Shift Happens

Several years ago, the ELA/Literacy Shifts were introduced to teachers in school districts across New York State with the anticipation that all teachers, regardless of grade level and content area, make these shifts in pedagogy in order to develop the necessary literacy skills students need to be successful in college and career. Did the anticipated shifts happen?

Let’s use the following questions as a self-assessment to determine where shift happened – or didn’t:

ELA/Literacy Shifts and Sub shifts
Shift 1 Balancing Informational & Literary Text
Are students reading a balance of informational and literary texts in your classroom?
Shift 2 Knowledge in the Disciplines
Are students building knowledge about the world through TEXT rather than the teacher or activities in your classroom?
Shift 3 Staircase of Complexity
Are students reading grade appropriate text, which focuses instruction in your classroom?
Shift 4 Text-based Answers
Are students engaged in rich and rigorous evidence based conversations about text in your classroom?
Shift 5 Writing from Sources
Are students using evidence from TEXT to inform or make in a written argument in your classroom?
Shift 5 Sub-shifts Research & Inquiry
Are your students engaged in the inquiry process where students use research to produce a product in your classroom?
  5A Work with sources
5B Grapple with complex text and content; leverage academic vocabulary
5C Emphasize questioning, Inquiry, and explaining understanding rather than defense
5D Follow inquiry process: questions, sources, information, scope and plan –> product
5E Use technology and other minds
Shift 6 Academic Vocabulary
Are students exposed to transferable vocabulary required to access grade level, complex texts in your classroom?

What were your results? Did shift happen? Might more shift need to happen? If so, that is okay. Most teachers still need to make shifts happen, but how does shift happen? We can use the following example to help us visualize how shifts might happen.

Mr. Todd, a Biology teacher, focused on his content area and getting his students ready to pass the Regents exam. He knows that many of his students are not reading on grade level and is worried they will not pass. His department chair recommended that he attend OCM BOCES’ Teacher’s Literacy Tool Box workshop series. It was through the series that he realized how he could use the literacy standards, which embeds the shifts, as a tool that students can use to gain knowledge of his content area while developing literacy skills. He designed a literacy-based learning experience for his students. As you read on, look for shifts he made in his practice.

Mr. Todd planned the learning experience around students building understanding of how human body systems interact to maintain a balanced internal environment, and if there is a disruption in any system, how there may be a corresponding imbalance in homeostasis. Rather than lecturing, using a slide show and having students take notes; he decided to engage students in the following literacy-based activities:

  • Student teams will become experts with an assigned body system using the Jigsaw Mr. Todd will provide students with informational text and slides from his slide show depicting body systems they can use to become experts.
  • Student teams will present the information to their peers using a visual representation of their system.
  • Student learners in turn will complete a graphic organizer to capture the essence of each body system.
  • Students then will use the graphic organizer to write a short constructed response using the information collected answering the writing prompt: How do the body systems interact with one another to maintain a balanced internal environment?

Mr. Todd will formatively assessed students’ learning using the short constructed response. To deepen learning and or clear up any misunderstandings, Mr. Todd will engage his students the next day in a Fishbowl Discussion where students will answer a series of questions using their graphic organizer.

The second part of the learning experience involves individual students assuming the role of Disease Detectives.

  • Students are individually required to use Gale Database, free to all OCM BOCES component districts, to research a disease using two sources from the database.
  • Students will use evidence from their sources to determine causes and symptoms of the disease and the body system or systems it affects.
  • Students will share their learning in Conver-stations and collect information about other diseases using a Semantic Feature Analysis that might look like this:
Disease Causes Symptoms Body Systems
High Blood Pressure

Mr. Todd then will assign students to write a short constructed response answering the question “How can we detect and treat diseases that disrupt a body system resulting in an imbalance in homeostasis?” based on trends found in the data collected.

Do you see where the literacy shifts happened for Mr. Todd? Did you notice how he used a variety of literacy-based strategies to get students to think, read, discuss, and write about his content area?

Well, I guess shift does happen! How will you make shift happen in your content area?

Pawlewicz_Denise_150pxDenise Pawlewicz

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