My first year of teaching middle school math and science was filled with one realization after another. Early ones included: don’t ever turn your back on the students; never let more than two students get up at once; smile when you feel like crying. Once the task of classroom management was less of an issue, my awareness that Jeremiah does great with computation but never gets word problems correct and that Maria can explain the process of photosynthesis but never seems to do well on written assessments, grew. And after listening to students read aloud from our course textbook, it was apparent that most of the reading was far too difficult.
Over the years, most classes had 30% to 50% of students who could not get through even a few paragraphs of the textbook without feeling overwhelmed. These were also the same students who were scoring extremely low on tests, failing to finish—or even start—writing assignments, and sometimes refusing to take notes. Each of these students had their own story (with some spending half their time in the principal’s office for behavioral issues) but for all of them, literacy played a role in their inability to perform well at school.
Unfortunately, just realizing that literacy is an essential issue doesn’t mean that we are equipped to tackle the problem. For content-area teachers, providing literacy instruction specific to, or in support of their field of study can be daunting. It’s outside their areas of expertise and often adds hours of preparation and training time to already demanding schedules.
One tool that helped me provide my students with literacy support is Lessonwriter.com. LessonWriter gives any teacher—regardless of their knowledge of teaching literacy—tools to provide high-quality, pedagogically-sound literacy instruction. You can put in any text that you want to use, and in minutes LessonWriter will deliver a lesson plan and teaching components with multiple options for teaching literacy through the content-area material, such as pre-teaching vocabulary or challenging students to construct meaning based on the text. The lessons and student worksheets can serve as support for readings in class or at home, or as the basis for a fully integrated literacy lesson based on relevant content. With these tools, you can address the needs of those students who struggle with anything from phonemic awareness to rhetorical structure, and still teach the content required by your subject-area standards.
LessonWriter relieved me of having to choose between the content that must be covered and the skills that students need in order to make any content learning meaningful. And, it has helped many students to succeed when their histories suggested that failure was a possible future.