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Reading and Writing in the Subject Areas

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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 25% of 8th and 12th 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) Lack of Literacy

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) Insufficient Literacy Attainment

6 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 Thus, 2 problems:

7 Some Possible 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 in 1992 (and high schoolers appear to have fallen) Some Possible Solutions

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

9 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. Some Possible Solutions (cont.)

10 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) Some Possible Solutions (cont.)

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 Not Content Area Reading

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 Disciplinary Reading Instruction

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.) Sources of Disciplinary Literacy

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, Content area reading: Vocabulary

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 Disciplinary literacy: Vocabulary

16 Intermediate Literacy
Increasing Specialization of Literacy Disciplinary Literacy Intermediate Literacy Basic Literacy This pyramid illustrates the development of literacy. The pyramid base represents highly generalizable basic skills entailed in all reading tasks, (decoding skills, print and literacy conventions, recognition of high-frequency words, basic punctuation, etc). Most kids master these in the primary grades, and even those who struggle tend to master them before high school entry. As students progress, more sophisticated skills develop. These skills are not as widely applicable to different texts and reading situations, but neither are they linked to particular disciplinary specializations. They include decoding multisyllabic words, less common punctuation (such as split quotes), knowing more vocabulary including words not common in oral language, developing the cognitive endurance to maintain attention to extended discourse, monitoring comprehension, and using fix-up procedures such as rereading. They gain access to more complex forms of text organization, and begin to use author purpose as a tool for critical response. Most students learn these by the end of middle school, but many schoolers struggle with them. In high school, some students even begin to master more specialized reading routines/language uses, but these new routines, though powerful, tend to be constrained in their applicability to most reading tasks. The constraints on the generalizability of literacy skills for more advanced readers — symbolized here by the narrowing of the pyramid — are imposed by the increasingly disciplinary and technical turn in the nature of literacy tasks. Although most students manage to master basic and even intermediate literacy skills, many never gain proficiency with these more advanced skills. Progressing higher in the pyramid means learning more sophisticated, but less generalizable, skills and routines.

17 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. Disciplinary reading

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 Math Reading For example, during think-alouds, the mathematicians emphasized rereading and close reading as two of their most important strategies. One of the mathematicians explained that, unlike other fields, even “function” words were important. “‘The’ has a very different meaning than ‘a,’” he explained. Students often attempt to read mathematics texts for the gist, or general idea, but this kind of text cannot be appropriately understood without close reading. Math reading requires a precision of meaning, and each word must be understood specifically in service to that particular meaning. In fact, the other mathematician noted that it sometimes took years of rereading for him to completely understand a particular proof. The mathematicians we studied were theoretical rather than applied mathematicians. In their field, errorless proofs are by their very nature true, and the purpose of their work is to create these proofs; hence, to create truth. Because proofs must be error free, they are read carefully in order to discover any possible error. Every word matters. Rereading is essential. One mathematician said, “I try to determine whether it’s [the solution to the problem] correct. That’s the important criteria, and it’s by no means assumed. It would be unusual to read a paper like this and not find something incorrect.” This mathematician is illustrating the belief that truth (correctness within the confines of a particular problem) is attainable if one can determine an error-free solution. However, errors are easy to make, so vigilance is required.

19 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) History Reading Historians emphasized paying attention to the author/source during reading. Before reading, they would consider who the authors were and what their biases might be. Their reading purpose seemed to be to figure out which story that particular author wanted to tell; they were keenly aware that they were reading an interpretation and not “Truth.” One historian said when reading a text about Lincoln: “I saw, oh I don’t know him very well, but he [the author] is part of a right-wing group of southern conservatives who is a secessionist. I’m not sure that the best model for thinking about Lincoln as a president is one that comes from a racist. So I have my critical eyes up a little bit, so it’s a bit of a stretch to be friendly to, so I wanted to make sure to read it fairly.” In this nuanced example, the historian reveals that he does not read the text as truth, but rather as an interpretation that has to be judged based upon its credibility. He attempts to evaluate its credibility through an examination of the author’s biases. However, he also knows that he, as a reader, has his own biases, and that his disregard for right-wing secessionist groups might color his reading and he could miss important insights. He reads with a view that both author and reader are fallible and positioned. The varied emphases shown in these examples are related to the intellectual values of a discipline and the methods by which scholarship is created. History relies on document analysis (document being widely defined to include films, interview protocol, etc.). These are collected after an event occurs, and their selection/analysis take place somewhat simultaneously. Thus, it is possible for a historian to choose and analyze evidence, unwittingly perhaps, that corroborates a previously held perspective. The historians we studied read with that caution in mind. Unfortunately, the nature of historiography (how history is written/presented) is not often the subject of discussion in adolescent history classes. Students believe they are reading to learn “the facts,” and fail to consider potential bias.

