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Introduction To Teaching Reading Literacy In The Content Areas

Introduction to Teaching Reading (Literacy) in the Content Areas


At the completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  1. Define and discuss the role of the content area literacy in today’s society.
  2. Discuss the role of the student in the learning process with regard to content area literacy.
  3. Explain the role of the teacher in teaching content area literacy.
  4. Define content literacy and understand its role in the learning of content.
  5. Describe reader response and schema-based theory to promote thinking when using a text.
  6. Describe instructional scaffolding and its role in content learning.


This lesson introduces the area of content literacy. Being literate in the content areas means being able to listen, speak,  read and write well. For the purposes of this course the areas of reading and writing will be the focus. This lesson will cover the role that teachers play in helping students learn from subject matter texts and will examine national educational reform initiatives and educational standards for teaching in the content areas.  Further, it will examine current practices in content area instruction, and investigate the role that language and content literacy play in enhancing reading comprehension and learning.

The Content Area Teacher

One of the major goals of education is to help students become literate. In the 21st century, being literate means having the capacity to use the symbol systems of language and technology to create, express, and communicate meaning clearly, and to communicate that meaning with confidence. Teachers must be skilled in knowing what is to be taught, and how to teach so students can master the text material they are required to read.

As students move through the primary, middle and high school years, the focus of their schooling shifts from learning how to read to reading to learn. From the upper elementary grades on, students are expected to read and understand increasingly more difficult materials in a variety of content (subject) areas.  Unfortunately, many students are unable to read these more difficult materials.

Content area reading is very difficult for many students because of the way content area texts are written. Students may have little exposure to reading narrative,  expository, technical and persuasive writing, the kind of text structures usually found in textbooks and other content area materials. They may become frustrated and confused by the vocabulary specific to a particular subject. To compound their difficulties, students may lack, or be unable to efficiently use,  basic reading skills such as word identification and decoding skills, and they may not be able to read fluently. Finally, many students may not be able to use the comprehension skills required to get the meaning from content area materials. The lack of skill that the students have in content literacy has become a major concern to many in the United States.

Student achievements in reading and the Language Arts in general, and the approaches that teachers use to teach these skills, have become major topics at the state and national levels. Over the past three decades the states have undertaken major reforms in school governance, school finance, and school curricula. Congress has passed key legislation to address the issues of reading achievement in the elementary and secondary schools. These reforms have developed the standards that are used to determine whether state and national educational goals are being met.

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