Literacy Across the Curriculum: Reading in Mathematics

At our Election Day PD, we discussed promoting literacy across the curriculum.  Approximately 85% of our students are reading below grade level and so reading is a huge part of our day-to-day. Here are a few things the math department has adopted from the ELA classes so that students experience consistent strategies.

Annotating
Now, whenever we ask students to read anything, we expect them to annotate the text by interacting with the text by either underlining and/or writing in the margins.  There is always a focus question or focused task since our students love the highlighter and go wild with those colored pens.

For example, I asked the students to annotate the following text in order to answer, “What are the different ways we can represent multiplication?”

Students annotate the text, then answer a focus question.
Students annotate the text, then answer a focus question.

Chunking the Text
This past week, we asked students to annotate our “Constructing an Argument Rubric”.  The focus question was, “What is the difference between a level 3 and level 4 response?” We asked students to look at each target separately and thats how it was chunked.  I was working with my predominately Spanish speakers and we had the rubric in English and Spanish.  It was important to chunk the text into even smaller sections since I wanted them to practice speaking in English as well.  I chunked the text by having them look at each box first and then explain how a student can get a 3? How a student can get a 4? My next focus for them is to write a lot more, even if it is in Spanish and then translate. This definitely was more challenging as students just restated the attributes verbatim so we had to push them to paraphrase and explain a level 3 or level 4 in their own words.

This is a part of the rubric. There are a total of four learning targets that fall under this outcome. We wanted students to focus on the 'Position and Development'.
This is a part of the rubric. There are a total of four learning targets that fall under this outcome. We wanted students to focus on the ‘Position and Development’.

Finding the gist
Other times, the purpose is not for the students to answer a question, but rather to summarize the text.  The students have been doing this is their ELA and strategic reading classes by finding the gist.  Essentially the text is broken up into sections like a paragraph or even lines and then students have to find the gist of a given section using just one sentence. Then we ask students to share their gist with their neighbor or group.

For example, I asked students to find the gist of this paragraph in order for students to understand the context.

Reading in Math

Before we adopted “find the gist”, we used to ask them to summarize the text.  For some reason, saying “find the gist” has been more powerful than asking students to summarize the text. Instead of just quoting the text, they actually will paraphrase the text in their own words in a concise way.  I guess they have been practicing it and are familiar with it because of ELA that they have become pros at it (well most of them anyways).

I know that reading and writing will continue to be a struggle for many of my students this entire year, but I hope that struggle gets easier as they improve and hone these skills in each of their classes.

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