Hot Topics

September 16, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 8 Comments

The annual survey of hot and not-so-hot topics in reading education by the International Reading Association reveals that

…of the four “very hot” topics—adolescent literacy, comprehension, Response to Intervention, and core learning/literacy standards (those which at least 75% of respondents agree are receiving a great deal of attention), three topics were “very hot” in 2010 as well. Core learning/literacy standards is new to the list of the “very hot.”

The Association goes on to say that the purpose of the survey is to familiarize educators with the topics that are receiving attention and to encourage further investigation and research into those topics.  Given your area of expertise, which topic do you feel is the most important?  What outside research have you discovered in this area?  What connections can you make between the topic and content area literacy?



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  1. After reading the survey article, I feel as though there are two topics that hold a high importance in the success of the students’ learning experiences, while the other two seem to serve more as a type of support to help the students reach that level. In my opinion, adolescent literacy and comprehension are two of the most important traits which help to create lifelong readers and learners, while Response to Intervention and the Core learning/literacy standards seem to serve more as support to help enhance students’ comprehension skills, which will in turn make them more successful in their secondary literary abilities.
    Comprehension is a skill that children are taught very early on, and is an essential component to having successful adolescent literacy experiences. Without the ability to fully understand a text, make meaning from the words, and make personal responses or connections to it, the text holds no value to the students and diminishes the reading and writing experience. The book that we are currently reading for class, Subject Matters by Harvey Daniels and Steven Zemelman, discusses the process that readers go through when experiencing a new text. Reading is not just “receiving a message”. Students must have the appropriate skills to know how to make meaning from the text and build upon prior knowledge. Without adequate comprehension skills, students won’t learn how to make meaning from the text, and therefore won’t have any knowledge to build upon.
    Adolescent literacy is also a very important factor in students’ educational and literary experiences. In the primary grades, we are so focused just on getting the students to read accurately, that we don’t focus as much on the skills that they are going to need to be successful readers in the secondary grades. It seems as though literacy is a subject all on its own in the primary grades, but in the secondary grades, it really is incorporated within everything the students do and every subject they are enrolled in. In order to be successful in each individual subject, students need strong literacy skills.
    When I think about adolescent literacy, it reminds me of an experience I had when I was student teaching 6th grade math and social studies, and had a student who was unable to write. At first, it stunned me that a child, without a special education classification, was able to make it all the way to 6th grade without ever being taught how to write. This effected the student’s education in so many different ways, and I always wondered how he was going to make it through the rest of middle and high school without being able to write. It still confuses me that the child went all the way through elementary school and never received any additional instruction or support for writing, and makes me wonder if he ever will. The child was a fantastic reader, but it seemed almost as if they looked at reading and writing skills as two different literary elements, when they really both go hand in hand.

  2. In my opinion, I think that the core learning/literacy standards are the most important. These standards are a big shift in how we teach literacy in the classroom and I think it is important to focus on how we are going to incorporate the common core into our classrooms. On the Common Core State Standards Initiative website, it is noted that the standards are “(1) research and evidence based, (2) aligned with college and work expectations, (3) rigorous, and (4) internationally benchmarked.” The website also states that these standards are designed for college and career readiness in a “globally competitive society.” I think that these standards really have the potential to prepare students for college and even careers right out of high school. We are giving students the opportunities to learn at a higher level and really become successful in whatever they choose to do. When I was in school, I don’t really remember being challenged as far as my literacy abilities. I was reading books that were right at my level and was never really given the opportunity to explore harder text. I also remember the entire class reading the same book. What about the kids who needed extra help? What about the kids who were excelling and were bored with the text? I think these standards will really give students the opportunity to explore harder text and get out of their comfort zone to broaden their reading abilities. These standards relate directly to content area literacy because now ALL content areas will be required to teach literacy as part of their curriculum. Science, Math and Social Studies teachers will now have to be more creative in what they give their students to read. I think these standards are going to bring a whole lot of positive change to the classroom and I think we are going to see a huge change in how successful our students can be.

