Content Area Reading Instruction

As students move beyond the primary grades, the focus of their school lives shifts from learning how to read to using reading to learn. From the middle grades on, students are expected to read and to understand increasingly more difficult materials in an array of content areas. Unfortunately, many students are unable to meet this expectation. For them, reading to learn from content area materials can be a struggle.

A number of text- and student-related factors can make content area reading difficult for some students. For example, students may have little experience reading expository writing, the kind of text structure found typically in textbooks and other content area materials. Further, they may become frustrated and confused by the content-specific vocabulary and concepts that characterize these materials. Adding to their difficulties, students may have inadequately developed basic reading skills, such as word identification and decoding skills, and so may not be able to read with fluency. Finally, many students may lack—or be unable to use efficiently—the comprehension strategies necessary for getting meaning from content area materials.

Although reading instruction alone can teach students many of the skills and strategies they require for reading content area materials successfully, students also must have ample opportunities to apply these skills and strategies in “real” reading situations—that is, as they read in the content areas. Thus, all teachers across the curriculum and across grade levels can play a role in teaching students to use reading skills and strategies to learn the content of the subjects that they teach and to become independent readers and learners.

Specifically, teachers can provide students with instruction that

  • familiarizes them with the structure of expository text;
  • promotes content area vocabulary development;
  • promotes word identification skills;
  • builds reading fluency; and
  • emphasizes and directly teaches how, why, when, and where to use a repertoire of comprehension strategies.

Download and review the Research-Based Content Area Reading Instruction booklet. The purpose of this booklet is to provide teachers with research-based and classroom-tested information about each of these aspects of content area reading instruction, along with specific teaching suggestions that can be used with students.

Content Area Reading Instruction: Professional Development Resources to Support Learning

Students need explicit instruction to learn effective reading skills across the content areas. Because reading, writing, listening and speaking are so interrelated, students must be given the opportunity and instruction to learn and practice the strands of in connected and purposeful ways in all content areas.

The following resources support teacher development in learning how to effectively teach reading across the content areas. This list is not meant to be exhaustive; please use the search feature of the Texas Gateway for additional resources.

Reading Like a Writer: Text Types

This resource contains content for using writing and reading to support learning in the content areas with a focus on English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.

Using Features of Literary and Informational Text to Guide Reading

This resource shows teachers modeling how to read aloud literary and informational texts and use think-alouds. This type of explicit instruction helps students understand that all readers need to think and engage before, during, and after reading to comprehend and learn.

Formal Writing Across the Content Areas

This resource explores instructional practices for incorporating formal writing into English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies instruction.