Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Literacy Defined

By now - you must have heard about/seen/read/reviewed the draft of the common core standards that have been developed and are now available for public comment. (If you haven't - please be sure to review them and register your feedback before April 2nd!!)

One of the interesting components of the new English Language Arts standards that have been proposed is the section on Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science.  This is something I have been pretty passionate about for quite a while - long believing that the literacy required of students in my social studies course was quite different from the traditional concepts of reading and writing that have been taught in ELA. 

This has been a hard concept for folks to embrace - because understanding literacy and specifically content literacy can be a tricky thing.  To understand a little of what this looks like, take some time to consider this podcast by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium, as he talks about scientific literacy.

While he focuses on scientific literacy, Tyson makes some important points regarding teaching, learning, teachers and literacy that are applicable to us all:

  • Science literacy is not the know-it-all who’s fluent in science jargon; science literacy is the person who knows how to question the world around them, and en route to an answer that’s deeper than you would otherwise get.
  • Passion is an important cog but is not specific to science literacy – it is the ability to ignite science interest from teacher to student. Most teachers don’t have this – if they did, we would have more than 3-4 teachers who we remember as impacting our lives
  • Educational system needs to reflect upon what it takes to succeed in life and have that be reflected in the classroom
  • We need to take our essential content and figure out a way to make a lesson plan that is a living expression of that content - so that students experience it, are curious about it and want to learn more
  • You have cast a learner into the world – the most powerful thing you can do as a teacher
These are my quick notes from the almost 30 minute podcast - I encourage you to listen to the entire thing in order to truly understand the context in which he speaks about literacy. 

I am sensing the beginning of a shift in how we think about (and teach) literacy.  What do you think?

Thanks to Presentation Zen for the link to the podcast and a fantastic post on learning from storiesand experiences.


sflynn said...

Thanks for all your pertinent info. I, too, am passionate about integrating social studies and science through language arts. Connecting instruction in this way makes learning far more efficient, effective, and fun. I'm excited that integrating curriculum is noted in the new standards and I look forward to checking them out and listening to the podcast. You are full of very helpful information.

Theresa G said...

Thanks! If you have a blog or website let me know so that we can share and collaborate!