Selected Chapter Resources

Chapter 1

Significant Literacy Research Informing English Language Arts Instruction

Richard Beach and David O’Brien

The following two Parts, identified as 1 and 2, provide references that illustrate an historical review of literature related to teaching the language arts and insights shared by one of the authors.

Part 1: Bibliography

A bibliography of related historical reviews of teaching of ELA (

Allington, R. L., & McGill-Franzen, A. (2000). Looking back, looking forward: A conversation about teaching reading in the 21st century. Reading Research Quarterly, 35(1), 136–153.

Applebee, A. (1974). Tradition and reform in the teaching of English: A history. Champaign, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Applebee, A. (1981). Writing in the secondary school: English and the content areas. Urbana: IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Beach, R. (2011). Changes in Minnesota English teaching: 1960–2010. Minnesota English Journal.

Behizadeh, N., & Engelhard, G. (2011). Historical view of the influences of measurement and writing theories on the practice of writing assessment in the United States. Assessing Writing, 16, 189–211.

Cavanaugh, M. (1996). History of teaching English as a second language. English Journal, 85(8), 40–44.

Corbett, P. J. (1987). Teaching composition: Where we’ve been and where we’re going. College Composition and Communication, 38(4), 444–452.

Dillon, D. R., O’Brien, D. G., & Heilman, E. E. (2000). Literacy research in the next millennium: From paradigms to pragmatism and practicality. Reading Research Quarterly, 35(1), 10–26.

Dixon, J. (1991). Historical considerations: An international perspective. In J. J. Flood, J. M. Jensen, D. Lapp, & J. R. Squire (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching the English language arts (pp. 18–23). New York: Macmillan.

Duntson, P. J., Headley, K. N., Schenk, R. L., Ridgeway, V. G., & Gambrell, B. (1998). National reading conference reflections: An analysis of 20 years of research. In T. Shanahan & F. V. Rodriguez-Brown (Eds.), Forty-seventh yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 441–450). Chicago, IL: National Reading Conference.

Dutro, E., & Collins, K. (2011). A journey through nine decades of NCTE-published research in elementary literacy. Research in the Teaching of English, 46(2), 141–161.

Goodman, Y. M. (2011). Sixty years of language arts education: Looking back in order to look forward. The English Journal, 101(1), 17–25.

Guzzetti, B., Anders, P. L., & Neuman, S. (1999). Thirty years of JRB/JLR: A retrospective of reading/literacy research. Journal of Literacy Research, 31(1), 67–92.

Hagood, M. C. (2000). New times, new millennium, new literacies. Reading Research and Instruction, 39(4), 311–328, DOI: 0.1080/19388070009558328.

Heath, S. B. (2008). Vision for learning: History, theory, and affirmation. In J. Flood, S. B. Heath, & D. Lapp (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching literacy through the communicative and visual arts (pp. 3–12). New York: Taylor & Francis.

Hoffman, J. V. & Goodman, Y. M. (Eds.). (2009). Changing literacies for changing times: An historical perspective on the future of reading research, public policy, and classroom practices. New York: Routledge.

Hoffman, J. V. & Pearson, P. D. (2000). Reading teacher education in the Next Millennium: What your grandmother’s teacher didn’t know that your granddaughter’s teacher should. Reading Research Quarterly, 35(1), 28–44.

Huot, B., O’Neill, P., & Moore, C. (2010). A usable past for writing assessment. College English, 72(5), 495–517.

Knudson, R. E., Onofrey, K. A., Theurer, J. L., & Boyd-Batstone, P. (2002). A decade of literacy research in three education journals. Reading Instruction, 39(3), 119–123.

Matsuda, P. K. (2005). Historical inquiry in second language writing. In P. K. Matsuda & T. Silva (Eds.), Second language writing research: Perspectives on the process of knowledge construction (pp. 33–48). New York: Routledge.

McKenna, M. C. (1998). Afterword to 20th-century literacy: Prospects at the millennium, Peabody Journal of Education, 73(3–4), 376–386.

Monaghan, E. J., & Hartman, D. K. (2011). Integrating the elementary language arts: An historical perspective. In D. Lapp & D. Fisher (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching the English language arts, 3rd ed. (pp. 39–45). New York: Routledge.

