Monday, November 1, 2010

Content Literacy

As part of the work of District Literacy Action Planning, we honor the expertise of our content colleagues. Though years ago we used to speak of reading and writing across the curriculum, we now take a more informed stance that recognizes the unique literacy challenges connected with each discipline.

There are very specific ways of reading informational texts. When students understand the strategies involved in efficiently reading information, even the youngest ones will fully comprehend those texts. Students who have not been explicitly taught to recognize the information in features such as graphs, photo captions, and diagrams, may pay little or no attention to them. As a result they miss vital information. Writing in the content disciplines is even more specific and involves several types, specific to each content area. For instance, taking notes for science observations is different from writing a persuasive argument or even a research report. In addition, every genre in literature requires a skill set related mainly to it, for example, knowledge of stanzas in poetry and knowledge of stage directions in drama.

For our elementary teachers, it is imperative that they begin these instructions early and that instruction is aligned throughout the grades to support the most efficient and proficient reading, writing, speaking, and listening in each and every content discipline. With the increased emphasis in our new standards on reading and writing informational text, it is important that schools and districts provide opportunities for teachers to align their work and to audit current practices and materials, including classroom and school libraries, to support rich learning in content literacy.