2.4 Literacy Strategies
Candidates collaborate with classroom teachers to reinforce a wide variety of reading instructional strategies to ensure P-12 students are able to create meaning from text.
School Librarians – making teachers’ lives easier, one lesson at a time. In our field, we should aim to make this the motto by which we are known to classroom teachers. Our job is a collaborative balancing act. How can we accomplish our reading and information literacy agenda while making it easier for teachers to address their own subject areas’ skill sets and perhaps more importantly, the universal academic skill of creating meaning from text? In Literature for Young Adults, I had the opportunity to work collaboratively with a group of three other school librarians-in-training to compose a formal paper and design a presentation targeting the integration of young adult texts into the mainstream curriculum through a wide variety of reading instructional strategies.
As a group, we selected four texts centered around a tenth grade Social Studies course studying immigration in the United States. The texts were two novels, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and A Step from Heaven, dealing with Hispanic and Asian immigrants respectively; an image-only graphic format text called The Arrival; and the nonfiction text, Denied, Detained, Deported. Making provisions for diverse ability levels in the classroom, we cited the books’ varied lexile scores (a major emphasis under the new Common Core curriculum.) My group also included a digital multimedia source, the Glencoe Immigration Website.
We presented flexible lesson ideas ranging from brief warm-up activities to full essays and research projects. These included journaling, reading logs, discussion of small vignettes, inquiry-based research on immigration legislation, thematic questioning, interview format projects, free verse poetry, college application essays, Photostory digital movies, evaluation of America as a tossed salad vs. a melting pot, and an argument writing prompt on whether the Americanization of immigrant is positive or negative. Each of these activities incorporates analytical reading skills seamlessly with both the classroom texts and supplementary young adult materials. Our overarching rationale for including this wide variety of reading instructional strategies was that students learn best when the information they are studying is presented in multiple formats (i.e. not just in a textbook but also through a piece of realistic fiction) and when they are actively engaged in higher level thinking about the subject matter.
Our presentation was designed to enlist classroom teachers as our educational partners, meeting them at whatever level of joint curricular effort for which they were ready – be that cooperation, coordination, or true collaboration (co-planning, co-implementation, co-assessment). A lesson idea for a warm-up might be simply a cooperative effort where the school librarian offers forth the kernel of an idea with an accompanying resource and the teacher takes and adapts the partially developed lesson independently. On the other hand, if a teacher was inspired by a lesson idea for a large research project or a digital presentation, he/she might approach the school library to set up time to meet and plan a more extended collaborative effort. Either way, the students would benefit from a widening variety of reading instructional strategies in their daily classes.
A lesson idea for the wordless graphic novel The Arrival was to present the students with the following prompt: “From the perspective of the protagonist, a non-English speaking immigrant who has recently arrived from a foreign country to New York City at the turn of the 20th century, write a first-person narrative to describe in detail what is depicted on one to two (consecutive) pages from The Arrival.” This instructional activity reaches students at variant reading and writing levels. They will exercise a high level of engagement by rendering meaning from visual passages. Low level readers may be more readily able to derive meaning from images than from texts with complex vocabulary. Beyond the exchange of resources and discussion of implementation, it might not be necessary for the school librarian to continue on as a collaborative partner for this lesson. However, if this lesson idea sparked a desire in the teacher to have the student adapt their writing into some sort of web 2.o product, the teacher and school librarian could enter into a full collaborative partnership with one another.
One lesson idea for the novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents was “Have the students write a persuasive essay in which they establish what they feel the appropriate balance between maintaining tradition and assimilating into a new culture should be.” Not only does this activity fulfill the Common Core curriculum requirement that Social Studies courses include persuasive writing, it also encourages the highest level thinking, allowing the students to adapt their learning for new situations. They are not just regurgitating facts about immigration and assimilation, they are articulating their own universal ideas that reach beyond the confines of the Social Studies classroom. The school librarian’s role in co-teaching might revolve around helping the students find and document research to support their assertions. With the connections made and lesson ideas partially developed, a Social Studies classroom teacher could very quickly be equipped with the resources needed to revamp a tired curricular unit for increased relevance and student engagement, but the teacher would not have to go it alone.
In the future, this type of presentation is something I would like to do as a department-based inservice while introducing the library’s newest materials to the teachers. In this way the librarian can maintain consistent, cross-curricular standards for reading strategies in the content areas in accordance with the Common Core Curriculum’s Seven Capacities of the Literate Individual. What I loved about the collaborative experience of crafting this inservice focused on content area literacy skills was that it was universally appealing to teachers with different habits and philosophies. Teachers who do not often incorporate these sorts of outside texts or worry about the added workload associated with making major changes to their teaching materials might be drawn in by the ease of changing up a few warm-ups by exposing the students to a new resource. Other teachers might be motivated to do a complete overhaul of a unit and tackle a more elaborate project. Either way, the seeds of collaboration are planted.
Though we did not ourselves have the opportunity to collaborative with subject area classroom teachers, the members of my group and I worked collaboratively with one another to plan an inservice for tenth grade Social Studies teachers that would spark future collaborative relationships. Because of the daily demands of lesson planning and grading, classroom teachers may not have significant time to devote to finding new resources and incorporating supplemental texts into their curricular lessons. However, when presented directly with resources carefully selected to align with their course objectives and with specific lesson starters, teachers are willing to entertain the possibility of revising a unit or modifying an assignment. While content area reading has been a major focus in the educational world for some time now, the fact remains that oftentimes, teachers in subject areas other than English feel uncomfortable or unsure of themselves when teaching reading instructional strategies in their classroom. This is a key area where the input of the school librarian can foster the deepened ability for students to create meaning from text and alleviate a stressor for the classroom teacher.
Collaborative Integration Project:
Collaborative Integration Project Final Paper
Collaborative Integration Literature Presentation