Combining Literacy and Knowledge of Different Disciplines Aids Learning

Magazine Issue
Spring 2019

Profile picture of Sarah Clark
A McKay School study exam­ined the efficacy of a disci­plinary literacy approach compared to a literacy-only approach for second-grade students. This approach encourages teachers to con­sider new ways of thinking about literacy instruction: creatively teaching chil­dren to hone and develop the literacy tools and skills they need to become experts within different fields.

Disciplinary literacy has been defined in a scholarly article titled "Literacy and Science: Each in the Service of the Other" (Science 328, no. 5977 [April 2010]: 459-63). Authors P. David Pearson, Elizabeth Moje, and Cynthia Greenleaf explained:

Students fine-tune their literacy tools not only when they read and write science texts but also when they engage in science investiga­tions precisely because so many of the sense-making tools of science are consistent with, if not identical to, those of literacy, thus allowing a set ting for additional practice and refinement that can enhance future reading and writing efforts. (p. 460)

Disciplinary literacy instruction was given in three 20- to 30-minute les­sons a week over the course of eight weeks. The instruc­tion incorporated reading, writing, speaking, and listen­ing as literacy tools to make sense of science content and incorporated hands-on experiences, data collec­tion, creation of arguments based upon evidence, and the generation of inferences. Initial findings suggest that educators should consider a disciplinary literacy instruc­tional approach as one way to support and encourage young children as they learn to write science informa­tional texts effectively, to enhance reading motivation, and to strengthen reading comprehension.


Sarah Clark, Associate Professor, Literacy Education, Department of Teacher Education

Photo courtesy of the McKay School

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