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This is the final article in a series of articles on Disciplinary Literacy (DL).  This month’s disciplinary focus is ELA written by Mrs. Shayla Read, Title I Secondary ELA Academic Support Specialist with Greenville County Schools.
A common misconception is that English/Language Arts (ELA) class is only for the study of reading, writing, and the research paper.  However, today’s ELA curriculum involves the analysis of literature and informational texts across multiple genres. An important goal of ELA classrooms is to engage learners in the real work of English studies, fostering the habits of mind that empower students to work as apprentices in the English community. (McConachie & Petrosky, 2010).  This month’s issue highlights how a middle school teacher wanting to engage her students in a narrative unit used the guiding disciplinary literacy principles outlined in the December issue to complete the following task:
French artist Edgar Degas writes, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” 
Explore and evaluate the techniques of language authors use to make you see their story and perspective.  Then, choose one or two of the techniques to incorporate into a vignette in which you share your thoughts on a topic important to you.
Guiding Principle 1: Design Disciplinary Inquiry and Tasks 

This task was constructed after reflecting on her students’ needs.  She wanted students to examine how authors use language to clearly communicate with and influence the reader. In designing this task, she asks the following questions:
  • What unit-level and text-level inquiry questions will create purpose for reading?
  • What culminating task will provide purpose for reading?
For this authentic inquiry, students have a specific purpose for the reading – to explore authors’ techniques that allow readers to see what they are communicating.  Students also have a “why” for their investigation - students evaluate the techniques and incorporate them into a piece in which they share part of themselves with their readers. 
Guiding Principle 2: Select Appropriate Disciplinary Texts 

While ELA will use most any item as text, those unique to the field include poetry, plays, short stories, novels, and literary critiques (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2012).  Traditionally, teachers select a text to teach, then determine what they will do with it.  However, texts in disciplinary literacy tasks are tools for inquiry.  Teachers select the texts to use for completing disciplinary tasks.  
In order to complete the task above, the teacher determines that students need access to various narratives with rich symbolism and language. Because students will produce a personal vignette, the teacher decides to use texts with strong characters. 
Some Text Options:
A House of My Own” (Sandra Cisneros), “The Wig” (Brady Udall), “Raymond’s Run” (Toni Cade Bambara), and “Dust” (Carlo Bordini)

Guiding Principle 3:  Scaffold Disciplinary Practice

As students learn to approach the discipline as an expert in the English field, they will encounter what Dr. Phillip Wilder refers to as “bottlenecks.”  These hang-ups could prevent deeper learning from happening if teachers are not vigilant in anticipating and designing the needed support scaffolds.  However, teachers must use scaffolds wisely or the well-intended support might limit students’ inquiry (McConachie & Petrosky, 2010).

In considering our task, a lack of familiarity with the poetry genre might be one bottleneck that students might experience while reading “Dust.”  That obstacle could prevent students from reading the poem deeply enough to use it as a tool to approach the task.  Students would need the teacher to model a process for how they might approach the poem. The teacher could use steps 1 and 2 of this modified close reading strategy to support students.  This additional support makes the poem approachable for students. 

In addition to using a strategy such as close reading, teachers may scaffold student engagement in disciplinary tasks by:
  • modeling for students how to question the text -Examples: What theme emerges because of that aspect of the character’s identity? What mood does this line create? Instead of taking it literally, think what else the author might mean here?
  • conferencing with students to monitor their approach to and understanding of the text - For example, watch for students who miss the symbolism in a text because of the vocabulary or some other misconception.
By applying the disciplinary practices suggested in this series of articles, student apprentices develop a solid foundation in the practices of ELA. Students are provided the space and support to deeply explore language and appropriately respond to text.

If you’d like to read the other articles in this Disciplinary Literacy series visit our newsletter archives and for additional reading, writing, and dialogue strategies, check out our Disciplinary Literacy Virtual Library.  
Lent, R.C. (2016).  This is disciplinary literacy: reading, writing, thinking, and doing . . . content area by content area.  Thousand Oaks. CA: Corwin.

McConachie, S. & Petrosky, Anthony R. (2010). Content matters: a disciplinary literacy approach to improving student learning.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shanahan, T. & Shanahan, C. (2012). What is disciplinary literacy and why does it matter? Top Language Disorders, 32(1), 7-18.

Siebert, D.K., Draper, R.J., Barney, D., Broomhead, P., Jensen, A.P., . . .  Wimmer, J. (2016). Characteristics of literacy instruction that support reform in content area classrooms.  Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 60(1), 25-33. doi:10.1002/jaal.526

Wilder, P. (2016, December). 3 Principles for supporting disciplinary literacy in the classroom.  Insights. Retrieved from
Fluor Engineering Challenge

VEX Robotics Professional Development Workshop

June 19-22, 2017
Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College
Orangeburg, SC

Participation is open to teachers from grades 3 through 12.  This workshop is designed to acquaint participants with subject matter, educational resources and information on using VEX robots in the classroom and in competitions, as well as career opportunities in the fields of robotics, mechatronics and instrumentation.  Download flyer and registration form.

Community STEM Events

Visit STEM Linx to learn about more STEM events and opportunities around the state or to post an event or opportunity in your area.
iMAGINE STEM Festival Midlands
Monday, August 21, 2017, 10 am - 1 pm
Spirit Communications Park, Columbia, SC

Spend the day at the ballpark as part of your Total Eclipse Weekend
S2TEM Centers SC/SCCMS and the Columbia Fireflies are excited to announce the first iMAGINE STEM Festival Midlands.  Come early to enjoy the STEM Festival and stay for the ballgame and eclipse. Tickets for the game are required for entry to the STEM Festival.  As the eclipse nears totality, the game will stop so that fans can enjoy this natural phenomenon. After the skies start to lighten, the game will resume.  For more information on becoming a sponsor or participating in this event, contact us.
Field trips at Clemson University Life Sciences Outreach Center

The Clemson University Life Sciences Outreach Center offers laboratory field trips in modern genetics and biotechnology to school groups in our labs on the beautiful Clemson campus. Students will use modern technology to generate and analyze results and to learn key concepts. Students will also be introduced to relevant career pathways. View a list of labs and for information on bringing CULSOC labs to your school.
Copyright © 2017 South Carolina's Coalition for Mathematics & Science at Clemson University, All rights reserved.

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