Literacy Across Content Areas: The How is as Important as the What

Here’s Rebecca Alber offering a strong argument for literacy as a critical skill across the content areas:

Here’s one way to look at it: Content is what we teach, but there is also the how, and this is where literacy instruction comes in. There are an endless number of engaging, effective strategies to get students to think about, write about, read about, and talk about the content you teach. The ultimate goal of literacy instruction is to build a student’s comprehension, writing skills, and overall skills in communication.

Ask yourself, how do I mostly convey the information and knowledge to my students? Do I turn primarily to straight lecture, or teacher talk? Or, do I allow multiple opportunities for students to discover information on their own?

Alber’s right.  Much recent attention has been given to STEM education and the importance of retaining our edge in areas like mathematics, engineering, and technology.  And the Common Core State Standards has recommended that students engage in increasingly sophisticated texts each year in order to prepare for the rigors of the post-secondary world.  Engaging students in a wide variety of text is, as Alber argues, an important way to improve a student’s comprehension skills. 

She goes on to remind us of the importance of matching texts to readers:

The days of believing that we could hand informational text or a novel to a student and assume he or she makes full meaning of it on their own is a teaching mode of the past. Whether we like it or not, regardless of the content we teach, we are all reading instructors.

Scaffolding the reading by using effective strategies for pre-, during, and after reading, such as: previewing text, reading for a purpose, making predictions and connections, think alouds, and using graphic organizers will support all our students, and not just struggling readers and English learners.

Another onus not only on English teachers, but all teachers as reading instructors? We need to inspire both a love for reading, and build reading stamina in our students (this means eyes and mind on the page for more than a minute!)

Because students must wrestle with higher levels of reading material and a greater proportion of informational text, the Lexile Framework provides an additional way to target students at their own reading level.  By matching students to text at their level, educators can help facilitate reading growth.  Additionally, using student Lexile measures can be an important part of determining which classroom strategies to employ and how much scaffolding may be required, whether in literacy or other content areas.

Be sure to read the whole thing for Alber’s specific recommendations on incorporating literacy across content silos.

Kentucky Celebrates Literacy

We were pleased to see that Kentucky is hosting the Kentucky Literacy Celebration this week as a way to promote reading across the state:

First Lady Jane Beshear announced Monday that the Commonwealth will have its first annual Kentucky Literacy Celebration from February 28 through March 4. In coordination with the weeklong event, Mrs. Beshear issued a special reading list as part of her ongoing “First Lady’s Reading Recommendations” initiative.
As many of you probably know, Kentucky has linked their state assessment to the Lexile Framework for Reading.  Meaning, students taking the KCCT now receive Lexile measures on their student report.  This important metric allows teachers throughout the state of Kentucky to target students at the right reading level and helps make differentiation for struggling readers a reality.
As part of the Kentucky Literacy Celebration, First Lady Beshear has offered her own reading list, compiled for all ages and across multiple interests.  As the article states, many of the books on the list can be found within our own Find a Book site. 
Congratulations to Kentucky on this important initiative.

Creating a Better World Through Literacy

There are so many wonderful organizations devoted to improving the state of literacy around the world.  In recognition of literacy week, we would like to recognize just a few of these important groups.  One group, in particular, Better World Books, is working hard to end illiteracy.  In their own words:

Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide.  With more than six million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple bottom-line company that creates social, economic, and environmental value for all our stakeholders.

We were founded in 2002 by three friends from the University of Notre Dame who started selling textbooks online to earn some money, and ended up forming a pioneering social enterprise — a business with a mission to promote literacy.

Better World Books offers to buy back textbooks or to donate them to a number of literacy initiatives across the globe, including Room to Read, Books for Africa, Worldfund, the National Center for Family Literacy, Invisible Children, and Open Books.  Here at MetaMetrics, we have donated a number of textbooks to these groups and are happy to help contribute to the important work of these social entrepreneurs. 

If you have extra textbooks available, we encourage you to consider donating.  With over 700 million of the world’s citizens lacking basic literacy skills, it’s good to see so many organizations dedicated to making an impact.

Reading Across the Content Areas

Rebecca Alber over at Edutopia gets it exactly right in reminding us how important literacy is across the content areas:

Here’s one way to look at it: Content is what we teach, but there is also the how, and this is where literacy instruction comes in. There are an endless number of engaging, effective strategies to get students to think about, write about, read about, and talk about the content you teach. The ultimate goal of literacy instruction is to build a student’s comprehension, writing skills, and overall skills in communication.

Ask yourself, how do I mostly convey the information and knowledge to my students? Do I turn primarily to straight lecture, or teacher talk? Or, do I allow multiple opportunities for students to discover information on their own?

Admittedly, teaching social studies and science is about much more than literacy.  But Alber’s point is that for many content classes the text continues to be the primary medium for conveying information.  And if the text is the principal method, than the complexity of the text  should be a concern for all educators. (more…)

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.