Content Literacy Curriculum and Instructional Program for Grades K-6 (Part One)
Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA
This is the first part of a two part article that covers how to create, develop, design, and implement a content literacy curriculum and instructional program in Kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms. The amount and degree of professional freedom elementary classroom teachers have in creating, developing, designing, and implementing academic curriculum and instruction for their students in their classrooms varies considerably from school to school. It is important for beginning teachers to inquire from the school principal what is allowed and what is not allowed in developing their own content literacy program.
A content literacy program contains the curriculum and delivery that is used for teaching the elementary students, comprehensively, it is called a "Program." Broken down further, "content" means the subject areas of math; science (including: health, technology, and engineering); social studies (including: history, economics, geography, and government); language arts (including: reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and presenting [literacy]). Teachers teach the language arts at the same time that they teach the content areas, in essence then, the literacy curriculum and instruction is infused into them and is part of them, rather than separated from them.
Content Literacy Program Curriculum and Instruction
Curriculum is a comprehensive and cohesive collection of each of the following components: standards, objectives, materials, resources, methods, strategies, and assessments used for teaching a content subject area. Each subject area has its own set of curriculum. A language arts curriculum and instructional program contains all of the standards and objectives for the English language arts as they relate to student engagement within each content area. Instruction refers to the delivery modes of the curriculum. The delivery modes can be as follows:
• In person: teacher teaching whole class, small group, and individual students while being physically with them
• Online synchronous: teacher teaching whole class, small group, and individual students through different types of computers with instruction happening as close as possible to instantaneous interactions
• Online asynchronous: teacher teaching whole class, small group, and individual students through different types of computers with instruction happening apart from instantaneous interactions
• Blended (also called "flipping"): combining instructional modes of teaching using combinations of any of the above modes
Program Materials and Resources
The program materials become the resources that teachers use for curriculum and instruction. The materials include whatever set of content standards, objectives, and student skill sets that schools require. Other materials include, but are not limited to the following: content subject area textbooks; websites; videos; novels; picture books; illustrated books; student workbooks; magazines; dictionaries; encyclopedias; and there can be digital, online versions of these materials as well as paper or print versions; different types of computers; laboratory equipment; posters; and games, both physical and computer-based games.
Instruction includes delivery modes, which have already been addressed in this article, and strategies. Strategies are what teachers teach to their elementary students so that they can learn to demonstrate skills. In other words, what teachers teach is called the strategy, but when students learn it and can do it, it is called an aquired skill. There are strategies that align with most school standards in order to teach students the skills they need for achieving academic competence. Many strategies can be located in the format of lesson plans posted online. Online search engines are frequently used to locate these strategies using the key terms found in either in the standard, objective, or skill-based statement.
Instructing and Engaging Elementary Students in Learning
Teaching involves three main areas of activity on the part of the teacher. First is the curriculum and assessment creation, development, and design; next is the instruction; and finally is the assessment and evaluation. Instruction involves the teacher in the delivery of information to the students. Usually the instruction first takes the form of a lesson plan that the teacher creates or modifies from one found online or from other sources. Effective instruction, or the delivery of the lesson plan to the students, can take many forms, but there is a logical sequence of events, widely associated with Madeline Hunter's design. Most strategies and lesson plans found online can be plugged into Hunter's template. The following subsections present this template in a modified version in multipart procedures for instructional delivery.
Strategy Lesson Plan: Preliminary Phase
Before developing, creating, and designing the strategy lesson plan, the teacher needs to engage in some preliminary activities for the sake of providing the necessary content. Typical preliminary tasks are included in the following list.
• Determine the content area or focus
• Research the appropriate strategy through online search engines
• Ascertain the main concepts or big ideas that students will learn
• Prepare all the materials that students will need in order to do the strategy
• Determine the related standards
• Write the objectives
• Determine how many class periods instruction will be needed
After this preliminary work has been done, the teacher is ready to create the content literacy strategy lesson plan, which is presented in the next subsections.
Instructional Procedure: Get Student Attention and Review
In this part of the strategy lesson delivery the teacher focuses the students' thoughts on what will be learned. Teachers think of ways to connect back to a previous strategy lesson or other means to peak the students' interests. Get Attention and Review is defined as a brief activity or prompt that focuses the students "attention" before the actual lesson begins. This activity usually occurs right away when students enter the room or in a transition from one strategy lesson to the next. Examples could be any of the following: a hand out given to students at the door; engagement prompts presented on the classroom screen, such as review questions, short story problems, discussion questions; a short video clip; and the ideas are actually endless.
Instructional Procedure: Strategy Definition, Benefits, and Applications
Elementary students learn most effectively when they know what they are supposed to be learning and why it is important to learn it. Teachers also teach more effectively when they have the same information. In this part of the strategy lesson delivery, teachers tell their students the definition of the strategy; the student benefits of learning the strategy; and how students can use or apply the strategy in their academic work for the sake of becoming better at something.
Instructional Procedure: Content and Modeling
During this phase of the lesson, teachers explain the CONTENT, i.e., facts, generalizations, main ideas, and concepts, necessary for student understanding of the strategy along with the instructional directions for completing or doing the strategy. To help students understand exactly what teachers are asking them to do with the strategy directions, they also MODEL, which means they demonstrate to the students how to do the strategy, show them an example, or in some way make it so students can actually see the finished product of what they are going to do.
Instructional Procedure: Guided Practice and Checking for Understanding
For this component of the lesson, teachers have students practice the new content literacy strategy within small groups as the teacher circulates close to students and intently observes their work for the sake of guiding students in the right directions. In addition, she remains close to students to accomplish the following: answering questions, giving more content instructions if needed, observational assessment and evaluation of students' performance, and making decisions about further instruction.
Note: See the second part of this article for the remaining information.
About Author / Additional Info:
Timothy G. Weih is an associate professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and teaches elementary teaching methods courses.