Why is it powerful “to think like a coach when beginning to design a literacy professional learning project? In this module, we overview the field of disciplinary literacy and introduce the four-part coaching framework that can effectively drive your capacity building work with teachers. You will also be asked to think about the current state of literacy teaching and learning in your context and then determine the next steps needed to build a strong disciplinary literacy professional learning initiative.
Why is an effective literacy assessment necessary in designing professional learning? This module will introduce you to the six critical steps in designing a literacy needs assessment that will inform you of the literacy teaching and learning strengths and areas of need in your school or district, which is essential to know in designing a strong literacy initiative. We also provide access to the Carnegie Content Area Literacy Survey, which is an easily alterable online survey tool you can use with teachers and students. Analysis of this survey data can help you determine the next steps in the design of your professional learning project.
Why should we differentiate learning for adults? In this third module, you will learn the importance of differentiating the learning for the adults in your school. You will learn enough about Constructive Developmental Theory to understand how learning might look different for instrumental, socializing and self-authoring learners and when and how each type of learning might have a place in your professional learning project. You will also learn about human and social capital distinctions and how this might influence the teams, departments and the school culture in which you work, and ultimately how these distinctions might influence the design of your professional learning initiative.
What will your professional learning design look like? By the end of this module, you will be ready to complete a draft of your literacy leadership action plan. You will read a case study of a recent disciplinary literacy professional learning project, consider its relevance to your context, and decide which elements you might borrow or adapt for your own professional learning initiative. You will learn about and decide which professional learning structures and routines will help you reach your goals. You will also think about who will participate in this initiative, the timing of various action items and the scope and sequence of the learning over months or years.
In this course, we first provide an overview of the domains of disciplinary literacy that we focus on in our work—disciplinary literacy, vocabulary, discussion, digital literacy, multiple texts, and writing to learn. We explore both the unique and shared challenges that disciplinary texts present for readers. We explore how we use disciplinary thinking when we interpret maps, charts, magazines, poems, and primary source materials to help authenticate the content and bring it to life. Next, we examine the simple view of reading and examine what this view means for reading and learning in and across content areas. Last, we present our vision for using expert texts with novice readers, and by examining texts written by experts across the disciplines, we illustrate how disciplinary habits of mind are realized through language.
So, what can be done to support students to better comprehend disciplinary texts? In this course, we suggest the use of disciplinary literacy pedagogy, which makes use of texts written for both expert and novice audiences, as one method of bringing outsiders into the language of the disciplines. Our intention is not to suggest that teaching language is the end goal of disciplinary instruction. Rather, the goal is to begin to teach students to understand disciplinary approaches to knowledge by making transparent the practice and habits of mind in our discipline. We believe that as the language of each content area is demystified, students are provided with the resources to express their opinions, ideas, and understandings, as well as master disciplinary content when reading in the content-area classroom.
In this chapter, we argue that teaching academic words is one of our essential responsibilities as content-area teachers, as doing the work of historians, mathematicians, literary critics, and scientists in the real world requires the ability to comprehend challenging texts. This does not mean teachers should halt the curriculum in their classes to teach word definitions, but; rather, they should utilize research-based supports and content-specific uses of words when they occur naturally in their texts. We critically analyze one freely available program, Word Generation, as a starting point for thinking about how to better support general academic language in our classes and across content areas.
This course proposes a tripartite approach to teaching vocabulary. Each of the three components of the framework support each other. This course provides readings and resources to support each of the three legs, which are: 1) create a language-rich, word-curious classroom; 2) teach word-learning strategies; and 3) strategically choose which words to teach. We use the Flanigan and Greenwood framework for determining which words to teach and how long to spend on each.
Students will disagree with each other. That’s fine. But they need to be taught how to disagree: The phrase, “I see it so differently,” invites difference and clarification; “That’s stupid,” shuts off conversation. According to Erdmann and Metzger, “Discussion is the queen of lesson plans: an essential, prominent, but often under-taught tool for the classroom teacher. Although discussion is the most difficult classroom format to plan and to manage, it is also the ultimate bridge between reading and writing. Nothing in the secondary classroom is harder to plan and lead effectively, except perhaps differentiated instruction. No one is born knowing how to lead discussion; it took us years in the classroom—but it can be learned.” In this course, we provide specific tools and resources to help your students shorten their learning curve toward rich discussion.
High-quality academic discussions that contribute to student learning are reciprocal, typically collaborative, sometimes exploratory, and usually open-ended. In the classroom, such discussions encourage students to share their perspectives, so that comprehension of a text or concept becomes a process of reconciling potentially competing perspectives to illuminate each other and helps generate deeper student understanding. In this course, we look closely at the ways that teachers use their instructional talk to strengthen student learning and provide assessment rubrics to help students understand the importance of oral presentation in your content area.
How do we determine what level of difficulty will be appropriate for our students, especially those who are struggling? This short course provides a quantitative framework for measuring text complexity (which considers aspects of text, such as sentence length and the number of infrequent words) and a qualitative rubric developed for informational and narrative texts. Additionally, we explore how readability formulas are arrived at, explain how they can be useful but also misleading, and provide online tools that teachers can use if they want to determine a text's readability level.
While textbooks can be important sources of information in middle and high school classrooms, teachers wishing to encourage critical thinking and strategic reading often introduce multiple texts to students—at different reading levels—to promote understanding and engagement with content-area concepts. In this course, participants will explore the various text types available in their disciplines, as well as how different text types might be used to support student learning. Participants will be introduced to the notion of text sets—groups of texts related to the same content-area topic. We will examine example text sets and create an example that leads students to use key disciplinary habits of the mind.