors Harvey Daniels and Steven Zemelman write,

In short: understanding what we do now, we will teach reading, not just assign it, though that doesn’t mean we are turning into reading teachers.  We are specialists – science, math, history, art, music, foreign language people – to the bone.  The difference is, we’ll break the work up into steps for kids, and provide help along the way.  We’ll be using methods, tools, activities, and procedures that help our students understand and remember our content better – and maybe even, dare we hope, get interested in it.  Which is right back where we started.

What does this mean for your teaching?  What is your personal guide to content-area reading?  In what ways will your professional practice be impacted or changed by what you’ve explored and learned in class?

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  1. The implication for our teaching is this, we have to be more mindful when assigning reading. We cannot just assign a reading and expect students to read and understand. Instead, giving resources or activities to support the reading will promote student understanding of content. In my own experience, reading with guides have defintelty helped me remember and understand content. As a personal guide to content area reading, continuing to research and educate myself on the latest tools and resources to bring into the classroom will be a constant challenge and necessity. My teaching will be impacted by this class because I can bring in pre-reading, during reading, and post-reading strategies when assigning reading. I also feel comfortable using web tools which engage students by encouraging discussions and sharing information.

  2. Science is a daunting field of study. Students generally come into my classroom with some sort of apathy or distaste for Science. It is my responsibility to guide them toward an acceptance of how Science works in our lives, if not a love (a “like” at least) for it. The best practice for developing these feelings is undoubtedly to look at science in small doses or “chunks.” By doing this, the students access the information more easily and can apply it more readily.

    In my classroom I already take this approach. I noticed from day one that my students require some scaffolding and steps in order to complete tasks. This is evident in reading as well as other tasks. I now have an understanding of how important this is to teaching content area literacy to my students. Using various resources and techniques to assist students, I can teach them to be better readers and maybe even enjoy reading.

    I feel the same now as I have throughout this course in that the key to improving scientific literacy is an exposure to “real world” texts and resources related to classroom content. Again, EXPOSURE is key. Generally, many students could not readily identify or incorrectly identify scientific text (or similar texts) outside of the classroom, and because of this, many develop avoidance tactics to stay away from it. In a previous post I mentioned how now is the time that our students should understand the scientific world (see: BP oil spill, global warming, etc.). The only way to do this is through exposure to the media that contains it.

    In my classroom, I will make an effort to generate this kind of exposure through the use of technology, mainly Web 2.0 tools. Through discussions with my own students, these are tools they are comfortable with and could prove effective in connecting and engaging students. Science is a collaborative field, more so than English or Social Studies, so it makes sense that we should be using collaborative tools and technologies to make this happen. I will continue to use content-area literacy as a means for promoting my message/goal that Science is everywhere and is a process all my students use/experience every day.

  3. This excerpt definitely will have some effect on me as a teacher. I never really gave much thought to reading as a whole in the science classroom. I just sort of assumed that students will read what I want them to read. I guess that I kind of took it for granted that all the students entering the classroom could read at grade level. The various methods and strategies that I have learned in this course will help in the future when I encounter students who are either disinterested or struggling with the material.
    My personal guide to content area reading is one of a well balanced diet of a variety of sources related to the content. Reading from newspapers, journals, novels, magazines should be implemented in the classroom. I believe that with the new technology we should offer kids the opportunity to explore opportunities over the internet. I have to be aware that I am teaching reading to students through my content. My students should be able to read and understand every sort of material that they may encounter in the science content.
    Before this class I guess that I never really gave any thought to literacy in the classroom. I am not currently a teacher so I never encountered student’s problems with reading. But if I reflected on my own experiences in school I’d remember countless textbook assignments left unread. I would never read what was assigned. Some of these strategies learned in this course have opened my eyes to actually making the reading interesting. As I approach the steps to becoming a teacher I will have keep in mind now that I will need to provide a variety of sources for students to read. The web based applications are something that I will need to look at even further because I believe now that they are going to be crucial to student learner going on in the future. I will try to retain what I leave learned from this class as I myself become a teacher some day. The binder will be a good reference.

  4. I have been teaching for 4 years now, and after taking this class I cannot wait to start my 5th year. Throughout my brief teaching career I have struggled with finding ways to constantly engage my students and create an environment where they want to learn and probe for deeper understanding. Me loving the math and having a passion for teaching hasn’t been enough. This class has shown me interesting ways to present material and check for thorough understanding. The class has given me invaluable tools that I can use with those struggling students(which in math are sometimes most of the students). The more I teach, the more I realize that I am not teaching math, I am teaching human beings, human beings that think and process information differently that me.

