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Keep these 3 tips handy when promoting literacy across your curriculum

The Newsela Team
Apr 1, 2022

Envision a plan that ensures lessons reinforce literacy skills for every learner. Does this plan solely focus on a traditional ELA lesson? Implementing strategies that promote literacy across the curriculum, beyond just ELA, can bolster students' disciplinary literacy skills in subjects like social studies. Even in the science classroom, you can establish a clear vision and partner with teachers to support literacy with strategies like critical thinking, connecting multiple sources of media and communicating science findings. Educators know the importance of literacy. But, a little support can help prioritize time and resources for students to grow their skills in social studies and science as well.

Newsela promotes literacy across the curriculum both in social studies and science. A cross-curricular literacy gap may occur when you meet those 3 signs above, indicating the challenges social studies and science specialists face in finding materials to reinforce literacy within their subject. To help address this gap, here are 3 tips to promote literacy across the curriculum using Newsela.

Assess students on ELA skills while staying focused on subject-area concepts 

Too often there’s less time in social studies and science instruction, in favor of literacy skills practice in ELA. To avoid this, educators should make sure formative assessments, such as quizzes, focus on literacy skills. That way, students can grow their literacy skills across the curriculum. 

Each level of Newsela articles has its own 4-question reading comprehension quiz that promotes standards-based ELA skills.  For example, the article on Gordon Parks' photos from 1956 offer a timely reminder of America's racial divide, explores the racial tensions and inequities as captured by photographer Gordon Parks’ trip to Alabama. The associated quiz includes questions related to understanding words, phrases and the central idea.

Scaffold complex texts to meet the needs of striving readers

Social studies and science teachers witness the differing learning needs of students firsthand, but may not always know how to support students who are reading below grade level. For some students, reading informational texts like primary sources in science or social studies can be complicated. To better support those students who may be reading below grade level, teachers need access to content that can be easily scaffolded.

In addition to being automatically published at five reading levels, Newsela texts include features such as read aloud and annotations, which help teachers differentiate instruction so every student succeeds. That means every student gets exposure to those texts that are important for learning a particular social studies or science concept.  

Get students reading and writing more during social studies and science class 

Simply having students spend more time reading and writing in social studies and science class provides students with additional opportunities to strengthen their disciplinary literacy skills. When teachers build space in the lesson for students to read texts in those subject areas, they are building the background knowledge needed for future lessons, while strengthening the reading skills they need to succeed. Literacy should not be siloed to one subject area, such as ELA, but rather should flow from classroom to classroom throughout a student's learning experience. 

Newsela’s Write Prompts reinforce literacy skills as students read a variety of social studies texts. For example, How the Nile River Led to Civilization in Ancient Egypt, discusses the importance of the Nile river in the history of Egypt. By examining texts with a closer lens beyond a quick read, students can further analyze the themes within the article.

Newsela also offers a variety of science texts that students can read to build their literacy skills. For instance, Why do we sleep explores the science behind why humans sleep. After reading, you can assign students Newsela’s Write Prompt, where they will be asked to answer the question with supporting details. Teachers also have the option to create their own Write Prompt or use the option Newsela provides. This allows students to think more critically about the details in the article. 

Educators understand the importance of literacy, but a little nudge to ensure you embed cross-curricular literacy skills, benefits everyone. With helpful support and resources, like Newsela, your social studies and science curriculum can address a cross-curricular literacy gap, engage all students and differentiate instruction.

Stay tuned for more about the common gaps in core materials in the last blog in the series on tips to enhance social-emotional learning in instruction. Did you miss the previous blog on ensuring your core resources quickly adapt to change? If so, read it here.

Read this story on how a school district leveraged Newsela content to infuse their science curriculum with literacy.

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