Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup


Disciplinary Literacy

What Is Disciplinary Literacy?


When students enter middle and high school, their teachers expect that they have learned the basic skills and strategies for reading and comprehending text. Students who are still working to develop these proficiencies may need assistance from their classroom teachers and, in some cases, from specialists in reading or special education, to support their reading and writing in the classroom.

However, even students who have developed effective literacy practices in the early years may not have the reading and writing skills they need to successfully read and write the complex texts required in middle and high school. They have learned basic strategies for comprehension of texts across subject areas and genres, including making connections, asking questions, making inferences, summarizing, and monitoring understanding. Yet they still may struggle in identifying and using specialized reading practices to understand, analyze, and interpret important ideas in discipline-specific texts.

These first four units will provide you with an overview of disciplinary literacy, <p><strong>disciplinary literacy</strong><br /> A concept that highlights the differences among the various texts used in different disciplines and the specialized reading practices required for comprehension and critical analysis of ideas within each. Some of these differences include specialized vocabulary, types of language used to communicate ideas, text structures, text features, and sources of information within and across disciplines. Each discipline represents knowledge and the ways of producing and communicating that knowledge differently, resulting in a diverse approach to reading and comprehending text ideas.</p> essential concepts related to proficient reading and writing, and general instructional practices that support literacy development. During this course, you will view classroom videos across the disciplines and grade levels in middle school and high school that illustrate key ideas in a section. Each video is accompanied by suggestions for reflection and response before, during, and after viewing, so you may want to take notes during each part. While some of these videos may not directly correlate with your discipline or grade level, they are intended to provide opportunities to see key concepts in action. They will also help you understand where students are coming from and where they are going within the continuum of grades 6–12.

In this first unit, you will explore the factors related to literacy development, the concept of disciplinary literacy and how it differs from content-area literacy, and the multiple literacies that students use—both in and out of school—to be literate in today’s world. By the completion of Unit 4, you will have a foundation for examining specific literacy practices within your discipline.

Reflect: What skills and strategies (literacy practices) do you expect your students to know and be able to use before they begin your course?