It is expected that all teachers will teach literacy - the reading, writing, speaking and listening - indicative to their content areas. Disciplinary literacy, as developed by Dr. Timothy Shanahan, is based upon the idea that literacy and text are specialized, and unique, across the disciplines.
However, before a student can become adept at learning the particular literacy strategies explicit to that discipline, it is best to teach content area literacy strategies first. These strategies are based on general comprehension study skills and can be applied to all disciplines.
In my role as Instructional Coach, I collaborate with all teachers creating, designing, implementing and assessing literacy skills embedded into all content areas without disrupting the classroom objectives. The goal is to teach cross-curricular skills that students can apply in all disciplines; then once that is mastered, move on to disciplinary literacy strategies.
Recently, I created a lesson with one of our physical education teachers. Mr. Smith’s students were getting ready to begin their ultimate frisbee unit. “Coach” wanted a lesson that had “something to do with ultimate frisbee” but “wouldn’t take the entire block.” As a matter of fact, he gave me 25-30 minutes to model a lesson, but then he wanted to get his students moving.
I get it. While Coach wanted to show his students that literacy is as important in his class as other classes, he also wanted to stay true to the goals of his class - to increase physical competence, health-related fitness, self-responsibility, and enjoyment of physical activity for all students so that they can be physically active for a lifetime.
I decided to model a main idea/detail and summary lesson in freshmen physical education class. I found an article about ultimate frisbee entitled, “Ultimate Frisbee’s Surprising Arrival as a Likely Olympic Sport” and cut and pasted it into a word document. Then I sectioned off parts of the article so each section would be approximately the same number of words. Next, I decided on Doug Buehl’s Magnet Summary as a way for students to gather main idea and detail, using that information to write a summary.
The next day Coach introduced me to his class. Students were sitting on the floor, wearing their gym uniforms. I explained my purpose (“to help you become better reader, writers and thinkers) and our goal for this lesson (“to locate main idea and details. Then to use that information to write a summary”).
I placed students in groups of three. Each group was given a section of the article. Coach had nearly 40 students in his gym class; so needless to say, some groups read the same section.
I explained the directions: first, determine within your group how you will read the article. Will you all read silently, annotate and then share annotations? Will you ask for a volunteer to read aloud, underline the main idea and details, then go back and annotate as a group? I gave students several minutes to devise a plan to conquer their reading section.
Next, I asked students to annotate the article using the Questions, Comments and Vocabulary (QCV) strategy they had been taught, and to discuss their annotations in their small groups.
After annotating the article, I requested students complete the Magnet Summary graphic organizer. What is the main idea of your section? What are the details? Once that had been determined, now it was time to write the summary. The topic sentence of the summary is the Main Idea. The details of the summary are found within the corresponding boxes. I encouraged students not to copy the information from the article word-for-word, but rather to put the information in their own words so they understood what they had read.
Finally, when completed, students were given about five minutes to share their summaries with other groups. As Coach and I walked around listening to conversations, we heard comments like, “I didn’t know that!” or “I didn’t realize so many people played”; and finally, “I might watch the Olympics if there’s Ultimate Frisbee, especially since I’ll know how to play.”
The entire literacy lesson took about 30 minutes. After students had wrapped up a few drills and practice, Coach reviewed the value of literacy in physical education and explained the importance of being able to locate the main idea and details in everyday reading - not just English class or social studies class. He went on to encourage his students to use this technique when writing summaries.
After the lesson, we debriefed. We were satisfied that our lesson accomplished our goals and felt confident that students had the opportunity to practice a skill in a class that doesn’t usually focus on traditional literacy lessons.
In closing, we utilized a jigsawing strategy that can be transferred to all content areas and a skill, main idea and detail, that all students need. Consider using this strategy in your Music class when introducing the background of a composer or applying the strategy in your World Languages class when studying culture. Use or modify one of the Reflective Feedback forms to determine student engagement. Offering students various strategies to enhance literacy learning provides opportunities for confidence and empowerment.
Download: PhyEd Jigsaw