    My personal guide to content-area reading is that prior knowledge needs to be activated in order for me and my students to have some kind of starting ground for a unit. Where are they in their understanding, where do I think they should be at? We as a class need to make sure no assumptions are being made. Constant reinforcement of checking for understanding needs to be implemented in order to determine areas of concern. Finally students need to be able to express their knowledge and understanding in a way that is creative and that will allow them to make personal connections to the material.

    We teach in a technological age. This doesn’t mean that I am going to start implementing cell phones or facebook in my classroom(Those are already out of control and used too much for a social purpose), but there are all these great educational technology resources available out on the web just waiting to be explored.

  5. This Literacy course has opened my eyes to strategies that will be useful in my class. I will introduce alternate reading resources into the classroom. These additional resources will provide background information for the students. I will specifically use readings that explain the historical details of the mathematical discoveries. This will show the building block nature of math.
    The vocabulary can be difficult for some students. I will be sure to introduce them to the Frayer model. I believe this type of learning will promote better long term memories. The other strategy that I feel will be effective in addressing student difficulties will be the Graphic Organizer. When it is used to dismantle old regents exam word problems the studentls will be better prepared when the need to adapt their learning to new and unknown situations and problems in their future.
    The bottom line, for me, is to make math fun for the students, make math easy and have the math learnings last. These strategies will help provide a way to better achieve these goals.

  6. Agreeing with Allison, my main takeaway is to provide students with meaningful and engaging opprtunities when exploring text resources. Through this class, I have learned it is not the job of the reading or english teacher to develop our students’ literacy, but the job of every teacher. My goal is to strive to incorporate technology in my instruction as much as possible. I love the idea of implementing classroom websites and wikispaces, etc, however I worry about the students who do not have access to a computer outside of school. This will be an issue that I will defintely have to address. My own goal for improving literacy in my classroom is to provide ways for the students to interact with the text. JoAnn argued in class that we need to make an effort to build personal realtionships with our students. By building those relationships, I will be better able to develop activites that engage my students. As a get into the classroom, my main goal is to remain open to change and willing to learn as technology and research bring new information and methods to serve my students effectively.

  7. More than professional practice, my best practices have been molded as a result of this class. While I consider myself a “content teacher,” I have always looked at content teaching more holistically than strictly teaching science. What this class has done, is help me open my eyes and understand exactly how to be that holistic person.

    More than anything, I have learned that literacy and content teaching is not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go hand in hand, or even complement one another. As a teacher, I hope to meet the needs of my students by consistently incorporating literacy strategies and integrating them into classroom technology. I firmly agree with what has been posted already. As content teachers, our main role it to provide students with genuine and engaging opportunities to use literacy strategies and text resources in class.

  8. This class has truly been an eye opener for me. I now realize how teaching literacy in my content area is directly related to success in the classroom for my students and myself. Throughout this class I have looked at research that shows the root cause of students’ poor performance in content areas is due to their inability to utilize reading skills. Teaching my students how to read scientific material will now be a crucial part of my curriculum. I will look for reading material that will spark interest in the unit that I am teaching. Also, I will incorporate technology into my classroom to assist with those readings. (Wiki, Blogs, etc.)
    I realize that besides finding readings that are interesting they also need to be relevant. Finding reading material that will help scaffold my students’ learning will be a constant goal that I will set for myself every year.

  9. I look forward to being responsible for teaching my own classroom with excitement and trepidation. As a Secondary Math teacher, I am a specialist in math but there is so much more to teaching math than content knowledge. I am a firm believer in the importance of teaching literacy in the core subjects. Math has a unique language that is must broken down into manageable chunks for students.
    Perhaps one of the hardest things is to remember what it is like to not understand a concept or know how to solve a problem. Math can be rather dry if taught in the traditional “kill and drill” method. Have you ever asked a high school student what they like about math class? Try it. I have gotten some interesting responses. The one comment that really struck me was “yeah, our teachers think that we’re paying attention but we’re really thinking about ……….” You can fill in the blank anyway you want but I can assure you that I never got a “I love doing word problems!” or “Finding the roots of a quadratic equation is the bomb!”
    One way to alleviate some of the “monotony” of math is to use as many of the strategies that we learned in this class as possible. Personally I can’t wait to assign a RAFT! I want to bring creativity and fun into my classroom – actually I what I really want is to allow my students to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts we’ll be learning in creative ways. Blogging, Web2.0 tools, Flickr, Animoto, Motivational posters…. Oh my – this will be fun and what better way is there to learn?!

