Content Area Literacy: Definition & Instructional Practices

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  • 0:03 What Is Content Area Literacy?
  • 0:42 Prior Knowledge & Questions
  • 1:46 Figuring Out What Matters
  • 2:58 Specialized Vocabulary
  • 3:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Learning to read in different content areas is a skill that serves students well. Content-area literacy does not necessarily come naturally, so this lesson gives you some ideas for helping students read well across the content areas.

What Is Content Area Literacy?

Ms. Foley has been teaching fourth grade for many years, and she especially loves working with students on literacy. Until recently, Ms. Foley's focus as a reading teacher has been on fiction. She's noticed that her students are not necessarily able to transfer the skills they learn while reading fiction to reading in social studies, science, and math. Ms. Foley understands that reading to learn about subject matter other than literature is called content area literacy. She knows that even good readers might need explicit instruction in order to be able to read to learn across the subject areas, and she investigates good instructional practices for content area literacy.

Prior Knowledge & Questions

One strategy that fosters student success in reading in any content area is having an active schema, or prior knowledge about a particular subject. When students are in the right frame of mind for learning about a subject, they can figure out tricky words, make sense of complex ideas, and put new knowledge in context more effectively. To activate her students' schema, Ms. Foley uses the following strategies:

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