Chronosynclastic infundibulum

May 31, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 3 Comments

(By Adem Evyapan)

Being in multiple places at once, that’s what comes to mind when I hear the word integration. It even makes more sense when discussing the word in regards to education. There has been a huge push for incorporating other subjects within other subjects, but what seems to elude educators these days is the ever so daunting concept of literacy. In theory it’s a pleasant and very intriguing concept. It makes perfect sense to take something so concrete and fundamental and incorporate it in other subjects. In practice it seems like a very difficult goal to achieve. With the limited teaching experience that I have, I can safely say that I have not seen the beginnings of integration take hold in the classroom. This idea could definitely change as time goes on and as I spend more time in the classroom. What tools can a teacher use to make integration of literacy more attainable? In Cecelia Brown’s article, Integrating Information Literacy into the Science Curriculum, she discusses the application of literacy in science. But is that enough to be true integration? Meijun Fan uses Whitehead’s philosophy of education to help define what integration actually means in her article titled, The Idea of Integrated Education, Whitehead explains it as, “…everything in this world is in some way connected with every other things in this world.”

With that being said, education can be explained in the same manner, that everything in education is connected to every other thing in education.  This brings a concern to mind as well as many questions. How can you measure whether or not integration of literacy in a science classroom is actually working? What needs to be present in a classroom before integration can occur or can it just occur spontaneously?

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  1. It is important that teachers focus on this idea of multi-subject integration within their classrooms if they want their students to be successful and truly learn the course material. I agree with you that it seems like a daunting task, but one that is imperative to student’s success in every content area. I agree with the statement made by Meijun Fan in the article you mentioned which she states, “…everything in this world is in some way connected with every other things in this world.” This is especially true in education, where every subject is directly related in some way. Without literacy, which is the foundation for all learning, how will students have the ability to learn other content area material? There must be some basis of knowledge with which these students begin with in order to continue adding new, additional knowledge. This idea of prior knowledge is one of the most important aspects of making integration successful within a classroom. Without the prior knowledge, students are unable to develop a complete understanding of new subject material since they never developed a base of knowledge to build upon. This is why entire school districts need to accept that literacy is an important aspect of any subject and should to be included throughout every level of education. Due to this, it is also important that every teacher feels comfortable teaching literacy to their students in order for integration to be successful. Even though I also have not had a significant amount of personal experience within classrooms, it seems to me that many teachers I have observed/ spoken with do not feel comfortable enough teaching literacy along with their own subjects, so they decide to neglect it. There needs to be an increased focus on educating teachers regarding this topic before any integration can occur within most classrooms.

    Being able to measure whether or not integration of literacy has been successful within science, math, or any other content area is another difficult task for teachers. In the article titled “The New Literacy”, David Warlick discusses why teachers should stay away from the traditional views of literacy within the classroom and focus on including literacy as a way to increase the college readiness of each student. He states,

    “We live in a time when the very nature of information is changing: in what it looks like, what we use to view it, where and how we find it, what we can do with it, and how we communicate it. If this information is changing, then our sense of what it means to be literate must also change.”
    http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=263

    Even though this article was written in 2005, it provides several talking points that are still valid and even more important today as our society and education system continue to evolve. Teachers need to establish this new definition of literacy before they enter the classroom so that they can determine what needs to be measured and taught within the classroom. Every content area should be related to one another because they should be viewed as parts of the entire educational program for students, instead of individual subjects. This is important because once they are in the real world; students will often have to use all of this knowledge at once, instead of each content area individually.