Morrison, T. G., Wilcox, B., Billen, M. T. Carr, S., Wilcox, G., Morrison, D. & T. Wilcox, R.T. (2011). 50 years of literacy research and instruction: 1961–2011. Literacy Research and Instruction, 50(4), 313–326.

Pearson, P. D., & Cervetti, G. N. (2017). The roots of reading comprehension instruction. In S. E., Israel & G. G. Duffy (Eds.), Handbook of research on reading comprehension (pp. 12–56). New York: Guilford Press.

Pearson, P. D., & Stephens, D. (1994). Learning about literacy: A 30-year journey. In R. B. Ruddell, M.R. Ruddell, & H. Singer (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading, 4th ed. (pp. 22–42). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Prior, P., & Lundsford, K. J. (2007). History of reflection, theory, and research on writing. In C. Bazerman (Ed.), Handbook of research on writing: History, society, school, individual, text (pp. 81–96). New York: Routledge.

Newkirk, T. (2004). The dogma of transformation. College Composition and Communication, 56(2), 251–271.

Rodd, T. (1983). Before the flood: Composition teaching in America, 1637–1900. The English Journal, 72(2), 62–69.

Russell, D. R. (2005). Historical studies of composition. In P. Smagorinsky (Ed.), Research on composition: Multiple perspectives on two decades of change (pp. 243–276). New York: Teachers College Press.

Scherff, L., & Piazza, C. (2005). The more things change, the more they stay the same: A survey of high school students’ writing experiences. Research in the Teaching of English, 39(3), 271–304.

Shannon, P. (2000). “What's my name?”: A politics of literacy in the latter half of the 20th century in America. Reading Research Quarterly, 35(1), 90–107.

Shane, H. G., & Mulry, J. G. (1963). Improving language arts instruction through research. Washington, DC: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Stevenson, D. (2010). History of children’s and young adult literature. In S. Wolf, K. Coats, P., Enciso, & C. Jenkins (Eds.), Handbook of research on children's and young adult literature (pp. 179–192). New York: Routledge.

Swafford, J., Chapman, V., Rhodes, R., & Kallus, M. (1996). A literature analysis of trends in literacy education. In D. J. Leu, C. K. Kinzer, & K. A. Hinchman (Eds.), Literacies for the 21st century: Forty-fifth yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 437–446). Chicago, IL: National Reading Conference.

Tracey, D., H., & Morrow, L. M. (2017). Lenses on reading: An introduction to theories and models. New York: Guilford Press.

Yancey, K. B., (1999). Looking back as we look forward: historicizing writing assessment. College Composition and Communication, 50(3), 483–503.

Part 2: Instructional Insights by Richard Beach

Instructional Insights of Richard Beach that are gleaned from his many years as a teacher.

Chapter 3

Literacy Engagement and Motivation: Rationale, Research, Teaching, and Assessment

Assessment Scale

John T. Guthrie and Allan Wigfield

The following assessment scale designed by John Guthrie and Alexandra Spichtig was originally written for the purpose of measuring students’ motivations for online reading in 2011. The scales were used for research into online reading motivation in association with the Reading Plus program from 2011–2016. These scales were used for research in an experimental investigation of online reading motivation and instruction entitled On-Line Reading Instruction Dynamically Adapted to Low-Achieving Students’ Motivation and Engagement funded in 2016 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), R43 HD082850-01A1.

The constructs and items are provided here for use by researchers and educators who are investigating digital literacy motivations. Permission for such use should be obtained from the first author, John T. Guthrie.


  1.  I am an outstanding reader on the computer.
  2.  I learn a lot when I read on the computer.
  3.  I can explain everything I read on the computer.
  4.  I can figure out unfamiliar words on the computer.
  5.  I will do well the next time I read on the computer.
  6.  I cannot find the main idea of a story on the computer.


  1. It is very important to me to be good at reading on the computer
  2. On the computer, understanding stories is extremely important to me.
  3. Reading on the computer is more useful than any of my other activities.
  4. For me, time reading on the computer is well spent.
  5. What I learn in reading on computer is valuable to me.
  6. Reading on the computer is not useful in everyday life.


