The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 20

Special Selection

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Reading is a necessary life skill that students need to develop as they progress through their years of education. In early elementary school, much of the day's focus is on the fundamentals of learning to read. However, after the first few years of intensive instruction, the amount of time devoted specifically to developing reading skills begins to taper off and unfortunately, in a lot of cases, formal reading instruction is completely stopped by the time the student reaches the end of 6th grade (Hurst & Pearman, 2013). Consequently, content area teachers need to include reading instruction into their curriculum in order to not only continue developing reading skills but also to ensure retention of previously acquired reading skills. Additionally, with increased rigor on both state and national standards, there is an increased focus on literacy skills in all content areas not just English Language Arts. The ACT and SAT tests, predictors of college readiness, both directly and indirectly measure reading skills. Furthermore, college students are often asked to read large quantities of text and derive meaning from them as part of their coursework. Students must be ready for this task in order to be successful in college.

One way reading skill development can be incorporated into the content area curriculum is through various types of reading strategies. Reading strategies not only give the student a reason to actually read the material, but a way to interact with the text to make it more meaningful (Hurst & Pearman, 2013). Unless students are given a reason to read, many students won't read. Reading strategies often have three components consisting of reading the text, writing about the text or its applications, and socially interacting with others about the information. Through this interaction with the text and their peers, students are actively engaged and working through the learning process whatever the content, and it has been said that “the person who is doing the work is the person who is doing the learning” (Hurst & Reding, 2014, p. 44). Reading strategies are a way for content area teachers to present necessary curriculum while reinforcing the reading skills necessary for life (Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz, 2014).

Many reading strategies follow a format in which prior knowledge is activated before reading the text. This readies the student for new content by giving it a place to connect with in the brain to already learned material. Content area teachers can utilize reading strategies to help streamline their instruction. These methods also allows the student to look for confirmation and/or contradictions in the new information. Students will read the text with a specific purpose in mind while reading. The text may be a passage out of a textbook but is not limited to textbooks only. Text may also include magazine or newspaper articles, internet articles, excerpts from trade books, historical documents, or any other written material.

Content area teachers need to instruct students on what the purpose is for reading the text (Vacca et al., 2014). Text is read differently if the purpose is to remember everything versus looking for unfamiliar words or even sequencing dates. According to Vacca et al., when students are focused on a specific reason for the reading, they are more likely to actively look for and process that information while reading, and the more engaged students become with the material, the greater the retention. Finally, students need to do something with that information in order to process it and put it into long term memory. This can take various forms from a written assignment/summary to discussion with a partner, small group, or classroom. Ultimately, students need to be able to effectively communicate information in the written form as well as orally and practice should be given in both.

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Incorporating Literacy in Science

By Amy Johnson