Content-Area Literacy

Getting Started with Disciplinary Literacy

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Summary: Disciplinary literacy is about the particular focus on reading and writing in a discipline or content area, the unique texts and strategies that constitute a discipline. This collection contains a small set of resources to start to explore disciplinary literacy.


Content Area Literacy and Learning: Selected Sources for the 21st Century, An Annotated Bibliography

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Author: Judith Rodby

Summary: Those looking for materials related to content area and cross-disciplinary reading may find this annotated bibliography useful. It is organized around three general categories of research and practice: 1) generalized reading strategies; 2) adapting/applying generalized reading strategies to specific content areas (math, science, history); and 3) content area-specific approaches that focus on genres, discourses, and identities implicit in the ways of knowing in subject areas and disciplines.

Historical Fiction in English and Social Studies Classrooms: Is It a Natural Marriage?

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Author: KaaVonia Hinton, Yonghee Suh, Lourdes Colón-Brown, and Maria O’Hearn

Summary: What happens when history and ELA teachers form a study group to develop understandings of disciplinary literacy and ways this new knowledge might affect each person’s practice? As members read and reflected together on historical fiction and nonfiction, they found that reading texts from both disciplines helped to more fully contextualize a historical period and promote historical empathy. This piece could generate ideas for forming similar study groups and provide an opportunity for teachers to delve into questions and issues related to disciplinary literacy within a professional development forum.

Math Blogs: Fostering Voice, Ownership, and Understanding Online

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Author: Howard Rheingold

Summary: This article describes how a mathematics teachers became a connected educator, and how he and his precalculus students in Winnipeg began blogging. Students took turns with daily scribing — reflecting, summarizing, and connecting with each other locally and, serendipitously, with others beyond their school, e.g., a 5th grader in Georgia. Other forms of social media provided opportunities for their teacher to share student strategies and resources through live tweets with teachers and other students across the globe. This practical piece provides inspiration and wisdom for educators seeking ideas to jump start and support digital learning in mathematics.

The Authenticity Spectrum: The Case of a Science Journalism Writing Project

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Author: Angela Kohnen

Summary: The SciJourn project, in which students learn to write like science reporters, was initially designed to help students develop scientific literacy. However, it became much more — a key to high school students’ engagement as learners, researchers, and writers and their teachers’ opportunity to explore “real world” genre-based writing assignments and assessments. This article provides a rich discussion with specific examples that can guide teachers in developing writing assignments and learning experiences that take into account “functional authenticity.” Those designing professional development, grants, summer institutes, or study groups on topics such as disciplinary literacy, genre, or authentic learning/writing will find ample food for thought!

How to Build Better Engineers: A Practical Approach to the Mechanics of Text

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Author: Ron E. Smelser

Summary: How do engineers write: in what ways, for what audiences, and for what purposes? How do we, as teachers, support students in understanding that writing clearly to communicate arguments in proposals and presentations is an important skill for college and careers? This article presents a structure that emulates what engineers encounter in a peer-review proposal process. Those planning and leading workshops grounded in real-world practices for aspiring engineers or other related professions will find useful ideas here. This article is also applicable to content-area classrooms at the secondary level. 

Scientific Writing and Technological Change

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Author: Mya Poe and Julianne Radkowski Opperman

Summary: Looking for specific ways to incorporate technology into teaching while leading students through the scientific research process? Noting that writing in science “is a dynamic process that changes quickly with technological change,” this chapter explores specific examples from both high school and college settings that invite students’ dynamic engagement as writers through proposal writing, literature reviews, storying research findings, and peer review. This resource will be of interest to both classroom teachers and those involved in designing professional development programs or seeking ideas for teacher inquiry.

A “Connected-Learning” Style and Fashion Program for Adolescents Leads to Career Opportunity

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Author: Kiley Larson, Erin Bradley, Tonya Leslie, Bryan Rosenberg, and Nathan Reimer

Summary: This case study features two Hive Fashion hubs, in Chicago and New York, in a youth program for adolescents interested in fashion as a career field. The program design is built on the recognition that young people need relevant personal relationships and career-relevant opportunities for their learning to make a difference in the real world. The youth viewed their work through the lens of social justice by incorporating social, political, economic, and cultural perspectives into their projects. From ideas to production, teen designers leveraged digital technologies to write posts on social media and to produce their creations. Useful to gain ideas for similar youth programs and to develop ideas related to connected learning, out-of-school literacies, and career education, this resource takes readers to the hubs with photos, detailed descriptions, and a video.

