Professional Learning Communities – Setting Common Literacy Goals to align subject-specific classes

Many Intermediate classrooms (Gr 7-8) operate under a rotary timetable where students move to different teachers for different classes. Often times, each teacher operates their classroom as an island. Professional Learning Communities can help a fragmented Intermediate division to align themselves with respect to school and board literacy goals.

The Ontario Language curriculum compliments the expectations found in subject specific curricula (i.e. History/Geography). For example, both the Grade 8 History overall expectations (i.e. 8OE1) and specific expectations (i.e. 8SE1) identify specific knowledge and understanding that needs to be demonstrated by the student. Demonstration of knowledge of content and understanding of content (acquired through reading) are also key areas of the achievement chart for language (Ontario Curriculum: Language, 2006, pg 17). Therefore, by selecting strong texts in History, curriculum expectations from both Language and History can be addressed through a strong literacy program.

Balanced Literacy is often implemented through a gradual release of responsibility model:

  1. Modeled Reading (Teacher does the work; student watches)
  2. Shared Reading (Teacher does the work; student helps)
  3. Guided Reading (Student does the work; teacher helps)
  4. Independent Reading (Student does the work)

Although there is a push to teach subject curriculum expectations using the gradual release of responsibility model, a cross-curricular literacy approach isn’t (just) about using gradual release, but more about the explicit instruction of (decoding and comprehension) strategies, as well as using a common vocabulary for metacognition.

Students need to apply their understanding of Finding the Main Idea, Summarizing Ideas, Asking Questions, Inferring, Repairing Comprehension, Synthesizing Information, and Evaluating Information whether they are reading a narrative in English, critiquing a blog or commercial for Media Literacy, examining a piece of art in Visual Arts, interpreting a map in Geography, learning a new concept in Math, listening to music in Music, or reading a textbook in History.

Teachers can assist students to make connections between classes by using and encouraging a common vocabulary and pedagogy. For example, Beer’s literacy activities can be used in both LA and History/Geography classes: “Somebody Wanted But So”, “It Says, I Say, And So”, “Say Something”, “Think Aloud”, etc.

An aligned rotary intermediate program would mean different classes help students to develop and reinforce reading (and writing) strategies. For example, in English, teachers can tell students we are reading this short story for aesthetic purposes and explicitly instruct them on how we read for pleasure. In Hist/Geo, teachers can tell students we are reading the textbook for efferent purposes and discuss the differences between how we read for pleasure and how we read for information.

This means a push towards building Professional Learning Communities where teachers and administrators can identify student strengths and weaknesses, discuss common literacy goals, and identify strategies and benchmarks to meet the needs of their students and ministry curricula. Modified Miscue Analysis can identify a student’s reading level which can help guide differentiated programming.

Ultimately, the goal is to teach students strategies so they can struggle through a text, regardless of which class they are sitting in.

8 thoughts on “Professional Learning Communities – Setting Common Literacy Goals to align subject-specific classes”

  1. The idea of professional learning communities tying up the loose ends left from traditional types of education. All that you would need to get something like this together is hire a conference room of some capacity and get a group of people willing to form such a group.

    Would be a great idea. Some great information on this.


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