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 TEXT WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? WHY? Relation:
1 Relation: 2 3 Relation 4 Main point: In the history meetings, the team liked a number of strategies and made suggestions for improvement. One such strategy was the history events chart. Coherence and understanding how the stories of history connect to each other is crucial to understanding narrative history. As students read about a particular event, they write down answers to the questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why in order to summarize the key narrative events. They do the same with each event they read about. However, the compelling task — the one that addresses a specific disciplinary problem in reading history — is to determine what the relationship is between the first and second event, between the second and third event, and so on. Students are asked to think about the most likely connections and to write these on the chart. The historians were approving of this task because it mirrored the kind of thinking that historians do. That is, historians infer cause-and-effect relationships when they study events and what precedes and follows them. These relationships are not necessarily visible in the events themselves, nor are they always made explicit in high school history texts, so they must be surmised. And, if they are made explicit in the text, students generally regard the connection as “truth” rather than as the construction of the writer. The task, then, not only mirrored historians’ thinking, but also offered the opportunity for students to construct the cause-and-effect relationships themselves. The high school teachers have tried out several promising strategies in the classroom, including the ones described above. One of the history teachers engaged in a quasi-experimental study of another history strategy — one he called “The Multiple Gist” strategy. In this strategy, students read one text and summarize it, read another text and incorporate that text into the summary, then read another text and incorporate that text into the summary, and so on. The summary has to stay the same length, essentially, and this forces a student to use words such as similarly or in contrast when incorporating texts that compare or contrast with each other. His preliminary results reveal that students who learned the multiple-gist strategy wrote longer, more coherent answers to essay questions.

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 History Reading (Fang & Schleppergrell)

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

25 History Reading (Fang & Schleppergrel)
Clause Circumstance Actor Process Goal Circum. 1 Over the next decade, further events steadily led to war 2 Some colonial leaders, such as Samuel Adams favored independ-ence from Britain. 3 They encour-aged conflict with British authorities. 4 At the same time, George II and his ministers made enemies of many moderate Colonists by their harsh stands History Reading (Fang & Schleppergrel)

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 Science (Chemistry) Reading The chemists were most interested in the transformation of information from one form to another. That is, when reading prose, they were visualizing, writing down formulas, or if a diagram or a chart were on the page, going back and forth between the graph and the chart. One chemist explained, “They give you the structure, the structure of the sensor is given, so I was looking at the picture as I was reading, and I tried to relate what was in the picture to what they were saying about how mercury binds to one part of the molecule.” This explanation, corroborated by the chemists’ other comments, helped us to understand that in chemistry, different or alternative representations (e.g., pictures, graphs or charts, text, or diagrams) of an idea are essential for a full understanding of the concepts. These various representations are processed recursively as reading progresses. Unlike historians, chemists create knowledge through experimentation. The findings of experiments are somewhat dependent upon the quality of the instrumentation, the design, and the statistical analysis. However, these variables are all decided upon prior to the actual experiment. The findings are generalizable to other experiments under the same conditions. Although chemists are not uncritical readers, we found that the chemists we studied did have more confidence than historians in the utility of the knowledge that had been created; they believed they could use that knowledge to predict what would happen under similar conditions. What is important to them in reading, consequently, was a full understanding of the way in which an experiment took place and the processes the experiment uncovered. Gaining that full understanding required them to think about the phenomenon being presented in prose, to visualize it, and to manipulate it in formulas and equations.

27 Chemistry Note-taking
Substances Properties Processes Interactions Atomic Expression Experts, teacher educators and high school teachers displayed reluctance in embracing the idea of strategy instruction. For most, the concept was new, and the reading strategies we shared with them seemed contrived and irrelevant. This reluctance was revealing, because it mirrored the disinclination of the preservice students in the high school literacy class. The chemistry team’s reluctance only changed when we introduced our version of structured summarization, a strategy that we based specifically on their insights about chemistry reading. Using this strategy, students take notes in a chart format. Each section of the chart reflected the information that these chemistry specialists said was essential to reading chemistry text. Because chemistry is about the properties of substances and their reactions, a reader who paid attention to these would be engaging in a disciplinary-focused reading. We had illustrated the chart using information from one of the chemistry textbooks the team members had shared with us. One of the chemists who had been dismissive of teaching content area reading strategies (such as summarization) in chemistry reacted by saying, “Well, if they used this, they would be learning chemistry.” He then suggested a modification (the inclusion of a place to summarize atomic expression). The difference between this strategy and summarization was its subject-matter specificity. This strategy was not just about understanding text; it was also about understanding the essence of chemistry. This structured-summarization strategy meshed well with concerns the chemists had expressed earlier when they examined high school chemistry textbooks: the need to identify where the chemistry was. That is, although they understood that some of the information in the text was included purely for motivational purposes or to establish context for students, they were concerned that what students were actually supposed to learn about chemistry was obscured and hidden by these devices. One of the chemistry teachers bitterly complained about a text she had to use in which each chapter began with a real-life problem (such as lake pollution) that was then followed by an explanation of the chemistry behind the problem. She complained that the students were not learning the chemistry. Chemistry learning is somewhat hierarchical in nature. The concepts build on each other, and these concepts can then be applied to situations. That is, the principles are taught as abstractions, and the particulars are exemplars of the abstractions. This chemistry book, however, perseverated on the particular, providing students with little real opportunity to learn the abstractions that could be used to solve other problems.

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. Science Reading (Fang & Schleppergrell)

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) Science Reading (Fang & Schleppergrell)

30 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.) Literature (ELA)

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. A Critical Mission: Making Adolescent Literacy an Immediate Priority

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 Common Core State Standards

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? Educational Implications

35 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 Transitional courses

36 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 Conclusions

37 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. . Some resources

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

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