What Is Reading? An Excerpt from Reading for Understanding

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Author: Christine Cziko, Cynthia Greenleaf, Lori Hurwitz, and Ruth Schoenbach

Summary: Reading is a complex process that involves much more than the ability to decode. This short article offers a foundational way to conceptualize what readers need to do as they develop proficiency in reading different kinds of texts for different purposes in various situations. The book from which this excerpt is taken offers an instructive framework for “apprenticing” adolescent readers. The article would be interesting to read and discuss with colleagues in light of conflicting contemporary reading policies and beliefs.

Improving Assignments With the Writing Assignment Framework

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Author: National Writing Project and Mary Ann Smith

Summary: Featuring a range of protocols, tools, and student samples, the Writing Assignment Framework and Overview was designed as a resource for use in planning instruction and professional development. Growing out of work NWP did with the Authentic Intellectual Work framework, these tools aim to support teachers in all disciplines to think critically about the effectiveness of their assignments in supporting intellectual work that “is similar to the type of problem solving that adults face in their everyday lives and helps prepare students to be critical, analytical thinkers.” On page 10 in the document, teachers share designs for professional development sessions using the tools and forms.

Why Science Teachers Should Write

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Author: Marsha Ratzel

Summary: One science teacher explains the importance of students writing to learn in science and science teachers writing to clarify their teaching. This short article gives examples of student work and is a powerful piece to share with science teachers within contexts of professional development to foster conversation and connections between writing, teaching and learning.

Cultural Landscapes for Literacies Learning: An Innovative Art Museum and Teacher-Research Community Partnership

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Author: Ralph Cordova and Michael Murawski

Summary: Documenting the cross-disciplinary literacy activities supported by a partnership between teacher-researchers and a local art museum, this excellent resource offers both activities and practical strategies for taking writing about art into the classroom using resources from local art galleries and online virtual art museums.

Writing Across the Hidden Curriculum

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Author: William Strong

Summary: Pushing back against the “hidden curriculum” of school writing as teacher-centered and reductive, Strong asserts a model of student-centered writing to learn. This article explains the importance of writing across disciplines and gives practical examples of authentic content area writing skills. His 12-point description of the features of the “hidden curriculum” can serve as a powerful conversation starter with any group of teachers engaged in a study of school-based writing.

Literacy, ELL, and Digital Storytelling: 21st Century Skills in Action

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Author: Yumi Matsui and Clifford Lee

Summary: This inspiring video documents how an English and a history teacher collaborated to have their high school history students created digital stories as part of the American Immigration Project. The semester-long multimodal project incorporated interviews, transcription. discussion, writing voiceover scripts, and digital production. Composing images and audio to create powerful presentations, students shared their stories at a final Exhibition Night screening. Teachers interested in project-based learning will find inspiration as well as practical strategies in the related resources.

Aims and Criteria for Collaboration in Content-Area Classrooms

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Author: Roni Jo Draper, Paul Broomhead, Amy Petersen Jensen, and Daniel Siebert

Summary: If you are looking for a book chapter that will help you think through content area reading and writing beyond taking tests and basic writing, read this. Facilitators planning and/or framing the thinking of a group that includes content and literacy specialists will appreciate how the authors propose powerful common “aims” for adolescents’ content area learning and offer specific examples to illustrate their thinking.

Students Write Tabloid Tabulations in a Math Gossip Magazine

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Author: Joe Bellacero and Tom Murray

Summary: If you are looking for an example of work that integrates mathematics and writing, this one is creative and supported through research related to math. This is a teacher and teacher-consultant’s account of a “writing and math” strategy used in the middle school classroom. Students are asked to connect writing, math, and real-world problems. You may find “nuggets” that appeal to you as a teacher and/or facilitator.

