A Challenging Middle School SOSE Unit and a Resource for Teaching Teachers Explicit Strategies to Support Literacy Learning

Article excerpt

The unit presented here is a modified version of a unit written in consultation with Keith Pagel, Karen Swift (leaders in literacy teaching and learning) and Robyn Bowman (Head of Department, Social Science) from James Nash State High School, Queensland. The modified version is printed here with permission.

This unit is presented in a serialised form, with Episode 1 in this issue. Episode 2 will be included in the next issue. The two episodes will be as follows:

Episode 1: Introduction to the resource
           Overview of the ERICA Model for literacy learning
           Objectives of the unit
           Stage 1 of the unit

Episode 2: Stages 2, 3 and 4
           Conclusion

Introduction

In 2008 while working as a literacy consultant, I developed a double-purpose resource in response to a request from teachers at James Nash State High School in Queensland. The brief was for a two-hour literacy strategies workshop for 21 teachers, applicable to all subjects and levels. What you have here is a modification of the middle school unit and teacher notes that supported that workshop. Modification has been necessary because the resource was originally customised to suit the school and the Queensland context with a focus on Essential Learnings. It is now applicable to schools in all states.

The concept of a double-purpose resource needs some explanation. On the one hand, this resource is a curriculum unit that a workshop leader utilises to show teachers how literacy strategies can support effective learning by students. It enables the leader to engage teachers on two levels. The first level is where teachers are students, using strategies to understand text. The second is where teachers are curriculum designers, improving their knowledge about unit design. On the other hand, the resource is also a model of a coherent curriculum unit detailing stages of learning. It is one that meets syllabus requirements while incorporating effective literacy strategies. Teachers consequently are more likely to be convinced that (a) a strong structure can improve the unit coherence, and (b) the extra work in planning and designing a unit is worth it.

What teachers learn from this double-purpose resource is how to use a framework for planning and developing a literacy-focussed curriculum unit. The Literacy Learning Model that provides this framework in the given unit is the Effective Reading in Content Areas Model (ERICA Model), which was developed by Morris and Stewart-Dore in 1984. The model has been used effectively in middle and secondary school contexts over more than two decades, as well as in tertiary contexts and, most recently, in an industry context. Currently, the model and associated strategies are being revised by one of the original authors, Nea Stewart-Dore.

The ERICA Model was originally a reading to learn model strongly influenced by schema theory. This is very evident in the way its four stages of learning (with purposeful strategies) support the learner in altering or building on the meaning he/she has made of the world and the way it works. Thus his/her body of knowledge is organised in a schema.

The unit detailed here is an application of the ERICA Model, with each stage contributing to the body of knowledge and the organisation of the knowledge by the learner. The program's deliberate stages of thinking and meaning-making and purposeful strategies are the result of careful curriculum design and application of appropriate theories. Table 1 provides a summary of the model and the strategies and describes each stage. Figure 1 represents the cyclical nature of the stages. Both representations (adapted from Morris & Stewart-Dore, 1984) suggest the way the writer, as curriculum designer, utilised the model.

The unit follows the outline provided in each of these graphic texts. Each stage includes:

* a brief description of the context and purpose for each strategy;

* the purpose of the strategy;

* suggestions for implementation of the strategy; and

* the strategy with instructions for students if necessary. …

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