Promoting Literacy Across the Curriculum in the Middle Grades|
Producing literate citizens in the twenty-first century is a major goal for all educators. Some studies show that as many as 60 percent of college seniors do not read and write at a proficient level. Clearly, there is a need for students to achieve higher levels of literacy in the critical areas of reading and writing. Middle school is an ideal learning environment to employ reading and writing strategies that work.
Why must we emphasize literacy across the middle school curriculum?
Much of the reading required in middle school is of an "expository" nature, or reading for information. Grade school students accustomed to reading story books with large illustrations are required to read and understand "information-heavy" textbooks, especially in their middle school science and social studies classes.
Many students begin falling below grade level in the areas of reading and writing in elementary school. When they reach middle school, the amount of reading expected of students increases dramatically. The type of reading changes as well.
To prevent failure in the upper grades, teachers and students most focus on developing skills that allow for a gradual and successful shift from elementary literacy tasks to middle school literacy tasks.
Creating a Literacy Plan for your Class
Effective literacy programs are those that do not exist in a vacuum. Teaching reading and writing skills must not be reserved solely for English, language arts, and reading classrooms. Students need multiple opportunities to learn reading and writing strategies in a variety of class settings.
Whether you teach math, social studies, science, or an elective course, all middle school teachers need a plan to provide students with many settings in which to engage in literacy learning.
No matter how you customize your literacy plan to fit the unique needs of your students, there are key components inherent to all effective literacy programs.
|Characteristics of Exemplary Literacy Programs
- responsive to students' needs
- ongoing practice; regular inclusion of reading and writing activities
- based on positive outcomes
- a variety of reading and writing strategies are used
Effective Literacy Learning Strategies
Middle school students come to us with widely varying developmental, social, and intellectual ability levels. Today's heterogeneous classrooms include students with literacy levels ranging from emergent or developing to fluent or proficient. How do we ensure literacy learning for all of our middle school students? One way, is to use reading and writing strategies designed to assist learners of all ability levels.
Reading and Writing Strategies that Work
Literacy learning throughout the middle school curriculum is integral to producing literate adults. As students see that reading and writing proficiency is valued in all subject areas, they are encouraged in their quests to become life-long learners.
- Pre-Reading Activities – Preview the reading material before it is read. This will give students an idea of what to look for beforehand as well as build background knowledge.
- K-W-L charts build background knowledge.
- Think-Pair-Share activities get students thinking about and discussing key terms or main ideas ahead of time.
- Pre-teach vocabulary by using an illustrated Foldable™ or other mnemonic device.
- Preview illustrations in the text and ask students to observe the people, objects, and actions taking place. Then, have them make inferences based on what they have observed.
- Active Reading – Use many different strategies to encourage students to engage in active rather than passive reading.
- Read alouds – The teacher reads a selection or passage to the students. Reading aloud provides students with an adult model of proficiency.
- Shared Reading – The teacher and students read part of the text together. Sharing reading responsibilities helps students develop fluency and increases comprehension.
- Guided reading – The teacher previews or introduces a passage before students read independently. Guiding students' reading gives them confidence in their reading abilities.
- Independent reading – Students read passages independently. Giving students opportunities to read on their own promotes reading for enjoyment and allows students to read at their own pace.
- Opportunities to Write – Follow the reading strategies with modeled, shared, or independent writing activities. Providing students with time to react to what they have read by committing their thoughts to paper is an important part of literacy learning.
- Sticky notes – Use note cards or sticky notes for sentence completion activities.
- Learning logs – Have students answer open-ended questions about the reading passage by using a journal or learning log.
- Graphic organizers – Ask students to summarize, predict outcomes, compare and contrast, or infer information in the form of a Venn diagram, chart, or other graphic organizer.
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This article was contributed by Tara Musslewhite, Social Studies Department Chair at Atascocita Middle School in Humble, Texas. She is also an instructor of Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities at Kingwood College.