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Stephanie Ames ETAP 623 STRATEGIC READING ACROSS THE CONTENT AREAS: BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN ENGLISH AND OTHER ACADEMIC DISCIPLINES
INTRODUCTION: INTENT OF NEEDS ANALYSIS
Especially in the area of reading comprehension, teachers need to make a combined effort to ensure that students are receiving whole-instruction in reading. Students are expected to read and write in English Language Arts, but the English teacher should not be the only one who is charge of the reading instruction. Teachers of other subjects need to monitor student reading as it relates to their disciplines. They need to foresee possible reading obstacles, such as learning how to follow the layout of a complicated textbook. Many times, a reading difficulty/confusion can hinder a student from being able to discover conceptual knowledge.
Of all subjects that could be put together, English and math are perhaps the two least likely connections. Math has concrete, absolute, right-wrong answers, and English has more of an analytical focus. The correctness of your thoughts depends on how well you can back them up with supporting arguments. Formulas do not help you produce stellar writing pieces. Yet, in my graduate studies and my experience as a middle school English Language Arts teacher, I am continually finding more and more connections between the two subjects. Through the connection between reading comprehension in English Language Arts and math, I have investigated ways to increase awareness of reading comprehension skills and strategies in other academic disciplines. Interdisciplinary units, as worthwhile as they are, are difficult to coordinate and plan. Even if creating an interdisciplinary unit isn’t possible, there are many ways that teachers can, and should, incorporate the other disciplines into his/her classroom.
This is a mini-course for teachers of all subjects. I reference math as an example because if math and English can be seen to co-exist, then connecting English and other subjects should seem as a less-daunting task. Some lessons will be recommended for English teachers, while others are specific to other disciplines. All, however, will show a connection between English Language Arts and other subjects in relation to reading comrehension. In order for reading instruction to be authentic, it needs to be approached as a tie in to all of the classes.
The needs analysis has been determined through the following ways:
Workshops—This past summer I attended a reading institute training that focused on strategic reading across the curriculum. Our presenter, Rachel Billmeyer, stressed the importance of focusing on strategic reading skills across the content areas. She presented theoretical and researched information, as well as introduced us to strategies that could be applied to the different disciplines. After attending this institute, it was clear that much work still needs to be done to increase the effectiveness of our reading instruction. The foreword included in Rachel Billmeyer’s book, Strategic Reading Across the Content Areas, Vol. 1 (2004), effectively touches upon the need to educate others in reading instruction. Arthur L. Costa, Ed. D. concedes in the foreword, “As a middle school teacher I had little concern with teaching reading. That was someone else’s job. Furthermore, I believed students should be able to read by the time they reached middle grades: (2004, pg. v). Although this is a generalization that I find many teachers share, it needs to be addressed so that students can receive an optimal education in reading instruction. They need the assistance of all core-teachers so that they can learn to be authentic readers, equipped with effective strategies. We must erase the notion that teaching reading is “someone else’s job.” Teachers need to join together to address these problems.
Informal discussions with teachers –In suit with the aforementioned foreword excerpt, I have had discussions with many teachers over the past year about this topic. I find that math teachers express frustration over teaching word problems; social studies teachers stress over teaching students to “read” a political cartoon; science teachers tell tales of their students’ difficulties in reading charts and graphs. All, however (or I admit, most), express a desire to better their instruction so that they can more effectively help their students with these difficult tasks.
Classroom observations –Last year at my former school, I taught a course to 7th graders entitled Content Reading. The course was pre-designed and was set up as a workshop course. We, the teachers of the other sections and I, focused on reading tools and strategies that the students could use in their other classes. We taught units that corresponded to social studies, science, health, language arts, but unfortunately not math. While the course seemed to have good intentions, I did not see it being directly useful. Since that was the only middle school course I taught, I was not able to see the effect it had on the students’ performance in other classes. This year teaching 7th grade English Language Arts and after participating in research and workshops, however, I am finding many uses for teaching strategic reading skills across the content areas. It is something that I try to fit in as much as I can, but my curriculum does not allow room for all I would like to do. That is why there is a strong need to encourage other content area teachers to approach these skills in their classrooms. The English Language Arts teacher simply cannot do it all.
Research—the following sources have been consulted for background information and may be incorporated into lessons.
- Please refer to resources page at the bottom of this main page for an extensive list.
Findings: The following are quotes that I drew from Mayer’s book Learning and Instruction, along with my write-up of how it connected to reading skills. These particular writings were written as reflections for a former course, but they greatly add insight into this design-project, in which I will be able to develop these ideas that presented themselves to me last summer:
“This research demonstrates that an important part of mathematics learning is the ability to build a mental representation of a concrete situation that corresponds to a mathematical problem” (Mayer 2008, pg. 165).
