Literacy 7-12

Systems Change
Literacy 7-12 > Strategies > Discipline-specific Writing

Discipline-specific Writing


Interpreting and composing discipline-specific texts requires tailoring literacy strategies, like annotating or asking questions, to the disciplinary goals and practices. Examining how claims are structured in different subject areas and how to express their own ideas promotes students' Disciplinary Literacy and familiarizes them with the unique ways to think and write for each discipline. Disciplinary writing can also strengthen students' memories of the subject material.

  • Depending on the discipline and the goals of the writing task, teachers can choose from a variety of literacy strategies for students to practice Disciplinary Literacy:
    • Modeling how to approach a text, synthesize key ideas, and evaluate the content is important for developing Critical Literacy with discipline-specific texts.
    • Offering mentor texts from discipline-specific genres serves as useful models for students to see what is expected of them in the discipline.
    • Discipline-specific graphic organizers or templates scaffold students' thinking by guiding them to organize information in a particular way.
    • Providing checklists and rubrics of the discipline-specific criteria allows students to compose claims that meet these guidelines and self-monitor during the Composition process.
    • Encouraging students to write for authentic audiences and purposes within the discipline fosters their Motivation to learn and write in that discipline.
    • Using journals to express their thinking and emotions while learning helps clarify their understanding to their teachers and creates a safe space for them to work on their Composition skills in that discipline.
    • Displaying accessible Vocabulary specific to the discipline in the learning environment and offering opportunities for students to integrate the terminology also enhances their ability to read and use the academic language.

Use It in the Classroom

Starting at 1:35, watch how teachers from four different subject areas foster learning in their subjects by teaching Disciplinary Literacy specific to their subjects. They use the read-write-think-discuss model to engage students deeply in the disciplines and work through the content in their class. Doing this collaboratively in the classroom through interactive activities also helps reduce students' anxiety around reading and writing in those subject areas.

  • Design It into Your Product

  • Developers can design their platforms in ways that highlight the disciplinary differences in how information is presented and can be evaluated in different disciplines. They can also provide supports like graphic organizers and templates that are specific to each discipline (e.g., scientific method, play script, storyboard, timeline).
  • Factors Supported by this Strategy