Our hybrid teacher courses have been developed by Joshua Lawrence after years of developing and teaching similar experiences at Harvard University and the University of California. These time-tested course experiences have been offered by the Reading Ways teams through the Massachusetts Department of Education, where participants gave the highest possible feedback in anonymous course reviews.
*All teacher courses integrate with in-school professional learning led by a school-based Reading Ways Site Leader. Technology is used to efficiently enhance, not replace, the important team-based work done at the school site.
How can literacy tools and strategies enable students to learn and communicate content knowledge? In this foundation-building course, we discuss the challenges adolescents face in reading, writing and communicating in their various academic content classes and introduce a framework for thinking about disciplinary literacy tools and strategies to support learning across academic disciplines. We also introduce the six domains of disciplinary literacy (vocabulary, discussion, digital literacy, multiple texts, and writing to learn) that will help to form a bridge between teachers' instructional strategies and students' content learning. Finally, we introduce our publications and website resources that will help teachers enhance their instruction to meet context-specific student-learning challenges.
What are the various text types that students encounter, and how can we help them read and make sense of this vast variety? In this course, we introduce these texts and the habits of mind that experts use to build and communicate knowledge in their fields. We highlight some of the challenges these texts pose to students and how disciplinary literacy tools and strategies can help students learn content information. In the second part of this course, we explore ways to build disciplinary literacy teaching and learning skills school and district-wide.
Why is vocabulary knowledge so important? In this course, we introduce key research pertaining to vocabulary teaching and learning, the socio-economic effects on early word learning, how vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension are related, and the associated instructional implications for secondary teachers. We then present an overview of how academic language is challenging for students, which kinds of words to spend time teaching, and the particulars of facilitating word learning with English language learners and other student populations. Finally, we introduce an interdisciplinary vocabulary-learning program and online tools that can help teachers decipher which words are most important to teach in the content-specific texts used in class.
In this course, we introduce a three-part framework to enhance discipline-specific vocabulary learning within the context of a unit and lesson learning goals. These three interconnected pieces are: 1) create a language-rich, word-curious classroom; 2) teach word-learning strategies; and 3) strategically choose which words to teach. Teachers will learn ways to create a language-rich learning environment, learn a variety of strategies to enhance vocabulary concept learning in their classroom, and learn to use a framework to help them choose which words to teach. Finally, we introduce some key word learning strategies from our shop and how teachers might adapt them to meet their context and learning objectives.
Students will disagree with each other. That’s fine. But they need to be taught how to disagree. For example, the phrase “I see it so differently” invites difference and clarification where as “That’s stupid,” shuts off conversation. According to Erdmann and Metzger, “Discussion is the queen of lesson plans: an essential, prominent, but often under-taught tool for the classroom teacher. Although discussion is the most difficult classroom format to plan and manage, it is also the ultimate bridge between reading and writing. Nothing in the secondary classroom is harder to plan and lead effectively, except perhaps differentiated instruction. No one is born knowing how to lead a discussion; it took us years in the classroom—but it can be learned.” In this course, we provide specific tools and resources to help students shorten their learning curve toward rich discussion.
High-quality academic discussions that contribute to student learning are reciprocal, typically collaborative, sometimes exploratory, and usually open-ended. In the classroom, such discussions encourage students to share their perspectives, so that comprehension of a text or concept becomes a process of reconciling potentially competing perspectives to illuminate each other and help generate deeper student understanding. In this course, we look closely at the ways that teachers use their instructional talk to strengthen student learning and provide assessment rubrics to help students understand the importance of oral presentation in their content area.
How do we determine what level of difficulty will be appropriate for our students, especially those who are struggling? This short course provides a quantitative framework for measuring text complexity (which considers aspects of text, such as sentence length and number of infrequent words) and a qualitative rubric developed for informational and narrative texts. Additionally, we explore how readability formulas are arrived at, explain how they can be useful but also misleading, and provide online tools that teachers can use if they want to determine a text's readability level.
Why use more than a textbook? In this course, teachers will be introduced to research supporting the use of a range of texts and text types to promote critical thinking, strategic reading, and perspective taking skills that deepen content learning. Teachers will also learn about how to create different kinds of text sets that expand student entry points, extend information, and broaden perspectives on the core ideas, issues, and challenges in their discipline. In addition, they will be introduced to various ways to support students in building an understanding of content ideas using multiple texts. Finally, teachers will choose and adapt a strategy that will support the understanding of multiple texts that fit their lesson objectives and the students in their classroom.