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This is the second in a series of articles on Disciplinary Literacy (DL).  This month’s disciplinary focus is history.

Guiding Principles
Last month three guiding principles for DL instruction were introduced.  Consider how applying these principles to a history lesson impacts student learning. 

The Impact of Events on Federal Economic Policies
As 11th graders file into Jacob Durst’s United States history class, students begin organizing their evidence concerning the 2009 Toyota sudden acceleration issue. Stephen opens up his group’s Google Document and skims evidence as his group members, Charita and Javier, capture quotes from a video of a Car and Driver safety test on a 2009 Toyota Camry. A few minutes later the three students move on to other digital resources, collaboratively annotating and selecting evidence from a 2010 editorial in the New York Times and a table of consumer complaints data submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Observing the students struggle to compare the contrasting arguments from the documents, Mr. Durst pulls up a chair and guides them in corroborating across the texts. Recently, the class explored how the New Deal political responses expanded federal economic policies during the Great Depression. Today, they use the 2009 Toyota sudden acceleration issue to determine the appropriateness of federal regulation and intervention with the group expected to write a recommendation to the NHTSA.
Applying Principle #1
Teaching for disciplinary literacies requires inquiry as we frame learning through essential disciplinary questions and tasks valued in the discipline (McConachie et al., 2006). By providing the students with a convincing reason to read, Mr. Durst engaged Stephen, Charita and Javier in authentic inquiry concerning governance and regulations which impact their lives and well-being as consumers. Teachers can build a context for disciplinary thinking when they view subject matter as dynamic and contested and marry these disciplinary issues with those relevant in the lives of our students.  Then, through a complex disciplinary task such as the recommendation to the NHTSA, students have both a reason to investigate texts and a means of applying their disciplinary thinking.

Applying Principle #2
To determine if Toyota was culpable and whether the NHTSA should have ordered a recall, students used a multitude of texts. But, the inquiry question also dictated the type of texts students would analyze.  A focus on NHTSA’s decision led students to use the NHTSA’s official statement on the 2009 Toyota recall and a graph showing major automotive recalls from 1999-2009. Situating the 2009 Toyota recall issue in a psychology class or a geometry class or a physics class would not only shift the focus of the inquiry question, but also the disciplinary texts since disciplines rely on different texts for different purposes. Teachers should, therefore, design a set of multimodal texts which align with the discipline, represent conflicting perspectives, and function as tools for literate thinking and participation in the discipline. For Stephen, Charita and Javier, texts were appropriate as long as they served the disciplinary purpose.
Applying Principle #3
Within this disciplinary inquiry and with appropriate texts, teachers can scaffold student thinking. Mr. Durst’s students encountered “bottlenecks” in their thinking as they attempted to make sense of the immense amount of driver complaint data and the technical language used by the engineers in the Car and Driver safety test video. This presented obstacles to understanding, and ultimately, to each student’s ability to construct a disciplinary argument. Respectful scaffolding in the form of guided instruction demonstrating how to read across these specific texts provided students with a model of literate disciplinary reasoning. When we pay attention to student interaction with texts and discuss their challenges in thinking related to the disciplinary task, we can then offer our expert thinking as a bridge through challenging texts, guiding student participation in the discipline.
Think About It
Using what you’ve learned, take a few minutes to consider:
  • What essential questions are worth students thinking about?
  • What “bottlenecks” might your students experience with the selected texts?
  • How might you and/or your students model literate thinking with texts? 

The next installment in this series of articles on Disciplinary Literacy (DL) will focus on how applying these principles to math impacts student learning.
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.

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.
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...

" 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
"I am using the State Standards to guide my lesson planning, I am assisting my students in various ways to deconstruct materials in order to fully understand how things work. I would highly recommend this course to others."
Ann, Teacher
Sandy Run K-8, Calhoun
The Number System,  Expressions and Equations:  Bridges to High School Mathematics, Online Course

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