  3. The topic that I feel is the most important would be adolescent literacy. According to The Alliance for Excellence Education and the International Reading Association websites, literacy development is an ongoing process, which should not stop at a beginning level. The Alliance also states that 70% of 8th graders and 65% of 12th graders do not read at their grade level. According to the International Reading Association, adolescent literacy requires seven main principles in order to develop motivated, life-long learners. These principles include: a wide variety of reading material that appeals to their interest, instruction that builds their skills and desire to read increasingly complex materials, assessment that reveals their strengths and needs, expert teachers across the curriculum, reading specialists to assist those learners who have difficulty, teachers who understand that complexities among individual adolescent readers, and homes and communities that support their learning. Adolescent literacy has significant importance since it aims to improve our nation’s readers and develop their literacy beyond their grade level. By using adolescent literacy, our nation’s adolescence will be better prepared for college and a working career.
    When I was in High school, my teachers knew the importance of adolescent literacy. From what I can remember, the content teachers were very good about incorporating literacy techniques and offering additional help to students who had any difficulties. From this experience, I was able to adjust well to the college literary environment because my reading and writing skills were in line with the expectations for my level of education.
    Adolescent literacy clearly ties into content area literacy because by the time students reach adolescence, most of their classes are content-based. Since these classes are mostly content based, literacy skills would need to be taught in other content areas, such as science, math and history. With adolescent literacy, content teachers will have to incorporate reading and writing topics in their curriculum that help develop and motivate their students. While incorporating literacy into the content area, teachers will now have to make assessments to see which readers are struggling and which readers are more advanced. With students that are struggling, teachers will now have to refer the students to reading specialists. I think that adolescent literacy would give students the help they need at their reading level, while still developing their literacy skills through adolescence and eventually into adulthood.

  4. Preschool literacy instruction/experiences are very important in content literacy. Many preschool and pre-kindergarten teachers use trade books to help guide lessons and activities for preschool children. Literacy starts at a very young age and starting children off on the right foot from the beginning is essential to their future success. Research states that “Children begin their journey on the road to literacy early, interacting in myriad ways with adults and other children and in the process picking up language, the alphabet and other literacy-related aspects of their environment. How this process unfolds and is nurtured by parents and teachers is more important than previously thought, since it builds skills that determine how well kids will read, write and spell later” (

    As a pre-kindergarten teacher, I encourage children to look at books and pictures whenever possible. I also encourage parents to read to their children every day. Children in preschool should have positive experiences with literacy. When a teacher is excited to read, the children become excited.

    Preschool teachers can use a wide variety of literacy strategies to help children to start acquiring necessary literacy skills they will use as they progress through skills. Teachers should start asking comprehension questions, encourage children to use pictures as cues, and recognize simple sight words such as “it” and “as.”

    Teachers in preschool often read simple picture books to children to help with content knowledge. For example, many teachers read books by Eric Carle to help aide a science lesson. The Grouchy Ladybug is a great book that can be used to teach about ladybugs and about time. Teachers also mix in simple nonfiction books that coincide with the science topic. Encouraging young children to look at nonfiction books with a lot of pictures can also help increase children’s awareness of reading in preschool. Children will start to become familiar with parts of the book and why we have books. Children may not be able to read every word at this age but they start to gain an understanding of literacy.

  5. After doing some researching, I found a site that listed the hot topics in literacy for 2011. The list also included results for what’s not hot, what should be hot, and what should not be hot.

    “What’s Hot and what’s not? 2011 Results

    I believe the topic that deserved to be the most important is the common core/literacy standards. These standards recognize every subject matter to be important and apply the same literacy skills across all curriculums. The common core literacy standards is a common language that helps ensure that the teacher and learning of literacy skills are focused on the intended expectations as well as a shared purpose. With teachers being more cognizant of literacy in their content area, they will be better prepared to align these standards into their lesson plans.

    Content literacy also offers students the “ability to exercise a range of literacy skills, including strategies for understanding new vocabulary and for seeking out, interpreting, critically evaluation, and communicating information. Content area literacy represents a set of goals and tools for teachers to employ for shrinking the achievement gap while helping all students to become more literate and learn in more powerful ways in content areas (Conley, 18).”


    Conley, Mark. “Content Area Literacy: Helping All Adolescents Learn in New Times.” Content Area Literacy: Leaners in Context. Pearson, 2008. Web. 21 Sep 2011. .