    Throughout this semester, our class has discussed a wide variety of tools and techniques teachers can use to make integration of literacy possible within the specific content area classrooms. These include strategies that should be incorporated before, during, and after reading to ensure that the students are developing an understanding of the material instead of just “going through the motions”. I have already learned several new strategies that will be useful within the classroom, but it is important to remember that every class will be different and these strategies should be altered to best suite the individual teacher and students. Even from year to year, teachers will have to make changes to these literacy techniques based on the new students they have and the abilities that these students possess. I have always been a supporter of differentiated instruction due to this fact, and believe that all teaching strategies need to be adjusted so that they are directed towards each individual student’s needs. Louise Wilkinson and Elaine Silliman discuss how scaffolding can assist with this differentiated instruction in their article “Classroom Language and Literacy Learning”. In the article Wilkinson and Silliman say,

    “Ideally, the scaffolding teachers provide for students takes the form of classroom discussions and “grand conversations”; in practice, teacher-student dialogues are likely to be “gentle inquisitions” (Eeds & Wells, 1989). The use of scaffolds in both regular and special education classrooms reflects a continuum from interrogation sequences to instructional conversations (Tharp & Gallimore, 1988). The type and quality of scaffolding arrayed along the continuum convey expectations to learners about their overlapping communicative roles as listeners, speakers, readers, and writers, and influences their self-definitions as learners (Silliman & Wilkinson, 1994).”
    http://www.readingonline.org/articles/handbook/wilkinson/

    Unfortunately, every classroom will encompass students with a wide variety of abilities when it comes to literacy, which is why these authors discussed the different types of scaffolding. Teachers should be able to determine what will work best for each individual student and how to incorporate these techniques within the classroom instruction. Some students will require more assistance with the material than others, and it is important for teachers to incorporate these literacy techniques in a way that will be beneficial to the individual students.

  2. I agree with the comment you said Adam about not seeing integration in the classroom. I too have very little classroom experience but I have not seen teachers integrating outside subjects into their everyday lessons. Being able to integrate science and math class is a hard thing to do in my opinion. I believe it is important for teachers to start by integrating at a small level and build their way up. One way integration can become easier is if teachers start to collaborate together. According to a case study conducted by Jennifer Dennis and Mary John O’Hair, “a reason that math and science teachers should collaborate is that science helps provide relevance to math that is all too often abstract and isolated calculation operations”. Teachers that talk to each other and discuss what is going on in their lessons will have a better way of knowing how to integrate content areas. Another great way to ingrate content areas is off course literacy in math and science classes. Literacy can be so useful in your content area that will come with many benefits. An article in Education Week claims that with the new common core standards more and more teachers are changing their teaching patterns to incorporate literacy. Teachers are going to have to get rid of the old teaching by lecture method and integrate different content areas into their lessons. Students that understand the material rather than knowing the material will be a lot better off and integration will help them get to that understanding.

  3. “How can you measure whether or not integration of literacy in a science classroom is actually working?” Is the goal to measure the integration, or to affect the literacy abilities of the students? The easy answer is that improvement in their English courses, the core course, and any standardized tests would be evidence enough. However, there is more than just these assessments that evidence true integration.

    Yes, everything is connected to everything in education, as Adam states. One’s classroom, though, can’t only be about science and math and music and art and social studies. It has to be about real life, and integrating literacy into the curriculum is the same as integrating writing into the workplace. It is necessary, and the diminishing communication skills of today’s graduates is a severe indictment of the teachers and professors to inculcate their students in the ways of industry and business, in which it is critical to be able to communicate your ideas effectively, clearly, and concisely. A report by the Welsh curriculum authority stated that reading, writing, and communication “are developed through real life and meaningful experiences.”

    So once again we come back to differentiating the curriculum to the specific needs of individual students, as Greg noted, and making the material meaningful to them in their lives by incorporating their experiences into their studies. Donna Werderich, an Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at Northern Illinois University, notes:

    “Students in the middle grades represent a broad range of abilities, backgrounds, and motivations making literacy education particularly challenging at this level. Some students
    have preferred authors and genres, while others prefer not to read at all. Because of this
    broad range, middle school reading educators should be responsive to individual differences. Some students struggle, others are academically advanced, and some have an unstable home life.”

    Scaffolding, as Jeremy suggests, is also very important to literacy efforts in content classrooms. Teachers should already be familiar with the process of scaffolding, so this should not be difficult to implement into the content classes. Students need this help. They are not simply infundibulae into which information can be poured!


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