Adolescent Content Literacy

October 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 1 Comment

Posted by Vanessa Belisle

Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the Center on Instruction discusses research-based recommendations for improving academic literacy instruction in English Language Learners, classes with struggling readers, and content areas.  Academic literacy includes the ability to think about the meaning of a text in order to answer questions that require inferring and drawing conclusions.  The meaning of academic literacy also means being able to learn from the text leading to new understandings.  From content-area classes, students should be able to acquire more knowledge and understanding.  Students should be able to correctly respond to complex questions about content-area text’s content and meaning. (Torgesen, 2007)

After the intial period of learning to read, students must be given new skills specific to reading in order to become proficient readers.  This article outlines six areas of skill and knowledge that must continue to grow through adolescence: vocabulary knowledge, higher-level reasoning and thinking skills, cognitive strategies, reading fluency, content knowledge, and motivation and engagement.  Teachers must take time to teach these skills and build their students’ knowledge.  It would be especially helpful it there was an efficient school-level system to ensure that the needs of the students are met.  The school-level system includes elementary, middle, and high school.  With this system teachers would be able to focus on the main skills and knowledge that their students need.  A skilled reading teacher that effectively teaches comprehension strategies with the content-area teachers reinforcing these strategies will enhance the students’ initial learning and its generalization into other settings.  In order to improve literacy in the content-areas, there are five recommendations Torgesen (2007) made for instructional focus and improvement:

“• increasing the amount of explicit instruction in and support for the use of effective comprehension strategies throughout the school day

• increasing the amount and quality of open, sustained discussion of reading content

• setting and maintaining high standards for the level of text, conversation, questions, and vocabulary that are used in discussions and assignments

• increasing the use of a variety of practices to increase motivation and engagement with reading

• increasing the use of specific instructional strategies that lead to greater learning of essential content knowledge by all students” (Torgesen, 2007)

I believe it is important for content-area teachers to incorporate strategies that students learn from their reading teacher because not only does it help students with comprehension but it also helps students to realize that reading is incorporated into every aspect of life.  Teachers must also give students an ample amount of background information before full comprehension can be made.  Reading in the content-areas also allows for students to see that reading entails many different forms that range from reading words to reading equations.  By teaching our students different strategies for before, during, and after reading, they are able to use these strategies to understand any text.

Torgesen, J. K., Houston, D. D., Rissman, L. M., Decker, S. M., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J. Francis, D. J, Rivera, M. O., Lesaux, N. (2007). Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the Center on Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.


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  1. Vanessa,

    I think you bring up a really good point, and I agree with you. The strategies that we are learning in class right now can be used in any content area, with a little bit of modification. I remember struggling a lot in math problems that required reading because I didn’t understand. I didn’t get that, “how many more” means subtraction or when to add or multiple when they use “all together.” I mean put those words into numbers and I could solve it. Instead of my teachers tell me to “practice the word problems more,” I wouldn’t have struggled with it for so long if my teachers used different math reading strategies to help me understand when to subtract, add, multiply, or divide, I would have comprehend it a lot more.

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