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Jesus Espinoza

Professor Wiens
RDG 323
24 August 2018

Chapter One: Literacy Matters

Before Reading:
1. Write an autobiographical reflection in which you recall middle and high school
teachers (no names used) whom you believe were effective and/or ineffective. What
strategies did the teachers use that engaged or disengaged students? Following the
written assignment, divide a chart into two columns: Effective Strategies and
Ineffective Strategies

Back in my time at high school, one of the most popular strategies that teachers
used in their classrooms were Cornell notes. While they worked for some, I always found
it to be a very tedious method for me to utilize. The teachers who had us turn in notes
typically made us write a question at the beginning of the lesson that we would be
expected to answer in the summary section at the end of our notes. However, I just found
the method so completely rigid and limiting in its format, especially when they were
turned in.

One strategy that I did enjoy a lot was the idea of free writing at the beginning of
class. In a few of my English classes and a Psychology class I took, we would have a
journal to use for the free writes, and the teacher would have a prompt up in front of the
class. Typically, the prompt ended up relating to the lesson of the day. With the free
writing, students were provided with a moment of creativity or expression in how they
answered the prompt, and as we worked through the lessons, we would begin to notice
the connections between the content being taught and what we had written. When the
teacher proposed a question about the content, students would sometimes answer with by
pointing out the connection to what they wrote in the journal and expand upon that
further through asking more questions and or introducing new perspectives. We were
able to establish a connection to the content prior to beginning that lesson, somewhat
making the material more relatable to us and easier to understand. Also, the free writes
were generally graded purely on completion so students rarely worried about any sort of
guidelines that strictly needed to be followed outside of merely answering the prompt.

Going back to teaching methods that I personally found ineffective, I have

encountered this one in college, and it was making poor transitions in between lessons. I
have had moments where I have been invested in a certain topic or have had issues with
comprehending a point of that topic, and I go into the next class expecting to expand on
that material. Instead, the teacher had announced that we will be learning something
entirely different now, and throughout the lesson I do not find any connection to the

Wiens RDG 323 Fall 2018 Digital Journal

Jesus Espinoza
Professor Wiens
RDG 323
24 August 2018

previous topic we had been discussing. While I do understand that sometimes this is due
to time constraints, it does not feel like an appropriate way to transition between lessons
since not all students may be ready to move on because they do not completely
understand the previous lesson. Teachers should try to make sure that there is an
appropriate flow of information between new lessons.

Lastly, one more teaching method that I was a fan of was came from my senior
year English teacher. For the last unit of the year, we had to write an informative cause
and effect essay on a current global issue. Throughout the entire unit, we were provided
with a great amount of options on how we could approach the projects. There were three
components to the essay: a written portion, a presentation, and a visual portion. For the
written portion, we were slightly restricted in that we needed to include five academic
sources, but that was it regarding the writing style. With the visual aspect and
presentation, we had complete choice in how we chose to execute those two portions of
the project, as long as they were informative in some way. When we had to present our
presentations and visual aspects, you could see the various creative, different ways that
students chose to approach the tasks. I was very proud of my own approach and many
other students were satisfied with the end results of their efforts towards the project as
well. That creative liberty allowed students to think about what they consider an ideal
method to complete the project, making it much more engaging than had she simply
given us strict guidelines on how she wanted each project portion done.

Effective Ineffective

 Free Writes  Cornell Notes (for me)

 Providing students with  Improper transitions between
options (projects, reading lessons
strategies, articles to read,  Reading summaries with no
etc.) constructive commentary or
 Small group discussions into feedback
big group  Presentations as a pure
 Engaging lectures lecture rather than an
 Offering different note taking engaging method of learning
options  Keeping students restricted to
 Willing to learn from students / certain methods of learning
taking students’ opinions into  Restrictive project guidelines
consideration  Poor lecturing skills (talking

Wiens RDG 323 Fall 2018 Digital Journal

Jesus Espinoza
Professor Wiens
RDG 323
24 August 2018

 Offering alternative learning too fast, incoherent

approaches to students who explanations,
need assistance in incomprehensible information,
comprehending a concept etc.)
 Being able to switch to a new  Poor explanation of grading
approach to a lesson when standards
the current one is not working
for the students
 Knows how to build lessons
based on the students’ prior

2. What is content or disciplinary literacy? Why is it important that content teachers

integrate effective reading, writing, thinking, and communicating strategies in the

Content literacy means being able to use “reading, writing, talking, listening, and
viewing, to learn subject matter in a given discipline,” (Vacca 16). What some teachers
sometimes mistakenly do in their own classrooms is simply lecture their students on new
content material, have them take notes, do some worksheets for homework, and then test
them on the material and move onto the next subject. Those sorts of teaching methods hardly
promote any form of constructive learning, and they do not efficiently prepare students for
higher level classes with more complex content. Even when some teachers assign readings
for their classes, they may not provide any sort of clear purpose behind why the students
need to do that reading. Or instead, a teacher has students write summaries of the lesson of
the day, and while that is a step in the right direction, if the teacher just grades it and moves
on, the student hardly gained anything from that summary.
Teachers need to integrate methods like reading, writing, discussion, and thinking, but
apart from just implementation, they need to make sure that there is a strong purpose behind
those strategies apart from basic memorization or summarization. If you have students
reading an article, provide them with thought-provoking questions to answer as they read,
and encourage discussion to introduce different perspectives and ideas in the classroom next
time students meet. Make them actually process the information you are providing them with
and create their own understandings as to why it matters. Truthfully, I am mostly
approaching this question from an English-major perspective, not a general teacher’s, but
even then, I think about math and how many students ask, “when will I ever use this?” If
math teachers use reading or writing based strategies to help establish a foundation for

