One of the really exciting things coming to the surface in English/Language Art is how important text is. Even more specifically, how important text across all of the content areas is.
With new information, new research and new lightbulb moments comes some confusion, too!
One thing that we’re really looking closely at around here is the impact that various types of text have on the reader. As we look at primary and secondary sources, manuscripts, textbooks, lists, advertisements and zillion other texts that kids might encounter throughout the subject areas in and outside of schools, we realize that the good ol’ term Content Area Literacy is used incorrectly quite often. Content Area Literacy typically refers to generic strategies designed to be used across the curriculum. An example of this is “how to summarize” – teaching kids a simple technique to summarize any text.
The term that’s not getting much air time, but is MUCH more crucial for teachers to know and teach is Disciplinary Literacy. This term refers to teaching students how to read, comprehend and think about the text that is specific to the content area. In other words, we teach students to use very specific tools or techniques that help them understand and think about text only found in their history class. An example of this is how to read between the lines of telegram versus a formal government proclamation.
See, if I only have a general strategy for comprehension and I don’t have very specific skills to work with a very limited telegram versus the fussy nature of the language used in a proclamation, I’m going to have a very difficult time thinking, writing and really deeply understanding that text.
Our first step is to take stock of where (if at all) we teach disciplinary literacy. Then, come back here and stay tuned to lost of upcoming resources on how to teach disciplinary literacy! Stay tuned!