  6. Of the 2011 “Hot Topics” for reading education, Adolescent Literacy is the most important and relevant of the four topics.
    As adolescents, students are entering the Formal Operational Stage of their development. In this stage of brain development, logic skills become more complex, abstract thought develops, allowing consideration of possible outcomes and problem solving skills become more systematic and methodical. Students who may have had difficulty with literacy as elementary students may now have the “brains” to be successful. Why would we stop teaching students to read now?
    I believe adolescent literacy becomes even more important when thought of in terms specific to mathematics. Literacy, in general can be defined as, “the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print.” In her article “Mathematical Literacy”, Hope Martin tells us,” just as knowing the definitions of words does not make a person literate, knowing rules and algorithms to solve mathematics problems does not make a person mathematically literate.” We as math teachers need to step back and help students look at the bigger picture.
    It is not enough that students know their fast facts, remember pi to 200 digits or divide fractions. These are nothing more than tools, and dividing fractions without real understanding is like reading a word without comprehension. As students move into adolescence, they are developing an amazing new capacity for reasoning and thought. This is when students can begin to see math not just as a bunch of rules, but as an integral part of our everyday life. We can show them that math is everywhere, in advertising, in the media, on the internet, in the newspaper, in just about every job they can name. Mathematical literacy in is not something students will necessarily gain with literacy skills learned in elementary school and I’m sure this is equally true in other content areas. Adolescent literacy, especially in content areas is a skill necessary for student success and one that needs to be addressed in content area classes.

  7. After reading the article, I refer back to my job in which I sit in on IST (Instructional Support Team) meetings that deal with Response to Intervention. I think about all of the areas of concern that the teachers have for their students. Many of them are dealing with literacy. Students today are having a difficult time with their reading and comprehension. Many students are receiving Intervention Plans for reading in areas of comprehension, fluency, and word recognition. When thinking about literacy and adolescent education, it is so important that students have a strong reading foundation. It can be extremely frustrating for students if they arrive at the middle and high school level and are still struggling with reading and comprehending meaning within and beyond the text. The push for response to intervention is helping teachers to intervene before the problem gets too large and students are at their frustration level, and give up on trying to read. I also feel that the new commom core standards put an emphasis on the importance of being able to read informational text with accuracy, comprehend, and respond to what has been read. This is why teachers are adopting new strategies to improve reading comprehension and fluency. The following website provides teachers with the “Top 5 to Try”. This breaks down different literacy intervention ideas for students who are struggling readers, This website provides teachers with strategies they can use within their classroom. Lily Mae, states that “the aim of intervention is to eradicate difficulties with reading skills and a lifetime of loving reading.” As an elementary teacher, I see the importance of students being able to comprehend and decode text. Literacy is important in every subject and the new common core standards help to strengthen this by having students read non-fiction text. If a student is unable to read and comprehend it will become increasingly difficult for them to read text that is non-fiction. If a student is constantly reading at their frustration level, they are going to give up. It is our job as teachers to build life-long learners who have a thirst for knowledge and want to read and know more. How can a student feel this way if they are frustrated day in and day out? This is why teachers need to intervene when students are young. We need to give them the tools they need to succeed, and carry with them to become life long learners. The common core standards support this notion because they are set up so that skills build off of each other. Students will gradually begin to grow within reading and build upon their skills. They will build schema and carry that with them. Response to intervention is way for teachers to help build these skills and provide students with the opportunity to grow and flourish as readers.

  8. After reading the survey, I feel as though the topic of core learning/literacy standard is the most important. The one reason I feel as though the core learning/literacy standards are an important topic is because it is the newest thing that teachers are going to have to learn and utilize. Teachers need to learn how to read them and incorporate them into their classrooms. Also, I think it is important because it is going to be the new standard for the majority of the country. This way students across the country can be assessed on the same standards. Now teachers can gain better insight on how we compare to other states. Another reason it is important is the CCSSO and NGA state that the standards are “research and evidence based, aligned with college and work expectations, rigorous, and internationally benchmarked” (Common Core Standards). This topic has many connections to content literacy. These standards are the basis for literacy in all the subject areas. On the Common Core Standards website, it states that “The Standards set requirements not only for English language arts (ELA) but also for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Just as students must learn to read, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively in a variety of content areas, so too must the Standards specify the literacy skills and understandings required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines” (Common Core Standards). Literacy is in all content. However, how you read, write, speak, listen and use language varies depending on what content area you are in. Students need to be aware of these differences and learn strategies to be successful at literacy in all areas.

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