Our Grandparents’ Civil Rights Era: Family Letters Bring History to Life

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Author: Willow McCormick

Summary: What happens when teachers asks elementary students to conduct research about relatively recent history? In this article, a writing project teacher offers a wonderful model for integrating authentic writing and social studies instruction. By exchanging letters with grandparents, her students build a deeper, personal connection to history while deepening their understanding of the Civil Rights era.

Green(ing) English: Voices Howling in the Wilderness?

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Author: Heather Bruce

Summary: Noting that “in literature and language arts classes at the secondary level, where we do not hesitate to study the impact of ethical mores in human lives, where we do not hesitate to teach respect for life, we have fairly well ignored our impact on the natural world or our relationships with it,” Heather Bruce argues for teachers to engage students in considering a range of difficult issues related to climate, environment, and the future of humanity. A useful resource for launching a content-area study that brings current environmental questions into the reading and writing curriculum.

Teaching Reading: A Semester of Inquiry

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Author: Antero Garcia

Summary: Acknowledging that, in these early years of the digital age, “literacies are changing . . . a lot,” Antero Garcia notes that this “is a resource of a specific moment.” Student projects, blog posts, discussions, and more from Garcia’s course “Teaching Reading,” in which he and his students undertook a “mutual inquiry into the ways reading is defined, enacted, and challenged within classroom spaces.” For teachers looking for a dynamic example of using a digital space as an integral part of a classroom inquiry, this resource-rich collection explores how technology and issues of social justice play into our conceptions of literacy.

Writing As a Mode of Thinking

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Author: Danling Fu and Jane Hansen

Summary: What’s missing in writing instruction that focuses on organization, vocabulary and sentence structure? What is the role of thinking in writing, and how can we make thinking visible in writing? This article, which could provide a useful focus for a study group or other professional development session, captures a discussion of writing as a mode of learning and the role that evaluation plays in writing across the disciplines.

Why I Write: Scientist Arvind Gupta Plays with the Words of Science

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Author: Arvind Gupta

Summary: In this short inspiring piece, Gupta explains critical moments he has been motivated to write, including chances to explain scientific phenomena. He urges readers to appreciate the human mind and the joy of experimentation. This piece could be used as a model “why I write” piece and/or to start a discussion of content area writers/writing and student engagement. There is a link out to a great TED Talk.

Disciplinary Literacy: Why It Matters and What We Should Do About It

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Author: Elizabeth Birr Moje

Summary: Why should we help students learn how to read, write, and speak in different disciplines (e.g., science and social studies)? Watch this keynote address to meet Elizabeth Birr Moje who believes that when students learn the literacy particular to each discipline, they gain access to advanced learning opportunities. Moje positions disciplinary literacy as a social justice issue and offers rich questions that could serve as writing prompts and lead to challenging, substantive discussions.

Reimagining Learning in Libraries and Museums (NWP Radio)

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Summary: Imagine out-of-school learning spaces where museum and library educators create digital access for youth. The discussion focuses on students as makers rather than as consumers. Organizational partners discuss ways in which YOUmedia Network has impacted educators’ commitments to teen learning.

College-Ready Writers Program Lesson Study (NWP Radio)

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Summary: Guests on this radio program were part of NWP’s College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP) who participated in an online version of a lesson study focused on two mini-units. Guests talk about how the structure of the lesson study has impacted their practice, their experience with teaching the mini-units in their classrooms, and their experience with participating in the online community. Site leadership teams may develop a similar online lesson study using lessons learned by these educators about digital interaction in professional inquiry groups. This resource may be useful for sites that want to engage in continuity across rural areas, or teachers who want to try the argumentative writing modules and compare processes and outcomes with other educators.

C3WP Mini-Units

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Summary: This resource from the College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) features one-minute videos that define mini-units and explain the value of using nonfiction sources/texts. There are links to related pages on the C3WP website that focus on creating text sets and on developing and sequencing mini-units. These resources will take facilitators and teachers through both the content and implementation of researched argumentative modules, with space to supplement or customize. Teachers can write in response to some of the units to see how they might work with students.

