Many middle schools have a mandate to incorporate literacy strategies across their curriculum. Quite often there is no professional development to go along with this mandate, and many middle grades teachers have no background in literacy acquisition. Hence a huge disconnect occurs between the mandate and reality.
Middle grades teams have an advantage in that they can choose to use some of the their common planning time to work together to figure out how to approach literacy in the content areas. They recognize that this type of planning is critical to the success of their students because:
- The middle grades curriculum and now the Common Core Standards require that students read and write more complex material.
- Many reading/writing skills are common across the curriculum and providing students multiple guided experiences in a variety of contexts will improve their skills.
- It is impossible for one teacher to provide all-inclusive instruction and practice in the myriad of reading and writing skills that young adolescents need. (Spencer,J. (2010) Teaming Rocks! Collaborate in Powerful Ways to Ensure Student Success. Westerville, OH: NMSA.)
An excellent resource for teams to use is a free download from the Internet! The Content Area Literacy Guide is from the CCSSO’s Adolescent Literacy Kit. You can find simply by googling “Content Area Literacy Guide”, and you will be directed to a downloadable PDF file. For a quick look, go to tiny.cc/literacystrategies — there are over 20 strategies.
The Guide provides a description of each strategy and suggestions for how it might be used in Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. These strategies are certainly applicable in other content areas as well.
For example, one strategy is Cue Questions Based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Below you see examples of questions on two of the Taxonomy’s levels.
Here are suggestions from the Guide for using these cue questions in the content areas:
Check out this useful resource and work together to incorporate some of these strategies into your instruction. Be sure to start small–one strategy at a time!
- Choose one that will work for everyone.
- Decide who will do the initial introductory instruction.
- Brainstorm ideas on how to model and use this strategy in your different classes.
- Plan out when the other teachers will use the strategy and reinforce it in their instructional plans.
- Reflect as a team on how well the strategy is working:
- How has it been used?
- What is the students’ reaction? What problems, if any, are they having applying the strategy to their work?
- How might the team tweak the strategy to make it more effective?
- To what degree is the strategy improving the students’ understanding of their work?