Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 14
Educators Take On Discipline-Based Literacy Lessons
teachers with models of how they can
incorporate disciplinary literacy.
Both the Next Generation Science
Standards and the College, Career,
and Civic Readiness Framework,
which was created to guide socialstudies-standards writers, draw
connections to the common-core literacy standards' aims: synthesizing
multiple texts in the C3 framework
or analyzing technical readings in
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taught using the content-literacy lessons in the 2015-16 school year, that
number is up to 30,000 this year.
Though the common-core standards have included literacy standards for science and history since
states started adopting them in
2010, many schools are just now
turning their attention to preparing teachers and resources for literacy teaching in those subjects.
In some states, that focus is being
pushed along by common-corealigned assessments that ask students to employ the science and social studies literacy skills laid out
in the standards.
Links to Content Standards
The common-core standards include 10 standards for subject-specific literacy in history and social
studies, and 10 in science and technical subjects for grades 6-12. (In the
elementary grades, a similar set of
standards is laid out more broadly for
informational text.) Each set includes
skills and practices associated with
the particular discipline.
The history standards, for instance,
refer to primary and secondary
sources and ask students to be able
to distinguish between "fact, opinion,
and reasoned judgment" in a text. In
science, students are asked to be able
to "integrate quantitative or technical
information expressed in words in a
text with a version of that information expressed visually."
Those standards came about in
part due to the efforts of Timothy
Shanahan and Cynthia Shanahan,
both professors of education at the
University of Illinois at Chicago.
The Shanahans helped conceive of
"disciplinary literacy." Bolstered by
research on linguistics and reading
and writing habits in different professions, they argue that each discipline
has its own way of using language
and approaching text. Timothy Shanahan describes various professionals' literacy styles: the historian, for
example, who might prioritize learning the source of a historical document in order to put it in context, or
the scientist, who might write in the
passive voice so maligned by English
teachers in order to imply objectivity.
Shanahan said he often asks teachers to consider the readings that they
had to do in their field and to remember when those readings became difficult for them. "You're asking them
to try to think about what it is they're
doing and what's special about it," he
Disciplinary literacy isn't intended
to be a way to ask content-area teachers to shoulder part of an English
teacher's load by assigning writing or
readings in class, Shanahan said; it's
teaching students to read, write, and
think like experts in a given field.
"We have to start apprenticing them
in these fields," he said.
That idea has caught on with
school boards and educators focused
on preparing students for college and
careers. It has also resonated with
schools hoping to disperse the task of
teaching literacy among more teach-
Photos by Joshua Lott for Education Week
Reading Like a Historian
ers in a school. Disciplinary reading's
focus on authentic texts also aligns
with increasingly popular inquirybased approaches to education, which
aim to ground content in science and
social studies in real-life questions,
scenarios, and texts.
The state of Wisconsin, for one, has
adopted the idea of disciplinary literacy for all subject areas.
But Shanahan said the idea also
has trickled out beyond the 42 states
where the common core is still in
effect: Texas, which never adopted
the standards, and Indiana, which
dropped them, both include disciplinary-literacy ideas in their literacy
In some cases, states and districts
introduced the common core's literacy
standards to content-area teachers at
the same time they were rolled out
to English and math teachers. But
others focused first on standards in
math and English/language arts and
are only now focusing on disciplinary
literacy, and some have yet to ask
science or social studies teachers to
concentrate on the literacy standards.
In general, history teachers are
more apt than science teachers to see
the literacy practices in the standards
as in line with their teaching and re-
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | NOVEMBER 2, 2016 | www.edweek.org
sources, according to Shanahan and
several practitioners. One expert described a science teacher who belligerently approached him after a training
on the common core: "I have my own
standards," the teacher said, referring
to the Next Generation Science Standards, which 18 states and the District
of Columbia have adopted. The science
standards' authors say that the literacy standards are meant to complement, not replace, the NGSS, and that
the science standards address practices, core ideas, and concepts rather
than reading and writing skills in the
At West Chicago Community High
School, in suburban Chicago, history
teacher Mary Ellen Daneels said that
all history teachers were asked to create maps connecting their curriculum
to the common-core literacy standards soon after the state adopted
the standards in 2010.
She said it was a natural fit with
the way she taught the subject.
"It gave us a common language, a
core that people across disciplines
can use to talk about what they're
doing," she said.
The 2015 introduction of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness
for College and Careers, or PARCC,
tests, which are aligned to the common core, gave disciplinary literacy
FROM TOP: History teacher
Mary Ellen Daneels,
standing, works with
students at West Chicago
Community High School
in suburban Chicago, where
history teachers have been
working to connect their
teaching to the commoncore literacy standards
Students play a PolitiCraft
card game in Daneels' class.
