The Pitfalls of High School Content LiteracyMay 19, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 5 Comments
Post written by Aaron Datro
To be completely honest the term content literacy is a fairly new one for me. For our purposes we have defined content literacy as “the ability to use reading and writing for the acquisition of new content in a given discipline.” On the surface the previous definition is pretty straightforward, although when you consider the complexity and variety among disciplines that high school student are asked to navigate, content literacy becomes increasingly complex.
High school students are expected to be specialists in a variety of content areas: math, science, technology, ELA and with each content area comes unique problems. Each discipline or content area has its own vocabulary, nomenclature and word usage. For example the word “proof” in a geometry class has a distinctly different meaning when used in the context of a science class. I think the confusion occurs when we expect students to learn different “rules” for spoken and written for virtually every class they set foot in.
A strategy for avoiding word ambiguity between content areas could simply be explicit content literacy instruction. It is the responsibility of the teacher to highlight new vocabulary, homonyms, and explain content nomenclature for their students. Stressing the fundamentals of content literacy in a discipline would inevitably save time in the long run, by making students more able to understand and work with the presentation of new information.