Showing posts with label Disciplinary Literacy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disciplinary Literacy. Show all posts

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Disciplinary Vocabulary

            When I was 8, there were two boys, Chris and Paul. They were both tow-heads, gentle and quiet, with loping walks; and both could draw beautifully… if a teacher struggled to draw a straight line or a round circle on the chalkboard, she’d ask Chris or Paul, who could do it, seemingly without effort.
            Oh, and by the way, they were identical twins.
            I couldn’t tell Chris and Paul apart. Few students or teachers could.
            At the time, I was jealous—not of their sweetness or facility—but of the idea of being a twin. It looked cool.
            Now that I’m older that kind of constant confusion doesn’t look so fun.
            Think of disciplinary literacy and content area literacy. They are not the same, but many teachers can’t tell them apart. I don’t think anyone will make a Parent Trap movie about them, but you get the idea.
            Basically, disciplinary literacy refers to specialized texts and ways of using literacy in the disciplines. Historians, mathematicians, literary critics, and scientists read and write differently because they create different kinds of knowledge and rely on different kinds of evidence.
            Content literacy, on the other hand, is about teaching reading using subject matter texts, and the emphasis is on the use of general reading or study skills in different classes or in different kinds of books.
            But what about vocabulary?
            Learning vocabulary will be pretty much the same, no matter what field of study we are talking about. Memorizing a word is no different in a third-grade social studies class or in medical school.
            Helping kids to learn words means focusing on deep or extensive definitions, intensive and varied repetition of the words, examining relationships among words, making personal connections to words, and lots of review.
            But remember, a disciplinary literacy approach tries to make students aware of the special properties and purposes of the disciplines. What it takes to learn new words may stay the same, but the nature of vocabulary does differ across fields. For example, a large portion of science words are built from Latin and Greek combining forms.
            By contrast, vocabulary in history tends to be ideological in nature. Words don’t just have meanings, they have points of view (something mathematicians and scientists try to avoid when coining terms). Do your students study the U.S. Civil War, the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression?  
            A very different take, but an interesting one, on disciplinary vocabulary is promoted by the book, Word ID: Assessment across the Content Areas by Linda Gutlohn & Frances Bessellieu (2014). It is based upon an analysis of 4,500 content area words. They have identified the most common morphemes in the different subject areas (Grades 6-12); providing lists of prefixes, suffixes, and combining forms by subject area. These specialized lists are interesting, with both overlap and separateness.
            Teaching students the nature of vocabulary differences across the disciplines makes sense, but it also makes sense to focus vocabulary work on the special properties of the words that come up often in the different subject areas. Sort of like recognizing all the “twinness” between Chris and Paul—but not neglecting what made each of them so uniquely special.

             

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Disciplinary Literacy Bibliography

These days I hear a lot of reading authorities talking (and writing) about disciplinary literacy, but they really mean adolescent literacy or content area reading and writing. They don't understand the distinction that is being made.

Disciplinary literacy refers to the specialized or somewhat unique texts or text features in those texts that are the province of a particular field of study and the specialized approaches to reading and writing texts used by experts in a field of study. Thus, historians, because they create, communicate, and evaluate a different kind of knowledge than scientists, use different kinds of text and have different ways of reading such text than scientists. 

There are various ways that one can study the information in text to remember it for a test or something, and that probably doesn’t vary much across contents. But disciplinary literacy refers not to those student or learning concerns, but to the ways of reading/writing that are specialized to the actual fields of study. There is nothing wrong with addressing how to teach reading better in a social studies class or how to teach students to learn better from a social studies textbook… that just isn’t what we mean by disciplinary studies.

Thus, if someone is talking about how to read like a scientist, they are dealing with disciplinary literacy. But if they are talking about how to do story problems in math, how to memorize terminology in a science class, or the most pedagogically sound textbook to use in social studies, they are really talking about something else. If it is about being a better student or learning to read more effectively, it is not about disciplinary literacy (though I suspect if teachers focused more on apprenticing the students into the disciplines they would become better students).  

The Common Core State Standards and the Indiana and Texas standards all attempt to address disciplinary literacy. They want their students to read literature the way that a literary critic would, or to read a history book the way a historian would.

I hear often from graduate students seeking information about disciplinary literacy. Towards that end I am providing the following partial bibliography. I think this could be helpful both to researchers and teachers.


