Teaching Literacy in the Disciplines and Teaching Disciplinary Literacy Timothy Shanahan Cynthia Shanahan University of Illinois at Chicago www.shanahanonliteracy.com
Two Problems PROBLEM I • Significant numbers of students read so poorly that they are unlikely to have access to full participation in American society
Lack of Literacy • 25% of 8th and 12th graders read at below basic levels (NAEP, 2005) • 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year (AEE, 2007) • High school dropouts earn an average of $17,299 per year (U.S. Census, 2005) • Less than 10% of African Americans read at proficient or higher levels (NAEP, 2005)
Two Problems (cont.) PROBLEM II • Significant numbers of students who are deemed literate are not sufficiently literate to succeed in college or career
Insufficient Literacy Attainment • A college degree is now the single greatest factor in determining access to better job opportunities and higher earnings (Children's Defense Fund, 2000) • 36% of college students require remedial classes at a cost of $3.7 billion annually (U.S. Department of Education, 2011)—that’s 36% of the 70% who start college • Only about 50% of students entering college are equipped to handle the reading assignments of beginning college classes (ACT, 2006)
Some Solutions • Enhancements to early literacy instruction --According to NAEP, there have been clear reading improvements among fourth-graders since 1992 --And yet, middle school students are reading no better than then (and high schoolers appear to have fallen)
Some Solutions (cont.) • Avoiding text --Since 1990 there have been content (knowledge) standards in history, science, mathematics, English language arts --Teachers have found ways of getting info to students without texts (e.g., Powerpoint, video) --But ACT has found that amount of text reading between 7th and 12th grades was the best preparation of later success
Some Solutions (cont.) • Reducing Text Difficulty --Low readability textbooks a staple (educators have lowered readability levels of textbooks for more than 70 years) --Research has documented correlation between lowered textbook difficulty and lowered SAT performances --ACT study found not only was amount of in class reading significant, but that this reading had to be implemented with hard text (not easy text)
Some Solutions (cont.) • Increasing remedial classes --But this will only impact those who are not going to college --IES studies and funding streams (e.g., Striving Readers) suggest that at best remedial classes in high school will raise reading achievement only about 2 mos.
Some Solutions (cont.) • Elevating literacy and literacy instruction up through through the grades --ACT found that state standards did not take specific reading standards through high school --Common core changes that for 45 states --Specific to content area classes (literature, science, social studies)
Two Approaches to Secondary Literacy Instruction • Content area reading • Disciplinary literacy
Content Area Reading • Has long history in education • Many secondary teachers have preparation in content area reading • Lots of books and resources for teachers
But… • Disciplinary literacy is the approach that the common core has taken • The purpose of the first part of this talk is to explore the dimensions of disciplinary literacy and to distinguish the widely known concept (content area reading) from the newer and quite different concept (disciplinary literacy)
Disciplinary Reading Instruction • Not the hip new name for content area reading • Each discipline possesses its own language, purposes, and ways of using text that students should be inducted into • There are special skills and strategies needed for students to make complete sense of texts from the disciplines • As students begin to confront these kinds of texts (especially in middle school and high school), instruction must facilitate their understanding of what it means to read disciplinary texts
Sources of Content Area Reading • In 1920s, the idea of “every teacher a teacher of reading” first raised • Rhetoric is good, but fundamental idea is that reading experts know the necessary reading skills and that those should be taught across the curriculum • Leads to the development of lots of general study skills approaches: SQ3R, KWL, three-level guides, etc. • Research focuses on effectiveness of these instructional routines (accordingly, content reading approaches are pedagogical in nature)
Sources of Disciplinary Literacy • Studies that compare expert readers with novices (Bazerman, 1985; Geisler, 1994; Wineburg, 1991, etc.) • Functional linguistics analyses of the unique practices in creating, disseminating, evaluating knowledge (Fang, 2004; Halliday, 1998; Schleppegrell, 2004, etc.)