  1. I have favorite subjects that I like to read about on the computer.
  2. If a topic is interesting to me, I always read about it on the computer.
  3. On the computer, I read about my favorite topics as often as I can.
  4. I enjoy reading about new things on the computer.
  5. It is fun to read on the computer.
  6. I could not care less about reading the stories on the computer.


  1. I enjoy being rewarded for my efforts in reading on the computer.
  2. I like to move to a higher level in reading on the computer.
  3. I want to get the highest scores in reading on the computer.
  4. Scores are a good way to see how you are doing in reading on the computer.
  5. I really like to be recognized for good work in reading on the computer
  6. I do not look forward to finding out my scores in reading on the computer.

Self-improvement Beliefs

  1. I believe that working hard in reading on the computer will help me.
  2. I think it helps me to finish all the work in reading on the computer.
  3. I believe that practice in reading on the computer will help my reading.
  4. When I have setbacks in reading on the computer, I try hard to improve.
  5. I can become a better reader by putting effort into reading on the computer.
  6. On reading on the computer: I don’t think that working hard helps me get better.

The recommended directions and response formats are the following:

We are interested in your reading on the computer.

The sentences tell how some students feel about reading. Listen to each sentence and decide whether it talks about a person who is like you or different from you. We want to know how you feel about reading. For many of the statements, you should think about the kinds of things you read in your class.

Here are two items to try before we start on the ones about reading:

A. I like ice cream.

Very different from me

A little different from me

A little like me

A lot like me





If the statement is very different from you, circle a 1.
If the statement is a little different from you, circle a 2.
If the statement is a little like you, circle a 3.
If the statement is a lot like you, circle a 4.

B. I do not like spinach.

Very different from me

A little different from me

A little like me

A lot like me





If the statement is very different from you, circle a 1.
If the statement is a little different from you, circle a 2.
If the statement is a little like you, circle a 3.
If the statement is a lot like you, circle a 4.

Okay, we are ready to start on the ones about reading. You should think about the things you are reading in your class.

Further information may be obtained.

Chapter 4

Reading Comprehension, Critical Understanding: Research-based Practice

Maureen McLaughlin and Glenn DeVoogd

The following three Parts are provided to support a deepened understanding of comprehension instruction.

Part 1. Trade Books that Represent Critical Literacy

In Chapter 4, we discuss how to analyze several books from a critical perspective. We created this annotated bibliography to provide you, the reader, with a more extensive list of titles that represent critical literacy, so you can use them in your teaching. The list is not exhaustive, but it does include many of the titles we use when teaching students how to become critically literate.

In critical literacy, we, as teachers, should expose our students to books that disrupt life, explore identities, and investigate multiple perspectives. We have organized the books in this annotated bibliography in those three categories. The first list contains titles that problematize stereotypical views, opening up a complex world and the possibility of analyzing many different relationships. The second category represents how individuals relate to others in social groups, such as families, friends, and schools. In the final category, the books examine ways to take action, create change, and make a difference in the world.

Part 2. Illustrations in Children's Literature: Reading from a Critical Perspective

In Chapter 4, our examples of critical literacy relate to literature, and, particularly, to picture books. When discussing those books from a critical perspective, we focus on the text. In this article, we focus on reading illustrations from a critical stance. Chapter 4 and this article share a critical literacy foundation that includes the Principles of Critical Literacy (McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2004a). We are providing this complement to Chapter 4, so you, the reader, can teach your students not only how to critically analyze the illustrations in a book, but also how to embrace the freedom of creating their own illustrations to represent a text.

In critical literacy, readers are active participants in the literacy process. They move beyond passively accepting the text’s message to question, examine, or dispute the power relations that exist between readers and authors or illustrators—to ponder what the author/illustrator wants readers to believe, to take action, and to promote fairness between people. Critical literacy focuses on issues of power and promotes reflection, action, and transformation.

(Freire, 1970, p. 14)

Illustrations in children’s books provide an interpretation of the text. Readers need to be skilled in understanding not only the literal meanings of text, but also the critical meanings that may include the hidden intentions of the illustrations. This is a challenge for teachers and students who often do not have enough time to discuss the meanings of such illustrations. As literacy professionals, we need to help readers to be aware of the biases of both the author and the illustrator. We need to explain how to become skilled in generating images that might represent or describe perspectives other than the one the illustrator has chosen to represent. Readers need to develop a critical stance when reading illustrations, so their thinking will not be unjustifiably controlled by the images.