Disciplinary Literacy Partial Bibliography

Abel, K. L., & Exley, B. E. (2008). Using Halliday’s functional grammar to examine early years worded mathematics texts. Australia Journal of Language and Literacy, 31, 227–241.
Bazerman, C. (1985). Physicists reading physics: Schema-laden purposes and purpose-laden schema. Written Communication, 2, 3–23.
Bazerman, C. (1998). Shaping written knowledge: The genre and activity of the experimental article in science. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
De La Paz, S., Ferretti, R., Wissinger, D., Yee, L., & MacArthur, C. (2012). Adolescents’ disciplinary use of evidence, argumentative strategies, and organizational structure in writing about historical controversies. Written Communication,29, 412-454.
De La Paz, S., & Wissinger, D.R. (2015). Effects of genre and content knowledge on historical thinking with academically diverse high school students. Journal of Experimental Education, 83, 110-129.
Donovan, M. S., & Bransford, J. D. (Eds) (2005). How people learn: History, mathematics, and science in the classroom. Washington, DC:  The National Academies Press.
Faggela-Luby, M.N., Graner, P.S., Deshler, D.D., & Drew, S.V. (2012). Building a house on sand: Why disciplinary literacy is not sufficient to replace general strategies for adolescent learners who struggle. Topics in Language Disorders, 32, 69-84.
Fang, Z. (2012). Language correlates of disciplinary literacy. Topics in Language Disorders, 32, 19-34.
Fang, Z. & Schleppegrell, M. (2008). Reading in second content areas: A language-based pedagogy. University of Michigan Press.
Foster, T. C. (2003). How to read literature like a professor. New York: Harper.
Grant, M.C., & Fisher, D. (201). Reading and writing in science: Tools to develop disciplinary literacy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Greene, S. (1994). The problem of learning to think like a historian: Writing history in the culture of the classroom. Educational Pscyhologist, 29(2), 89-96.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1994). An introduction to functional grammar (2nd ed.). London: Edward Arnold.
Halliday, M. A. K., & Martin, J. R. (1993). Writing science: Literacy and discursive power. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Hand, B. (1999). A writing-in-science framework designed to enhance science literacy. International Journal of Science Education, 21, 1021–1035.
Hynd, C. R., Stahl, S. A., Carr, M., Glynn, Shawn, M. (1998). Learning from text across conceptual domains. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Hynd-Shanahan, C. R., Holschuh, J. P., & Hubbard, B. P. (2004). Thinking like a historian: College students’ reading of multiple historical documents. Journal of Literacy Research 36, 141–176. 
Hynd-Shanahan, C.; Shanahan, T. (2008). Content-area reading/learning: Flexibility in knowledge acquisition. In K. B. Cartwright (Ed.), Literacy processes: Cognitive flexibility in learning and teaching (pp. 208-233). New York: Guilford Press.
Jetton, T. L, & Shanahan, C. ((Eds.). 2012). Adolescent literacy in the academic disciplines: General principles and practical strategies. New York: Guilford Press.
Lemke, J. L. (2001). The literacies of science. In W. Saul (Ed.), Crossing borders in literacy and science instruction: Perspectives on theory and practice (pp. 33–47). Newark, DE: International Reading Association; Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.
Lemke, J. L. (1998). Multiplying meaning: Visual and verbal semiotics in scientific text. In J. R. Martin, & R. Veel (Eds.), Reading science (pp. 87–113). London: Routledge
Martin, J. R. 1993). Life as a noun: Arresting the universe in science and humanities. In M. A. K. Halliday & J. R. Martin (Eds.), Writing science: Literacy and discursive power (pp. 221–267). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
McNeil, K.L., & Krajcik, J. (2007). Middle school students’ use of appropriate and inappropriate evidence in writing scientific explanations. In M.C. Lovett & P. Shah (Ed.), Carnegie Symposium on Cognition (pp. 233-265). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Moje, E. (2008).  Foregrounding the disciplines in secondary literacy teaching and learning: A call for change. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52, 96–107.
Moje, E. B., Stockdill, D., Kim, K., & Kim, H. (2011). The role of text in disciplinary learning.  In M. Kamil, P. D. Pearson, P. A. Afflerbach, & E. B. Moje (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. IV, pp. 453–486). New York: Taylor & Francis.
Newell, G. E., Beach, R., Smith, J., VanDerHeide, J. (2011). Teaching and learning argumentative reading and writing: A review of research. Reading Research Quarterly,46,  273-304.
Nokes, J. D., Dole, J. A., & Hacker, D. J. (2007). Teaching high school students to use heuristics while reading historical texts. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 492–504.
Peskin, J. (1998). Constructing meaning when reading poetry: An expert-novice study. Cognition and Instruction, 16, 235–263.
Rouet, J. F., Favart, M., Britt, M. A., & Perfetti, C. A. (1997). Studying and using multiple documents in history: Effects of discipline expertise. Cognition and Instruction, 15, 85–106.
Salmeron, L.,  Canas, J. J., & Fajardo, I. (2005). Are expert users always better searchers? Interaction of expertise and semantic grouping in hypertext search tasks. Behaviour & Information Technology, 24, 471–475.
Shanahan, C. (2015). Disciplinary literacy strategies in content area classrooms. ILA E-ssentials. Newark, DE: International Literacy Association.  http://www.reading.org/AccessFor/members-only/e-ssentials
Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2008). Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents: Rethinking content-area literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 78, 40–59.
Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2012). What is disciplinary literacy and why does it matter? Topics in Language Disorders, 32, 7-18.
Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2014). Teaching history and literacy. In K.A. Hinchman & H.K. Sheridan-Thomas (Eds.), Best practices in adolescent literacy (pp. 232-248). New York: Guilford Press.
Shanahan, Shanahan, & Misichia (2011). Analysis of expert readers in three disciplines: History, mathematics, and chemistry. Journal of Literacy Research, 43, 393-429.
Sriraman, B. (2005). Demystifying the mathematicians craft: Chasing the elusive or a researchable commodity? Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 7, 171-180.
VanSeldright, B. (2002). In search of America’s past: Learning to read history in elementary school. New York: Teachers College Press.
Veel, R. (1997).  Learning how to mean— scientifically speaking: Apprenticeship into scientific discourse in the secondary school. In F. Christie & J. R. Martin (Eds.), Genre and institutions: Social processes in the workplace and school (pp. 161–195). London: Cassell.
Weber, K., & Mejia-Ramos, J.P. (2013). The influence of sources in the reading of mathematical text: A reply. Journal of Literacy Research, 45, 87-96.
Wiley, J., & Voss, J.F. (1996). The effects of “playing historian” on learning in history. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 10, 563-572. 
Wineburg, S. (1991). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and academy. American Educational Research Journal, 28, 495–519
Wineburg, S. (1998). Reading Abraham Lincoln: An expert/expert study in the interpretation of historical texts. Cognitive Science, 22, 319–346.
Wineburg, S. (2002). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts: Charting the future of teaching the past. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Wineburg, S. (2011). Reading like a historian: Teaching literacy in middle and high school classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press.
Wineburg, S., & Resiman, A. (2015). Disciplinary literacy in history: A toolkit for digital citizenship. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 58, 636-639.
Zevenbergen, R. (2001). Mathematical literacy in the middle years. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, 9(2), 21–28.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Why Reading Strategies Usually Don't Help the Better Readers

