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Reading and Writing in the Subject Areas Timothy Shanahan Cynthia Shanahan University of Illinois at Chicago www.shanahanonliteracy.com.

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Presentation on theme: "Reading and Writing in the Subject Areas Timothy Shanahan Cynthia Shanahan University of Illinois at Chicago www.shanahanonliteracy.com."— Presentation transcript:

1 Reading and Writing in the Subject Areas Timothy Shanahan Cynthia Shanahan University of Illinois at Chicago

2 Two Problems PROBLEM I Significant numbers of students read so poorly that they are unlikely to have access to full participation in American society

3 Lack of Literacy  25% of 8 th and 12 th graders read at below basic levels (NAEP, 2010)  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)

4 Two Problems (cont.) PROBLEM II Significant numbers of students who are deemed literate – who meet standards – are not sufficiently literate to succeed in college or career

5 Insufficient Literacy Attainment  A college degree is single greatest factor in 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. DOE, 2011)  Remedial courses aren’t as helpful as regular college classes (Complete College America, 2012)  Only about 50% of students entering college are equipped to handle the reading assignments of beginning college classes (ACT, 2006)

6 Thus, 2 problems:  A very real remedial problem of students who read below national averages and who are unlikely to participate economically or socially in American society (don’t qualify for either higher education or entry level work)  Significant numbers of students who can read near, at, or above U.S. averages, but who cannot read well enough to complete freshman-sophomore years at college without remedial help or to get beyond entry level in the workplace

7 Some Possible Solutions Some Possible Solutions  Enhancements to early literacy instruction --According to NAEP, there have been clear reading improvements among fourth- graders since And yet, middle school students are reading no better than in 1992 (and high schoolers appear to have fallen)

8 Some Possible Solutions (cont.) Some Possible 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 challenging text reading between 7 th and 12 th grades was the best preparation of later success

9 Some Possible Solutions (cont.) Some Possible Solutions (cont.)  Increasing remedial classes --This would mainly impact those who are not going to college --IES secondary studies and funding streams (e.g., Striving Readers) suggest that at best remedial classes in high school raise reading achievement only by about 2 mos.

10 Some Possible Solutions (cont.) Some Possible 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 46 states --Specific to content area classes (literature, science, social studies)

11 Not Content Area Reading  The shift in emphasis is not to content area reading  Content area reading is an idea long advanced in education (“every teacher a teacher of reading”)  Focus is teaching general reading and study skills in the different subject matter classes  However, the underlying idea of it is flawed

12 Disciplinary Reading Instruction  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 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  Instead of imposing the reading curriculum on the subjects, the idea is to identify the special reading skills of the subject areas

13 Sources of Disciplinary Literacy  Studies out of the cognitive science 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.)

14 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,

15 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

16 Disciplinary Literacy Intermediate Literacy Basic Literacy Increasing Specialization of Literacy

17 Disciplinary reading  The focus is on the specialized problems and processes of a subject area – including the inquiry and communication processes  Disciplines represent cultural differences in how information is used, the nature of language, demands for precision, role of author in critical reading, graphics and their relationship to prose, etc.

18 Math Reading  Goal: arrive at “truth”  Need to construct abstract understanding of mathematics (more than learning the concrete examples)  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

19 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)

20 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

21 History Events Chart TEXTWHO?WHAT?WHERE?WHEN?WHY? 1 Relation: 2 3 Relation 4 Main point:

22 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

23 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

24 History Reading (Fang & Schleppergrell)  History also constructs participants/actors and the processes that they engaged in to move towards their goals.

25 History Reading (Fang & Schleppergrel) ClauseCircumstanceActorProcessGoalCircum. 1Over the next decade, further events steadily led to war 2Some colonial leaders, such as Samuel Adams favoredindepend- ence from Britain. 3Theyencour- aged conflict with British authorities. 4At the same time, George II and his ministers madeenemies of many moderate Colonists by their harsh stands

26 Science (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

27 Chemistry Note-taking SubstancesPropertiesProcessesInteractions Atomic Expression

28 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.

29 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)

30 Literature (ELA)  Focus on explorations of the meaning of human experience and the aesthetic uses of language  Much literature is fictional, but meant to address larger truths  Usually unstated messages (themes)  Literary devices (allusion, metaphor, symbolism, etc.)

31 Character Change Chart What is main character like at the beginning of the story? What is the main character like at the end of the story? How has he or she changed? Crisis Given this character change, what do you think the author wanted you to learn? ________ ________________________________________________________________________

32 A Critical Mission: Making Adolescent Literacy an Immediate Priority  2009 SREB report called for states to identify the reading skills students needed to improve reading achievement in key academic subjects through high school.

33 Common Core State Standards  Common core state standards for the English Language Arts and Literacy in Social Studies/History and Science/Technological Subjects  Includes a specific focus on what literacy abilities to foster in history/social studies, literature, and science/technical subjects  Other states joining in, too

34 Educational Implications  Shifts in teacher preparation and professional development for existing teachers  Need for programs, instructional materials, and other curriculum supports  Need for assessments that include science, history, mathematics, and literary texts (with disciplinary specific questions)  But what about students who have not had opportunities to learn these aspects of literacy?

35 Transitional courses  SREB, with the support of Gates Foundation, and in partnership with Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, is developing “transitional courses” with a focus on disciplinary literacy  Not remedial courses, per se, but courses that will allow success for those students on track to graduate high school, but who are not college ready  These courses will not be general reading courses, but disciplinary literacy courses aimed as honing students’ abilities to read literature, science, and history  Course modules (2 per discipline) being developed to reduce need for college remediation

36 Conclusions  Economic vitality of the region requires higher literacy skills  Remediation alone insufficient to meet needs of remedial readers (so literacy learning opportunities in subject areas is essential)  But many literacy limitations not evident until college, and these need to be addressed through disciplines

37 Some resources  Shanahan & Shanahan. (2008). Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents. Harvard Educational Review, 78,  Shanahan, Shanahan, & Misichia (2011). Analysis of expert readers in three disciplines: History, mathematics, and chemistry. Journal of Literacy Research, 43,   Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2012). What is disciplinary literacy and why does it matter? Topics in Language Disorders, 32, 1–12.  Fang & Schleppegrell. (2008). Reading in second content areas: A language- based pedagogy. University of Michigan Press..

38 Reading and Writing in the Subject Areas Timothy Shanahan Cynthia Shanahan University of Illinois at Chicago


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