What is Literacy Today?October 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 6 Comments
(By Courtney Ariola)
The definition of literacy has expanded. It no longer includes just the privileged population who can read and write. Literacy now includes
the development of a set of interrelated skills that include reading, writing, speaking, viewing, listening and questioning; all leading to the ability to critically assess and use information (Debbie Shults)
A report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that “national and international tests incontrovertibly prove that far too many of American’s children are reading at levels that are unacceptably low.” Realizing that this issue needs to be addressed, policymakers set into law mandates for educators to improve the literacy skills of our students. These laws include the common core standards and content area literacy.
Many educators are apprehensive about instructing content area literacy. Some reasons are that they believe they lack knowledge of strategies to integrate literacy into their curriculum, feel that literacy instruction is the responsibility of the ELA teachers, feel that they do not have sufficient knowledge base to teach literacy, and feel that they do not have enough time to teach both literacy and their curriculum. As more data about low student literacy scores and information on literacy strategies that can be used by teachers in all content areas are published, more educators are joining the vision that student literacy scores must be raised and are including literacy into their lessons.
As more content area lessons include literacy practices such as vocabulary, research, readings, reports, investigations, current events, internet projects, class discussions, whether large, small or one-to-one, and finding evidence to support their answers, students will gain better literacy skills. The repetition of literacy practices will help to build student self-esteem, motivate, and encourage them to remain engaged in learning. It is important for educators to understand that their content area has specific vocabulary words that may be a challenge to students. They should spend quality time making sure that their students understand and can apply these words to the curriculum. Without a clear understanding of content area vocabulary, students will have a difficult time remaining engaged. The article, Reading in the Content Areas: Strategies for Success suggests one strategy that can be used in all content areas. This strategy has three comprehension-building steps: (1) Before Reading – activate a knowledge base which students can build and establish a purpose for reading (brainstorm-predict-skim-assess prior knowledge-preview headings-learn crucial vocabulary); (2) During Reading – allow students to measure comprehension, clarify, visualize and build connections (reread-infer-question-support predictions-summarize); (3) After Reading- expand prior knowledge, build connections and deepen understanding (reread-confirm predictions-summarize-synthesize-reflect-question).
As content area literacy continues as part of each teachers lessons, our students will be able improve their interrelated skills that include reading, writing, speaking, viewing, listening and questioning. Educators, administrators, policymakers, and parents must collectively demand effective literacy programs in all content areas. In my opinion, as content area literacy becomes a common practice, our students should be able to receive quality instruction to help them think critically and face the challenges that will be prepare to them to productively survive our competitive global world.
As educators plan to integrate literacy into their content area, will there be sufficient time given to effectively maintain the higher level of skills required of students? Perhaps all future educators should be required to enroll in reading classes.