Integrating Disciplinary Literacy Practices in One-to-One Classrooms

Integrating Disciplinary Literacy Practices in One-to-One Classrooms

Emily L. Freeman (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA), Alexandra J. Reyes (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA), Dalila Dragnic-Cindric (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA) and Janice L. Anderson (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2000-9.ch016


This chapter examines the use of disciplinary literacy in elementary and middle grade science classrooms that participated in a one-to-one iPad initiative. Results of teacher instruction in science disciplinary literacy practices in a one-to-one iPad technology integration, examples of collaborations, and observational data are shared. The teachers in this study demonstrated an overreliance on basic and intermediate literacy practices, with a few using emergent disciplinary practices in their science instruction. We look to extend the STEM and technology integration conversation to include disciplinary literacy practices. We conclude with a call for stronger science disciplinary literacy instruction in teacher education programs, as well as greater collaboration among literacy teachers, science teachers, and researchers. We also recommend developing coaching programs that work with teachers to increase the rigor of their science content, implement intermediate and disciplinary literacy practices, and utilize technology in a transformational manner.
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This chapter examines the ways that disciplinary literacy instruction did or did not occur in elementary and middle grades classrooms that participated in a one-to-one iPad initiative. Literacy instruction can and should be embedded across disciplines, but is often relegated to English Language Arts classrooms or lessons (Appleman, 2010). At a basic level, reading can be understood as a transaction between the reader and the text in order to take or use information. Unfortunately, this very efferent view of reading tends to dominate in schools that are considered “under-achieving” and leads to a direct link between reading and testing. Because of the current emphasis on testing, literacy instruction tends to be isolated from other content area instruction (Appleman, 2010). Research has shown that explicit literacy instruction in the disciplines, including science, leads to deeper understandings of the content, interdisciplinary connections, and promotes reading comprehension (e.g., Akins & Akerson, 2002; Bangert-Drowns, Hurley, & Wilkinson, 2004; Hackney & Newman, 2013).

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) call on teachers to use technology in literacy instruction for a variety of purposes; for example, to integrate technology to publish a text and collaborate and interact with others (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6), gather information from digital sources (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8), and determine the meaning of discipline specific vocabulary in content areas (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.4). The centrality of technology in the CCSS English Language Arts standards has implications for interdisciplinary content area instruction because definitions of disciplinary and technological literacy are constantly evolving and becoming more nuanced. Using a TPACK framework (Mishra & Koehler, 2006), balanced literacy integration, and sociocultural theory as lenses, the following research questions guided our study:

  • 1.

    How is writing and explicit literacy instruction embedded in science content instruction?

  • 2.

    How do teachers utilize technology in science lessons to demystify academic discourse?

Key Terms in this Chapter

TPACK: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge framework that suggest that teachers can synergistically call upon their knowledge in three domains – content, pedagogy and technology.

Basic Literacy Instruction: Basic literacy practices are applicable to all areas of instruction and focus on low-level literacy instruction; for example, decoding words or teaching basic sentence structures.

Disciplinary Literacy: Discipline specific literacy practices that serve to induct students into the habits of mind that are used by professionals in the discipline and requires strong content area knowledge on the part of teachers; for example, teaching students how to write a lab report in a science classroom.

Intermediate Literacy Instruction: Intermediate literacy practices build on basic literacy practices and require more advanced literacy instruction, but are still applicable to most disciplines; for example, teaching more complex sentence structure or reading fluency.

Content Area Literacy: Content area literacy consists of literacy practices that are applicable to multiple disciplines; for example, finding main ideas and details in a text.

Emergent Disciplinary Literacy Instruction: Emergent disciplinary literacy practices are situated between intermediate and disciplinary literacy practices. They show an attempt by teachers at discipline specific literacy skills but are not supported by strong content knowledge; for example, having students write a lab report but without the required scientific knowledge.

Design Based Research: An iterative process that incorporates cycles of data collection, analysis, and reflection to inform the design of educational innovations and develop theory.

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