C3WP: Formative Assessment

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Summary: This resource from NWP’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) features two strategies that teachers can use to assess students’ source-based arguments. The “Using Sources Tool” focuses on the quality of students’ claims and how well they use evidence to support them. The “Claim, Evidence, Reasoning Protocol” can help students and teachers see how well they have developed source-based arguments. This page also includes student writing that has been annotated through the lens of the “Using Sources Tool” to illustrate how teachers can use the tool in their classrooms. These assessment strategies can be useful for teachers in any content area who are looking for effective ways to analyze students’ evidence-based arguments. Teacher study groups can examine and apply these two tools and discuss their impact.

C3WP: Teaching On-Demand Argument Writing

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Summary: While developing a more expansive approach to writing, many teachers will still want to ensure that students are prepared for on-demand writing and assessments. This online learning experience from the College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) focuses on on-demand writing. A PowerPoint with a slide-by-slide voiceover, the resource provides a step-by-step approach to teaching on-demand arguments of policy. It uses a two-day content-area reading and writing task as a teaching prompt and another reading-based prompt as a task students then complete on-demand. The PowerPoint, once downloaded, is editable. This resource could provide a digital writing experience for teacher groups to explore their own on-demand argument writing skill, or it could be used as a model so teachers can form their own on-demand readings and prompts.

Overview of the NWP’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program

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Summary: This overview provides key information about the National Writing Project’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) and how it works, along with the results from multiple years/areas of the country. In “About the Program,” teachers can find resources that complement each other in a year-round approach to teaching argument: routine argument writing, mini-units, extended research arguments, on-demand tasks, formative assessment resources, and videos of teachers who have used the resources. The “How it Works” sub-link offers a model for an Advanced Institute for C3WP. The last sub-link provides the results of a 2-year random assignment evaluation which found C3WP had a positive, statistically significant effect on the four attributes of student argument writing—content, structure, stance, and conventions. Points of use include: site leadership team review of C3WP to see how it might be used in their region/locale; and teacher leadership or teacher inquiry related to bringing C3WP into their writing instruction.

Mike Rose on Integrating Science and Language Arts in First Grade Using a Culturally Relevant Lens

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Author: Mike Rose

Summary: Rose offers an in-depth portrait of a writing project teacher integrating the study of science and language arts in her first-grade Baltimore classroom, all while advancing and honoring the cultural knowledge and understanding of her thirty African American students. This chapter, “Baltimore, Maryland” from Rose’s Possible Lives, not only highlights curriculum development, but also offers a model for integrating student dialogue and student work while writing about classroom learning.

Incorporating Multigenre Writing in the Social Studies Classroom

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Author: Kari Scheidel

Summary: Noting the gap between the level of sophistication of her students’ writing in writing workshop and in social studies, teacher Kari Scheidel reflected upon her teaching practice, asking “How do I use writing effectively in social studies?” and “How do I find time for it?” In this article she shares how she developed inspiring ideas for having students practice multi-genre writing to learn in social studies. In the process, she also shares samples of student writing in American History and suggests how students’ individual and collaboratively-authored pieces inspire their creative engagement at the same time that they build their subject area knowledge. This piece, along with the suggested readings included at the end, may be useful in genre study workshops and professional development focused on content-area literacy.

Disciplinary, Content-Area Literacy: An Annotated Bibliography

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Author: Judith Rodby

Summary: Elizabeth Birr Moje offers some of the most provocative viewpoints in content area literacy research. This annotated bibliography was prepared as a companion to her keynote address at NWP’s National Reading Initiative conference featured at Disciplinary Literacy: Why It Matters and What We Should Do About It.


Nonfiction Writing in the Science Classroom

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Author: Nancy Lilly

Summary: A fourth-grade science teacher, Nancy Lilly, describes how she helps her students recognize that the skills that elevate fiction are the very skills that can be useful in writing strong nonfiction, including science writing. Lilly shares her student writing conferences and details her process when working with students to improve writing using mentor texts and specific strategies to develop craft. This glimpse into classroom practice could be a useful resource for a content-area study group thinking about teaching writing in science.

