Teaching Social Studies and Literacy through a Project-Based Approach Nell K. Duke Michigan State University Literacy Achievement Research Center International Reading Association Institute May, 2009
Plan for Talk • Theory • Situated Learning Theory • Authenticity Theory • Research • Authenticity Research • PABIL Research • Practice • Planning project-based units
Theory Situated learning theory (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989) • Learning is best accomplished through (authentic) activity. • Explicit instruction from a more knowledgeable other (e.g., the teacher) is important in learning, but it cannot stand alone.
Authenticity Theory • Literacy learning is facilitated when learners read and write texts the same as, or as much as possible like, those people read and write in the world outside of schools. • Literacy learning is facilitated when learners read and write texts for the purposes people read and write those kinds of texts in the world outside of schools. (Duke, Purcell-Gates, Hall, & Tower, 2006/2007)
Authentic Literacy Events • Authentic literacy events are those that replicate or reflect reading and writing purposes and texts, specific to the genre, that occur in the world outside of a schooling context. • Authentic reading of informational text involves reading for the purpose of obtaining information you want or need to know (and writing for the purpose of communicating information to people who want or need to know it). (Duke, Purcell-Gates, Hall, & Tower, 2006/2007) (Purcell-Gates, Duke, Hall, & Tower, 2006/2007)
Some set-ups for authentic reading of informational text in science in the TEXT approach • Discrepant events to generate questions • E.g., prisms on the overhead • Demonstrations of phenomena to generate questions • E.g., volcano, caterpillars • Teachable moments brought from world outside • E.g., broken arm • Announcing topic and asking for questions • E.g., K-W-L charts (topic: sound) (Duke, Purcell-Gates, Hall, & Tower, 2006/2007)
Some set-ups for authentic reading and writing of informational text in science in the TEXT approach • Literacy in response to a community need • E.g. pond brochure • Literacy as part of problem-solving • E.g. dying tadpoles (Audience integral to authentic writing -- audiences include distant readers (e.g., Costa Rican pen pals), within-school audiences, and within-classroom audiences) (Duke, Purcell-Gates, Hall, & Tower, 2006/2007)
Research on Authenticity • Children in second and third grade classrooms that included more authentic literacy activities: • showed higher growth in informational and procedural science text reading comprehension and writing for 4 of 7 outcome measures, and in interaction with explicit instruction in procedural text features for a 5th outcome measure (Purcell-Gates, Duke, & Martineau, 2007). • Adults in literacy programs that included more authentic literacy activities: • reported reading and writing more out-of-school, and • reported reading and writing more complex texts. • The longer students were in these programs, the more this was the case (Purcell-Gates, Degener, Jacobson, & Soler, 2002). • There is additional less direct research support.
Project-Based Pedagogy • Project-based approaches involve students in a series of activities toward a common goal, such as solving a problem or creating something. • Projects often: • Involve reading and writing informational texts • Are multi- or interdisciplinary • Involve authentic literacy events
Research on Project-Based Pedagogy • There is surprisingly little research on the impact of project-based pedagogy. • The research that is available (see Thomas, 2000, for a review) suggests that project-based pedagogy can result in • Improved development of higher-order cognitive skills, including communication skills, and • Content learning.
The Project-Based Approach to Building Informational Literacy (PABIL) Study • Two to three times per week for four months first grade teachers replaced their usual writing time with PABIL. • Each classroom participated in 2 projects. • Each project was 24 - 26 lessons of about 45 minutes each, plus time publishing and celebrating final projects.
The Project-Based Approach to Building Informational Literacy (PABIL) Study • Each project focused on developing a written product, usually individual information books. • The first project related to foods, the second project related to the environment -- within that teacher tailored the focus to her classroom. • Written projects had an audience beyond the teacher -- e.g., a class wrote information books about their favorite healthy foods to display at a local restaurant.
The Project-Based Approach to Building Informational Literacy (PABIL) Study • PABIL lessons included: • Read Aloud, Teacher Modeling, Explicit Teaching (15+ minutes) • Guided and Independent Experiences (20+ minutes) • Reflection Time (10+ minutes)
The Project-Based Approach to Building Informational Literacy (PABIL) Study • Informational reading and writing knowledge and skills were taught in the context of the projects: • Comprehension strategies (e.g., applying background knowledge) • Informational text features (e.g., diagrams, index) • Vocabulary knowledge (e.g., characteristics, products) • Vocabulary strategies (e.g., generating images of words) • Writing strategies (webbing)
ExampleWriting Strategies PABIL Session Read Aloud & Teacher Modeling • Teacher models reading for information and adding information to a web Guided and Independent Experiences • Students create a preliminary web on their project topic • Students read for information to add to the web Reflection • Students share their webs and what they learned about their topic
Example Informational Text Features PABIL Session Read Aloud & Teacher Modeling • Teacher explains about diagrams • Teacher shows diagrams in books • Teacher models how to draw a diagram Guided and Independent Experiences • Children look through books related to project and mark diagrams with sticky notes Reflection • Children share what they learned from the diagrams and about diagrams • Children write a reflection on diagrams
PABIL Results As compared to matched-pair control classrooms: • In all pairs experimental group teachers taught: • more target comprehension strategies • more target text features • In four of five pairs they taught • more target vocabulary strategies • more target writing strategies
PABIL Results As compared to matched-pair control classrooms, PABIL students had better informational writing: • Holistically and in terms of • Vocabulary • Organization • Text features • Voice
PABIL Results • Experimental group students’ writing mechanics were worse than control group students’. • No impact was found on general reading or informational reading comprehension.
Tentative Conclusions from PABIL • Teachers can teach skills in the context of projects. • Replacing writing time two to three days per week for several months with PABIL resulted better informational writing but effects did not extend to informational reading comprehension. • Further R & D is needed to see how reading comprehension can also be positively impacted and to see how to ensure writing mechanics does not suffer.
Developing Projects • (1) Initiate Interest • (2) Develop Project Goal(s) • (3) Determine Project Activities and Outcome(s) • (4) Collect Data • (5) Analyze Data; and • (6) Data Presentation/Culminating Written Project. Duke & Halvorsen
Developing Projects • (1) Initiate Interest • Expose children to issues in the community through field trips (e.g. exploration of the local environment), guest speakers, interviews with community members, documents, or discussions, with the aim of identifying an issue of strong interest to students and teacher. For example, one issue we have found often resonates with young children is the problem of litter at a local park or playground. Duke & Halvorsen
Developing Projects • (2) Develop Project Goal(s) • For example, a goal might be reducing litter at a local park or playground Duke & Halvorsen
Developing Projects • (3) Determine Project Activities and Outcome(s) • As Railsback (2002) emphasizes, this must involve students as well as the teacher to promote ownership. • Brainstorming and webbing can be helpful here. • Example activities include identifying the amount and types of litter at the playground and interviewing members of community about the problem of litter and possible solutions. • Example outcomes include three steps the class will take to reduce litter (e.g., a letter to the editor, appeal to city council for signage, or a public event to promote awareness). Duke & Halvorsen
Developing Projects • (4) Collect Data • (5) Analyze Data • These two phases may be recursive. • Scaffolding children’s data representation and analysis is a rich area of research. Duke & Halvorsen
Developing Projects • (6) Data Presentation/Culminating Written Project • For example, letter to the editor, a proposal to city council, or the organization of a community clean-up day Duke & Halvorsen
Activity and Discussion • In groups, plan out a project that involves literacy and meets one or more social studies Grade Level Content Expectations for the State of Michigan. • We will share project plans. • Then we will discuss questions, challenges, and possibilities of project-based pedagogy for in social studies.
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