“Without systematic attention to reading and writing in subjects like science and history, students will leave schools with an impoverished sense of what it means to use the tools of literacy for learning or even to reason within various disciplines.” Pearson, 2010
Brain Friendly Content Driven
March 29, 2017
I want to slip literacy, reading and writing, into content instruction the way spiralizers are slipping zucchini into my Italian cooking or perhaps the way I used to slip carrots into my meatloaf. With time is in short supply and content learning literacy is dense, it’s critical to slip parallel literacy in content teaching or content learning into literacy workshop.
When I first arrived at my K-4 school, I had much more experience in the primary grades. In an effort to tie intervention to authentic work in grades 3-4 and provide support to struggling readers, I began to assist during content area instruction. Initially, I just shadowed the teacher and scaffolded the content literacy. Soon we began to collaborate on many different aspects of literacy in content area.
The most straight forward and the most difficult is providing rich text that is accessible to all students regardless of reading ability. Without too much detail, we have found much success with Newsela, which provides content at many reading levels. We also use and save Scholastic News at many reading levels. Often stories will appear in one grade level and be simplified in lower levels. These are easily moved seamlessly between whole group, small group, and intervention. Wonderopolis is a daily and also searchable site for many ideas that student might research. Try teaching them to use tags as described in Still Learning to Read. I am also fascinated by the idea of creating a digital bin as demonstrated by Clare Landrigan here. We continue to search out, share, and save content reading materials.
As with our informational reading, the use of simple note taking organizers generated by students are best. We use box and bullets for main idea and details throughout grades 1-4 with gradients of detail. Applying lessons we have learned about informational reading to content during other times of the day, scaffolding students to use techniques they have learned in reading workshop, frees up that working memory for content which many students are unfamiliar. Using multimedia in primary sources, visual records, and video assists students in accessing content and scaffolding vocabulary.
We began to explore ways for students to respond to content learning. Inspired by the work of Beers and Probst in Reading Nonfiction and Sunday Cummins’ Close Reading of Informational Text, we first tried paper and pencil tasks such as one of our favorites called Did You Know? It’s a simple format based on the pages of this book, Did You Know? We originally created the projects for our third grade study of the American Revolution. This can be adapted to any science or social studies topic. Here’s the simple sheet we created here. We quickly moved with some students to google slides. We like creating video presentations using QR codes to archive presentations. These are also helpful for students to review content or share content with absent students. We found these templates to be especially supportive for our more fragile learners. Content area is a place where technology can be leveraged in a way to balance the accessibility of materials for all students. Recently, we have begun experimenting with Seesaw as a digital portfolio tool with easy access for parents.
Remembering to keep the structure of how to read, of writing, and response to reading from workshop present in content instruction, we can reduce cognitive overload for students and facilitate the access of content for all students. Blurring the edges of content vs. workshop can support student learning as well. Reading aloud content connected texts, using historical fiction, informational books, and internet sources for small group work, and using the same nomenclature across all the parts of the day, strengthens students schema, capacity, and competency.
thanks to Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis for first introducing me to content literacy.
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for 10 years of the March Slice of Life Challenge. This is day 28 of 31. Access many, many wonderful blogs here.