How Language Minority Students Can Learn in the Content Areas: An Alternative to Silence

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Author: Beth Winningham

Summary: A teacher researcher who studied the experiences of five language-minority students over the course of a school year offers concrete suggestions for improving the learning experience of middle/high school students in general, and English learners in particular. This article could be examined as a model of teacher inquiry and student advocacy.

Expressive Writing in the Science Classroom

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Author: John Dorroh

Summary: In this account of expressive writing in the science classroom, teacher John Dorroh introduces writing to build students’ curiosity, inviting them to wonder, to ask questions, and to imagine. In the process Dorroh wrestles with the issue of assessment and also demonstrates the importance of teacher-as-writer as he writes along with his students.

Book Review: Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

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Author: Britton Gildersleeve

Summary: In the ever increasing focus on college-readiness, we can lose sight of connected learning, career-readiness and the joys inherent in making. This book review suggests that reading Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft will provoke important discussion about out of school literacies, what counts as learning and the ways in which skilled, hands-on making requires critical thinking.

“Why I Write” Resources

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Summary: The “Why I Write” series highlights people who write as professionals across disciplines including science, geology, music, environmental studies and education, among others. This collection includes a few short videos that accompany the articles and is especially useful in connecting writing in school to the real world purposes of writing in various disciplines and occupations.

Composing Science (NWP Radio)

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Guests: Kim Jaxon and Leslie Atkins Elliott

Summary: In this engaging NWP Radio Show, Kim Jaxon and Leslie Atkins Elliott, two of the authors of Composing Science: A Facilitator’s Guide to Writing in the Science Classroom, talk about teaching writing, teaching science, and creating classrooms in which students use writing to learn and think scientifically. In a lively conversation, Kim, a composition and literacy specialist, and Leslie, a science teacher educator with a Ph.D. in physics, talk about concrete strategies and approaches for engaging students in practices that mirror the work that writing accomplishes in the development and dissemination of scientific ideas. Together they address a range of practices that can help students deepen their scientific reasoning. Their book is also an excellent resource for teachers engaged in an inquiry into disciplinary literacy or considering how writing fits within NGSS.

Building Culturally Responsive Units of Study: From Texas to Mexico and Back

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Author: Katie McKay

Summary: By crafting units of study that cast immigration as part of the American historical process, a teacher-consultant at the Heart of Texas Writing Project creates opportunities for her bilingual fourth-graders to explore immigration in a trusting and productive classroom environment. This article can support discussions about how to connect curriculum to students’ own knowledge, how to explore sensitive topics with younger children, or how to use writing to support students’ understanding of history or current events.

What’s Next: Possibilities for Literacy and Content Area Learning (NWP Radio)

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Summary: This NWP Radio show captures the conversation among planners, presenters and participants in the 2010 National Reading Initiative Conference in New Orleans. The conference captured learning from NWP sites engaged in the National Reading Initiative. Of particular interest to teacher leaders looking at the reading/writing connection and disciplinary literacy, the conference examined the intersection of adolescent literacy and content area learning by addressing the following questions:

  • What is a text and what should we know about reading and writing texts in different disciplines?
  • What does strong interdisciplinary work look like?
  • What is discipline-specific in reading and writing?
  • How can writing project sites and schools organize to work toward deeper understanding and new practices?


Introducing Girls of Color to Science

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Author: ASU News

Frame: Girls Writing Science, a program of the Central Arizona Writing Project that is funded by an NWP/NSF Intersections grant, aims to improve participants’ science writing and encourages them to consider professions in a science-related field.

Thinking Across Civic Education Work

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Guests: Erica Hodgin, Nicole Mirra, Perry Bellow-Handleman, Eddie Lopez, John Rogers

Summary: In this conversation, fourth in a series, two secondary history teachers and educational researchers discuss what happens when students are civically engaged in social justice and advocacy. The teachers share fundamental teaching challenges and opportunities that a curriculum that engages with participatory politics offers them and their students in this digital age. The introduction ends and the conversation begins 10 minutes 35 seconds into the webinar. For the full webinar or podcast and related resources, visit Thinking Across Civic Education Work.

Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing

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Summary: Developed collaboratively among representatives from the Council of Writing Program Administrators, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Writing Project, Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing describes the rhetorical and twenty-first-century skills that are critical for college success based on current research in writing and writing pedagogy. This short introduction includes a list of the habits of mind identified as essential for success in college writing and includes a link to the complete Framework which is of particular interest to study groups and teacher leaders planning and facilitating professional development in the teaching of writing.

The Diversity of Writing

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Author: Charles Bazerman

Summary: In this key reading, Bazerman describes the various things writers do with words, explaining how writers enter a complex and deepening engagement with a “symbolic environment” that coincides with the culture’s social, economic, and civic possibilities. He describes the many purposes, forms, and impacts of writing, and discusses how real-life reading/writing connections can frame how we design reading and writing for students. This article can be used as a study text that undergirds teacher inquiry into disciplinary literacy and varied forms and genres of writing.

Multiple Texts: Multiple Opportunities for Teaching and Learning

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Author: Laura Robb

Summary: Offering a vivid glimpse into her middle school classroom, author Laura Robb illustrates how making available a range of texts at different reading levels and from a variety of perspectives promotes student engagement and success in her heterogeneously grouped classroom. Robb also shares a list of sources for locating a range of nonfiction texts along with a variety of effective teaching strategies. Sharing both theory and practice, this article could be easily the basis for a single workshop session or a series of workshops demonstrating strategies for strengthening students’ content-area literacy skills.


Exploring Ongoing Questions About Content Area Literacy and NWP Sites

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Summary: Twenty-five participants from 15 sites met online to discuss provocative issues related to the recruitment and retention of content area teachers at writing project sites. The group shared thoughts about and experiences with content area literacy and the expansion of sites to include content area literacy teachers into the development of a site. Although the discussion is long passed, many of the key ideas are still relevant.

Disciplinary Literacy and Reading Across the Content Areas

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Author: Art Peterson

Summary: For teachers in the content areas, Elizabeth Birr Moje’s work provides strong guidance for improving disciplinary literacy. Moje’s argues that focusing on disciplinary literacy helps teachers understand the thinking and learning demands students face as they move through different content area classes that make up a typical high school day. This post serves as a short introduction to her work in preparation for viewing the video of her excellent keynote at NWP’s National Reading Initiative. Find the keynote at Disciplinary Literacy: Why It Matters and What We Should Do About It.

A Snapshot of Writing Instruction in Middle Schools and High Schools

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Author: Arthur N. Applebee and Judith A. Langer

Summary: This 2011 article describes research which updates earlier work and which addresses the following questions: How much writing do students do? Who reads what students write? What is the effect of high-stakes tests on writing instruction? What kinds of writing instruction do teachers emphasize? How has technology influenced the teaching of writing? From writing tasks and genres to standards-based writing and writing in the disciplines, the authors present readers with reminders that writing can contribute to learning and deepen understanding. Teachers and teacher groups may use this article to spur discussion of ways to go beyond test-focused writing assignments by offering students the chance to develop writings based on their reflections, interests, and contemporary connections to learning.

Why I Write: Scientist Timothy Ferris on Writing to Learn

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Author: Timothy Ferris

Summary: Ferris explains that he writes as a way to learn science and describes the vital role that science has played in changing the world for the better. He discusses how writing for general audiences can help scientists to “clarify their own thinking, by obliging them to put specialized ideas into wider contexts and to express them simply.” This short piece could be motivating for science students and teachers to read aloud and discuss before prompting them to write their own ‘why I write’ narratives.

Book Review: English Learners, Academic Literacy, and Thinking: Learning in the Challenge Zone

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Author: Debra Schneider

Summary: How can we best support English learners in classrooms where rigorous curricula focus on intellectual practices across content areas? How can we engage in practices that enable students to construct rather than reproduce knowledge, develop deep understanding of disciplinary knowledge and forge connections between school and the outside world? In this review of Pauline Gibbons’s book, Debra Schneider shares insights and successful strategies emerging from her own “high-challenge, high-support classroom” practice and the work of her study group related to their reading of the chapter on Academic Literacy [see PDF].  An excellent resource for individual classroom teachers, study groups, inquiry groups, or those leading professional development.

