Volume 17. Number 2.
A decade ago, early literacy efforts were in the spotlight. Today, however, more and more attention is focused on helping adolescents master reading and writing across the content areas. The latest issue of Education Northwest Magazine examines “Connecting Adolescents to Literacy” with features on effective classroom practices, state policy initiatives, and what the research says about motivating older students to read and engage with text.
In an extended interview, noted researcher Michael Kamil discusses the chasm between literacy demands in high school and in college. “We’re actually sort of dumbing down the curriculum to get them to do well in high school, but we’re not preparing them to meet the challenges after they graduate high school,” says Kamil. “That’s one set of [research] findings that’s very interesting, and the gap seems to be growing wider.”
Schools throughout the Northwest are finding innovative ways to close that gap. In an Anchorage middle school, all teachers are steeped in literacy strategies, no matter what subject they teach. Their focus on helping students understand a variety of texts aligns with the state’s new literacy blueprint, which stresses preparation for college and careers. A Washington high school has seen its state reading scores soar thanks to a strong professional development program and literacy-intensive student supports. In Montana, a state Striving Readers grant is helping one school perfect its use of Unit Organizers. The tool provides a type of “mental file cabinet” that gives students a way to organize what they’re learning, as they’re learning it.
Writing instruction is a priority in an Oregon high school that’s introduced a series of intervention courses to prime students for the new statewide graduation requirement in writing. And, schools throughout Oregon and Washington demonstrate how they’re embracing Literacy 2.0 with blogs, iPads, and other digital technology.
In addition to showcasing innovative practices, the issue discusses research-based recommendations for improving student motivation and engagement in reading. These include:
The importance of developing strong literacy skills is eloquently addressed by an award-winning Idaho teacher whose English language learner students struggle to master academic English. Sonia Galaviz says, “They’re not just learning language skills and content knowledge; they’re learning how to learn. That’s something they will take with them as they leave my classroom and go out in the world.”