As English teachers we are accountable for teaching students how to read literature and informational text. However, literacy should be something of a "team sport" that we can all contribute to throughout the education process, not just the English Department. Social Studies, Science, and even Math teachers have the ability to assist in the call to improve literacy. Not only is this integral to preparing students for college and career readiness, but taking a team approach will also help students better comprehend the material as well as help them understand that reading and writing are integral parts of communication and all of life.

The following is a list of “tips”, if you will, that may help the “team approach” outside of English.  For instance, what can Science teachers, Social Studies teachers, and Math teachers do to supplement the teaching of reading? A few strategies include:

  • Create anticipation guides that list key ideas or questions for students to focus on BEFORE reading that will guide them DURING reading.
  • Provide an anticipatory set that provides background knowledge and stimulates interest before reading (science: demonstrations, K-W-L charts, history: guest speaker, thought provoking questions, anticipation guides, math: advance organizers that focus on the major concepts of a piece of text).
  • Provide and scaffold graphic organizers that guide the information students should be looking for WHILE reading.
  • Double journal entries, where students can ask questions, make connections, observe patterns, etc. WHILE they read.
  • Provide students with annotation marks that help them ask questions, identify main ideas and important supporting details, mark confusion, etc. For textbooks that can’t be marked, provide post it notes or bookmarkers where students can physically interact with the text using annotations.
  • Teach and utilize questioning strategies such as:
    • SQ3R: S (survey: skim text for headings and charts), Q (question: turn headings into questions) 3R( read, recite, review: read to answer questions, answer questions and make notes, reread for details and unanswered questions).
    • ReQuest: have partners read a text together, write 2-3 questions to quiz one another (after modeling this as a teacher). Possibly have student one ask questions for first paragraph, student two ask questions after the second paragraph, etc.
    • Create question-answer relationship charts that have students use different levels of questions based upon Bloom’s taxonomy. Square One: in the text question, Square Two: compile information and think question, Square Three: question the author, Square Four: judgment/evaluation question. This will need to be highly modeled and scaffolded before it becomes an individual student activity.

This is a very limited and general list, so please check out my sources for more specific ideas and strategies:

  1. Chapman, Anne. "34: Teaching Strategies Across the Curriculum." Making Sense: Teaching Critical Reading across the Curriculum. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1993. Print.
  2. Fisher, Douglas, and Nancy Frey. Improving Adolescent Literacy: Content Area Strategies at Work. Boston: Pearson, 2012. Print.
  3. Lee, C.D., Spratly, A. (2010). Reading in the Disciplines: The Challenges of Adolescent Literacy. New York: NY: Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The best news for increasing adolescent literacy is that Ohio has now adopted the Common Core Standards. These standards will insist on shared responsibility of reading, writing, speaking, and listening amongst all the disciplines.  This will also mean a shift to more informational text, along with a shift in the complexity of the reading for each grade level (making it more complex).  There is now a READING STANDARD for Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subject. Surely, this will produce students who are better prepared for college and future careers.

I’m hoping to hear from Math, Social Studies, and Science teachers on any advice they may have on incorporating their subject into the English curriculum!