Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Disciplinary Literacy

What Is Disciplinary Literacy?

Implications for Instruction

Students in middle school and high school encounter more challenging, complex texts and are expected to use their knowledge of literacy (reading, writing, and oral communication) practices to make sense of the content. The literacy demands in each discipline require continued instruction in how to approach a text, determine key ideas, critically evaluate the content, and communicate knowledge. Even students who enter these grades with a strong foundation of literacy skills and strategies benefit from explicit instruction <p><strong>explicit instruction</strong><br /> A model of instruction in which teachers make learning visible to students and provide opportunities for group and independent practice. Explicit instruction is the foundation for the gradual release of responsibility and cognitive apprenticeship models of teaching and learning. The teacher begins by modeling and demonstrating a particular skill or practice and then allows students to practice with the teacher or peers, moving to independent application. The goal is to teach students to identify an appropriate strategy for learning, to understand how to use it, and to know when to use it for successful learning.</p> in the disciplinary-specific practices for effective reading, writing, and thinking about what they are learning within a discipline.

This does not mean that disciplinary teachers should be reading teachers in the traditional sense. But it does mean they need to teach students how to be discipline-specific readers and writers of increasingly complex texts. To do this, disciplinary-expert teachers can identify and integrate relevant literacy practices that promote effective understanding, analysis, and evaluation of texts within their disciplines, practices reflected throughout the Common Core State Standards. 

Video and Reflection: Now watch Science in the Real World: A Biotech Startup about scientific researchers engaged in specific literacy and language practices required in their discipline. You may want to take notes on the questions below.

  • Before you watch: Consider the “real-world” literacy practices required for different disciplines: math, science, history/social studies, and English. How are these practices addressed and developed in middle school and high school?
  • Watch the video: As you watch this video, notice the specific components of literacy that scientists use in their research to discover and communicate knowledge. What components of literacy are critical in the work of scientific researchers?


Science in the Real World: A Biotech Startup

Follow engineer Aaron Oppenheimer in his efforts to manufacture and distribute medical equipment to high-needs communities, especially those in remote parts of the developing world who are impacted by HIV/AIDS.

  • Reflect: Now consider the demands of the content, texts, and assignments your students encounter in your subject area. In what ways do you model the thinking of an expert in your discipline to support students in their learning? How do you promote understanding of why your discipline is important and how it contributes to our understanding of the world?