English Language Arts

Content Literacy

Reading to Learn
The January 2009 edition of the SCOE Bulletin explores the idea of how to teach upper elementary and secondary students to “read to learn.” The publication – available below in print and audio formats – highlights what teachers can do before, during, and after a lesson to enhance reading comprehension and empower students to become independent consumers of text.

Tackling Text

This SCOE publication stresses the importance of teaching upper elementary and secondary students to “read to learn.”



Adolescent Literacy
Adolescent literacy is a hot topic around the country, and deservedly so since our national reading scores have been fairly flat beyond fourth-grade. It is essential to teach students effective strategies that allow them to be independent and successful readers – especially in difficult content area reading.

Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices (pdf) from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the most recent comprehensive summary of research-based recommendations for increasing academic literacy in our secondary schools. Written as a “Practice Guide,” this document is very user-friendly for practitioners.

The University of Oregon’s Center for Teaching and Learning annual Research to Practice Conference has yielded a potpourri of resources from their 2009, 2010 and 2011 events. Powerpoint presentations, handouts, videos, and more are linked to the IES Improving Adolescent Literacy practice guide referenced above.

Time To Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Success and Reading in the Disciplines: The Challenges of Adolescent Literacy are two very useful documents from the Carnegie Corporation highlighting practical research-informed suggestions for improving adolescent literacy.

Writing to Read is a meta-analysis by Steve Graham and Michael Hebert that confirms the power of focused non-fiction writing to improve content area reading comprehension.

Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy combines the best research with well-crafted strategies for turning that research into practice. Written by five of the nation’s leading researchers, Reading Next charts a route for improving adolescent literacy. The authors outline 15 key elements of effective literacy intervention and call on public and private stakeholders to invest in the literacy of middle and high school students.

Adolescents & Literacy: Reading for the 21st Century (pdf) examines the reliable, empirical research that exists on how to improve the literacy of children in grades 4-12 and brings together key findings on issues related to adolescent literacy.

Content Area Reading in Grades 4-12
Strategic Teaching and Learning: Standards-Based Instruction to Promote Content Literacy in Grades Four Through Twelve (search for item 001472), available through the California Department of Education, is an excellent resource. This literacy handbook contains a theoretical introduction and 55 research-based instructional strategies for application in content literacy programs (reading and writing across the curriculum) and for high-quality reading interventions. All strategies are correlated with the English-Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools. The handbook is useful for creating schoolwide literacy programs, strengthening reading instruction in all content areas, and developing local literacy leaders.

Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms, published by WestEd, contains many practical suggestions in this domain.

Project CRISS is a well-regarded learning strategy project targeting grade 4-12 students. It was created to help students better organize, understand, and retain course information. Students receiving the CRISS method of instruction “learn how to learn.”

Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction
Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI) is a reading instruction program designed to integrate reading strategy instruction and inquiry science in interesting and unique ways. The goal is to increase students’ reading comprehension, reading motivation, and science knowledge. Reading researcher John T. Guthrie of the University of Maryland is the principal investigator of CORI, working collaboratively with a number of schools around the nation.

“Watering Up” the Curriculum for Diverse Learners
Dr. Edwin S. Ellis, University of Alabama professor and Division of Learning Disabilities board member, has been a leader in designing effective content area enhancements for diverse learners. Check out his article, Watering Up the Curriculum for Adolescents with Learning Disabilities.

Makes Sense Strategies, Dr. Ellis’s website, is filled with examples, resources, and relevant information related to effective instruction and support for content area instruction in mixed-ability classrooms.

Strategic Instruction Model (SIM)
The Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas is a leader in content area instruction, learning strategy instruction, and related supports for secondary students with learning disabilities. Dr. Don Deshler and colleagues have validated numerous strategies and tactics to support effective instruction in mixed-ability content classrooms, including the Strategic Instruction Model (SIM).

What Works with Older Struggling Readers?
Many older students have serious literacy challenges, but it is never too late to teach a student to read! In When Older Kids Can't Read, author Dr. Louisa Moats gives a cogent description of exactly what is required to effectively accelerate the literacy of older students who read poorly.

Building Reading Proficiency at the Secondary Level: A Guide to Resources was compiled by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory in Austin, Texas. It is a useful document describing their evaluation of reading and literacy interventions for older struggling readers.