Disciplinary Literacy: Why it Matters and What We Should Do About It Elizabeth Birr Moje National Writing Project Conference What’s Next: Possibilities for Literacy and Content Area Learning March 6, 2010
. . . Or . . . Helping Youth Navigate from Everyday to Disciplinary Literacy Practices
A Prior Question What is Disciplinary Literacy?
What is Disciplinary Literacy? Disciplinary literacy perspectives argue that the tools of knowledge production and critique, whether rooted in the disciplines or in everyday life, should be uncovered, taught, and practiced. Disciplines v. subject areas
Discipline-Specific Literacy Teaching Practices/Strategies • How do members of the discipline use language on a daily basis? • What kinds of texts do they turn to or produce as part of their work? • How are interactions with members of the discipline shaped (or governed by) texts? • Who are the primary audiences for written work in your discipline?
Discipline-Specific Literacy Teaching Practices/Strategies • What are the standards for warrant demanded by those audiences? • Are there words or phrases that are demanded by or taboo in your discipline? • Are there writing styles that are demanded by or taboo in your discipline? • What is unique about your discipline in terms of reading, writing, speaking, and listening?
Question 1 Why disciplinary literacy matters?
Why Disciplinary Literacy? • Disciplinary slicing of middle school, high school, and university into subject-areas leads to: • Masking of the role that disciplinary practices play in knowledge production • Reification of disciplinary differences • Challenges to coherence for the learner
Access and Opportunity Explicit attention to navigation across multiple discourse communities provides greater access to more young people In the service of enhancing subject-matter learning (i.e., to develop deep subject-matter proficiency) Builds critical literacy skills for an educated citizenry
What is the relationship between disciplinary and generic literacy? • Key “Generic” Literacy Skills/Strategies • Predicting • Previewing • Questioning • Monitoring • Visualizing • Summarizing • Most “strategy instruction” attempts to develop these strategies/skills in readers
Discipline-Specific Literacy Teaching Practices/Strategies • Previewing like a historian • Who is the author? • When was this written? • What is the context? • Previewing like a biologist • What is the problem/phenomenon I’m studying? • What do I know about this phenomenon? • What do I predict/hypothesize about the phenomenon?
History Previewing Example:A Nation of Immigrants • If I told you to that we were reading a chapter from the book, A Nation of Immigrants, what do you expect it would be about? • If I told you that the book was written in 1961, how would that change your predictions? • If I told you that the author was John F. Kennedy, how would that change your predictions?
Now it’s your turn . . . • Previewing like a mathematician? • ?? • ?? • Previewing like a literary theorist or textual critic? • ?? • ??
Question 2 What to Do About Disciplinary Literacy?
The Work to Be Done • Disciplinary Reading • Disciplinary Writing
Disciplinary Reading Reading like an X Drawing from and developing “necessary knowledge” Talking about texts Synthesizing across texts (or “coming back around”) Teachers taking on texts
Drawing from and Developing . . . Necessary knowledge
Emphasis on TEXT Talking about Texts
Analyzing the texts of instruction taking on texts
Text Analysis Analysis of Nature of the Text: • Structure and tone of this text? • Syntactic (i.e., sentence structure, organization) complexity • Semantic complexity • Cohesion • Organization and flow of ideas • Density of ideas • Key ideas or concepts • Key words or technical terms • Density of vocabulary • Texts within text? • Role of images, charts, or graphs Coh-Metrix (Graesser & McNamara)
Text Analysis Analysis of Relationship between Text and Reader: • Assumed knowledge • Challenges to an adult reader with relatively deep knowledge of this subject • Challenges to adolescent readers of this text • Necessary scaffolding • Scaffolding necessary for STRUGGLING readers? • Cultural, racial/ethnic, or gendered connections
Text Analysis Analyzing and Planning for Relationships Across Texts: How would you select other texts to accompany this one? What connections might you imagine students making across texts? What connections would you try to help students see across the texts?
