Addressing Disciplinary Literacy Knowledge in the Common Core State Standards

This article from the Illinois Reading Council discusses the connections between Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and disciplinary literacy. Although related, disciplinary literacy and content area literacy differ in purpose and substance. Inquiry is at the heart of practices in disciplinary literacy. In order for students and teachers to use an inquiry-based approach, teachers need to: (1) recognize and make accessible to students the habits of practices used by disciplinary experts; and (2) be able to identify linguistic features specific to each discipline. The authors of this article offer tips for choosing literacy strategies that match disciplinary goals and objectives, such as cultivating academic conversations and fostering writing for argument.


Content Comments 

This article addresses an important issue raised with new ELA standards: that every teacher should instruct the literacy practices that are relevant to their discipline. With new standards, especially the Common Core State Standards, literacy instruction in the secondary grades is no longer just the responsibility of English teachers. Content area teachers—in science, history, and math, etc.—need to teach their students the ways in which their disciplines use language and literacy to convey concepts, ideas, problems, and solutions. These key habits of practice differ across the disciplines, and it is critical for students to understand these differences in order to achieve deep conceptual understanding. One definition used in the article is that disciplinary literacy is "based on the premise that students can develop deep conceptual knowledge in a discipline only by using habits of reading, writing, talking, and thinking which that discipline values and uses" (quoted from McConachie et al, 2006, p. 8). Although this article does not offer very specific strategies or tools that secondary school educators can use immediately in their classrooms, the concepts and practices described provide a solid foundation for teachers implementing the new standards using disciplinary literacy.