Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Current Writing Crisis and Strategies to Combat It

When thinking about the current writing crisis in America, there seems to be a dis-connect. From our readings in Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, it gives two perspectives. On one hand, the students of the current generation are prolific writers in instant messaging, email, Facebook, blogging, chatrooms, etc. (3). On the other hand, standardized writing exams and employers looking for employees who can write well, say that we have a writing crisis on our hands (2).

How can we as teachers use writing to get our students to learn? Here is a strategy that we can use in our classrooms. It is to take writing breaks. In the strategy, we want the students to think and then get their thinking down on paper. Pick a good time to have the students stop and write in response to a question. The question could be, “What information so far stands out to you and why?” Or they could just write what they are thinking of right now.

I observed my colleagues 7th grade English class last week. After reading A Midsummer’s Nights Dream and discussing it, each student was assigned a part of the book and wrote it as a script for a play in their own words. It was compiled and now they are performing this play. This strategy encourages students to write the learned information in their own words and this is also a tool that can be used in all content areas.

Daniels, Zemelman, & Steneke, Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, 2007 Edition.

Daniels, Zemelman, & Steneke, Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, 2007 Edition.

Strategies for Reading about the Digestive System

Secondary students struggle with reading and comprehending the science textbook for many reasons. Some of my students are reading a text in English and they just began reading English or are not proficient. How can I help my students who struggle or those who I want to challenge to get more out of the text? Daniels and Zemelman give us a combination of cognitive and instructional activities to help our secondary students (87).

One pre-reading strategy is frontloading with images. This strategy involves showing the students images about the unit or text before the students read it. We are studying the digestive system in one of my classes, so I could show images of a mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, villi and large intestine. I could also show an animation of a food particle going through these organs. Another strategy involves visual prompts during reading. While students are reading a text, they will stop and draw a simple picture to illustrate what they are reading. This will help students visualize what they are reading (131). An example of this strategy can be used with my students reading about the digestive system. After they read about the job of the stomach in digestion, they would stop and draw a picture of a stomach and also symbols that reflect mechanical digestion and chemical digestion.

Sources:

Daniels & Zemelman. Subjects Matter, Second Edition: Exceeding Standards Through Powerful Content-Area Reading, 2014 edition.

Overcoming Textbook Blahs in Biology

The problem with American textbooks is simple. Most textbooks are not engaging and may I say, even boring. Daniels and Zemelman state it well, “When we assign students to read pages 234–245 in the textbook and answer the questions at the end of the chapter, they hardly ever get on a bus and go share their learning with fellow citizens across town” (13). Even if students do read their textbooks and answer the questions at the end of the chapter, how much of the information is retained?

One solution is to incorporate articles, books, and other primary sources in the content area. I have used this in the beginning of my class time with a hook of a “Science Alert”, a new discovery in the field of science or an answer to a question a student had from the previous class. These articles are interesting and have a cool picture to go with them. I also have used Ted Talks or other videos from YouTube to introduce or reinforce the content we are covering. A fellow art teacher from a previous class introduced the idea of going on virtual tours of museums from around the world. I look forward to incorporating more interesting literature that will excite and engage my students in science.

Sources:

Daniels & Zemelman. Subjects Matter, First Edition: Exceeding Standards Through Powerful Content-Area Reading, 2007 edition.