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This edition of Insights is the first in a series of articles on Disciplinary Literacy (DL).  This month we will look at key principles of DL instruction.  In the coming months, these principles will be applied in lessons across content areas.
Effective disciplinary literacy instruction engages middle and high school students in reading, writing, dialoguing, reasoning, and ultimately participating in a discipline.  While more commonly used content area reading strategies have an important place within middle and secondary classrooms (Adams & Pegg, 2012; Brozo, Moorman, Meyer, & Stewart, 2013), students deserve opportunities to use disciplinary texts as tools for literate thinking in specific disciplines.

Teachers can support students in not only gaining content knowledge, but also in actively “doing” the discipline by applying these three guiding principles:

(1)  Design Disciplinary Inquiry and Tasks
Students need a convincing reason to read in a discipline. To provide motivation implement these practices:
  • Frame learning through essential disciplinary questions that guide authentic inquiry concerning issues that impact students’ lives.  For example, “How might changes in the Electoral College impact elections in the United States?”
  •  Assign challenging disciplinary tasks to provide students with both a reason to investigate texts and a means of applying their thinking. You are a U. S. Senator from a state, write your rationale as to whether the Electoral College should be abolished or maintained based on the interests of the citizens of the state you represent.”                                                                                                                           
(2)  Select Appropriate Disciplinary Texts
Each discipline values certain kinds of texts (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2012).  If we apply a broadened definition of text as an “object intentionally imbued with meaning” (Draper & Siebert, 2010, p. 28), we can expand the ways in which adolescents use texts as tools for thinking. Therefore, selected texts:
  • May include a wide variety of multimodal primary and secondary source texts (podcasts, news stories, videos, graphs, tables, images, etc.)
  • Should align with the discipline.  
  • Function as tools for literate thinking and participation in the discipline.
(3)  Scaffold Disciplinary Practice
Students will encounter “bottlenecks” in their thinking as they attempt to make sense of complex information.   This presents obstacles to understanding, and ultimately, to each student’s ability to construct disciplinary arguments and design solutions to challenging problems. Scaffold student participation in the discipline by:
  • Teaching students to use disciplinary literacy strategies such as SOAPS in history to call attention to the interpretive nature of historical text and the importance of identifying sources and bias. 
  • Demonstrating how to read across specific texts providing students with a of model of literate disciplinary reasoning. For example, in mathematics model for students how to gain accurate information from tables and graphs to justify their solutions to real-world problems. 
  • Paying attention to student interaction with texts and responding to fallacies in thinking. For example, watch for students who attempt to read a science text in the same way as other literature, ignoring vital information contained in illustrations and other images.  

In next month’s article these guiding principles will be used to illustrate how designing disciplinary inquiry and tasks can create a context for students to use disciplinary texts to develop literate thinking.  Doing so leads to deep conceptual knowledge and the ability to participate in a discipline, bringing students off the sidelines and into the learning game.

Adams, A. & Pegg, J. (2012). Teachers’ enactment of content literacy strategies in secondary science and mathematics classes. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(2), 151-161.

Brozo, W., Moorman, G., Meyer, C., & Stewart, T. (2013). Content area reading and disciplinary literacy: A case for the radical center. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(5), 353-357.

Draper, R.J., & Siebert, D. (2010). Rethinking texts, literacies, and literacy across the curriculum. In R.J. Draper, P. Broomhead, A.P. Jensen, J.D. Nokes, & D. Siebert (Eds.), (Re)imagining content-area literacy instruction (pp. 20–39). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Spires, H.A., Kerkhoff, S., Graham, A. & Lee, J. (2014). Relating inquiry to disciplinary literacy:  A pedagogical approach. Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. Raleigh, NC: NC State.

McConachie, S. M., Hall, M. Resnick, L., Ravi, A., Bill, V., Bintz, J. & Taylor, J. (2006). Task, text, and talk: Literacy for all subjects. Educational Leadership, 64(2), 8-14.

Shanahan, T. & Shanahan, C. (2012). What is disciplinary literacy and why does it matter? Top Language Disorders, 32(1), 7-18.
Dr. Phillip Wilder is an assistant professor in adolescent literacy at Clemson University.
Strategies of the Month

GIST Summary

GIST (Generating Interactions between Schemata and Text) is a comprehension strategy that is used both during reading and after reading.  It is one approach to having students summarize the information in a text.  Students pare down large amounts of text to create GIST summaries that are 20 words or less. The strategy incorporates both reading and writing.

SOAPS Annotation Protocol

A series of questions students ask about the "S"peaker, "O"ccasion, "A"udience, "P"urpose and "S"ignificance of text to better understand the interpretive nature of text.

For more, visit the S2TEM Centers SC Disciplinary Literacy Virtual Library.
Professional Development Opportunities

10 Session iSTEM Instructional Leadership Training
Currently accepting new teams to participate in iSTEM:  an in-depth, 10-day, instructional leadership experience for STEM educators preparing to understand and implement engineering practices as identified in the South Carolina Curriculum Standards and national standards documents. 
Community STEM Events

Visit STEM Linx to learn about more STEM events and opportunities around the state.

Charleston STEM Festival
Saturday, February 11, 2017, 10am-3pm
Brittlebank Park, Charleston SC

Join us for a full-day of hands-on activities, live performances, interactive demonstrations, and family-oriented STEM entertainment.  Don't miss this opportunity to "do" and learn about STEM!

This School's Got STEM Video Contest
February 20th  - March 5th 2017

Win $500 for you and $500 for your school!  Submit a 3-5 minute video showing off your coolest STEM project.  Show us the WOW in STEM!

SC 4-H Engineering Challenge, sponsored by EnlightenSC
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College

An opportunity for students ages 9-19 to learn, have fun, demonstrate the science, technology, engineering, and math skills, and compete for individual and team honors. A STEM Fair will be set up during the event to provide hands-on STEM activities for participants and their families.  More info.

iMAGINE Upstate STEAM Fest
Saturday, April 1, 2017, 11am - 5pm
Downtown Greenville, SC

Come experience the FREE STEAM festival that transforms the streets of downtown Greenville into a world filled with electric cars, high speed drone races, 3D printers, virtual reality, and robots. Check out our website to find out more about this family-friendly event! To become and exhibitor at the festival, fill out the online registration form by January 31, 2017! Non-profit organizations and k-12 schools can host an exhibit for free!
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.

What S2TEM Centers SC clients say about their Professional Learning Experience...

“I will definitely be using the scenarios and other information help my students succeed.  Awesome activities!”
Eunice Gloster, Teacher
Arden Elementary, Richland School District One
Engaging Literacy Strategies in Science
“I want to implement even more science/technology in my classroom. Having access to more things will give me the opportunity to network with others.”
Tameka Breland, Teacher
Carver-Lyon Elementary, Richland School District One    
Engaging Literacy Strategies in Science
“Innovative approaches to student engagement Information will be used to plan engaging lessons that incorporate literacy into science.”
Kimberly Howard, Teacher
Burton-Park Elementary, Richland School District One
Engaging Literacy Strategies in Science

Copyright © 2016 South Carolina's Coalition for Mathematics & Science at Clemson University, All rights reserved.

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