When “reading the illustrations” rather than accepting them as the only perspective, we seek to uncover the illustrator’s bias. We question what the illustrator wanted us to believe, what his or her intent was, and what perspectives might have been ignored, silenced, or discounted in the drawings that accompany the text. Illustrations have the power to amplify, exaggerate, or change the meaning of the story. They also represent particular biases, even when the information depicted by the visual images parallels the meaning of the text. For example, just as authors may choose to discount or silence certain perspectives by choosing to favor one character over another, one gender over another, or a particular race, illustrators can foreground or modify characters’ qualities through color choices, the structure and display of the setting, and the ways the characters appear and act. These same choices may cause other tones, characters, and details to be minimized or left out, which may, in turn, discount or silence other interpretations of the text.

It is important to note that critical theorists’ expanded notion of texts isn’t limited to words in a book, song, or newscast; texts can also be illustrations and conditions (sociocultural influences, state assessment driven curriculums, funding or lack of it) or relationships and situations in everyday life (analyzing an occurrence from another person’s perspective). Reading from this perspective requires both the ability and the deliberate inclination to think critically about to analyze and evaluate texts and illustrations, meaningfully question their origin and purpose, and take action by representing alternative perspectives.

The Principles of Critical Literacy

The Principles of Critical Literacy (McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2004a, 2011) include a number of essential understandings and beliefs about the power relationship that exists between the reader and the author/illustrator that can affect the way readers think about social justice issues. The four principles address issues including power and action, problematizing, dynamic critical strategies, and disrupting the commonplace.

Critical Literacy Focuses on Issues of Power and Promotes Reflection, Transformation, and Action

Whenever we commit to critically understanding illustrations, we submit to the right of the illustrator to select the topic and determine the treatment of the ideas. For example, in Smoky Night (1994), the author, Eve Bunting, and the illustrator, David Diaz, emphasize the aspects of the book that reinforce the social justice themes of racial harmony and working together for peace. Although the story takes place during the Los Angeles riots, a very violent setting, the illustrator made a choice to foreground cooperation in the midst of mayhem by focusing his illustrations on the characters who overcome the distrust and bitterness of the past. At first, an African-American mother and her son, Daniel, do not like a Korean-American family that owns a neighborhood grocery store. Daniel, the young African-American character, tells the reader, “My mama and I don’t go in Mrs. Kim’s market even though it’s close. Mama says it’s better if we buy from our own people.” And in the part of the story when Mrs. Kim, one of the owners of the Korean market, is being robbed, the African-American family pays no attention. The tension between the African-American and Korean-American families is rooted in centuries-old racism. In their neighborhood, African-Americans, who have a high unemployment rate, try to support African-American owned businesses so their people can have jobs. The words “our own people” carry extensive historical baggage with the racial tensions that can be interpreted in light of national and local histories.

Because of the fires and robberies that occur during the riots, both the African-American family and the Korean-American family eventually find themselves in the same shelter. Both families are also upset because their cats are lost. The illustrator, David Diaz, exercises his power to make choices to use certain colors to emphasize the discord of the riot and the friction that exists between the two families. In the beginning of the book, the riots are reflected in Diaz’s use of dark purple and then bright colors with broken glass and litter on the border of each page. When racial harmony emerges, Diaz neatly organizes floral wallpaper and muted colors on the borders of the pages.

This is also the point in the story in which the text and illustrations illuminate peace and reconciliation in the midst of the distrust and bitterness of the riots. For example, Eve Bunting writes the words that signify the ideology of reconciliation. The African-American woman offers her name (“My name is Gena”) by way of introduction to Mrs. Kim and invites Mrs. Kim and her cat to visit her and her son. Mrs. Kim, the Korean woman, says “Thank you” and “We will come.” These words carry great meaning for the two families as they reconcile and rise above racial differences to recognize each other as human beings and neighbors. To support the reconciliation, the author has the cats that are no longer lost, purring. Bunting demonstrates her ideological bent toward living together in racial harmony through carefully chosen phrases. Diaz uses his power to emphasize racial harmony by employing muted colors and physically placing the characters next to each other in the illustrations. In this case, the illustrator has the power because he chooses the colors and the border, and then decides the placement of the characters in the picture, while the readers/viewers are left to passively accept the illustrator’s perspective. With no color, detail or perhaps, picture, readers/viewers would have more freedom and power to imagine scenes that would have drawn more on their personal background knowledge.

