Eric Sheninger


Staten Island, NJ

Interests: 21st century learning,...

  • Posted 4 Years ago
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Critical Literacy Across the Curriculum

By Lisette Morel, Colleen Tambuscio, Lynne Torpie, and Joanna Westbrook

Rather than being daunted by the literacy demands posed by PARCC and the Common Core, three teachers at New Milford High School have embraced the challenge. This semester, they collaborated with a 9th grade ELA teacher to develop critical literacy across the curriculum. What arose from that collaboration was rich and pushed students to interact with text and present their ideas using the discourse of each discipline.

These teachers worked to create tasks that foster the investigative, critical thinking and written communication skills that embody real-world endeavors. Though literacy skills are the foundation upon which these outcomes are built, these teachers felt unsure about assessing critical literacy and needed guidance in building clear rubrics. With the support of an ELA colleague they were able to develop activities to engage students in authentic writing tasks as they analyze and synthesize content.

The Science Task

Infographics in Science:
To connect the cognitive learning goals in science class to the cognitive learning goals in ELA Mrs. Torpie worked with Mrs. Westbrook to create the Infographic Project. For this project, students collected data then presented it graphically using Infographics such as bar graphs, a column graph, a pie chart, or a hierarchy. In addition, students compared their data to other representative data, drew conclusions, and made specific recommendations.

Click HERE for the assignment and rubric.

Common Core Standards Addressed: WHST.9-10.6; WHST.9-10.8; WHST.9-10.9

The Social Studies Task

Curating an Exhibit in History
Since students often experience history through museum learning, either within the walls of a museum or through online exhibitions, the Become a Curator assignment provided an authentic method for engaging social studies students in learning. Mrs. Westbrook and Mrs. Tambuscio built this task using an advanced text on the subject of Nazi ideology. To begin, students utilized a specific chapter in Nazi Ideology and the Holocaust by The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to research their assigned cluster of non-Jewish victims of Nazi oppression. The goal was to allow students to understand the many layers that encompass Nazi ideology while citing specific artifacts and evidence to support their conclusions.

Click HERE for the assignment and rubric.

Common Core Standards Addressed: RH.9-10.3; WHST.9-10.2; WHST.9-10.4; WHST.9-10.5; WHST.9-10.8.

The Art Task

Artist Statements
The task created by Mrs. Morel and Mrs. Westbrook asked students to write Artist Statements to accompany their finished pieces for exhibition. Mrs. Morel provided mentor texts from the art class MOMA fieldtrip which students used to create their own statements. These statements mirrored the professional standards of the art world. This assignment gave them experience in articulating their process and in writing clear statements to describe their intended effect.

Click HERE for the assignment. 

Common Core Standards Addressed:WHST.9-10.2; WHST.9-10.4; WHST.9-10.9


What these teachers learned from their collaboration is that writing in the content areas can no longer be centered on tired, recycled 5 paragraph essays students write year after year – the idea of making the content classes into extensions of the English class just does not have traction. What does have traction is work that couples real content with real literacy and that threads reading/writing opportunities throughout the curriculum.

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