New York State’s Next Generation Learning Standards have a renewed focus on literacy, acknowledging the changing landscape of what it means to be “literate” in today’s world. Part of this focus calls for educators and leaders to implement what NYS refers to as “Advanced Literacies” as a universal instructional end goal. According to Dr. Nonie Lesaux of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, “when schools adopt advanced literacies as a universal instructional end goal, they adopt a common set of instructional practices and guidelines to be implemented in science, math, social studies and English/language arts” (Lesaux and Galloway 4). Lesaux identifies these common practices and guidelines as hallmarks (see figure 1) to be embraced by all content areas at all levels of instruction.
On May 10, 2019 middle school teachers from Whitney Point’s Tioughnioga Riverside Academy spent a half day exploring what these hallmarks of advanced literacies might begin to look like implemented within and across disciplines. ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, Technology, Special Education and LOTE teachers worked as both grade-level teams and departments to differentiate disciplinary versus content-area skills, identifying literacy that is specific to disciplines as opposed to skills that can be common across content-areas. Common areas of focus quickly began to emerge as participants itemized the ways all content-areas incorporate literacy through reading, communication through writing and speaking, and knowledge about the kind of vocabulary that would benefit learners across disciplines or within a discipline. Teachers ended the day considering next steps, including: planning for common instructional practices across disciplines, identifying common language, and reading in the content-areas.
BT-BOCES will also continue in the 2019-20 school year with regional sessions around this work. Workshops such as Math Literacy, Digital Writing, and Reading & Writing Argumentation in Secondary English and Social Studies will take a deeper dive into the unpacking and practical classroom implementation of interdisciplinary literacy.