Adolescent Literacy Levels: Reading and Writing Strategies Research Paper

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¶ … Adolescent Literacy Levels: Reading and Writing Strategies to Help Improve Students' Literacy Skills

"Literacy -- the ability to read, write, speak, listen, and think effectively -- enables adolescents to learn and to communicate clearly about what they know and what they want to know. Being literate enables people to access power through the ability to become informed, to inform others, and to make informed decisions;" yet, the contemporary research shows that many adolescents are loosing out on the access to power through increased levels of literary incompetence (Meltzer, Cook, & Clark, 2011, p 6). Unfortunately, adolescent literacy has fallen far below the general expectations for middle and high school grade levels. This is a serious national problem, as many students in middle and high school fail to get the right amount of literacy support training needed to help boost their abilities. Thus, this research first outlines the issues contemporary adolescents face, and then moves to provide five reading and writing strategies aimed at helping increase adolescent literacy levels.

Problems with Adolescent Literacy

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One of the biggest problems in America's literacy is the fact that many adolescents fail to meet the literacy standards for their grade levels. According to the research, "multiple indicators overwhelmingly suggest that the majority of American high school students do no have the reading and writing skills necessary to maximize content-area learning nor to successfully negotiate the Information Age economy facing them" (Meltzer, Cook, & Clark, 2011, p 6). Students in both middle and high school are struggling tremendously with keeping up with their literacy standards. Many have trouble with a number of elements associated with reading and writing, which essentially is affecting their power as a student and member of the larger American community.

Research Paper on Adolescent Literacy Levels: Reading and Writing Strategies Assignment

In order to gauge students in regards to their literary abilities, the NAEP achievement levels are as follows: basic, proficient, and advanced (Guthrie, 2012). Students who read at a basic level can understand material only on a literal level. Essentially, this means that they can relate material to a personal experience or level, but fail to understand more abstract concepts associated with the reading content. Proficient does represent students who can grasp complex inferences, literary devices, and character manipulation to a certain extent. Then there are advanced students, who "perceive abstract themes, analyze, synthesize, evaluate viewpoints, transfer and apply text-based knowledge" (Guthrie, 2012, p3). Recent NAEP data from a 2003 survey shows how most adolescents fail to reach the advanced or even proficient literacy level. Unfortunately, 37% of students are below a basic level of reading, while 59% are below a proficient standard (Guthrie, 2012). This is a huge number of adolescent students who fail to meet the literary standards for their grade levels, and paints a grim picture of the literary abilities of America's adolescent students today. Furthermore, out of 28 OECD countries, the United States ranks 20th in terms of reading time, and 24th in the proportion of book readers (Guthrie, 2012). This is a deplorable position in terms of how American adolescent reading levels compare with other developed nations.

One of the major problems within the issue of low adolescent literacy levels is the ability to move beyond just basic understanding of the texts they are working with. Research shows how "typical students have basic understanding" but show a lower ability to make inferences and connections between the texts and more abstract concepts (Guthrie, 2012, p 5). Students below a basic reading level show almost no inference abilities and very little contextual capabilities as well. Many students coast through their classes with only the basic knowledge of how to interpret and analyze texts. This is seen especially in populations where English is a second language or the family is in a low socio-economic category. Research shows that comprehension levels fall with income, yet there are numerous strategies that could help improve a students' ability to not only read, but fully comprehend text material.

Reading Strategies

There are a number of reading strategies that can augment lesson plans to facilitate literacy support plans. First, it is important for teachers to increase reading for daily activities and assignments. One of the main negative contributors to the low literacy levels of adolescents is their actual time spent reading. The external research shows that 93% of adolescents do not read daily, with 74% rarely reading more academic material, like science articles or historical biographies (Guthrie, 2012). This is a major problem, and one which can be addressed with strategies aimed at increasing the time students spend reading each day. Teachers can utilize daily reading activities, either short or long, depending on the other planned lessons and the grade level of students. This will help students get more exposed to reading materials and practice their literacy abilities.

Secondly, there needs to be more engaged reading activities present with lesson plans of various subjects. Engaged reading involves deep processing strategies. Using engaged reading drills, teachers can force students to think more abstractly and connect more with the text in front of them. Engaged readers are "motivated, strategic, knowledgeable, and socially interactive" (Guthrie, 2001). This is comparison to less engaged reading, which is often found in students reading only to well on certain tests. This type of less engaged reading involves less time, more memorization over comprehension, and the reading of only materials that are relevant to the student's next upcoming test (Guthrie, 2012). Research shows that engagement is directly correlated to student motivation. This implies that "creating classrooms that center on student engagement is key to motivating students to develop positive literacy identities and strengthen literary skills" (Meltzer, Cook, & Clark, 2011, p 18). Moreover, contemporary studies show that the more engaged reading a student commits to, the higher their general achievement in other course material will be. According to Guthrie (2012), "high reading engagement produces more reading achievement than three years of secondary education" (Guthrie, 2012, p 16). Engaged reading is one of the crucial staples to helping students improve their literacy skills. This also helps address the problems of second language learners and those from lower socioeconomic classes. Here, the research states that "findings suggest that engagement cancels the gap in reading achievement when socioeconomic status is factored in with reading scores" (Meltzer, Cook, & Clark, 2011, p 20). Lessons highlighting the use of underlining and circling to pull out key concepts and important information and can help show students practical strategies for engaged reading.

Assisted reading is another strategy that will help augment teachers' plans to keep students on track with their literacy skills. This involves high levels of teacher involvement in order to assist readers as they encounter problems or distractions while reading their assigned material. The use of praise and rewards to further motivate and assist students who are working their way to higher literacy levels can be an important strategy element here (Meltzer, Cook, & Clark, 2011). Teachers should focus on providing class time where students read aloud and work with the teacher to get through text material.

A fourth strategy would be to include reading exercises outside of the context of English classes. Most schools only promote literacy training within the context of English or Literature classes. Additionally, there are serious problems with how the administrative structure of working with literacy impacts students' capabilities. For most schools, the English department is forced to assume most of the literacy requirements (Meltzer, Cook, & Clark, 2011). However, reading is an important element to all subjects and genres of traditional education. As such, many opportunities to teach literacy skills in other subjects are lost. Thus, it is essential for other subjects to cooperate in the common goal of improving adolescent literacy. It is important for teachers in other subject areas, like History and Science to also contribute to literacy support strategies, and thus to implement reading exercises in the context of their lesson plans as well. This helps provide a more collaborated and united effort to teach literacy skills, and might reach out to students who have more of a connection to math and sciences, rather than English and literature.

Finally, strategy instruction and reading exercises using different applied strategies could be a key element. Not all minds learn the same. Thus, when teachers only use one single strategy in the execution of their lesson plans, some students may not benefit as much as if different strategies were presented that were more suited to their own unique style of learning (Guthrie, 2001). Teachers should not only spend time on reading, but also on presenting and working with numerous strategies to encourage more engaged reading.

Writing Strategies

There are also a number of writing strategies that can help promote greater literacy levels in adolescents. The use of vocabulary lessons in planned writing assignments can help increase the breadth of knowledge and fluency a student experiences and uses in his or her reading. Thus, "the essence of good vocabulary instruction is creating contexts where students use relevant and key vocabulary constantly… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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