Vocabulary? Conceptual defining Vocabulary concept cards Concept of Definition maps Distinguishing Semantic Feature Analysis Morphological analysis Simple defining! Text Structure? Text structuring strategies Graphic or relational organizing Prior Knowledge? Brainstorming Previewing Preview Guides Advance Organizers Predicting POE Anticipation/Reaction Guides Visualizing Lack of coherence? Purpose setting Graphic organizers Comprehension monitoring Notetaking Disciplinary reading strategies? Problem framing Evaluating data warrant Critiquing Synthesizing Applying to investigations or activities What do you need to address in the text and with your students?
Helping youth read across texts Synthesizing Across Texts
Synthesis Journals Primary Source 1 Primary Source 2 Analysis across texts (i.e., a history) Primary Source 3 Primary Source 4
1. What are the sources of this material? 2. What are the effects of this material in the air? 3. How much of this material is typically found in air? SUMMARY: Summarizing From and Synthesizing Across Texts: Questions Into Paragraphs Driving Question: What affects the quality of air in my community? Learning Set Question: Is material X a pollutant? Sub-Questions Source 1Source 2Source 3 SUMMARY Adapted from: McLaughlin, E. M. (1986). QuIP: A writing strategy to improve comprehension of expository structure. The Reading Teacher.
Disciplinary Writing Exposure to and opportunities to write multiple genres and registers Learning to write the valued genres and register of the discipline . . . really well
Exposure to Writing . . . Opportunities to Write
Student writing in English class Detroit Motor city of the world Automaker and designer A player of cars and casinos A city of violence They tell me your the #1 murder city For I have seen your people and streets. They tell me you are feared and violent And I have seen the results of that with My friends who have passed away. For the people who want to show me the Good side, I’ll show them my reality. The view that only people who live here see and hear. Gang violence, gun shots, drug dealing, rappists Prostitutes, crackheads, bumps, thieves, burn houses, And dirty streets. All of this hides under those beautiful buildings In Downtown. Under the unknown places of the camera hides This terrible everyday dilema we have to go through. Underneath the streets of Detroit hides its people And underneath those people Their solidarity toward society.
Student writing in Social Studies I think middle school students should be required to participate in a community service program because it make them more responsible and teaches them what work realy is. Another reason I think this is because it will help them to be successful and not to die as a teen gang member. Some people have thrown away their lives in gangs this community service program will help prevent that by keeping students away from gangs and away from drugs. The Core Democratic Value that I choose is Common good, I chose this value because it states that we should protect and provide safty for our community as well as for anyone who lives here. Also because the community service program reduces the gang killings and increases the safty around us. Community servics are when students help around their community and to help older neighbors cut the lawn, rake the leafs, or shovel the snow. I have learned that gangs are no good they bring nothing but trouble. All gangs are just about which gang is better the only things they do are fight, steal and cause trouble. Here in Detroit there have been alot of teens being killed because they were involved in gangs.
Valued Genres and Registers Learning to write well
Scientific Explanation Writing: An Iterative Practice • Examination of explanations written by others • Classroom-based, whole-group generation of rubric using models (i.e., comes from the students; see next slide) • Engagement in scientific investigations • Writing to explain one’s own investigations • Peer review (e.g., poster displays, museum walks) • Revision of explanations • New investigations, new explanations, more peer review • And the cycle continues . . . .
Dilemmas of Literacy Instruction . . . . In an age of Accountability
Dilemmas of Instruction Writing to a rubric (i.e., “rules”) Writing to a problematic rubric
State Social Studies Writing Rubric • State a claim. • Use at least one piece of data from the data provided. • Use a core democratic value to support your argument. • Use at least one idea or principle from one of the social studies (economics, history, civics, etc.) to support your argument.
Dilemmas of Instruction Writing mixed genres Writing “objective” pieces about highly personal or social issues
To Address the Dilemmas . . . Teaching practices
Teaching Practices: Task Analysis • What does the task assume about youth and/or ask them to do as thinkers? • What do youth need to know to meet the task demands? • What kind of text does the task ask youth to produce? • What do we need to do instructionally to scaffold young people’s thinking before they even begin to write?
A Few More Teaching Practices Writing multiple versions Teaching students to “go to” or abstract the larger issue Explicitly critiquing the rubric with and for students
The Dangers of . . . Disciplinary Literacy
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