Adolescent Literacy and Learning: Increasing Interest in Reading and Active Learning with Content Literacy Kits

Article excerpt

February 28, 2007

Dear Teachers,

Would you like your middle and high school students to be more interested and more motivated to learn the content you are teaching? Would you like to see them read more and learn more about the topics they are studying? Are you looking for innovative ways to help your students learn the information and concepts about science, mathematics, social studies? Then you might try using content literacy kits in your classroom. In this article you will find a rationale and suggestions for developing content literacy kits and examples of kits that were developed by teachers and graduate students. Content literacy kits can be easily created by using texts and resources that you have in the classroom and at home, or borrow from libraries and access on the internet. It's a great way to enrich your curriculum and engage your students in outside reading and independent learning.

Yours truly,

JoAnn Dugan

What does research say about adolescent literacy. ?

The latest survey of "What's Hot, What's Not" (Cassidy & Cassidy, 2008) reveals that adolescent literacy is still a hot topic. Evidence from previous research (Alvermann, 1981; Graves, Cooke, & LaBerge, 1983; Vacca, 2002) suggests that students in secondary education benefit from explicit literacy strategy instruction, yet instruction in secondary school rarely uses these strategies or gives students opportunities to apply strategies with content area texts (Doyle, 1984; Goodlad, 1984). According to Fisher, as cited in Reading Today, February/ March, 2007, traditional structures and beliefs about literacy are interfering with progress in adolescent instruction.

Problems with textbook materials influence secondary reading practices. Decisions about the content of textbooks have been based on reasons other than students' interest and comprehension. Students' background knowledge has been found to conflict with information in textbooks. Such incongruence creates confusion for students which negatively affects their comprehension. Carol Santa, one of the experts cited in the February/March, 2007 issue of Reading Today, suggested that incoherent, disconnected curriculum and a lack of consideration for developing deep understandings as educational trends that interfere with student performance.

Traditional instructional approaches that rely on transmission of information do not provide opportunities for students in secondary classroom to interact with texts in meaningful and constructive ways. Teacher reliance on textbooks and text-based routines serve to control the content that is covered while at the same time managing student behavior, but do not lend themselves to creativity, flexibility or differentiation of instruction (Alvermann & Moore, 1991). Brozo ( 2002) who studied what it means to be a an adolescent boy and a reader recommended that teachers find ways to address diverse student populations that foster critical interpretations and metacognition, increase motivation, and encourage independent learning. Likewise, Fisher (Reading Today, February/March, 2007) called for less prescriptive instruction and more precise instruction that differentiates for diverse student needs.

Based on recommendations of literacy experts and practitioners, the U.S. Department of Education Striving Readers (2005) grant program has indicated that the following elements should be included to help middle and high school students master basic reading skills and comprehension:

(a) Extended learning time for literacy,

(b) Direct, explicit instruction in comprehension,

(c) Modeling of reading and thinking strategies for comprehension,

(d) Cooperative learning and discussion of texts among students,

(e) Self-selected reading at students' ability levels to build motivation,

(f) On-going progress monitoring,

(g) Intensive writing,

(h) Age appropriate and diverse reading materials, and

(i) Interdisciplinary, classroom-based efforts to focus on literacy

(U. …