Dilemma In Content Literacy

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Dilemma in content literacy


It is important to examine beliefs regarding content literacy instruction, what it is, what it means, and how it can be implemented. Some educators believe that content literacy instruction is simply adding literacy instruction to content instruction. Given that perspective, the task of connecting reading and writing skills to the demands of subject area instruction may present a challenge for students, and surely a daunting task for teachers. A more comprehensive understanding of content literacy instruction and familiarity with instructional strategies that are known to be effective can help teachers address issues of literacy learning across all subject areas for all grade levels and for all students. Too often, educators consider that content literacy instruction is one more addition to their instruction and that time is not available for anything other than focused teaching of content.

Dilemma in content literacy


Because time is often a constraint for teachers, it is important to identify instructional practices that are manageable to plan for and to implement within the context of a busy instructional day. The perceived dichotomy (on the part of many) between content instruction and literacy instruction can result in learning that is even more fragmented and difficult to achieve. Alvermann (2001) reminded teachers to consider the complexity of the learner, including their perceptions of themselves as literacy learners, their motivation, and prior knowledge. As an alternative to a “fragmented” approach a more integrated model would reflect the perspective pioneered by Herber (1978), that content literacy instruction is, ideally, the integration of content (or subject matter) instruction and communication skills instruction, with both occurring at the same time. This requires comprehensive thinking about what content literacy learning could be and should be, rather than reducing content area literacy to mere imposition of a set of skills and activities(McConachie, Hall, Resnick, Ravi, Bill, Bintz, & Taylor, 2006).

Content Literacy Instruction: Instructional Applications

Teachers and students need to make decisions about not only what they are attempting to accomplish with respect to literacy learning, but also why and under what conditions the literacy curriculum would be most effective. This requires planning, substantive dialogue, exploration, literacy mentoring, and metacognitive discussion. These are characteristic of the Reading Apprenticeship model (Schoenbach, Braunger, Greenleaf, & Litman, 2003; Greenleaf, Schoenbach, Cziko, & Mueller, 2001). That model provides a systematic way for teachers to use the knowledge that they have about content and literacy processes.

It requires teachers to model the use of strategies within a classroom context that features discussion, enhanced thinking about the usefulness of various strategies and apprenticeship-like application by students. With the Apprenticeship model, instructional strategies are not just imposed and used in piecemeal fashion. Rather, the classroom “climate” is one in which teachers and students work together to use what they know about literacy and to grow in its application. This concept applies to content instruction of every subject area and is applicable across all grade levels. Content literacy instruction includes all of the communication ...
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