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Reading? I Teach Chemistry

“Ultimately, our students are expected to develop as competent readers, writers, and thinkers in all academic disciplines.” ~ Doug Buehl, Developing Readers in the Academic Disciplines

Unlike most elementary grade level colleagues, middle and high school teachers in the United States are expected to be highly knowledgeable in a specific discipline or content area while infusing literacy supports into their instruction. Secondary teachers are asked to balance teaching required content while developing complex and sometimes foundational literacy skills typically for 50-100+ students a day. It is quite an amazing feat when done well, and completely impossible without knowledgeable content teachers.

Content Teachers Are Essential

How do your students make sense of their chemistry text or math theorem? Are they adept at framing a written argument about historical events? Each of these exercises requires students to think and write in different ways that are unique to a particular area of study.

As a content expert, your deep knowledge of your discipline and how to think and act like a historian, biologist, or mathematician is essential in building students’ reading, writing, and thinking skills. You may not think of yourself as a reading teacher, but your students’ road to becoming literate in math, science, history, and more, is dependent on your content-specific reading and writing instruction.

You Are the Expert

Dr. Cynthia Shanahan explains how each discipline asks its own sorts of questions.

Related Resources

young girl sitting on the floor with stacks of books and various subject area icons floating above her head

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Disciplinary Literacy: The Basics

Disciplinary literacy is based upon the idea that literacy and text are specialized, and even unique, across the disciplines. Historians engage in very different approaches to reading than mathematicians do, for instance.

Large, old key laying against an open book sitting on a table.

Background Knowledge

Unlocking the Past

We have cultivated resources to develop students’ enjoyment and appreciation of history and civics while also deepening their reading, writing, and thinking skills.

AdLit is made possible by a generous grant from

National Education Association (NEA)