Supporting Literacy Skills in Middle School

The Mission:

This site has been created to support teachers intent on creating meaningful literacy experiences in their middle school content area classrooms. 


Teachers in all subject areas have the ability to support literacy. 


Embedded literacy activities in all subject areas are crucial to student comprehension of that subject. They even support writing skills!


Literacy is not restricted to class textbooks and novels. Literacy is defined as "the ability, confidence and willingness to engage with language to acquire, construct and communicate meaning in all aspects of daily living" (Alberta Education, 2018). We read schedules, road signs, and labels on a daily basis. We use visual images, digital sources, and economic figures to understand our world. We make decisions in a similar method to the scientific method. All of these ways help us view the world around us through a critical lens. We use literacy in every part of our day. The teaching of literacy skills should not then be regulated to a singular classroom or teacher. We must teach students to be literate throughout the day, in every class.


Starting in fourth grade, students are required to read to learn information in multiple content areas. Literacy must be embedded in the content areas. It is not a replacement for teaching the content- it is a process of how we help students learn the content.  

Let's start with understanding the difference between content literacy and disciplinary literacy. Content literacy includes strategies for reading that can be used for any type of reading, but disciplinary literacy involves reading in a way that is specific to a certain discipline. The chart below details the differences between the two.

The difference between content literacy and disciplinary literacy

Content Literacy Disciplinary Literacy
  • Includes general reading strategies that can be transferred across disciplines
  • Strategies include:
    • monitoring comprehension
    • skimming the text
    • activating prior knowledge
    • generating questions
    • making predictions
    • making connections (text-to-self, text-to-text, & text-to-world)
    • summarizing
    • drawing conclusions
  • Includes learning specific vocabulary and strategies relevant to a certain discipline.
  • Identifies the certain text structures and features that are included in a content area.
  • Sometimes referred to as "Read like a Historian" or "Read like a Scientist"
  • Incorporates using literacy to solve real-world problems 


Effective literacy instruction includes both content and discipline literacy learning.


Check out the different content pages for strategies and resources for embedding content and discipline literacy in all the subject areas.



Wisconsin Department of Public Education. (2018). Disciplinary literacy in social studies. Retrieved from

Alberta Education. (2018). What is literacy? Retrieved from