Working at the Intersections of Formal and Informal Science and Literacy Education

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Author: Tanya Baker and Becky Carroll

Summary: This resource describes the NWP’s multi-faceted work (with collaborating organizations) on the Intersections Project, which supported local partnerships to design programming and innovative projects to connect science and literacy learning. The authors present two cases and their benefits to participants: one focuses on enhancing museum/science field trips and the other describes a STEAM partnership project (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, Mathematics) between a writing project and a local science/engineering discovery center. Video, art, and student reactions are embedded. This resource could provide schools and teachers with ideas about partnerships with area museums or science centers, as well as literacy integration for science, STEM, or STEAM learning.

Making the Right Connections in High School: Developing Teaching Teams to Integrate the Curriculum

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Author: Carla Gubitz Jankowski

Summary: Integrating high school curricula isn’t easy, but it is worth the effort and produces powerful results for students and teachers. In this resource, a teacher describes her award-winning project to develop teaching teams that designed cross-curricular units in order to foster students’ personal and intellectual connections among ideas and skills. Students created personal family trees in art, held a medical symposium as geneticists, physicians, or therapists, and integrated the study of animals with the creation of fables. The teachers’ professional learning community, which benefited from administrative support and professional development time, can be a model for other schools who want to help students make connections among disciplines.

Paradise Lost: Introducing Students to Climate Change Through Story

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Author: Brady Bennon

Summary: How does a teacher help students understand and care about global warming in a personal, meaningful way? Moving beyond policy and “big-picture” issues, high school teacher Brady Bennon focused on story. He asked his students to write about their own connections between place and identity, then showed them the documentary film “Paradise Lost.” Students’ poems expressed their thinking about the people in the film, and showed a strong sense of identification and caring. The ultimate goal was to help his global studies students “see themselves as truth-tellers and change makers” in response to global warming. With its science and humanities content, this resource may be useful in professional development settings as a way to explore cross-disciplinary themes and projects.

Reading, Writing, and Mentor Texts: Imagining Possibilities (NWP Radio)

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Summary: Mentor texts can support writers and inspire writing in all genres in the classroom and beyond. This NWP Radio show is of particular interest to study groups and teacher leaders designing professional development that explores the use of mentor texts to support writing in academic disciplines. Presenters share resources for identifying and using effective mentor texts. Highlights include: a definition of mentor texts (2:00); a discussion of using picture books as mentor texts (14:01); advice about choosing 15-25 texts as anchors for the year (15:50); a discussion of the concept of “deeper writing” (24:40); and using mentor texts as resources for teacher inquiry (36:43). Also included is a discussion of how a broad definition of “text” can enrich a thematic approach to history along with an example of using texts in a history unit on The “Other” in America. Included links contain valuable resources on mentor texts in general and in history in particular.

Putting the “Shop” in Reading Workshop: Building Reading Stamina

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Author: Amanda N. Gulla

Summary: How might teachers motivate students who identify as “non-readers” to find purpose in reading? In this article, Amanda Gulla, a teacher consultant with the New York City Writing project, offers a portrait of the ways in which co-teachers orchestrated an independent, reading-workshop model classroom for their urban CTE (career and technical education) students who developed fluency and agency as readers.  Teachers planning and leading professional development, study groups and classroom teachers interested in exploring solutions to the challenges of reading instruction will find inspiration in this easy-to-read ethnographic study.

The Story of SCORE: The Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute Takes on a Statewide Reading Initiative

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Author: Lynette Herring-Harris and Cassandria Hansbrough

Summary: The SCORE monograph (Secondary Content Opening to Reading Excellence) from the Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute offers an overview of programming for content area teachers as part of a statewide reading initiative. A useful resource for teacher leaders, the monograph includes a rich description of five days of workshops (p. 14-19) along with timelines (p. 24-25), and agendas (p.26-31) that structured and organized this work.

Joined at the Hip: The Joys and Travails of Teaching “Linked” Courses

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Author: Matthew Teorey

Summary: This article features one university’s program offering “Freshman Learning Communities” in which two instructors from different disciplines work together developing curriculum by coordinating two sets of complementary readings and assignments. In this cross-disciplinary approach, a community environment helps the students succeed in their freshman year. The resource provides an example of co-teaching and of coordinated literacy integration with specific writing and critical thinking skills across disciplines and has the potential for adaptation to the high school curricula.

