All educators are teachers of literacy! And while many understand their role in student learning is vital in the consumption and creation of content-specific literacy, few educators know where to start when teaching and supporting students in these efforts. Often, we replace complex texts with long lectures, hoping students absorb content through merely listening. Struggling readers find most difficulty in approaching complex text in content specific disciplines, often times learning very little because of accessibility issues. According to Best Practices in Literacy Instruction, there are 4 Instructional Approaches that promote student learning in discipline specific literacies which allow them to transform text and information in their minds and on paper. These instructional strategies also support readers at all levels and work across all literacy skills, not just reading. The addition of tech integration with these approaches only enhances this learning.
- Close Reading – The first step is identifying the purpose of reading. When a student’s learning objective is to understand or appreciate a new view, or to learn a new subject; close reading is in order. Smaller sections of a long text work best. Multiple reads, either independently or modeled by the teacher help student fluency and comprehension, demonstrating the cognitive process an expert reader uses to gain information. ** Tech Tip: try audio recordings or text to speech to further accessibility of text when students are working independently. Try: Soundtrap, Vocaroo, or Screencastify.
- Annotation – Marking and writing on the text in a meaningful way is a cornerstone practice in literacy. But having a uniformed system, instead of merely highlighting sections will mean the difference between learning and forgetting why you highlighted specific parts. Start with a simple guideline for students like this one, adopted from Adler and Van Doren: Use information gained through student annotation to inform direction on discussions. **Tech Tip: try the following annotation resources: Diigo, Google Draw, Videonot.es for videos, Jing, Read and Write for Google.
- Class Discussions – Meaningful talk about texts, concepts, and understanding further the learning. A teacher’s role is not to simply answer questions posed or lead the discussion, instead, educators help to facilitate the conversation using intentional moves to ensure talk is on target, all voices are heard, and reflection and resolution is happening. Starting questions such as: What does the text say? How does the text work? What does the text mean? How is it connected to other texts or learning? (Shanahan) help to start and frame discussions. ** Tech Tip: Students enjoy backchannels during discussions such as TodaysMeet and also virtual spaces to collect thinking and pose questions before discussion begins. Try: Padlet, Lino, Answer Garden.
- Writing with Evidence – With the increased expectation on students to write routinely, blending types, and supporting with evidence; students need skills to help them collect and organize good notes, as well as practice with reliable and relevant sources to identify main idea and support. Student-created graphic organizers work better than teacher-created ones, requiring students to frame information in ways that make sense to them rather than copying it exactly how the teachers transcribes. **Tech Tip: Try Google Draw, Bubbl.us, Popplet, or Trello for organizing information.
Discipline-specific literacy can be supported through the instructional practices mentioned above and enhanced through intentional integration of technology. Blending traditional with digital enables students to make sense of complex text found in multiple modes, while utilizing all of the literacy components.