Wiens RDG 323 Fall 2018 Digital Journal

Jesus Espinoza
Professor Wiens
RDG 323
24 August 2018

usefulness for those math concepts, or even simply make the concepts more approachable to
the students, it may make the students view the material as truly worthwhile of learning.

3. Why are you taking this course? What goals do you have for the class, in order to
have a positive experience this semester?

Overall, I would say that I want to develop my repertoire of reading strategies beyond
what I just know from my English classes. Sometimes, those strategies do not always
work for other subjects, so I want to know what other strategies there are that better apply
across different subjects. I also would like to know how to better assist students in my
English classes as well when they do not particularly understand how to pull different
messages from readings. I know that when I started off in my high school English
classes, I had trouble reading beyond what was on the surface of the text, what was the
most blatantly obvious message. How can I help those students develop strategies that
can help them see beyond what is up front and pull those different meanings from a body
of text.

4. Work in a small group to complete the following anticipation guide:

True Statement False

Reading instruction in  Students in

middle and secondary middle/secondary
schools is unnecessary. school need
guidance or
instruction for
specific content


TRUE Content area teachers

should expect students to
read their textbooks.

TRUE The primary role of the

content area teacher is to
teach subject matter.

Wiens RDG 323 Fall 2018 Digital Journal

Jesus Espinoza
Professor Wiens
RDG 323
24 August 2018

While Reading

1. Read pages 10 - 18. Define the following terms: content literacy,

disciplinary literacy, new literacies. What are the similarities and
differences between these terms?
 Content: Literacy in being able to comprehend the basic elements content, such
as terminology or new concepts, being taught in a certain class, book, or
scenario, which can apply across different subjects as well.
o Class Definition: Content literacy: content knowledge, the curriculum,
resources, strategies, activities
 Disciplinary: Being able to go further and understand more specific information
that is typically exclusive to a certain subject.
o Class Definition: Disciplinary literacy: How experts within a discipline
read, write, think
 New: Being literate in the modern era of education that involves more technical
o Class Definition: New literacy: digital technologies and their potential for

2. Two Column Notes

Read pages 18 - 23. Use the two column note sheet to keep track of 3-4
essential ideas from the chapter. In the first column record a quote or direct
phrases from the text in the second column record your personal response

What the Text Says Why it Matters

1. “Good readers don’t just read 1. What this says to me as that
to get the gist of what they are as teachers, if we want our
rearing unless that is their students to become good
specific purpose. They use readers or further develop
prior knowledge, as well as already proficient skills, we
what they know (or think they need to assign readings that
know) about the text, to make go well together and promote
inferences, to evaluate, and constructive thinking
elaborate on the content.” behaviors in students. If you

Wiens RDG 323 Fall 2018 Digital Journal

Jesus Espinoza
Professor Wiens
RDG 323
24 August 2018

(19) assign your students an

article on a certain political
2. “Language helps a learner to issue, make all following
make sense of the world, to articles slightly related,
understand, and to be whether they be opposing
understood. As a result, views, connected political
language and meaning issues, or historical
cannot be severed from one backgrounds. Do not follow
another. Language isn’t up the first article with an
language unless meaning- article on a political issue that
making is involved.” (20) is hardly related and allows
for very few to no points of
3. “When skilled readers have connection and inference.
difficulty comprehending what
they are reading, they often 2. In class, when we first
become strategic in the way discussed as pairs why we
they approach challenging read, one of my beliefs was
and difficult text. Good that we do it so that we can
readers develop skills and understand a message from
strategies that they use to whatever it is we are reading.
understand what they are We want to gain some sort of
reading.” (22) information from what we
read. In that same sense,
language helps to transmit
meaning. Rarely, if ever at all,
do we speak or write without
any sort of message behind
our words. We can introduce
a student to complex
vocabulary, and teach them
how to spell it, but if they do
not know the meaning, those
words do them no good. They
need a meaning behind that
word to be able to utilize it
properly and further their
language acquisition.

