Can Literacy In The Classroom Be Achieved?
By Steven Schnee

A classroom that models proper literacy techniques will most often be the one that excels the most. This is every administrator’s dream. The problem however is that many teachers fear that it is a situation that can not be achieved. The foundation for liberal arts instruction and guidance grows out of the two major skills of reading and writing. The greatest drawback for many students’ complications can be derived from their living conditions outside of school. Some students suffer due to their poor and unfulfilling lifestyles during their growth or their lack of parental guidance. Others face the challenge of abandoning their native tongue in order to fit in and communicate with the general public. Some students just fall into this crowd of unfortunate souls mainly because they have been deprived of their literacy opportunities as a result of a lack of exposure.
We as a teachers need to prevent this injustice from taking place. Liberal Arts should be incorporated in some way into each discipline area to keep this dream alive. Richard T. Vacca writes in his article, Taking the Mystery Out of Content-Area Literacy that “to be literate in content classrooms, students must learn how to use language processes to explore and construct meaning with texts. When students put language to work for them in content classrooms, it helps them to discover, organize, retrieve, and elaborate on what they are learning.” All this would be great, but it calls for measures that are slightly difficult to come by for some of these children. The hardest part of teaching with a literacy approach is finding a method that is effective. With so many complications for our students this makes our job that much more difficult. Most of the time finding one method will not prove successful for all. Howard Gardner reinforces the concept that multiple teaching styles becomes necessary when dealing with individuals who perform with multiple intelligences.
How can we reach this varied population? Without the aid and research of Dr. Janet Allen my career would be in shambles. The most difficult task for me as a science teacher is finding a way to approach the course with literacy in mind. The simplest way I approach this problem is just to assign some reading comprehension assignments throughout the period. Unfortunately, this proves to be time consuming and as student reflection indicates … very boring too. In addition, do they actually retain any information this way? Exams and homework prove to indicate failure. Dr. Janet Allen supplies an abundance of strategies that support learning and are fun to perform. She executed a humungous act of kindness by taking all the superb teaching modules she has come across throughout her research and career and compiled them all together for teachers to refer to in her flipbook, Tools for Teaching Content Literacy. You may also find some great resources on her website, www.pluggedintoreading.com
I would like to address with you one literacy strategy that comes to mind. It is known as RAFT Writing. RAFT is an acronym for ROLE of the writer; AUDIENCE for the writing; FORMAT the writing will take; and TOPIC covered in the writing. This strategy has a student read a piece of literature and perform a task that is engaging, eventful and motivating for the students. One particular example was having my students read a passage on global warming, which some may have thought to be boring. When the classmates were given the role of student reporters attempting to convince the congress to reduce the amount of fuel efficient cars produced most took on the task head-on and produced a well crafted, sometimes creative newsletter. What do you think of Dr. Janet Allen’s approaches to teaching? Go check them out!