  10. This course has provided me with various reading and vocabulary strategies to use in my classroom. My outlook on assigning the text to read has evolved. I will be actively looking to supplement with alternate text sources in order to effectively engage my students. The use of blogs and educator based web resources has provided me the tools to find sound material to use with the text. The importance of offering a balanced reading diet was clearly defined in the course. I particularly liked the idea of incorporating the history of science into the curriculum. Science textbooks often are overflowing with factual information and often do not elaborate on the details surrounding how the laws of science came to be. I think using the history of science can be a great way to engage and enrich the reading comprehension of my students.

    I also will be collecting books for my library classroom. I never thought of having non-science reading material in my classroom. This course has made me realize that it is critical that we promote reading to our students. A classroom library is a great way to encourage students to read for pleasure. I never realized that teachers assign reading and students read for duty. In our fast paced world it is often tempting to become readers for duty. My hope is to have a library that my students will want to utilize for pleasure.

    I look forward to trying the various pre, during and post reading activities to see how they can assist my students’ reading comprehension. I am glad that I now know how to display the readability statistics in order to determine the reading level of selected text. This will assist me in selecting a range of reading material according to the abilities of my students. I will keep in mind that students should not be frustrated while trying to read for content. If they are struggling with the vocabulary then they will never be able to process the main concepts.

    The course has provided me with various ways to assist my students with content literacy. I am not a reading teacher but have the necessary tools in which to guide my students in becoming successful readers and writers in my content area.

  11. When I think about the scenario depicted in Mr. Cosgrave’s biology class, I realize that, while this may represent a “worse case” example, there are elements of this disaster present in many classrooms across the country. The information and skills that I have learned in this course, and the ideas that I now think about, will help me avoid ever being one of those robotic “read this for Friday” teachers. If I have developed a personal guide to reading in the content area, It is variety, variety, variety. Different levels of difficulty, different sources, different media.
    I have learned many strategies to help my students interact with the course material. I still feel that I will be teaching biology, not reading, but I am now aware of the factors that distinguish between good and struggling readers. I will model effective literacy tools as I teach. My class will practice doing the things that good readers do as we work through the biology curriculum, and along the way, my students will hopefully become more proficient using these tools with or without my direct intervention.
    I will use the textbook as a tool, not the only tool. My class will read articles and other materials. We will also use video and web-based sources to introduce material, and to reinforce and assess learning.
    Even my vision of my classroom has changed, from a quiet, orderly, dare-I-say rigid place, to an environment that is much more social and interactive, because I now understand how important this is to learning. I can’t wait to start.

  12. Within the quote from Daniels and Zemelman, the phrase “get interested in it,” as it refers to our content area, represents a key idea to me. If students are not “interested in it,” we stand no chance to get them to remember “it.” I want my teaching time to be interactive, similar to our class sessions (especially today’s calisthenics and Chavon’s activity). I want my teaching to be relevant, not only to the content area, but to today’s world. I want my teaching to get the kids interested in “it.” This requires using texts (in a limited capacity), newspapers, magazine articles, primary sources, and web tools, all methods to get students “interested in it.” As I’ve begun to understand these methods, I’ve come to realize they represent only the portion of an iceberg that is visible about the ocean’s surface.
    I have never thought about describing a personal guide, but my goal will be to use what I have learned while in this class, and to use those new tools, which have taken me out of my comfort zone, to create classroom activities. I tried some of the new tools and have observed my fellow students trying others. It’s not so difficult. A little bit of time will serve me well as I try to learn more. I will take that time now, while I have some time to spare.
    During our class I scoffed at the idea of “keeping a notebook,” of having to try every exercise with my classmates, and of creating an activity for every aspect of the class. I no longer will complain. I understand that opening my mind to these new ideas will only make me a better teacher. I could try some of the new ideas that are out there; not all will be compatible with my teaching style. Trying them all is key in deciding what might work best for me. And later when I am in a class, I will try them out again to decide what might work best for my students.


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