View the movie below and then proceed to the Initial Thoughts section (time: 3:40).
Ms. Chesser, a chemistry teacher at Wilton High School, is chagrined, which is a vocabulary word meaning troubled. She’s teaching a lesson on chemical reactions, but her students can’t seem to answer questions about their homework. When she asks them to open their textbooks and reread the assigned passages, her students accede (meaning that they do as she asks them to) but still they are unable to answer the questions.
Ms. Chesser begins to suspect that her students’ troubles partly come from a difficulty understanding the chemistry vocabulary words. She’s discomfited–that is, she’s confused–because she told her students to look up the required vocabulary in the textbook’s glossary. Somehow, though, her students are failing to use context clues to connect that information to what they read in their textbooks.
Later, in the lunch room, Ms. Chesser has a confabulation–meaning a conversation–with some of her fellow teachers, and finds that they, too, share much of her confusion. She tells her colleagues that, even though she feels confident in her ability to teach science content, she is not prepared to teach reading comprehension to her students. The English teacher, Mr. Garrett, explains that he faces similar problems with time constraints and too much content to cover as it is. Ms. Nor, the U.S. Government and Civics teacher, agrees that students need more help with reading comprehension, but hastens to add that she does not believe this to be her job. The others, too, feel this is not their responsibility. But Ms. Chesser is indefatigable, which is one way to describe people who do not wish to give up. If it’s not their job then whose job is it? Ms. Chesser wonders out loud, “How can we address the problem and help students learn and perform better?” No one at the table seems to know.
Now Ms. Chesser is completely flummoxed, which is a vocabulary word indicating that she does not know what to do next.
Here’s your Challenge:
Do you think teachers should teach vocabulary and reading comprehension skills within their content areas?
What are the responsibilities of middle- and high-school teachers for teaching vocabulary and comprehension skills within their content areas?
What should content-area teachers know about vocabulary instruction?
What should content-area teachers know about comprehension instruction?