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Literacy in Every Classroom

by Joan Sedita | 1 | 0 Comments

The focus of the February 2017 issue of Educational Leadership is “Literacy in Every Classroom”. The journal has several excellent articles aligned to our work at Keys to Literacy. Only members of ASCD can access the full edition, but there are a few articles that are available free to the public. I have listed them below and added notes connecting the instructional practices suggested by the authors with our Keys to Literacy teacher training routines.

The Writing Journey by Kelly Gallagher

In The Writing Journey, Gallagher shares a case study of a district that successfully improved student writing across the curriculum. He shares a model for writing instruction found in a large southern California grade 7-12 district. The district is in its third year of an effort to raise the volume and quality of student writing, an initiative called the Writing Journey. The project began by identifying reasons why writing is crucial to students’ literacy development and content learning. Here are the 5 major reasons they identified:

  1. When students write, they generate deeper thinking in any content area.
  2. Writing helps students become career ready.
  3. Writing helps students become college ready.
  4. Writing across the curriculum is now assessed on many state tests.
  5. We want our students to be lifelong writer.

Next, the teachers were asked two questions that would drive a yearlong study of writing in their respective departments:

  1. What kind of writing will help students get smarter in your class?
  2. When and where should that writing occur?

The article then summarizes how student content writing shifted and positive results of this shift.

The Writing Journey alignment to Keys to Content Writing: This teaching routine focuses on giving content teachers specific strategies for increasing the amount and improving the quality of student writing. The Quick Writes component of the routine focuses on increasing the amount of short writing tasks designed to help master content. The Writing From Sources component of the routine provides strategies for teaching students how to gather information from sources using two-column notes and additional supports for using notes to generate a writing piece from multiple content sources. The Writing Assignment Guide offers content teachers a tool for planning longer content-related writing assignments that address these items: providing detailed, specific goals to students about the requirements of the assignment; providing mentor models; providing scaffolds; and providing opportunities for students to work collaboratively.

The Case for Multiple Texts by Sunday Cummings

In The Case for Multiple Texts, Cummings suggests that content teachers have students read multiple texts about the same content topic. She maintains that if we want students to be able to engage in thoughtful conversation and write fluently about a topic, reading one text on that topic isn’t enough. As Cummings notes, “When students read multiple texts on a topic, their understanding of that topic expands, and they can use knowledge they develop reading the first text to help them comprehend a second and third. What’s more, readers can begin to think critically about what’s being shared in each of those texts because they’ve read multiple texts.” She does point out that if content teachers want students to successfully read and integrate multiple texts, they will need to teach students strategies and skills to do so.

The Case for Multiple Texts alignment to The Key Comprehension Routine:  Our comprehension routine incorporates strategies to help students read critically and integrate ideas from multiple sources. The top-down topic web from the routine helps students see the “big picture” for the topics covered across sources. Main idea and two-column note taking skills help students focus on the essential main ideas and capture key information in their own words. The question generation part of the routine helps students analyze sources and generate questions that support critical thinking discussions.

The Roots of Comprehension by Timothy Rasinski, Nancy Paddak, and Joanna Newton

In The Roots of Comprehension, the authors make the case that studying Latin and Greek word origins makes content vocabulary instruction resonate, and that teachers of all subjects should be teaching vocabulary. They point out that the majority of academic words that students must learn in order to learn content are connected by morphemes (meaning-based) patterns derived from Latin and Greek. By using a generative approach that emphasizes the teaching of suffixes, roots, and suffixes that occur commonly in content area words, students learn the meanings for keywords but also learn to analyze and infer the meaning from the structure of words in general.

The Roots of Comprehension alignment to The Key Vocabulary Routine: One of the five components of this teaching routine is explicit instruction of word parts. During training, teachers of all subjects and grades learn effective strategies to teach word parts. The Keys to Literacy website Free Resources section has lists of the 20 Most Common Prefixes, Common and Useful Suffixes, and Common Greek and Latin Roots.

I hope you’ll take advantage of these free articles from Educational Leadership, written by some well-respected literacy experts!

Joan Sedita

Joan Sedita is the founding partner of Keys to Literacy and author of the Keys to Literacy routines. She is an experienced educator, nationally recognized speaker and teacher trainer. She has worked for over 35 years in the literacy education field and has presented to thousands of teachers and related professionals at schools, colleges, clinics, and professional conferences.

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