Welcome to THE SOURCE BLOG: Teaching with Primary Sources at Eastern Illinois University News. Our new blog allows us to quickly share news about and links to resources, coming events and changes to educational materials important to those of us who recognize the benefits of teaching with digitized primary sources from the collections of the Library of Congress. Posts will be brief and informal, but you have our word that the information shared will be valuable and relevant. Please subscribe to THE SOURCE and encourage colleagues to join the conversation and receive updates via RSS feed or email. Remember to visit our site at www.eiu.edu/eiutps. Thank you and come back soon!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Academic Language (from TPS Network)

This is the first post to the Supporting Literacy with Primary Sources group of the TPS Network. Although it isn't quite the same format, I am going to re-post what I write here as well. (You have to cover all of your bases, right?)

I remember going NUTS when I received mail as a child. I shared this image we are using as our group image with coworkers and quickly slipped into the nostalgia of “back in the day”.  While we were talking a student explained that she had no idea what party-lines or birthday cards full of dimes in slots were.  (Sigh, these kids are missing out!) It is amazing how a primary source can draw us in and focus our attention, conversation (and vocabulary) to a topic. This is why primary sources work well to introduce content or start a class. 

A student may walk in my room after spending the last 45 minutes intently thinking about the solar system or basketball. They have been immersed in the academic language of another discipline.  Now I expect him or her to immediately transition to my class and continue our conversation about immigration.  A switch like that is even hard for an adult.  To avoid losing precious time to getting everyone on task, I have found that sharing a primary source as students enter the room is key!  The conversation immediately shifts to some aspect of the topic as students see the 1906 motion picture Arrival of emigrants [i.e. immigrants], Ellis Island showing, listen to the audio recording of Don’t Bite the Hand that’s Feeding You  or read a newspaper headline from the Ellis Island page of Topics in Chronicling America. The conversations may not be exactly what I want them to discuss, but at least they are moving in the right direction. Developing content literacy through mastery of academic language builds fluency and comprehension. (Wow - my reading methods profs at SIUC and Murray State would be proud of that sentence.)

Academic language is more than vocabulary. It is connecting new ideas and concepts to what we already know. It is becoming familiar with an era, person or concept so that we can put new information in context. Mastery of academic language allows us to turn a lengthy explanation or description into a phrase or image. It sets a tone.

How do you use primary sources to support and develop academic language and content literacy?

No comments:

Post a Comment