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Content Area Reading

Rationale and Concept

Carron Silva
Grand Canyon University
November 4, 2009
What is Content
 “The ability to use reading, writing, talking,
viewing and listening to learn subject
matter in a given discipline” (Vacca, 2002)

 “…a cognitive and social practice involving

the ability and desire to read, comprehend,
critique and write about multiple forms of
print” (Bean, 2002)
The Big Questions

How do comprehensio
How do students and scaffolding relate
Why is content literacy
achieve content to literacy in content
literacy? classrooms?
The Answer
 Students who learn how to
read texts critically
develop content literacy
proficiency; therefore,
reading is critical in Read
content area classrooms.
Rationale for Reading in
Content Areas
 21st century jobs demand it.
- technology driven jobs require critical
reading skills
- workers who read well, communicate well
in writing.
- direct correlation with productivity
- outsourcing of jobs requiring less
- reading and writing in digital format
require speed and critical thinking skills
 Critical reading in content
- helps students become
readers and writers of
- emphasis is shifting from
transmission to self-directed
- students who can’t read
critically across
Additionally, critical
 helps students differentiate between
narrative and expository texts
 teaches students strategies for activating
prior knowledge
 helps students engage in meta-cognition
 gives students the ability to develop study
skills and utilize graphic organizers, identify
organizational patterns and master concept
How do students become
literate in content area
 Research-based instructional strategies that
show students how to:
 Read to learn new information
 integrate new information with prior knowledge,
 obtain crucial information from text,
 construct new knowledge,
 think critically about what they read,
 develop a critical stance toward texts, and
 remember what they have learned.
Critical Reading
Instructional Strategies
 Word Identification strategies
 Vocabulary Instruction strategies
 Summarizing
 Nonlinguistic Presentation
Word Identification
o Necessary for reading fluency and comprehension
o Competency leaves students free to make meaning.
o Allow for decoding of multi-syllabic words, especially in
secondary grades where textbooks can be challenging to
some readers.
Contextual Analysis – word meaning derived from context or how
it’s used in sentence or paragraph
Phonetic Analysis – word meaning derived from letter-sound
Structural Analysis – meaning derived from recognizing units such
as prefixes, word roots, suffixes
 What the research says…
 Students should acquire 3,000 new words per year (Nagy &
Anderson, 1984; Nagy & Herman, 1987)
 Vocabulary knowledge is fundamental to comprehending
text (Nagy, 1998)
 More complex vocabulary equals more success in reading
across content (Simons & Kameeniu, 1990.
 Students need to apply appropriate content vocabulary in
their respective disciplines, but also across the curriculum.
 Students must know the meanings and relationships of
words and how they are used in context (Baumann &
Kameeniu, 1991)
Strategies for Vocabulary
Association Processing – link new word to
synonyms or specific context
Comprehension Processing – apply associations
to the word – prior knowledge or experiences
related to the word.
Generation Processing – students define the
word in their own words and generate their
own sentences using the word. The word is
assimilated into their vocabulary repertoire.
Semantic Mapping- create word maps of new
words and how they relate to prior knowledge,
definitions and etymology

Avoid rote memorization of words out of context.

 Self-directed, critical process for
reading expository texts
 How much I already know (prior
 Establishing a purpose for reading
(reading purpose – making meaning)
 Asking questions (inquiry)

 Recording what I know (note taking)

 Testing myself (new knowledge)

 Activates higher order thinking
 Motivates students to consider text from
different points of view.
Role: What role the student takes on.
Audience: To whom is the text written
Format: What is the organizational structure
Topic: What is being discussed
 Enhances students’ ability to
synthesize information
 Main idea and supporting detail
 Higher order thinking

 Text Pattern Awareness

Summarizing Strategies
 Reciprocal Teaching – students read parts
and share what they’ve gleaned from text
with others.
 Role-play: Groups of four students, each
take on the role of either summarizer,
questioner, clarifier, or predictor.
 Text Pattern Graphic Organizers:
chronological sequence, compare &
contrast, description, concept or definition,
episode patterns.
 Students create drawing from mental images found in
reading texts
 Kinesthetic activity coupled with reading aids memory

Students create physical models of the setting of a story or
concepts in science or math.
Mental Models displayed through graphic organizers
Use pictures or use pictographs to enforce mental images.
Kinesthetic activities and sign language.
How do comprehension and scaffolding
relate to content area literacy?

 Comprehension refers to understanding the meaning

behind the words and concepts in a text.
 Scaffolding refers to “any instructional strategy
applied before, during and after reading that is
intended to provide support for immature, poor, or
struggling readers…designed to be gradually
withdrawn as students develop independent reading
skills.” (Graves &Graves, 1994)
Factors that Influence
 Readiness to comprehend (reading
level, prior knowledge, disposition
toward reading, motivation)
 Interest (level of enthusiasm the
topic evokes)
 Text Difficulty
 Prior Knowledge
Scaffolding Activities to Address Text
Difficulty and Interest

Four Levels of Text Difficulty

Low Interest / Easy Text
Pre-reading activities include discussions, warm-up
activities, Q&A session, new ideas

High Interest / Difficult Text

Research, inquiry projects, personal interest stories
KWL sheets, List-Group-Label activities, collaborative
sharing of information.
High Interest /Easy Text

Students who are moving toward independent

Books and articles that are engaging, of
Reading workshops
Book clubs
Supplemental texts
Audio and video materials to complement
Modeling by teacher.
Low Interest / Difficult Text

Begin with simpler version of text,

pre-reading activities to increase
vocabulary instruction before reading
build prior knowledge through
silent reading and discussion
sufficient time to interact or
“struggle” with text.
Scaffolding Instruction Increases

→ Students engage in progressively

complex thinking as their
comprehension of text increases.

→ Teachers scaffold activities to

increase Abstraction, Complexity
and Depth (ACD), which enables
students to progressively read at
higher levels, thus increasing their
content area literacy proficiency.
Learning in content classrooms is less challenging for
students who are proficient in content area literacy.

Understanding where students are on the continuum of

interest and reading ability allows teachers to
determine how to differentiate instruction so that all
students increase their ability to read to learn.
Combs, D. A framework for scaffolding content area strategies. Retrieved on

October 30, 2009 from


Bryant. D et. al. Instructional strategies for content area reading instruction.

Retrieved, October 30, 2009 from



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Moss, B.(2005). Making a case for effective content area literacy instruction in the
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curriculum. New York, New York: Pearson