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.

In our professional development sessions with educators across the U.S., we pay specific attention to the readability of textbooks, including supplemental materials.  The power of the Lexile Framework for Reading is the power it provides educators – all educators – in matching students to targeted reading material.  The Lexile Framework derives its actionability from being linked to hundreds of thousands of books and over a hundred million articles through subscriptive web resources, e.g. EBSCO, Grolier, ProQuest, GALE, etc…

A social studies teacher covering a unit on Ancient Rome, for example, has a wide variety of materials to choose from.  She can select secondary materials that cover life in Rome, but across a range of readability measures – a range that better mirrors the unique range of readers within her classroom.  These resources allow for the more effective use of ability groups and the creation of tiered reading lists – lists based on students’ Lexile measures.

Almost every public school district has access to at least one of these important databases.  If you’re not familiar with your own, be sure to check with media specialist.  These Lexile-linked resources are an invaluable tool for teaching students across all content areas.

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