Disciplinary literacy discussion

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“Content area literacy focuses on study skills that can be used to help students learn from subject matter specific texts. Disciplinary literacy, in contrast, is an emphasis on the knowledge and abilities possessed by those who create, communicate, and use knowledge within the disciplines,” (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2012, p. 8). This implies that the content strategies are cross-curricular, and disciplinary literacy strategies are specific to the content area. For example, students analyze materials in all classes, but how they interpret them is different. Students in an English class will analyze a story differently from examining documents in a history class.

From experience with disciplinary literacy, teachers must value the ability to make connects. Disciplinary literacy builds upon itself. What a student learns in elementary school about reading and writing will apply in their high school classes. When students learn how to make inferences, they will apply that reading in specific content areas.

When teachers want to implement disciplinary reading opportunities, they must think about how the content aligns with the 21st Century learner and create assignments that are authentic in nature (Chauvin & Theodore, 2015, p. 3-5). According to Chauvin and Theodore, assessments should allow students to use resources outside of the classroom and adhere to their interests and strengths (Chauvin & Theodore, 2015, p. 5). This approach can lend itself to problem-based Learning. This method can allow for students to think critically.

Being a high school social studies teacher, I often think about the appropriate ways to include disciplinary literacy in my lessons. For students to read and write like a historian, they have to be able to scan documents and decipher various points of view, understand the information in different contexts, and make connections. One way in which I am able to do this is by using document bases questions (DBQs). The purpose of a DBQ is not to assess knowledge but to teach a skill. DBQs allow students to evaluate information as a historian would. DBQs enable students to read multiple documents and create an opinion based on the question. Students also become privy to the language that is to be used in a history course. When using DBQs, I like to teach students the Advanced Placement acronym SOAP. This acronym helps students to understand the documents better. When concluding a DBQ, there is a required essay, where students are taught how to use evidence to support claims. All of these instructional strategies combined better prepare students for disciplinary reading in the future.

Chauvin, R., and Theodore, K. (2015). Teaching content-area literacy and disciplinary literacy. SEDL Insights3(1), 1-10.

Shanahan, T. and Shanahan, C. (2012). What is disciplinary literacy and why does it matter? Topics in Language Disorders, 32(1), 7-18. https://crlp.ucsc.edu/resources/downloads/Shanahan%20What%20is%20Disciplinary%20Literacy.pdf

 

Last Updated on October 4, 2019