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Hopefully my blog is improving as I continue to post! This week I read chapter 3 in Cris Tovani’s Do I Really Have to Teach Reading. As I have mentioned before, I really enjoy this book so far. It’s an easy read, but very informational, and definitely something I am going to hold on to for my future classroom. This chapter discussed how teachers in content areas different than English and Language Arts can help their students read in their classroom. Tovani made a very good point when he mentioned that when teachers are told they have to monitor how their students are reading and help improve it, they get frustrated and angry. They already have fifty million other things to do as a teacher, with all the standards and requirements they have to cover. They simply feel like they don’t have time to help their students read and write because that is what English and Language Arts classes are for.
Well, as the chapter continued, Tovani described how in each content area, students “read” in different ways. She says that “the problem is that if language arts and English teachers are the only ones teaching reading, students aren’t going to learn how to read different types of texts” (25). The way you read in math is completely different than the way you read in Social Studies. Tovani said that “social studies teachers could perhaps help students understand the value of being able to read with cause and effect in mind” (25). She says that every content area has a different process for reading texts, and it is the job of the teacher to make sure students are reading these correctly.
Tovani talks about different strategies teachers can try in order to help students improve their content reading. One thing teachers can do is model how their own reading processes. For example, math teachers often read the problem they are given all the way through, then decipher what information is given and what information they need to find. If teachers model to their students this kind of reading, than students can try and do the same process when on their own. Tovani mentions that in order to “help readers get through difficult content, I must first identify what they are struggling with…and put myself in a similar situation and see how I as a good reader would negotiate the difficulty” (29). This is a strategy teachers can use when students are struggling with their content reading. Often times, teachers make sense of content reading without even realizing it, so it is always important to put yourself in the shoes of a student and see where their difficulty in reading lies, and then help with these difficulties.
Another strategy that works is to write down questions you have as you read something. Coming back to those questions later can help decipher what you just read in order to make meaning of it. Doing this in front of the whole class can be beneficial and help the entire class make sense of whatever it is they may be reading, a math problem, a novel, an article, etc. If teachers can focus on identifying what students are struggling with, identify how they as a good reader would overcome these struggles, and then model the processes they used to overcome the difficulties, it would be easy to help students improve their reading in any content area! I like the ideas that Tovani talked about in this chapter. Hopefully they will be something I can use in my future classroom.
I also watched a short podcast this week called “Choice Literacy.” You can find the podcast here:
This podcast is an interview between Franki Sibberson and Penny Kittle. These two discussed how to help students grow as readers and writers across content areas, not necessarily in just language arts classes. Penny described how one thing teachers can in between assigning a paper and collecting it is teaching students how to collect and organize important information. One way this can be most effective and enjoyable for the students is if they are given the option to write about what they want to, instead of just being give one topic that each student has to write about. Giving students the freedom to write can be done in any class. Penny says that in order for teachers who teach content areas other than language arts to be able to know what they are doing, an English teacher can help coach both the teacher and students on how to write effectively and efficiently. If these type of pairing up between teachers happened, then students would learn from an English teacher to how collect and organize information, and then learn from their content teacher how to write about that specific subject. Visuals and tables can used to demonstrate collecting and organizing data. I like this idea of having an English teacher show me or me and my class how a well written paper can be constructed and organized. I have never thought about or heard about this type of approach before, but I think it’s a good idea.
That was all the reading and listening I had to do for the week, but I wanted to also share a way to incorporate reading or writing into one of my content area focuses. Last week in class, we had to create a “starter” or “warm up” for a class other than language arts that incorporated content literacy. For my starter I did:
Starter for Social Studies: have students read a short exert from a speech someone made in World War II (or any war depending on the lesson) and see if they can figure out what the speech means. Tell students to highlight what they think is important, underline words they do not know what they mean, and write down any questions they have after they have read the speech and then briefly summarize in 3 sentences what they think is the overall jist of the speech.
I thought this was a good way to see if students can make sense of what they are reading, and if they have questions they can write those down and make note of words they do not understand.
Throughout this week also, I have built upon my definition of content learning. Especially after reading Tovani’s chapter, I have no learned that content learning means being able to make sense of what you read, write, hear, and communicate. But this can differ in each content area; the way we do these things is different for each content area and I think that is so cool. The way you read and write in math is not the same as the way you read and write in social studies. However, being able to do both in both subject areas is very important.