Authentic Literacy

How do you make the time to fit in the kinds of reading and writing required by the Common Core, not to mention college and career readiness?

When I taught an integrated Chemistry and English class, as well as an integrated Biology and English class, it was often difficult to figure out when to include argumentative writing when we had to spend more time on, say, chemical reactions.

Honestly, I had a hard time bringing in enough reading and writing when I taught a stand-alone English class.  When you’ve got rhetorical strategies, iambic pentameter, and appositives to teach, it can be trickier than you might suppose to spend enough time reading and writing.

I’d like to propose that having a deep understanding of authentic literacy would have helped me, at least a little.

Borrowing a bit from my Authentic English post and Sarah Hallerman’s post on authentic literacy and PBL, I’ll say that authentic literacy:

1) addresses core content or important concerns and topics in the discipline or profession

2) apprentices students towards proficiency in the kinds of reading and writing required for the discipline or profession

3) is relevant to students (or can be made relevant to students)

4) involves products which will be shared with an audience for whom the work is meaningful (that is, an audience beyond the teacher)

Examples?  Well, students might share community research with the mayor, write a report on electrical work for a homeowner, or write a literature review to inform someone’s understanding of a health issue.

#1 and 2 are the most essential when it comes to finding time to incorporate sustained reading and writing into our classes. While it’s pretty hard to justify spending time writing a biography of a mathematician, it’s easier to make space for proof writing.  When reading and writing are authentic in the ways described above, literacy work is less of an add-on, something to be checked off, something to be done just because.  This kind of reading and writing gets at the important work of the content area and prepares our kids to be successful in college and career.

Which doesn’t make it an easy thing to do.


Literacy Coach for New Tech Network

Posted in Authenticity

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