A review of Active Literacy Across the Curriculum by Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Reviewed by Molly Martin

Active Literacy Across the Curriculum:
Strategies for Reading, Writing, speaking, and Listening
by Heidi Hayes Jacobs
Paperback: 152 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1596670235

Dr Heidi Hayes Jacob, Executive Director of the Curriculum Mapping Institute and President of Curriculum Designers, Inc., is an worldwide professional recognized for her expertise in the fields of core curriculum and education. Dr. Jacobs has functioned as an education consultant to schools across the world, and is especially renowned in the US regarding matters and practices relating to: curriculum mapping, dynamic instruction, and 21st century strategic planning and standardized testing.

Chapter headings are enlightening: 1. Revising Roles: Every Teachers Becomes an Active Language Teacher, 2. Teaching English as a Foreign Language: Employing Three Distinctive Types of Vocabulary, 3. Creative Notetaking: Activating Extraction and Reaction from Texts, 4 Editing and Revising Independently: Using a Consistent Developmental Policy in Every K-12 Classroom,5 speaking and Listening in Groups: working with the Discussion, 6 Turning the Speaking/Listening Instrument: Giving Voice Lessons in Each Classroom, Mapping Active Literacy: Revising and Integrating Curriculum Maps K-12.

The Foreword begins with 2 quotes, one from Lord Byron, the other from Mark Twain. Rachel Billmeyer asserts that it is more significant than ever that educators move to cultivate strategic learners as students become dynamic thinkers. Further Billmeyer notes that accumulation of information is a vibrant progression; plus and notably, learning is an action of fabrication of meaning from the mental storing of curriculum content.

The foundation of Active Literacy Across the Curriculum is that each educator, at any grade level in any curriculum area is a language teacher. The teaching of English as a foreign language by employing 3 specific types of active vocabulary. Vocabulary needs to be built of high frequency words, specialized terminology and embellishments. High frequency words is the language generally introduced by educators, and are the ones basic to learning the subject matter. High frequency words appear again and again during student learning sessions. Specialized terminology is the vocabulary focused on highly contextualized application to specific curriculum fields or disciplines, words should be said aloud, explained, defined, paraphrased, and understanding demonstrated. Embellishments include the synonyms for specific words, the refinements and adjectives to convey deeper grasp of the subject.

Reading is more than merely moving the eye’s across a page of printed symbols. Reading is thinking prompted by the text; the implication of the words set down are generated by the reader as a consequence of the response between the reader and the text on the page. Hayes states that language capability is the foundation of all student performance. Hayes notes that the attainment of a classroom learning experience rests on student language aptitude. Hayes states further that the need to read, write, speak and listen successfully is central to every curriculum subject, in every grade, and in every class learners will ever attend.

As a classroom teacher I read with interest that Hayes notes the fulfilment of that need is complicated by learning standards established at the state level that are written as if all children are confident in standard English usage. Hayes states what teachers have known for years; every standardized test, whether a state or national instrument is principally a reading test. If the test taker is not a skilled reader, with a broad vocabulary filled with standard English words, then the test taker is going to face problems with the language used in the test; including words like determine, summarize, select and more.

Hayes offers 7 critical stratagems for revising current educational practice. These strategies include increasing the role of every educator so that instructors recognize themselves as language teachers who will separate vocabulary into 3 unique categories with each educator having distinctive instructional approaches in each classroom K-12. Teachers will begin guiding student toward building innovative notetaking approaches designed to cause an extraction and response mode in students as opposed to a passive receptive approach. Hayes notes that a formal approach for teaching communication skills by developing four assessable discussion types in students via using of direct technical instruction that promotes the use of voice and personal involvement as a speaking and communication instrument to develop poise, confidence and power for each student in every classroom is the best method for assuring student success. Ultimately Hayes endorses use of Curriculum Mapping as a coalescing, school wide vehicle for developing formal benchmark assessments for guaranteeing active mastery in every subject and on every level.

Hayes promotes using dependable editing and revision for writing in every class K – 12 be used as a technique for furthering the language education development all students must cultivate in order to achieve success in learning curriculum requirements in addition to readying the students for taking the standardized tests so popular as THE assessment for determining student success and teaching success and ability.

I found Active Literacy Across the Curriculum: Strategies for Reading, Writing, speaking, and Listening to be a well written, easily understood text filled with good writing, based on an interesting premise and useful for the classroom teacher. Hayes makes an excellent case for the systematic development of the vocabulary students need in order to achieve success. The book is suitable for every school administrator book shelf, for the college professor’s required reading book list and for those who teach whether in the classroom or other setting.

Reviewed by: molly martin