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The SFUSD SERP Language Initiative. January 11, 2008. Content Areas as Discourse Communities. There’s a state patrol officer in an unmarked car going back and forth across the median on highway 78, using radar and passing out speeding tickets.

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content areas as discourse communities
Content Areas as Discourse Communities
  • There’s a state patrol officer in an unmarked car going back and forth across the median on highway 78, using radar and passing out speeding tickets.
  • There’s a bear in a plain brown wrapper doing flip-flops on 78, taking pictures, and passing out green stamps.
the sfusd serp language initiative3
The SFUSD SERP Language Initiative
  • For many struggling students, understanding the norms of reading and writing academic language are a barrier to learning math and science.
  • In order to overcome these barriers, students must learn how academic language functions in ways that are specific to math & specific to science.
  • This is best learned in the context of learning real math & real science.
  • Therefore, the language initiative will be embedded within the work of the math initiative (making sense of word problems) & within the work of the science initiative (understanding core scientific concepts).
science as a discourse community
Science as a Discourse Community
  • Hornworms sure vary a lot in how well they grow.
  • Hornworm growth displays a significant amount of variation.

Gee, J.P. (2001, December). Reading in new times. Paper presented at the National Reading Conference, San Antonio, TX

progress update lessons from the field paper
Progress Update:“Lessons from the Field” Paper
  • Completed a review of existing content area literacy programs with a focus on programs that are currently being implemented in SF middle schools or for which professional development is available to SF middle school teachers.
progress update a cademic language questions developed for sf serp teacher survey
Progress Update:Academic language questions developed for SF SERP teacher survey

1) How many of the English Language Learners in your classes struggle with the following issues?

2) How many reading methods courses have you taken?

a) < 1 b) 1 – 3 c) > 4

progress update examining the language demands of middle school math science textbooks
Progress Update:Examining the Language Demands of Middle School Math & Science Textbooks
  • Participating in math textbook selection committee meetings
  • Completed a review of the newly adopted 7th grade science textbook.
    • Language demands of textbooks are numerous
    • The newly adopted science textbook does offer support for language development (primarily support for academic vocabulary development).
    • The following slides outline three linguistic difficulties common to textbooks that to hold potential in breaking down barriers to accessing math & science for middle school students
anaphoric referents
Anaphoric Referents
  • From SFUSD 7th grade science textbook

Prentice Hall, Focus on California Physical Science

“When you lift a book up from the floor or compress a spring, you transfer energy to it. The energy is stored. It might be used later if the book falls to the floor or the spring is released.”

(p. 360).

    • Does it in the first sentence refer to a book,the floor, ora spring.
    • It is singular. But does it refer to only one of these items or?
    • Is the it in the second sentence the same as in the first?
shifting subject referents
Shifting Subject Referents
  • From a SFUSD 7th grade math textbook

Mc Dougal Littell, Mathematics: Concepts and Skills (course 2)

“Your grandmother started a college fund for her grandchildren 15 years ago with an investment of $15,000 at an annual interest rate of 6 ½ %.

Find the balance of the account if the account earns simple interest.”

(p. 378)

    • The a college fund becomes the accountwithout any explanation.
little words
Little Words
  • From a SFUSD 7th grade math textbook

Mc Dougal Littell, Mathematics: Concepts and Skills (course 2)

“A rock is dropped from a height of 200 feet. During its fall, the rock’s height h (in feet) is given by

h = -16t2 + 200

where t is the time in seconds. Find the height when t = 0, 1, 2, 3, and 3.5 seconds. When does the rock hit the ground?”

(p. 623)

    • These commonly known words take on a specialized meaning that is particular to math.
difficult language in textbooks
Difficult Language in Textbooks

From SFUSD 7th grade science textbook

Prentice Hall, Focus on California Physical Science

“An atom’svalence electrons are those electrons that have the highestenergy level and are held most loosely. The number of valence electrons in an atom of an elementdetermines many properties of that element, including the ways in which the atom can bond with other atoms.” (p. 176)

glossed terms= 23%

common language with specialized meaning/usage = 32%

academic language (not often used outside of school) = 38%

science language that is not glossed = 41%

slide13

ITEM 2: To win a game, Tamika must spin an even number on a spinner identical to the one shown below Are Tamika’s chances of spinning an even number certain, likely, unlikely, or impossible?

“To win the game, Talia… Ta..ka…

I cannot say that name

Tamika needs to [spinning gesture] around)

to have the number on the spinner

identical to the number one shown below,

equal to 1...”

slide14

ITEM 2: To win a game, Tamika must spin an even number on a spinner identical to the one shown below Are Tamika’s chances of spinning an even number certain, likely, unlikely, or impossible?

“Es unlikely que ella va a tener ese numero

porque solo hay uno de 1...”

It’s unlikely that she will get that number

[pointing to the number one in the spinner]

because there is only one 1...

Martiniello, M. (2007). Language Factors and the Differential Item Functioning of ELs and non ELs in Word Math Problems. Cambridge: Harvard University.

next steps
Next Steps:
  • Determine a means of providing support for meeting the language barriers in textbooks
  • Too often, ‘content area literacy’ comes to signify teaching students how to parse sentences. Our goal is to develop methods for addressing these barriers that maintains a focus on building conceptual math & science knowledge.
a research agenda nae spencer postdoc fellowship proposal
A Research Agenda: NAE Spencer Postdoc Fellowship Proposal

Research Question:

Does the type/level of support offered to teachers influence uptake for changing literacy practice in the content area classroom?

a research agenda nae spencer postdoc fellowship proposal17
A Research Agenda: NAE Spencer Postdoc Fellowship Proposal
  • The proposed study will document changes in MS math and science teachers’ beliefs, knowledge & practice about literacy over three years.
    • Year 1: Survey of teachers’ literacy beliefs, knowledge & practice.
    • Year 2: Literacy support offered to participating teachers within the context of the SERP initiative.
    • Year 3: Survey + classroom observations to examine persistence of change in literacy practice.
  • In each of three schools, a different level/type of PD & support for the literacy component of the SERP math & science initiatives will be offered to participating teachers. Comparing results across three schools will allow for analysis as to the effects of the different levels/types of instructional support.
    • School 1: SERP professional development sessions
    • School 2: SERP professional development sessions + educative materials (theory behind embedded literacy supports)
    • School 3: SERP professional development sessions + educative materials (theory behind embedded literacy supports) + ongoing onsite support offered to teachers