As an educator, you may have noticed a significant gap in literacy instruction. In many cases, students who come from marginalized backgrounds are left behind because they don’t have the resources or the same level of instruction as their peers. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. By focusing on equity in the classroom, educators can ensure that all students have the same opportunities to succeed.
Literacy is a fundamental skill for all students to attain and practice by the time they exit school. It’s important to acknowledge literacy instruction doesn’t just happen in Language Arts/English/Reading classrooms. To support higher levels of student achievement while providing students with an equitable learning experience, educators can integrate literacy instruction into science and social studies classrooms.
What is Equity in Literacy?
Before we dive into how to bring equity to literacy instruction, let’s talk about what equity actually means. Equity is not the same as equality. Equality means giving everyone the same thing, regardless of their background or circumstances. Equity, on the other hand, means giving everyone what they need to be successful. This means that if a student needs extra support to succeed, you give them that support.
Equity in literacy ensures all students have access to a diverse range of multimedia reading materials to encourage comprehension. Equity in literacy provides students with a wider selection of texts and multimedia while ensuring students are deeply engaged with ELA skills.
Why is Equity in Literacy Important?
Equity in literacy is important because it ensures that every student has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances. When we focus on equity, we level the playing field and give every student a fair shot at success. This is especially important in science and social studies, where students from marginalized backgrounds are often left behind.
Literacy instruction that is integrated into science and social studies instruction increases the likelihood that students will become interested in the content and will want to learn more about the topics in the future (Matthews, 2004).
Strategies to Incorporate Literacy with Equity
Now that we understand what equity is and why it’s important, let’s talk about how to bring equity to literacy instruction in science and social studies.
1. Get to Know Your Students and Engage with Students’ Expertise
The first step in bringing equity to your classroom is to get to know your students. Every student comes from a unique background and has unique needs. Students bring their own knowledge and understanding to new experiences. By taking the time to get to know your students, you can better understand them and their needs in order to provide them with the support they need to succeed. Something as simple as a quick activity probing on what is important to individual students at a given time is a great way to begin.
2. Use Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices
Make sure texts provide a wide range of diverse perspectives. Culturally responsive teaching practices take into account the cultural backgrounds and experiences of every student. By using these practices, educators can create a classroom environment that is inclusive and welcoming to all students.
3. Provide Accessible Instructional Materials
In order to ensure that all students have the same opportunities to succeed, it’s important to provide instructional materials that are accessible to everyone. This may mean providing materials in different languages or formats, or providing extra support for students who need it.
4. Focus on Vocabulary Instruction and Writing Practice
One of the biggest challenges in literacy instruction in science and social studies is vocabulary. Students who come from marginalized backgrounds may not have been exposed to the same vocabulary as their peers, which can make it difficult for them to understand the concepts they are learning. By focusing on vocabulary instruction, educators can ensure that all students have the same understanding of the material. And, don’t just read! Encourage students to practice their writing in support of literacy development.
5. Provide Ongoing Support
It’s important to provide ongoing support to students. This may mean providing extra help during class or after school, or connecting students with resources in the community. By providing ongoing support, educators can ensure that students have the tools they need to succeed.
Bringing equity to literacy instruction in science and social studies is an important task. By focusing on equity in classrooms, educators can ensure that all students have the same opportunities to succeed. Student-centered instruction that embeds literacy instruction in science and social studies provides students with opportunities to learn and achieve at higher levels while supporting critical reading, writing, and inquiry skills.
Remember to get to know students, use culturally responsive teaching practices, provide accessible instructional materials, focus on vocabulary instruction, and provide ongoing support. With these strategies in place, all students can reach their full potential.