Teaching Disciplinary Literacy to Adolescents : Rethinking Content-Area Literacy

Published: 
Spring 2008

Source: Harvard Educational Review, Spring 2008

In this article, the authors argue that “disciplinary literacy” — advanced literacy instruction embedded within content-area classes such as math, science, and social studies — should be a focus of middle and secondary school settings. Moving beyond the oft-cited “every teacher a teacher of reading” philosophy that has historically frustrated secondary content-area teachers, the authors present data collected during the first two years of a study on disciplinary literacy that reveal how content experts and secondary content teachers read disciplinary texts, make use of comprehension strategies, and subsequently teach those strategies to adolescent readers.

Preliminary findings suggest that experts from math, chemistry, and history read their respective texts quite differently; consequently, both the content-area experts and secondary teachers in this study recommend different comprehension strategies for work with adolescents. This study not only has implications for which comprehension strategies might best fit particular disciplinary reading tasks, but also suggests how students may be best prepared for the reading, writing, and thinking required by advanced disciplinary coursework.

Updated: Jun. 16, 2008
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