This is an example of how critical literacy focuses on issues of power and helps subjugated or oppressed groups, in this case, the readers, to help “politicize themselves and engage in action aimed at challenging existing structures of inequality and oppression” (Cummins & Sayers, 1995, p. 23). O’Brien (2001) suggests that “the challenge is to adopt practices that will not only open up new possibilities, but also will begin to deal with taking action” (p. 53). Good intentions or awareness of an unjust situation will not transform it. We must act on our knowledge.
This cycle of, “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” is what Freire (1970, p. 36) calls praxis. By nature, this process is not passive, but active, challenging and disrupting the ideal (Green, 2001) or commonplace (Lewison, Flint, & Van Sluys, 2002) for the purpose of relieving the inequity and social injustice. 

Critical Literacy Focuses on the Problem in Its Complexity

Educational situations, which are actually fairly intricate, are often viewed from an essentialist very simplistic perspective. In critical literacy, rather than accepting an essentialist view, we would engage in problematizing raising issues and asking questions that reveal complexity that helps us understand the author or illustrator’s intent. When we explore why some characters are foregrounded in a picture and others are smaller or missing or why certain colors are used to illustrate certain aspects of the story, we are seeking complexity. Raising questions and seeking alternative explanations are ways of more fully acknowledging and understanding the complexity of the situation.

Our example of this is Molly Bang’s picture book biography, Nobody in Particular: One Woman’s Fight to Save the Bay (2000). In this volume Diane Wilson, a shrimper, takes on chemical plants that are poisoning the water where the shrimpers live on the Texas coast. The story focuses on the many struggles she endures and the costs of the actions she takes. One illustration juxtaposes a black and white picture of a black refinery emitting smoke in the background on top of a colorful picture of different green, blue, and yellow communities of fish thriving among shrimp, starfish, jellyfish, green plants and a pair of webbed feet. The black of the refinery represents the mystery of the unknown, death, and, by association, evil. This is contrasted with the joyful blossom of color in the fish illustration, which influences the reader to favor the underwater part of the picture. In a similar fashion, the activity of the fish full of life and rushing around compares positively to the static air-polluting refinery. Simple descriptions of these images don’t acknowledge the subtle influences that tug subconsciously at the reader’s understanding of the text from one perspective.

Critical Literacy Strategies Are Dynamic and Adapt to the Contexts in Which They Are Used

In critical literacy, there is no list of methods that works the same way in all contexts all the time. As Freire (1998, p. xi) has noted, “It is impossible to export pedagogical practices without reinventing them.” This means that every time we examine a work from a critical stance, it is a dynamic experience and the ideas that are shared are different from perceptions developed by other people in other contexts.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type (Cronin, 2000) provides an example of the dynamic nature of critical literacy. The illustrator, Betsy Lewin, doesn’t simply illustrate a farm with Farmer Brown and cows, chickens, and ducks that type notes and go on strike for better living conditions. She uses colors and character portrayal to communicate her perspective, and it clearly favors the farm animals. On the front cover of the book three cows, a hen, and a duck all focus intently with calm concentration as they examine a letter being typed by one cow on a typewriter. Light shades of purple and brown make up the background of their strike notice, which sincerely requests that they receive electric blankets because they are cold. When Farmer Brown reads the notice, Lewin creates his shadow with his hair sticking out all over, fists clenched and raised, and feet stomping against a red background. The illustrations show Farmer Brown marching wildly up to the barn and running back to the house with his hand raised, indicating a loss of control and composure. Meanwhile, the cows and hens look assertively and coolly at the reader.

When we examine these pictures in their complexity, we notice these illustrations carry meaning beyond simple pictures of a farm. The cool purple and light brown background colors foreground the animals who appear reasonable, serious, and in control. In contrast, a red background, depicting extreme emotion, foregrounds Farmer Brown and is only exacerbated by his stomping, running around, wild hair, and clenched fists. Lewin represents Farmer Brown as threatening and erratic. He looks directly at the reader only once. The animals appear more honest, calm, and confident. They look straight at the reader and their emotions are under control. These illustrations favor the animals (the oppressed group) by representing them as a confident and organized work force confronting a rash, out of control boss. Simple descriptions of the farm miss the subtle underlying messages of the book that more complex, critical analyses reveal

Critical Literacy Disrupts the Commonplace by Examining It from Multiple Perspectives

Examining the point-of-view from which a text is illustrated and brainstorming other perspectives that may or may not be represented, challenges readers to expand their thinking and discover diverse beliefs, positions, and understandings. It helps us to transition from accepting the text as presented to questioning the author’s intent as well as the information presented in the text. Appreciation for and exploration of these alternative perspectives helps readers to understand situations from a critical stance (Lewison et al., 2002; McLaughlin, 2001).
Celebrating Ramadan by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith is an example of a text that disrupts students’ understanding of holidays. This text tells about Ibrahim, a New Jersey boy, who disrupts most children’s understanding of “religious holiday,” which is often limited to Christmas and Hanukkah, by describing Ramadan, a time of peace and harmony for Muslims. This book disrupts some of the notions that people in the Middle East don’t believe in peace, at a time when western countries are at war in the Middle East. The illustrations disrupt the commonplace media treatment of Arabs and Muslims warring and protesting in the Middle East by depicting Ibrahim as a smiling, unpretentious fifth grade boy. The illustrator shows Ibrahim eating and praying with his family, evoking a sense of solidarity with those in America who promote “family values.” The illustrations show him going to school, playing, and having the worries typical of a young child in New Jersey.

Examining Illustrators’ Bias

Bias is a partiality or favoritism toward one perspective over another. Proponents of critical literacy believe that all texts are biased because they tell only one or a limited range of stories (McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2004b). The biases found in illustrators’ work are the result of decisions they made in light of their personalities, experiences, and background knowledge. Illustrators may contemplate many ways to illustrate a book, but they choose just one way to communicate their perspective. Other illustrators may choose to delineate different perspectives that reveal their preferences not only in art, but also in relation to what is important and good in life. At times, illustrators may not even be aware of the perspectives they are portraying, but to those who critically analyze their work, their choices are evident nonetheless.

From a critical perspective, it is the viewer’s duty to investigate and name the biases and thoughts of the illustrator as they view the pictures and consider other possible perspectives. This leaves the viewer free to consider perspectives other than those represented by the author and illustrator. It is important when teaching students to help them understand that they have the freedom to create illustrations from perspectives that differ from the illustrators’. Freedom to consider alternative points of view requires a great deal of work on the part of the reader/viewer, but the process is rewarding because the reader’s understanding is not limited to just one version of the story. The viewer can examine the illustrations from different cultural perspectives, value systems, genders, ages, nationalities, and even from different points in history. This frees the viewer of time, space, and cultural norms that may limit their understanding of humanity and the world.

The Relation between Illustrations and Text

For most books, the ideas of the author are written first leaving book editors to choose an illustrator that might best create an interesting, sensitive, or provocative account that will result in a successful publication. The book editor’s point of view is crucial, but it is often hidden behind the decisions an illustrator makes. After illustrators are chosen, they must decide to what degree they want to reflect the ideas in the text, tell a story different from the text, expand on ideas in the text, or limit the focus of the viewer to particular ideas. For example, earlier in this article we discussed how Lewin, the illustrator of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type (2000), expands the conception of story characters to make the animals appear to be courageous and resolute in comparison to the emotionally torn Farmer Brown. The red background colors reflecting his emotions and the softer blues and browns reflecting the animals’ composed demeanor expand the viewers’ understanding and enjoyment of the story. On the other hand, the limited detail the illustrator uses painting the barn, the field, the pond, and surrounding area narrows the focus of the reader concerning the expression of the characters and their interrelationship with each other. The reader can more easily identify levelheaded cows with union activities in the human world. Had the illustrator added surrounding detail including cow pies or pigs slopping in the mud, it might have been harder for the reader to make the transfer from the farm setting to a union/management scenario.

