Literacy – The Bigger PictureMay 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 4 Comments
Post written by Sam Mueller
For a period after our first weekend’s worth of classes, I was feeling a bit downhearted that I was required to take a course based on something I felt was not intrinsic to my content area. During the course of my physics education, my best experiences came from learning the material from a professor where English was not our primary form of communication. We would have pow-wows in his office, each sitting with our yellow pads in our laps, and through drawings and arrows, equations and numbers I was able to gain an understanding of some very tough concepts. So if I did not need to read or write English, why was it so necessary for me to learn how to teach m students how to do so?
Once I sat down to develop a topic for this post, I started to break down just what I was facing. A good place to start seemed to be coming u with a definition for the topic. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as
the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.
Woah, this means that literacy is so much more than I had been giving it credit for. The reading and writing is only like, 15% or what literacy encompasses. Looking back at the office meetings with my professor, every bit of what our minds were meeting over is contained under the title of literacy.
I had always considered Physics to be a bit of an anomaly when it came to the content standards. Of all the sciences, we require less vocabulary, and are more based on general problem solving skills. If you can use 6-7 formulas, and really understand 5-6 concepts, then you should have no problems passing a high school course. So until I started grasping this larger picture for what literacy meant, I didn’t see too much need for it in my classroom at all. The ability to identify, understand, interpret and create. These four verbs encompass 2 whole standards for high school sciences, (See Standards 6 and 7) not to mention a large portion of Standard 4. Over the course of this past week, I have to concede that my opinion about whether or not content literacy holds bearing in the classroom has shifted. Yet even though I acknowledge that developing these types of problem solving skills are useful, we have to be careful about what we keep in the forefront of the lessons. How much technology is needed to really get these literacy skills across? Ultimately time is a valuable commodity in the classroom, so what portion of that should be centered around the communication and interpretation of the materials, instead of the materials themselves?