- This shows a connection to reading comprehension and the skills of effective readers. The quote explains that math students need to draw a parallel to the situation presented in order to create meaning. They could imagine a situation in which the problem would apply, or simply picture a visual representation of the problem. Likewise in reading, students should continually pause in the reading to create visual images in order to better understand the context.
“Hinsley et al. (1977) also found that students were able to categorize problems almost immediately. For example, as soon as a student has read the first few words of a problem, such as ‘A river steamer travels 36 miles downstream…,’ we would expect the student to say, ‘Oh it’s one of those river current problems’”(Mayer 2008, pg. 168).
- Hinsley’s study showcases a couple key features in mathematical problem solving. The strategies needed also correspond to reading comprehension. In the example that was presented, the student was able to identify the type of problem after reading key words. S/he was presented with a river steamer, a distance, and the direction of water flow. It is most likely that the student was able to pick up on these key words and categorize the problem after seeing sample problems which included similar information.
- Also, this shows how students need to discover the purpose when reading a word problem. S/he constantly needs to ask him/herself, “What is it I need to solve?” Likewise, when reading (especially a non-fiction text), students need to contemplate, “Why am I reading? What is the information that I am seeking to find.” Once a purpose is set in place, it seems logical that greater focus would ensue.
The goals of this mini-course include:
- Convince participants of the need for strategic reading instruction across the content areas
- Build confidence in participants (primarily teachers with little ELA or reading exposure) so that they may feel they are adequately prepared to teach strategic reading skills in their classrooms.
- Address ways in which strategic reading skills can be incorporated across the curriculum.
- Address ways in with the English Language Arts teacher can support this program, through collaboration and lessons within his/her own course.
- Show the need for students to engage in authentic, autonomous reading and how the teacher can help build that.
This mini-course is designed for primarily middle school teachers, but could be adapted for elementary or high school. Middle schools are usually set up in teams, so the collaboration is easier to achieve. This is not to say that teaching strategic reading skills across the content areas in elementary or a high school setting is not needed, because that is certainly not the case. Middle school offers a great transition ground so that the skills can be fine turned and developed before they reach high school.
Participants of this course will be any willing teachers who are interested in incorporating, or building upon, these skills in their classrooms. Some lessons will be designed for English Language Arts or reading teachers, while others may specifically focus on different academic disciplines. All lessons have room for modification. It will be helpful if participants in this course have thought through areas (or units) in which these skills would be helpful in their classes. Knowledge of strategic reading and other reading terms is helpful, but not a prerequisite.
The design of the course includes a variety of instructional methods. It is suited for an individual taking the course, rather than a group of people together. The particpants should engage in all units, but there is room for participants to pick and choose activities. However, this is not recommended as the particpant will miss out on the overall scope and sequencing of the intended rationale. The unit uses mini-lectures through small write-ups that introduce activities. Most of the content will be acquired through partipant engagement. Participants will be engaging in similar activities that their intended students would. There are many opportunities for self-reflection so that partipants can keep a log of their growth throughout the unit. Ideally, this unit would include a place to post discussions and resources (this is omitted due to technological reasons) as collaboration is key to professional growth.
- Participants of this course will partake in opportunities that are intended to increase their awareness of reading comprehension issues in their particular content area.
- Participants, regardless of content area, will be able to apply reading strategies to their own curriculum in order to increase student academic achievement.
- 1. Participants will be able to (PWBAT) distinguish between narrative and informative text and discern which strategic reading strategies work best for each structure
- 2. PWBAT investigate the importance of setting a purpose for reading through manipulated readings.
- 3. PWBAT examine a text’s layout and note how the design of the page might lead to difficulty in comprehension
- 4. PWBAT create authentic situations that will encourage students to become strategic, independent, readers in their classroom.
- 5. PWBAT identify ways in which they can encourage students to become metacognitively aware of their own reading comprehension in their content area.
- 6. PWBAT investigate and apply fix-it strategies for reading comprehension, as it relates to metacognition.
- 7. PWBAT transfer the instruction of reading strategies to less obvious texts, such as visual texts (i.e.political cartoons).
- 8. PWBAT investigate the importance of teaching inference skills to students.
- 9. PWBAT apply reasoning skills to their content area.
- 10. PWBAT utilize graphic organizers, and other fix-it strategies, to assist students in categorizing difficult information (i.e. complicated word problems).
Participants must have a basic knowledge of how monitoring reading comprehension is applicable to their discipline.
File:Amescurricmap-rev.htm The sequencing of this course is represented in the attached curriculum map.
Please view the resources page for a list of works referenced. These reources also include additional readings that may aid your comprehension.