Integrating Language-Literacy -Content
Having to simultaneously develop academic language, incorporate literacy and teaching content in the classroom is challenging, but the reward for our students is definitely worth the extra effort (not to mention that it is our responsibility as teachers to do so). As a secondary teacher, I have taught these three expectations simultaneously by having my students read and annotate a reading regarding the specific science content that we are learning about in the classroom. For example, I would carefully select a good reading that discusses the content I will be teaching, and that also contains content specific key vocabulary terms (proton, electron, neutron, nucleus, electron cloud, etc.) as well as general academic vocabulary (analyze, evaluate, interpret, explain, etc.). To start off, I would model reading and annotation strategies by guiding the students through the first paragraph of the reading before letting the students read annotate together, and finally read and annotate individually. Of course, if it is the first time that the students will be exposed to reading and annotating in my classroom, then I would guide the entire reading while soliciting student input throughout the activity. Once students have practiced again and again, that is when the students can complete the activity with minor guidance. In order to develop the three expectations simultaneously, I also use different literacy strategies such as vocabulary trees and vocabulary predictions (categories), where students get to categorize key vocabulary terms before the reading, making predictions about what the terms mean and where the terms belong. During the activity, the students practice writing the vocabulary terms, and then do the reading in groups, where the students learn more about the vocabulary terms. As a result, the students get to see the content before, during, and after the reading, by being able to revise the vocabulary tree and/or vocabulary predictions.
One of my successes has been that I have been able to apply these strategies and develop all three expectations with my students. It is rewarding to see how students develop their academic language and content specific language, as well as their literacy skills. Also, these strategies serve as a special tool to help Bilingual emergent students develop language and content. A challenge is being able to observe someone model these strategies appropriately and effectively in a real classroom setting with 25 or more students. Although finding effective strategies that develop academic language, incorporate literacy and teach content may be challenging, we owe it to ourselves and our students to take the time to research and learn about such strategies.