Last week, I explained why disciplinary reading strategies are superior to the more general strategies taught in schools. That generated a lot of surprised responses.

Some readers thought I’d mis-worded my message. Let me reiterate it here: strategies like summarization, questioning (the readers asking questions), monitoring, and visualizing don’t help average or better readers. They do help poor readers and younger readers.

I didn’t explain better readers don’t benefit, so let me do that here.

Readers read strategically only when they have difficulty making sense of a text.
Recently, I was took a second shot at reading the novel, Gilead. I tried to read it a few months ago, but couldn’t follow the plot. I often read just before sleep and especially subtle or deep texts are not usually best read a few pages at a time like that.

In the meantime, Cyndie read it with great enjoyment, so now my self-image as a sophisticated reader was on the line. For my second reading, I carved out bigger chunks of time, and marked the text up quite a bit (even writing a summaries of the first several chapters). This time, I read with great understanding. Whew!

If the book had been easy for me, I never would have gone to that kind of trouble.

Let’s face it: school texts are not particularly hard for average readers and above. We teach strategies to them, but they don’t really need them—at least not with the texts we use to teach reading.

It may not even matter much if a student understands a text. Students can often hide out, letting the others answer the hard questions, and gaining sufficient info from the discussions and illustrations. No need for strategies under such circumstances.

The new emphasis on teaching students with more challenging texts—texts not as likely to be understood from reading alone—should increase the value of general reading strategies.

Of course, even good readers sometimes confront challenging texts at school (like ninth grade biology textbooks). Unfortunately, they often don’t use reading strategies even with such texts.

My guess as to what is going on is two-fold: students who usually get by on the basis of language proficiency alone, have no idea what to do when confronted with such demands. They go into default mode, not using the strategies at all—even though in this context such strategies would probably be helpful.

But let’s face it. Too often, meaning just doesn’t matter at school. Students can often get by with a superficial purchase on the content. I once got half credit on an astronomy exam question that asked how to measure the distance to the Northern Lights (my answer: use the same method that you’d use to measure the distance to the moon—a correct answer, and yet one that doesn’t require any grasp of the content).

Superficial understanding is often enough in school. Low readers may not be able to gain this successfully by applying their language skills alone, so strategies increase their chances. Good readers can, but when the stakes are raised they don’t necessarily adjust and start using the general reading strategies. But no matter how challenging the texts are, if “acceptable levels” of performance are low enough, strategies again won’t be necessary.

Yes, we should teach reading comprehension strategies, even to good readers. But we should do so in an environment that emphasizes the value of knowledge and understanding, and that requires students to confront genuine intellectual challenges. Those disciplinary literacy strategies touted in my last entry seem to have motivation built in: trying to connect the graphics and the prose in science to figure out how a process works; or judging the veracity of multiple documents in history; or determining which protagonist an author is most sympathetic to in literature tend to be more purposeful and intellectually engaging than turning headers into questions or summarizing the author’s message.