History Reading (Wineburg) • Sourcing: considering the author and author perspective • Contextualizing: placing the document/info within its historical period and place • Corroboration: evaluating information across sources
Content area reading • Generalizable skills and activities that can be used in all or most reading: KWL Summarization SQ3R Previewing Word maps Brainstorming Frayer model Notetaking 3-level guides QAR DR-TA I-Charts Morphological analysis Reciprocal teaching
Disciplinary reading • Specialized skills and activities • Idea is to consider the learning demands of a subject matter • Example: textbook use Science - Essential History - Antithetical Literature - Irrelevant
Content area reading: Vocabulary • Focus is on memorization techniques: make connections among concepts, construct graphic organizers, brainstorm, semantic maps, word sorts, rate knowledge of words, analyze semantic features of words, categorize or map words, develop synonym webs,
Disciplinary literacy: Vocabulary • Focus is on specialized nature of vocabulary of the subjects • Science: Greek and Latin roots (precise, dense, stable meanings that are recoverable) • History: metaphorical terms, words/terms with a political point of view
Content area reading • The focus is on learning from text • The idea is not to read like a chemist, but to know how to study books (including chemistry books) • Emphasis on literacy learning tools: Exit notes Advanced organizers Response journals Dictionary Internet Readability analysis
Disciplinary reading • The focus is on the specialized problems of a subject area • Disciplines represent cultural differences in how information is used, the nature of language, demands for precision, etc.
Math Reading • Goal: arrive at “truth” • Importance of “close reading” an intensive consideration of every word in the text • Rereading a major strategy • Heavy emphasis on error detection • Precision of understanding essential
Chemistry Reading • Text provides knowledge that allows prediction of how the world works • Full understanding needed of experiments or processes • Close connections among prose, graphs, charts, formulas (alternative representations of constructs an essential aspect of chemistry text) • Major reading strategies include corroboration and transformation
History Reading • History is interpretative, and authors and sourcing are central in interpretation (consideration of bias and perspective) • Often seems narrative without purpose and argument without explicit claims (need to see history as argument based on partial evidence; narratives are more than facts) • Single texts are problematic (no corroboration)
Content area reading • Content area reading is promoted for all students • But the strategies that are taught tend to work best with younger and lower level readers – with little evident benefit for average and higher readers • Teachers often won’t use approaches that don’t have a wider impact than that
Disciplinary reading • Effectiveness has, for the most part, not yet been tested • However, the nature of the activities that have been developed so far suggest a wider range of learning benefits
Character Change Chart Crisis Given this character change, what do you think the author wanted you to learn? ________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
Content Area Reading • Often promotes reading of plays, short stories, novels, poems for math, science, and history • Thematic units and integrated curriculum (focused on the non-disciplinary use of disciplinary information)
Disciplinary Literacy • Language differs across disciplines, so it is critical that readers confront the language of their discipline • The Friendly Textbook Dilemma
History Reading (Fang & Schleppergrell) • History text constructs time and causation • Attributes agency (readers need to focus on the reasons for actions and the outcomes of those actions—cause/effect) • Presents judgment and interpretation (argument) • Often narratives with lack of clear connections to thesis
History Reading (Fang & Schleppergrell) • History texts construct meaning about time, place, manner through “grammatical circumstances” • Thus, in history, many clauses begin with grammatical circumstances realized in prepositional phrases and adverbs • Over the next decade events led to war. • They gathered in Philadelphia. • They made enemies by their harsh stands
History Reading (Fang & Schleppergrell) • History also constructs participants/actors and the processes that they engaged in to move towards their goals.
Science Reading (Fang & Schleppergrell) • Technical, abstract, dense, tightly knit language (that contrasts with interactive, interpersonal style of other texts or ordinary language) • Nominalization (turning processes into nouns) • Suppresses agency (readers need to focus on causation not intention)
Science Reading (Fang & Schleppergrell) • Sentence density: unpacking complex nouns • Experimental verification of Einstein’s explanation of the photoelectric effect was made 11 years later by the American physicist Robert Millikan. Every aspect of Einstein’s interpretation was confirmed, including the direct proportionality of photon energy to frequency.
Content Area Reading • Graphics as adjuncts • Interpretive skills are general for pictures, tables, charts, etc. • No differences across disciplines
Disciplinary Literacy • Need for translation skills in sciences • Pictures differ in their role (describing/defining nouns, verbs (processes), relationships) • Difference between technical drawing and other photos or drawings? • Is the information: Descriptive? Sequential? Relational/hierarchical? Causal?
Conclusion • Clearly, we need to improve literacy practices within the disciplines • Making sure students have opportunities to engage in the challenging reading and writing of the disciplines in ways that are appropriate to the disciplines • The leverage to do that is the common core standards…. so knowing about the foundations of disciplinary literacy is not enough, you need to know the challenges of the common core as well…