Wiens RDG 323 Fall 2018 Digital Journal

Jesus Espinoza
Professor Wiens
RDG 323
24 August 2018

3. Much like the chapter later

discusses after that quote,
teachers should be able to
provide students with a wide
variety of strategies that they
can use in their encounters
with reading both in their
current classes and future
ones. As an English major,
some of the most common
strategies that I have
encountered are graphic
organizers, text annotations,
and pulling quotes from the
text and reflecting, much like I
am doing with these quotes.
Being that I will frequently be
dealing with giving students
readings in my career as an
English teacher, I consider
teaching students how to
effectively use many different
strategies is a highly
important task. Not only can
they be used for assigned
books or articles in an English
class, but I think it is also
essential to teach the
students how to translate
those strategies to texts from
other subjects. Teach them
how to use a venn diagram to
compare historical events.
Teach them how to create
questions before fully diving
into a new concept in their

Wiens RDG 323 Fall 2018 Digital Journal

Jesus Espinoza
Professor Wiens
RDG 323
24 August 2018

biology class, that they can

then answer afterwards.

3. Reread the paragraph on page 21: A Plan for the Improvement of English
Spelling. Describe some of the strategies you used to read this paragraph. How
would both excellent readers and striving readers each attempt to comprehend
this type of academic text?

Firstly, whenever a completely “respelled”/fixed word would come up, I had to

constantly look back at what changes the author had proposed, and then go back to
that word to figure out how the change functioned in it and what the word actually was.
Then, when the words started getting even more “fixed,” I did the aforementioned
strategy, but then I also had to say the word out loud to see if what I was thinking
actually made sense. Towards the end of the second paragraph and for the last
sentence, I found myself rereading the sentences over completely whenever I came
across a word that I could not decipher at first glance. I had to reread it so I could
understand if what I thought the confusing word was did fit in the context of the

Something that I could see both excellent and striving readers doing to interpret
this text would be taking my strategy further by looking at the changes the passage
suggests, and then writing the reversed version by the fixed versions. For example,
when they see “kase,” they would see that the new rule calls for dropping c for k or s,
and then write down that it is indeed “case.” However, some striving readers may not
think to look back at the text to determine meaning in the following text. Instead they
may just try reading those words without building an appropriate reference and struggle
to comprehend the actual meaning of the “fixed” words.

After Reading (To be done after Wednesday’s class)

Place yourself in the role of a staff developer in your school. Write an email
(roughly three paragraphs) to teachers, using your powers of persuasion,
explaining the need for incorporating literacy instruction to content area

Wiens RDG 323 Fall 2018 Digital Journal

Jesus Espinoza
Professor Wiens
RDG 323
24 August 2018

classrooms. Do your best to convince your readers that content area teachers
need to go beyond assigning and telling.

Dear teachers,

After so many years of sticking to the same routines in our classrooms, the same old
bellwork, then present, then assign, we have to now start and understand that change in the
classroom is necessary, so we can let our students work to their full potential. When we give
them these handouts to work with at their desks or take them home, students do not see an
enriching learning experience, they simply see it for what it is, a worksheet assignment.
Something to be completed and handed in for a grade and not much more. While it is what we
know after so many years in our jobs, we need to realize that simply presenting a lecture to our
students so that they can complete an assignment is doing them no favors to prepare them for
their future endeavors in higher education or their careers.

What is most important is that we let students know why they are learning what they are
learning. Students need to understand that there is an actual purpose and meaning behind the
concepts they are learning. We need to make connections to the real world and society that they
expect to become functioning members of once they exit the classroom. Where does literacy
instruction fit in with this? When we encourage communication, a key element of literacy, in the
classroom, you are asking students to formulate their own thoughts on the subject you are
presenting to them. Worksheets can rarely accomplish that. Have students discuss with one
another why what you are teaching matters. If you have them do a science experiment, ask them
to write a paper on what significance it had in history to now be taught to them, and what
functionality does doing the experiment pose in their own scientific studies. Help your students
expand their thoughts beyond doing the experiment and answering a worksheet based on it. In
math, if your students are struggling with a new concept, have them write about what parts of it
they are specifically struggling with. Once those concerns are addressed, have them write how
they worked to resolve their struggles. Promote more importance in their academic growth by
having students reflect on their journey in the process of learning. When you have a student read
an article or chapter of a book, do not just have them summarize what they read. Open up a
discussion to allow students to reveal the messages they uncovered in their readings, and what
the significance of the text to them is.

I reiterate this; worksheets and teacher-to-class lectures do not promote active and
engaging thought that students desperately need to properly progress into higher educational
settings and society. Literacy through reading, writing, communication help to promote critical

Wiens RDG 323 Fall 2018 Digital Journal

Jesus Espinoza
Professor Wiens
RDG 323
24 August 2018

and constructive thinking among students. It helps them to actually align a self-created purpose
to the content that we are providing them with. When students are given full on opportunities to
express and expand their thoughts, we are better able to help develop them into productive
learners. Their careers will not involve their boss giving them a worksheet to fill out answers on.
Many of them will have to communicate with others, interpret articles or emails and pull
messages from them, express their own thoughts on changes occurring within their fields of
work. We as teachers need to do better to prepare them for those moments, and literacy
instruction implementation in our classes is the way to do so.

Jesus Espinoza

Works Cited

Vacca, Jo Anne L., Richard T. Vacca, and Maryann Mraz. Content Area Reading: Literacy and

Learning Across the Curriculum. 12th ed. Pearson, 2017. Print.

Wiens RDG 323 Fall 2018 Digital Journal