Through the game, students
learn vocabulary and craft
narratives on civic
"It was very much on the mind of
teachers that we had to help students
be successful on those high-stakes
tests," Daneels said. (Illinois has since
decided to use SAT tests instead of
PARCC's.) The Smarter Balanced
Assessment Consortium, which also
makes common core-aligned tests,
also tests students on the literacy
In Springfield, Mass., Sara Macon,
an English/language arts master teacher at Forest Park Middle
School, said that her school's literacy department had started to focus
on literacy in all subject areas last
school year. Before that, she said,
"we as school leaders were so focused on ELA and math."
"We realized that everyone needs
to support this," she said. "It can't be
done for an hour a day in English. ...
We found that testing was really falling on [English teachers], and others
weren't taking accountability for how
kids read and write."
Macon said that some teachers
weren't initially interested in teaching literacy along with their own
content-area standards. But, she
added, once teachers began actively
tagging their lessons to the literacy
standards, "they saw they were already doing a lot."
Her school's team has since started
providing science and social studies
Several surveys have found that
many available textbooks aren't fully
aligned to the common core in reading and math. In science and history,
it's even harder to find materials
that are explicitly aligned to the literacy standards, according to Michael
Manderino, an assistant professor at
Northern Illinois University who has
studied disciplinary literacy. Manderino said that the idea is for teachers
to eventually be able to develop their
own resources, but that some online
offerings, such as Stanford University's Reading Like a Historian, fit the
bill for history.
In Denver, Bird's team uses the
Literacy Design Collaborative, an
online tool that helps teachers craft
curricula in all subjects that tie to the
common core, to design science and
social studies units.
Her department's goal is to introduce the standards to teachers and
give them resources that enable them
to get comfortable teaching them. In
a district where many students are
learning English, her department
also makes materials that are tailored to English-learners.
Denver's district has an unusual
structure, in which schools have the
option to opt in or out of programs
issued by the district's central office.
Bird said that about 80 percent of
secondary schools had opted into the
content-literacy offerings. Individual
schools and teachers also can tweak
the materials to meet their students'
needs. Many teachers also have literacy goals wrapped up in their performance plans, so the lessons are
presented as a way to help teachers
meet those goals.
While the Literacy Design Collaborative allows teachers to make
their own units, Bird's department
provided teachers with samples to
help them manage teaching literacy
along with "all the other initiatives
we have going on."
"There are so many things floating around that it's difficult to
know what to grasp onto and what
to focus on," she said. Her hope for
the literacy modules "is that we can
wrap it all up into one."
Coverage of the implementation of
college- and career-ready standards
and the use of personalized learning is
supported in part by a grant from the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at
Week retains sole editorial control over
the content of this coverage.
Visit the CURRICULUM MATTERS blog, which
tracks news and trends on this issue.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 2, 2016
Education Week - November 2, 2016
Teaching Literature Outside Of English Class
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Citizenship Initiative Will Target State Legislatures
Science Gains Seen at 4th, 8th Grades
African-American Museum Gears Up School Offerings
Principals Work Nearly 60 Hours A Week, According to Study
Conservative Group Focusing On ESSA Expands Reach
Guidance, Hurdles for ESSA’s ‘Well-Rounded Education’ Grant
SNAPSHOT: Tracking the Common Core
News in Brief
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
IN CONVERSATION: Q&A With Joseph Gauld
Election Lesson Reverberates In N.C. District
Education’s Tenuous Toehold on 2016 Ballot
SAM WINEBURG AND SARAH McGREW: What Students Don’t Know About Fact-Checking
BY THE NUMBERS: What Do Budding Voters Think?
MICHAEL J. FEUER: Whither Evidence?
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Election Lesson Reverberates In N.C. District
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 2
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 3
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - News in Brief
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Report Roundup
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Science Gains Seen at 4th, 8th Grades
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 7
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 8
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 9
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Principals Work Nearly 60 Hours A Week, According to Study
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 11
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 12
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 13
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 14
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Guidance, Hurdles for ESSA’s ‘Well-Rounded Education’ Grant
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - SNAPSHOT: Tracking the Common Core
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 17
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Education’s Tenuous Toehold on 2016 Ballot
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 19
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 20
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 21
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - SAM WINEBURG AND SARAH McGREW: What Students Don’t Know About Fact-Checking
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - BY THE NUMBERS: What Do Budding Voters Think?
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 24
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Letters
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 27
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - MICHAEL J. FEUER: Whither Evidence?
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT1
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT2
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT3
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT4