Literacy & Mathematics #seaccr

Just recently, my district hosted our annual district wide inservice where all of the teaching staff from the villages around the district fly into Bethel, Alaska and participate in many great professional development activities.  There are a few sessions that we are required to go to and this year, one of those required sessions was Secondary Literacy in the Content Areas.  We were introduced to the new shifts in the Alaska ELA standards and how these standards were relevant to our content areas – even though we do not teach Language Arts.  Although my site administrator had already discussed the new ELA standards, the presenters of this session definitely did better at explaining how these standards benefited my math students.

The secondary staff (grades 7 – 12) have spent a lot of time on these shifts.  My site administrator really wanted our students to focus on reading lots of informational text and practice answering text-dependent questions.  We used to have a D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) time every day where the students would read whatever they wanted.  We now call this RTI and have dedicated this time (4 – 30 minute sessions a week) to giving our students as much practice with informational text as possible.  There are four teachers who take a group of students and focus on one of the informational text structures.  I also had my students create posters with key words for each different type of text structure in my classroom.  During RTI, I go over the importance of reading through the text carefullly, looking for key words and identifying important information.  We use close-reading techniques by reading, re-reading and re-reading the text again before we answer the questions about the text.

I have used this same approach with math students when reading word problems.  I do think that the practice the students are getting with pulling out important information during RTI is also benefiting my math students for reading word problems.  I know it is too early to tell, but I honestly believe that this will help my students with their higher order thinking math skills.

I also believe that the close-reading practices help my students to get through the math text better.  I have tried to get away from the text because my students – who are over 90% ELL – have such difficulty with reading.  However, these new shifts have given new importance on students reading the text more and allowing them to gather important information from their readings.

This all leads into my research question.  My site administrator was actually looking through some of the articles I was reading and asked about my classes.  I talked with him about my research and we talked about some ideas.  I have decided to focus on the dual language model and how it will benefit my math students.  After my twitter session this week, I think I have come up with a question.

Does incorporating the dual language model in my math classroom benefit my ELL students?

I live in a Yup’ik eskimo village in western Alaska, where English is considered their second language.  Over 90% of the students at our school are non-LEP (Limited Engish Proficient) and are eligible to have tests (standardized and classroom) read aloud to them.  For the past two years, our school has piloted the dual language model and this year is the first year where it is fully implemented in our elementary grades (Pre-K to 6).  None of my secondary math students have been a part of the dual language model.  I plan to implement and reflect on a few strategies that our elementary teachers have been using in their classrooms.  I am hoping that these strategies will help my ELL students to better understand some of the new math vocabulary words they are being introduced to in my classroom.

I am really excited about this upcoming research project.  I would love to hear input and/or strategies that you think could help my research.


LKSD (Lower Kuskokwim School District) Secondary Literacy Session.  Powerpoint presentation.

Parrot, M. M.D., Swanson, M. M.D. (February 2013).  Linking Literacy and Mathematics: The Support for Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice. Retrieved from


6 thoughts on “Literacy & Mathematics #seaccr

  1. Lexie Razor


    It sounds like your training at the beginning of the year was very helpful. I’m sure it was stressful and you didn’t want to be there because things are so hectic at the beginning of the year, but it sounds like it was actually a good training (which I love to go to because there are so many that are not good). I also think that it is awesome that your school has put such a big focus on literacy and informational text. I went to an AVID training this summer and that was one of the big topics we talked about also. It was nice because I was in a math group and we learned strategies on reading and writing. A couple of the activities that I really liked from the training were Socratic Seminars and Philosophical Chairs. Both of these techniques were used after reading an informational text that provided students with the opportunity to discuss and debate what they read in the text. If you would like information about either of those activities, let me know and I can email you something on them.

    As far as your research project, I think it is great! I am very interested to learn what you find out because I also have some ELL students in my classes and would love to be able to help them more than what I might be doing now. Good luck on the research and let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

    1. bsportie Post author

      As much as I dislike traveling in for the district inservices every year (because of the small planes), our district always does a great job of finding some really good presenters that are beneficial to our schools.

      I do want to get more information on those two techniques (Socratic Seminars and Philosophical Chairs), and any other information that you learned that would be helpful.

      I am really excited about my research idea and have been thinking a lot about the next steps. I really hope it all works out as well as I think it will and I am happy to share my progress with anyone who might benefit.

  2. Barbra & Jack Donachy

    I’m interested in seeing what kind of resources you come up with to help you answer your research question. Maybe if you find resources that help others, you could publish them somehow… this blog, twitter, etc. Good luck!

  3. akteacher3

    It is great to see that you are communicating with your site administer on what you are doing in class and what you plan to research. I think when you have more involvement from that individual as well as from other individuals you will have greater success with your research project. I also teach in a Yup’ik eskimo village in western Alaska. Where do you teach?

    1. bsportie Post author

      Is this Sara Hartman? I teach in Newtok in LKSD.

      Yes, I am very grateful that my site administrator is so supportive of our staff. I am also glad that he shared his idea with me. I was still shuffling around ideas and I was leaning toward using a dual language word wall. He helped me to think the research through. He is always reading up on research himself, so this is right up his alley. I have also talked with some of my elementary staff and they have been very helpful. I definitely am not going into this project blinded.


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