As educators, we are aware of the importance of proper literacy skills our students need to acquire within their time spent in our classrooms. Teachers across the entire curriculum spectrum realize that they are responsible for producing learners who possess the literacy skills needed for the 21st Century. Literacy is the ability to comprehend all sorts of text, and helping students accomplish the goal of comprehension requires more than asking them to open a book and read the chapter.
Math is an area where some believe literacy is not taught. That couldn’t be further from the truth as literacy is already integrated within math. Many resources have already been provided and by using skills being taught during language arts lessons, you can amplify your math lessons. During traditional math lessons, teachers tend to provide a math problem, demonstrate how to solve the problem, then many examples are completed. By recognizing a need to incorporate literacy, this process of teaching math is changing. Here are a few key tools you can use to infuse literacy in your math classrooms.
1. Math in your classroom library. Spend some time organizing your classroom library. Include content focused books related to math. The books can be fictional stories that contain math topics or informational texts related to the math objectives taught in your classroom. You should also include a few books about famous mathematicians such as Albert Einstein and Pythagoras. To spark students interest in math literacy, give book talks and incorporate these stories during read aloud. Build your collection of books related to your math standards and use them as a way to introduce a new topic or elaborate on a topics that have been taught.
2. Use pre-reading strategies to help students get the most from their math books. Math books are set up differently than any other type of textbook or fiction stories . This means that pre-reading, comprehension strategies that work with other types of books need to be modified. You may use reading strategies such as R.U.N.N.E.R.S or T.H.I.E.V.E.S. Each letter in the acronym stands for a distinct part of a text. The strategy T.H.I.E.V.E.S is: “T” for title, “H” for headings, “I” for introduction, “E” for every first sentence, “V” for visuals and vocabulary, “E” for end of chapter questions, and “S” for summary. This strategy engages students in the topic they are about to learn and helps teach them how to use all the elements of informative text. But how useful is it for a math text? By changing the first “E’ from “Every first sentence” to “Examples” the T.H.I.E.V.E.S. strategy can be an effective pre-reading strategy for math.
3.Word walls to help students learn the language of math. Teachers know the value of word walls and most classrooms include a wide range of words, mainly relating to language arts sight words, spelling words, and vocabulary words. Math content vocabulary words can be posted on classroom walls helping students learn to speak and understand the language of a specific topic. The math vocabulary can be added to an existing word wall or you can create a math focus wall to attach vocabulary.
4. Design lessons that integrate multiple resources. Determine how you can plan literacy skills into your lessons by using multiple resources. Explore websites such as United Streaming, TeacherTube, Learn360, and Brainpop to show brief video clips on topics being taught. These kinds of lessons help the learner access prior knowledge, motivate students to learn, and create anticipation for new math knowledge. Students benefit from active teaching strategies with literacy practices that engage the learner and make learning relevant.
5. Read, write, and speak about math. You can teach students the basic skills and steps to complete math problems but most often you notice that students struggle with word problems. Educators should actively teach their students how to translate words to math symbols and math symbols back to words. Think about word problems like short stories. Teach students to read and comprehend those problems using the same literacy skills they have previously learned. Require students to write in their math journals by illustrating and explaining with words the thought processes used to solve problems. Students should then be given the opportunity to share their math journal recordings with other classmates to gather ideas and better understanding.
Incorporating literacy through math lessons will ensure students become math literate. Look for more content literacy topics next week.