We need to ask ourselves how we convey information to our students. Do we spend time lecturing and primarily using teacher-talk? We need to make sure that we give students time to discover information on their own. Content is what we are teaching, but how we are teaching content is of great importance. Literacy instruction is at the heart of how we teach content. Students should be reading, writing and speaking in every content area.
Here are a few strategies you can use in your classroom:
Turn and talk, pair and share, elbow partner, and chunk and chew, are a few of the names used for informal student sharing. Giving students the opportunity to talk about what they are learning is vital. For every 5-10 minutes you talk, give your students 2-3 minutes (or more) to share.
Wait Time and Think Time
Information processing involves multiple cognitive tasks that take time. The proper use of Wait Time and Think Time, will increase your students understanding of content. Students must have uninterrupted periods of time to process information. This article explains the idea in depth.
Just like conversation, writing helps us process information. Writing helps us make sense of what we are learning and connect it to our own lives or to other ideas. The National Writing Project is a great source for information and ideas. Teachers writing side-by-side with students and creating time for Writers Workshop, are two important ideas of the NWP.
The days of believing that reading is a separate subject are over. We are all reading instructors. We must use effective strategies to support our students. This involves scaffolding the reading by using ideas like: previewing text, making predicitions and connections to prior knowledge, think alouds, and graphic organizers. Reading Quest has many ideas for incorporating reading into content areas.
Here is a post that has great ideas for managing your classroom library. We should all have books in our classrooms, even if we teach chemistry! A literacy-rich environment equals literacy-rich students.