Some Say It Can't Be Done: Literacy in the Math Classroom by Charla DeClark

By on December 8, 2015

Charla DeClark is a middle school math teacher at Forest Park Middle School, WI. Charla is a trained LiteracyTA Coach and has been implementing literacy practices in her math classroom since we met her in 2013. Here is an email she shared with me. Please send this to all of your math folks.

I thought I would share some of the work I've done around literacy to enhance my math instruction. In Wisconsin, we have three standards that are assessed. The three standards are Precision, Problem Solving, and Justification. I've spent a great deal of time over the past two years applying the LiteracyTA strategies to appropriate places in my curriculum to give my students great resources to help them develop as mathematicians. We are calling the Do/What Justification just Do/What because we found with our standards we were able to use this strategy to support justification as well as problem solving. Here is an example of Analyzing Prompts and using the Do/What T-Chart in the math classroom.

Here are other lessons I have developed using LiteracyTA practices and skills.
Unit on Percents
Early in this unit, we teach percent proportion. I used the step notes to help students identify the whole, part, and percent. It is color coded so that every time we are talking about whole, we are using green, part is red, and percent is blue.
We have slightly changed the marking the text markings to align with all disciplines in our building, so you will also see the text marked above following the same color pattern. A few days later, we learn another strategy. This strategy is to solve using a percent equation.  I took the same questions as we solved in the percent proportion step notes and we followed the same color pattern. This time we worked out the problems using the percent equation method. Several days later, we were connecting this work back to work we had done in a prior chapter. I made the anchor chart following the same color pattern.
Unit on Ratio and Proportion and Direct Variation
We used two visual summaries to help students. One lesson was to help students graph properly and not miss some of the required pieces for our precision grade.  The second lesson visual summary helped students make the connections between graphs and tables.  We also were focused on some key terms like discrete data, continuous data, and direct variation.
We also used a Do/What  between these two lessons.  Again, you will see our text marking above and then the work supporting below.  I find it very helpful in math to number the "Do's" and answer the "Do's" below and number them.  We have students do the math work in question 3 and any writing/justifying work in question 4.  
This is just a sample of two units that I've taught so far this year. I have many more examples of the way the literacy strategies have improved my instruction and student learning. It doesn't happen overnight, and it does require time to reflect on what the we are hoping students learn, but my students have gained from each strategy. My students have a separate section in their binders where they keep all the literacy work we've completed. We usually provide a template for them to use. They are only in 7th grade and haven't had a lot of exposure yet. As they get older and these strategies are used in 8th grade through high school, students should be able to create these on their own.  
I believe that math is a harder discipline to see the connections to literacy. Often, we need to see it in our discipline to fully grasp the impact it can make. 
Thanks for sharing my work. Too often we attend workshops and soon after, the work is no longer used. I just wanted to share how what I learned 2 years ago is still causing me to reflect on my teaching and support the math that my students are learning. I would not do this work if I didn't see results in my students and if it didn't help improve my teaching.
Thank-you, Charla. You are doing amazing work and we appreciate you sharing it with us! 
Learn how other LiteracyTA Math Coaches are using literacy skills to enhance their mathematical practices and instruction.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

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