It’s been a week since I posted my first blog post EVER. Hopefully they will continue to improve over the next few months! One question I will continue to reference as this semester continues is “what is content literacy?” Right now, I think that content literacy is making sure that students make sense of the tools we use to help teach content. For example, in a social studies classroom, if you had students read an article relating to the unit they were learning, seeing whether or not students understood the article and could apply it to what they were learning would be content literacy. In a science classroom, if students looked at pictures and a short description of something they were learning about and could make sense of it and apply it to what they were learning, that would be content literacy. Literacy does not only belong in a language arts classroom- literacy is something that needs to be a focus in every classroom so that teachers can make sure that students are making sense of the tools being used to convey learning.
I recently read the first couple chapters of Do I Really Have to Teach Reading by Cris Tovani. These few chapters were very interesting and furthered my understanding of what it means to “teach reading.” These first couple of chapters talked about strategies that can be used to “teach reading” and allow students to understand the material they read. I discovered that teaching reading doesn’t only apply to reading actual text on a page, but also includes all the pictures, charts and graphs on the page as well. Making sense of everything on the page is making sense of what you are “reading.” These first two chapters talked about strategies that teachers can use to help students make sense of all these things that they read. When students can comprehend what they read, it deepens their understanding of content.
A few strategies mentioned in the book that teachers can use to help students comprehend what they read is to ask questions, use background knowledge to make connections, use personal experience to make connections, highlight important words or phrases, and use tools such as double- entry journals. Double-entry journals are when students divide a piece of paper into two columns and on the left they write down direct text from whatever they read and on the left they write down questions they have about this part of the text or what they think it means. This allows them to have a chance to process what they just read and see if they made sense of it.
One thing that the text said that I really liked was, “Good readers monitor their comprehension. They know when the text is making sense and when it isn’t. They recognize signals that indicate when they are understanding what they are reading, and when they are confused” (p.5). I think this sentence speaks a lot about what it means to be a good reader. If you can recognize when you comprehend something and when you don’t, then this means you are a good reader. Teaching students to be good readers is something that seems difficult but is essential. The first chapters talked about how teachers sometimes think that focusing on teaching reading is something that cannot fit into the classroom because there isn’t enough time. But this book mentioned that teachers should view it as “teaching students how to remember and reuse the information we ask them to read” (p.7). If our overall goal as teachers is to teach in a way that students can remember what we teach, which I think should be a general goal of every teacher, then essentially that means we are “teaching reading.” We are trying to teach students to “purposely engage in thinking while they read” (p.9).
I also recently listened to a short podcast called “The Critical Link Between Literacy 2.0 and Excellence in Science.” You can find the podcast here: no. 11 The Critical Link Between Literacy 2.0 and Excellence in Science.
This podcast was a short interview of Joanne (I could not understand what they said her last name was). In the interview Joanne is asked how she incorporates literacy into science lessons, and why good reading skills are essential for all content areas.
Joanne makes some very good points in her interview. She talks a lot about the positive effects of having students read non-fiction and also reading non-fiction out loud to your class. When students read non-fiction, their misconceptions are corrected and cleared up. Fiction books sometimes can lead to misconceptions, while non-fiction corrects them. Non-fiction also appeals more to boys, and since teachers are mostly women, a lot of the time they choose to read fiction books which do not appeal as much to the boys.
Joanne also talked a lot about how writing is an essential tool in the classroom. Writing can be used during daily journals, data tables, lab notes, and lab write ups using the scientific method. Writing can also be used to have students summarize what they learned after a unit. Joanne used these techniques mostly in a third grade classroom, but has also used them in first grade. I found it interesting that she mentioned that students even as young as first grade were able to use these reading and writing strategies.