Four Strategies for Teaching Literacy Across the Curriculum
Is the thought of teaching literacy in your middle grades science, history, or math classroom intimidating? Your students will better connect with text and comprehend on higher levels when you weave literacy strategies into content instruction.
The four literacy strategies presented here will help you enhance your instruction and increase your students' comprehension.
1. Consider the background knowledge students bring to the text. Talking about the topic before reading and previewing text is one way to explore that knowledge. An advance organizer such as an anticipation guide or a Think, Pair, Share activity helps students talk and think about what they already know about the topic, and it gives you an opportunity to discuss misconceptions and fill in the gaps with information students may be missing.
2. Get students talking about text in a constructive, purposeful way. Think Alouds help students think about and process text in a way that promotes talking "out loud" about what they are reading. Students read the text, stop and verbalize what they just read, synthesize the information, and predict what will happen next.
Model this strategy by reading a passage from a text and then stating, "I think ... will happen next." Help students create visual images by stating, "This made me think of … ". Finally, show students how to monitor their own comprehension with statements such as "I'm confused by ... ".
3. Teach students about inferences. Good readers make inferences or create meaning based on their own notions. But making inferences about text is difficult for many students. Show students a photograph and ask them what they think is going on in the photo. Explain to students that they are making inferences or "reading between the lines."
Now apply this same concept to a short passage and ask students to read between the lines. What is the author really trying to say? Ask students to write a paragraph describing a problem without directly stating it in the text.
4. Help students visualize what they read. Visualization includes creating pictures or a movie in your head as you read, making the words on the page real and concrete. Asking students to describe or sketch a scene they saw in their heads while they were reading will help increase comprehension and bring the text to life.
Comprehension is taught, not caught. It is explicit and straightforward. Students should know and be able to explain what strategy they are using to comprehend the text they are reading. Teachers across the curriculum can help improve student comprehension by modeling best practices and filling students' toolboxes with comprehension strategies.
Carianne Bernadowski is an assistant professor in the elementary education department at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania and a former middle school teacher. E-mail: email@example.com