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date: 21 February 2019

Effective Practices for Teaching Content Area Reading

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Adequate reading skills are necessary for college and career readiness; unfortunately, however, many students do not have basic reading skills necessary to be successful in the work force and later in life. The most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), given in 2017, demonstrated fourth- and eighth-grade students have made little to no progress in reading since the previous report in 2015. Elementary students often received dedicated English language arts instruction during the day; this is not always true for middle and high school learners. One way that educators can supports students across the grade levels is by providing evidence-based reading instruction within the content areas (i.e., science and social studies instruction).

Researchers have investigated ways for teachers to provide high-quality content area reading instruction to support the reading comprehension and content acquisition of students in general education settings. A series of randomized control trials examined the effects of multicomponent reading instruction that includes explicit vocabulary instruction, background building to enhance students’ prior knowledge before reading text, reading connected text, explicit reading comprehension instruction to identify main ideas and summarize text, comprehension monitoring practices such as question generation, and team-based or collaborative learning opportunities that allow for in-depth conversations about text. These practices resulted in improved reading outcomes and content acquisition outcomes not only for typical readers, but also for struggling readers and those identified for special education. Educators’ implementation of such practices within science and social studies instruction may improve students’ reading performance and content learning across grade levels.