The Need for Strategies in Content Area Literacy

September 30, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 2 Comments

(authored by Rachael Rzepka)

When thinking about literacy in schools it is important to see the need for literacy in all subject areas. Just the other day, I was sitting in a conference with a strategic learning specialist who used to be a math teacher. She was expressing her concerns about student’s ability to write out their math answers. This got me thinking about what we have been discussing in class, and I realized that literacy is in every subject.

This same discussion was brought up later in the week during a principal’s cabinet meeting discussing RTI. Students need to be able to read and write in order to successfully complete work in their other courses. If a student cannot comprehend the material, how are they supposed to be able to learn what is expect? Teachers do not know strategies of how to incorporate reading and writing skills into their lessons. When listening to the math teacher I described above, she claimed, “Students cannot simply write an answer, they cannot write concise statements that summarize their work”. This makes me think of a video I have watched on the common core standards.

In the video on the common core standards, David Coleman discusses how about 80% of all writing is personal narrative for students. This would explain why our students cannot simply state how they came to their answer in a math problem. Even further it can demonstrate that students cannot answer how they did the problem because they cannot comprehend what the problem was asking and how they arrived at their answer. The new common core standards are put an emphasis on the “ability to write logical arguments based on substantive claims, sound reasoning, and relevant evidence” (Common Core State Standards Initiative 2011). This would mean that students would need to create logical arguments based on research, or defend their answer in a clear and concise manner.

Content area teachers will need to know how to incorporate these skills into their classrooms. These skills will now be emphasized in every subject as the writing will shift from personal to information based. The common core standards will strengthen the writing and reading skills of students because the standards build upon one another to strengthen student skills. They focus on key skills that build upon and strengthen as students move on in their educational career.

After reviewing the common core standards, I began to think about strategies content area teachers can used to strengthen these skills. Teachers always claim that they do not have enough time in their day to incorporate an English lesson, so how can they teach these skills through their lessons? I have found this website in which they provide you with various content area literacy activities. This website splits the strategies by different content areas. They then provide you with ways you can incorporate them in your classroom. Do you think these strategies are sufficient? Are there other strategies that can be used? How do we know these strategies are reaching the student’s needs?

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  1. I really like the TALK website! I think the strategies they provided are great for content area literacy. I agree with Rachael in the fact that there needs to be strategies for teachers in content areas. I think a big reason for teachers not including literacy in the content areas is that they just don’t know how. I think these strategies will help strengthen students’ skills since there are descriptions for each strategy and the website even provides an explanation for each skill the strategy will help improve. Great find Rachael!
    As far as making sure the strategies are reaching students’ needs, I think this is where pre and post assessments can be used. The teacher could check for student understanding before the reading, practice the skill, and then check for understanding after the reading. I also think concept mapping, or a KWL would work to check for understanding as well. There is another blog on wordpres(http://kendrik2.wordpress.com/2007/09/27/pre-assessment-strategies/) that is written by a Principal, he discusses some pre-assessment ideas for teachers. There is also a website called Study Guides and Strategies(http://www.studygs.net/texred3.htm) that has other ideas for strategies and activities for reading with students.

  2. Overall, the TALK website is not bad, but it needs to be expanded on. For instance, it has a lot of primary and intermediate activities, but not very many for high school. For chemistry (my content), there is only a few good resources. This website definitely has some great topics and seems to be very useful for biology and physics, but could use a bit more expansion on some other topics in science.
    On the website ReadWriteThink (http://www.readwritethink.org/) , they introduce a few other strategies. For instance, they incorporate reading and writing poetry into the content area. This website also introduces role-playing, inquiry and analysis, a comic creator, story maps and many other activities. Still, this website is not very specific, but it opens the floor for new ideas and activities with content area literacy.
    Many of the tools discussed in class offer good assessment as to whether or not these strategies are reaching the students’ needs. Some of these tools include the think aloud, a graphic organizer and “I’ll pause, you think.” By assessing what students have completed with these tasks, the teacher can evaluate whether the strategies and activities incorporated are beneficial to their content area literacy.


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