Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Incorporating Literacy in the Content Area

Because I'm a Library Media Specialist I teach information skills.  I support classroom teachers and collaborate on many subjects.  I plan to teach this year using literature as my means of instruction.  I have all grade levels but for the purpose of this post I'll be talking about my third grade classes.  I will read aloud the story, "Blue House Dog," by Deborah Blumenthal.  As a Communication Arts piece I will let the children choose a digital picture of a dog and upload it to Voicethread.  Then each student will name their dog and write a story or something about their dog to share with the picture.  If writing is a challenge for some students, they could do a voice recording as an alternative to the writing.  To add some diversity to the assignment, students might also be asked to research and find common pets in other countries and tell where they are most common and include interesting facts about the animal.  To incorporate mathematics, I will have students use addition or multiplication to calculate dog ages in people years.  If these mathematical functions are too difficult for some students, they may use a calculator.  For science, we will learn how animals camouflage themselves when hiding from danger, like Bones in the story hid from the dog catcher.  Working in small groups, student will create a powerpoint slide of a specific camouflage animal and it's habitat. I will combine the slides and show the presentation to each third grade class.  I think a good Social Studies lesson would be to invite a speaker from the Humane Society to come and talk to the students about what they do to help the community and the animals in need. 

As with any assignment, I think students have to be clear about what the expectations are.  I usually use a rubric with assignments like the Voicethread and the powerpoint assignment.  If they are written appropriately, rubrics allow the students to choose the score they want to get for the assignment.  I'm also a fan of peer evaluations and I think it's important for students to learn to look at others work and to simulate ideas of what they consider good and not so good work, so I would probably let each student use the rubric to score fellow student's work.

As far as math teachers and science teachers and social studies teachers teaching literacy, I have to say that it's about time.  Who knows how to read math better than a math teacher and who knows better how to read science than a science teacher?  And the same goes for social studies.  I believe students have to know that what they are learning is important and knowing how it applies to all aspects of their lives can certainly help that cause.  We retain those things that we connect to other things, that connect to other things and so on.  And to speak for those teachers going out on limb, it wouldn't hurt any Communication Arts teacher to incorporate some math or science now and then. 


  1. I love your comment about Communication Arts teachers branching out and incorporating math and science into what they do. In elementary it is easier to do this with themes. One kindergarten class I observed read Dr. Seuss’s "Ten Apples up on Top" and then counted ten apples. They then visited an apple orchard and talked about how the trees change over the seasons. This was a great way to tie a theme to all content areas. I have also seen middle school teams conduct similar types of themed units. At the high school level I see this is being much more at the discretion of the individual teacher as students often do not share a team of teachers. I do agree, however, that it helps students to see the world in a larger picture when they realize math, reading, science, art, and so on can apply to many different areas.

  2. I love your dog project ideas! That sounds like something the students can really get excited about, even the math aspects of it! With regards to other areas (math, science, social studies) teaching literacy, I feel that this is something that has always been done in its own way for each subject, even though it wasn't directly designed to teach literacy. In order to teach any subject, I feel that you must first teach your students how to read and interpret the information. For example, to teach math, even at the elementary level, you must teach students to recognize math symbols and how to read equations. even something as simple as 2+2=4 is read as words. This, to me, is literacy. The same thing with science - student have to be taught how to read equations, etc - also literacy. I feel that literacy education is typically integrated into curriculum and lessons, even if it is not specifically designated as literacy.

  3. Great ideas, Lori! And I totally agree with what Val said-it helps students see the world in a larger picture when they realize how all the different literacies are connected.

    When I was in college for my undergrad (almost 20 years ago!) I took courses designed around creating themed units where all disciplines were brought together to teach concepts. My how times have changed! I really feel like (at least in my experience) teaching has really gotten away from this. I would like to see it go back to this philosophy. Kids are able to make so many more connections when they can see how it's all related. Great job in bringing that to your 3rd graders!!