What does it mean to be literate in a discipline?

Something I have heard in my classroom a lot is “why should we learn about history?” I hear a lot that history is about dead people, or it is the past. I say this to add that I think it is important to diversify what we are bringing to our students in the classroom. To bring this diverse learning to the classroom, there are many different literacies that will needed to be taught to the students about various forms of literacy. Literacy is essential to the students as it helps to bring more understanding and meaning to the students within each discipline. History is important to bring more life to the classroom. It is not just about dead people, events, or facts, but it something that we can bring more life and meaning to. Our hope is to bring help our students be historians and not students who had a history class.

Students often times are reading most of what we give them in our classrooms recall the major events, or players within our textbooks (Monte-Sano, Miles, 2012) Students are missing the underlying themes that are making up these stories that we see throughout history. We can even say this is true of the idea of hysteria that my group talked about in the presentation. We are just taking what we see, but we are not digging deeper beyond the events that take place. The students have to be taught the analytical skills to be able to understand how to think and read like a historian. This is the part I really like is the importance of bringing the primary documents into our classrooms. These are so incredibly helpful for our students as it draws out more questions than a textbook could ever imagine. They bring real people into our classrooms that the students are able to hear from. They look at these major events and players, but we get the emotions and more of an understanding of the context in these writings. This will also help to eliminate some of the bias that has been in our classrooms over the years that are only doing a disservice to our students. We need to create thinkers in the classrooms. Being able to read like a historian is key, but this is only one of the few skills that we need to teach our students.

We also see the need in helping our students within the particular discipline of history in helping how they are interpreting their findings and information into writing. Writing can be one of the most difficult things to do, if not the most difficult for many students. One of the ways in which I believe historical writing can be so beneficial and so rewarding for students is giving them the ability to be able to provide their own interpretation or meaning to particular historical events or people. (Monte-Sano, Miles, 2012) Argumentative writing is incredibly useful to our students as it allows them to make meaning of history. Again, history is not just about dead people, but it defines where we are at now. Whether history looks good or bad, we are at now because of what has happened before. Our students have the power to see and change the future, so it is on us to teach them ways in which to interpret and communicate their findings. While there may be many cultural differences in our classrooms, we can create activities to help foster healthy environments that can help understand and listen to the differences we see among the students (Vacca, 2005).

One thing I would like to share that I have seen the need for in my classroom, and that I can speak for is the importance of digital literacy. I say this to talk about the use of interactive notebooks in our history classrooms. Interactive notebooks are an amazing tool that teachers can have students complete various tasks on one side of their notebook, and with that they are able to “interact” with the material on the other page. I was able to see an example of a digital interactive notebook that I absolutely fell in love with at a Professional Development day. Students were able to complete a virtual museum where they explore ancient artifacts of early Mesopotamian history. Doing something like this digitally widened the resources a teacher can draw upon to use, and this also allows the teacher to teach digital literacy, along with going through doing critical research on the Internet to find and complete the interactive notebook. (Gilster, 1997)

Endless Opportunities

Literacy in a specific content area is going to look very different going from classroom to classroom, but it is important to be able to teach our students the tools that need to be able to understand the meaning behind what is happening. Literacy encompasses so much more than just being a reader and writer, but we also have to be able to use different forms of literacy, such as digital, to be able to have students learning in our classrooms. I believe in doing so we began to expand our learning environment, and see our students engaged in the various content.

Gilster, P., & Glister, P. (1997). Digital literacy. New York: Wiley Computer Pub..

Vacca, R. T., Vacca, J. A. L., & Mraz, M. E. (2005). Content area reading: Literacy and learning across the curriculum.

Monte-Sano, C., & Miles, D. (2014). Toward Disciplinary Reading and Writing in History. Teaching Dilemmas and Solutions in Content-Area Literacy, Grades 6–12, 29.

“WEST BATON ROUGE PARISH SCHOOLS.” Technology / Digital Literacy, www.wbrschools.net/Page/169.

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