Overview of the Common Core State Standards Initiatives for ELLs: A TESOL Issue Brief

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Summary: This issue brief, from the TESOL International Association, is an overview of the Common Core State Standards that also outlines some of the initiatives in place to address the needs of English learners (ELs) in relation to the Standards. Excerpts from this resource may be useful in study groups and professional development sessions focused on the needs of English learners, particularly within the contexts of assessment practices and content-area text complexity.

Real World History: Six Videos that Model and Inspire

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Summary: Looking for ways to involve high school students in using historical tools to craft arguments and make personal connections to current issues? These six short NWP-produced videos spotlight Real World History, a high school course that frames history as an argument about the past and teaches students to think like historians. The video footage, focused on a study of the Great Migration of the 20th Century, could be a springboard for curriculum design or spark conversation in classes or professional development focused on disciplinary literacy with a social justice bent.

Bioethics, Informed Consent, and Open Networks: The Story of Bioethics Day

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Author: Jennifer Smyth

Summary: This collection of materials, inspired by a shared reading in English and Biology classes of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, describes the planning and presentation of Bioethics Day as a “day of learning” for students from three high schools. The materials include explanatory videos and planning information, as well as a description of how the project demonstrates connected learning, and a frank discussion of privacy and the pros and cons of open network projects. This resource may be useful in working with teachers across content areas who are interested in creating projects that invite students to share their learning beyond the classroom. 

Service to School: Creating Connections, Creating Democratic Cultures—from The Activist Learner

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Author: Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Whitney Douglas, and Sara W. Fry

Summary: This sample chapter from The Activist Learner explores how the school itself can become a site for service learning. Two examples are discussed in detail: 1) engaging students in the process of documenting the school’s history; and 2) transforming school culture through a civic participation framework. A valuable resource for service learning curriculum design, this chapter also focuses on service learning as an important form of inquiry.

Content Literacy Leadership: A Lane Change for Writing Projects

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Authors: Bruce M. Penniman, Leslie Skantz-Hodgson, Jane Baer-Leighton, Maria José Botelho, Richard Cairn, Karen Miele, Lawrence O’Brien, Momodou Sarr, Laura St. Pierre, Chris Tolpa, Susan Connell Biggs, Karen Diaz, Kevin Hodgson, Hollington Lee, Karen Pleasant, Christopher Rea, Lisa Rice

Summary: Written as part of the Building New Pathways to Leadership initiative, this narrative and accompanying resources tell one site’s story of building a pathway to teacher leadership for civics teachers. Site leaders interested in developing their site’s capacity to deliver professional development for social studies teachers may find this story of investment in the leadership of civics teachers illuminating.

The Boise State Writing Project’s Science Pathway

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Summary: Created as part of the Building New Pathways to Leadership initiative, this website documents the Boise State Writing Project’s year-long Science Pathway, designed to cultivate science teacher leaders in the site and state. Site leaders interested in expanding their site’s content-area specific offerings, can see each step of the Summer Institute and following Fellowship Year, including guidelines for and examples of the variety of writing teachers produced, and an exploration of what was kept from the traditional Writing Project Summer Institute, and what was incorporated to make the program discipline-specific.

This Is Who I Want to Be! Exploring Possible Selves by Interviewing Women in Science

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Author: Jessica Singer Early

Summary: This article examines how a classroom-based writing project, centered on interviewing and writing profiles of women in science, helped a group of high-school girls explore and articulate new possibilities for their future selves. It could serve as a useful model for educators engaged in equity and inclusion work, particularly in using research and writing to help underrepresented students connect to a larger world beyond their own experience.

Finding Support for Teaching Civic Literacy Skills in the Common Core Standards

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Author: Nicole Mirra

Summary: Rather than viewing civic education as a particular body of knowledge, belonging in social studies class, Mirra argues that civic literacy is a set of skills that can be incorporated throughout the curriculum, reinforcing Common Core standards along the way.