By now most educators know that the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects aren’t just for English teachers, but for teachers of all content areas. These Standards do not replace content area standards, but rather support the learning of the content.
The 2010 Report, Reading in the Disciplines: The Challenges of Adolescent Literacy, published by the Carnegie Corporation stated, “Textbooks, articles, manuals and historical primary source documents create specialized challenges for learners. These texts often include abstracts, figures, tables, diagrams and specialized vocabulary. The ideas are complex and build across a number of paragraphs requiring focus and strategic processing. To comprehend and produce this type of text, students must be immersed in the language and thinking processes of that discipline and they must be supported by an expert guide, their teacher.”
More recently Cynthia Shanahan and Tim Shanahan have continued to do research into the idea of disciplinary literacy, how reading and thinking vary between disciplines, and how disciplinary literacy differs from content-area literacy. For instance, consider the role of reading in history, chemistry, and math. In history, reading is interpretive with author’s point-of-view and sourcing essential to that interpretation. Chemistry texts provide knowledge that allow the reader to predict how the world works. For math, rereading is a major strategy and precision of understanding is essential. These are just a few of their findings which have been published in the article “What is Disciplinary Literacy and Why Does it Matter.”
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