Changing Things Up

I’ve recently been engrossed in a class discussing disciplinary literacy.  Disciplinary literacy focuses on the teaching of specific skills for reading in different content areas.  I’ve always been in the school of thought of content area literacy.  In content area literacy, there are generic skills for reading that span content.

I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this and I find myself stuck somewhere in the middle.  I truly believe that there are skills that translate across texts and subjects but I know that that skill is tweaked to fit to specific task.  For example, summarizing can be used across subjects but it looks different in science and social studies.  So I am left in this place where I do want to teach my small children how to read like scientists and write like historians and everything in between.

Then we’ve been thrown this idea of nonfiction narrative.  Essentially it means writing accross subjects more like a story…. WHAT?!?

When I was grappling with this idea I kept coming back to the idea of documentaries and podcasts.  I love watching documentaries and listening to podcasts!  These two forms of media have gained great popularity in the past couple of years.

In order to bring these ideas together I have been trying to think of what boring thing I do know in my classroom that I could tweak…thus came my idea of Biography Picture Books and podcasts.  In second grade we always research a historical person during our timeline unit in social studies.  The goal is to get students to understand the impact of historical figures and to research to write a report.  Traditionally we did the three paragraph report….yawn.  Last year I switched it up and had my kids write top five lists of their historical figures.  I thought this was great because the students really had to think of what was the most important five things that everyone should know about their figure.

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Knowing what I know now… I want my students to have the choice to create a biographical picture book or produce a podcast about their figure.  When I read biographies aloud to my class, the picture books read like a story and are chalked full of facts.  It’s way better than the traditional biographies.  We will use those picture books as models for the students.  They will have to research their figure and synthesize the information in order to write the “story” of the person’s life.

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If the children would rather write a script for a podcast, in the same narrative structure, and produce that, they can!  I’m really hoping this will excite the children and be more meaningful in the long run!

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