Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2008 Issue »

    Teaching Disciplinary Literacy to Adolescents

    Rethinking Content-Area Literacy

    Timothy Shanahan and Cynthia Shanahan
    In this article, Timothy and Cynthia Shanahan argue that “disciplinary literacy” — advanced literacy instruction embedded within content-area classes such as math, science, and social studies — should be a focus of middle and secondary school settings. Moving beyond the oft-cited “every teacher a teacher of reading” philosophy that has historically frustrated secondary content-area teachers, the Shanahans present data collected during the first two years of a study on disciplinary literacy that reveal how content experts and secondary content teachers read disciplinary texts, make use of comprehension strategies, and subsequently teach those strategies to adolescent readers. Preliminary findings suggest that experts from math, chemistry, and history read their respective texts quite differently; consequently, both the content-area experts and secondary teachers in this study recommend different comprehension strategies for work with adolescents. This study not only has implications for which comprehension strategies might best fit particular disciplinary reading tasks, but also suggests how students may be best prepared for the reading, writing, and thinking required by advanced disciplinary coursework.

    Click here to access this article.


    Cynthia Shanahan is a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, and executive director of the college’s Council on Teacher Education. Her primary research focus is adolescent literacy, especially within content areas. As the principal investigator in a National Reading Research Center study, Shanahan examined the use of texts in learning science and history, culminating in her book, Learning from Text across Conceptual Domains (1998). She has taught literacy to underprepared college students for more than twenty years.

    Timothy Shanahan is a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, and director of the university’s Center for Literacy. He has also served as the director of reading for the Chicago Public Schools and as the president of the International Reading Association. His research concentrates on reading achievement and assessment, family literacy, and reading-writing relationships. He is the editor of Developing Reading and Writing in Second-Language Learners (2008) and the developer of several instructional programs.

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    Spring 2008 Issue

    Abstracts

    Introduction
    Why Adolescent Literacy Matters Now
    Jacy Ippolito, Jennifer L. Steele, and Jennifer F. Samson
    Adolescent Literacy
    Putting the Crisis in Context
    Vicki A. Jacobs
    Teaching Disciplinary Literacy to Adolescents
    Rethinking Content-Area Literacy
    Timothy Shanahan and Cynthia Shanahan
    Redefining Content-Area Literacy Teacher Education
    Finding My Voice through Collaboration
    Roni Jo Draper
    Cognitive Strategy Instruction for Adolescents
    What We Know about the Promise, What We Don’t Know about the Potential
    Mark W. Conley
    The Complex World of Adolescent Literacy
    Myths, Motivations, and Mysteries
    Elizabeth Birr Moje, Melanie Overby, Nicole Tysvaer, and Karen Morris
    Toward a More Anatomically Complete Model of Literacy Instruction
    A Focus on African American Male Adolescents and Texts
    Alfred W. Tatum
    Implementing a Structured Reading Program in an Afterschool Setting
    Problems and Potential Solutions
    Ardice Hartry, Robert Fitzgerald, and Kristie Porter
    State Literacy Plans
    Incorporating Adolescent Literacy
    Catherine Snow, Twakia Martin, and Ilene Berman
    Beyond Writing Next
    A Discussion of Writing Research and Instructional Uncertainty
    David Coker and William E. Lewis