The ability to critically analyze gives students the tools that enable them to recognize and understand how illustrations work conveying meaning to the viewer. The viewer recognizes the tools of color, position, and expression of the characters. The viewer also recognizes the images left out as points of personal choice the illustrator makes to show bias and perspective. The students’ ability to analyze, recognize, and use such tools of bias in their own illustrations makes the student an active critic and producer of perspective. It is important for students to possess such metacognitive tools for critical literacy so they can seek social justice in the world. For example, although unions fight for social justice, they can also promote a perspective unfairly. Students should be able to recognize this and imagine the story from the farmer/administration point of view.

Finally, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type is a representation of a union perspective. Children need to have background knowledge about a perspective favoring the administration, so when they read a text and seek to imagine alternative perspectives to the one provided by the illustrator, they can recall this book as an alternative visual representation.

Communicating Bias

Illustrators use different artistic elements and character placements to subtly communicate feelings and biases to the reader. It is up to the reader to recognize who is being favored in the text and who is being marginalized. Illustrators communicate their biases through elements such as use of color, lines and shapes, depiction of settings, portrayal of characters, and style and media. Examples of how illustrators use these elements when chronicling children’s stories follow.

Use of Color. Illustrators can use hue (color), value (lightness or darkness), or saturation (brightness of dullness) to demonstrate bias. In Madlenka (Sis, 2000), a little girl loses her tooth and leaves her apartment to announce the great news to the diverse immigrant neighbors who live on her New York City block. The achromatic grays of the high rise apartments transform to become many different colors as Madlenka explores the culture of people from diverse homelands. The juxtaposition of the grays of the apartments and the rich colors describing the cultural background shows how interesting, rich, and colorful life can be when one lives in a neighborhood of immigrants. Peter Sis, a Czech immigrant himself shows his bias toward the oppressed when he subtly promotes the joys of difference in people and culture through this color transformation. In contrast, Wendy Watson, illustrator of Cats in Krasinkski Square (Hesse, 2004) communicates a sense of sobriety by painting scenes of the concentration camp in World War II in only brown.

Illustrators communicate their emotions fondness, joy, sadness or others – through their color choices. In Madlenka, Peter Sis provides the viewer with images of joy and cultural richness that represent an alternative story in contrast to the common place images of immigrants living in crowded and poorly constructed ghettos. In contrast, the lack of color in the illustrations Wendy Watson creates in Cats in Krasinkski Square (2004) dramatizes and focuses the viewer on the serious nature of the problems of those in concentration camps. Such critical analysis and reimagining of immigrants again allows the viewer to become increasingly capable of recognizing the smallest bots of bias, but it also contributes to the students’ background knowledge of alternative images, which they can use to juxtapose this text with other illustrations that may biased in a different way.

Lines and Shapes. The value of children’s drawings, even when they are quite poorly done, is elevated in Emma Dodson’s drawings in Badly Drawn Dog (Barron’s, 2005). The sharp lines and scribbled crayon are not attractive to the dog, so he goes to a French artist to get his lines and shapes curled, spotted like other dogs, and even made to look like a Picasso. But the lady poodle Badly Drawn Dog is trying to impress prefers the scruffy scribbled lines and odd shapes the child drew. By preferring these scribbles the author/illustrator shows value in creating art and not in the glorification of museum masterpieces.

Children’s illustration efforts are rarely validated or appreciated in print. In contrast, Dodson foregrounds the innocence of and appreciation for the child’s drawings. Again, engaging in such analysis makes student viewers better at recognizing bias, but it also contributes to the students’ cache of alternative images they could use to reimagine other perspectives.

Depiction of Settings. The arrival of winter snow brings with it lots of hours indoors for many people. Some fear going out into the snow because it is dangerous; others may think it is too cold. In This Place in the Snow, Rebecca Bond (2004) portrays not only her love of snow, but also how she values physical activity and community. The illustrator shows the lightly pastel colored snow blanketing the houses filled with brightly clad children jumping, dancing unable to control their excitement to go outside and play as a group. Children slide down a huge pile of snow in a large parking lot where it would usually be too dangerous to sled because of the traffic. But in this picture, the illustrator shows no careening cars, trucks, or busses. She chooses to illustrate a non-threatening setting to focus the viewer on the joys of tunneling, sliding, and shoveling fresh snow. In contrast to the television backdrops of crowds of people valuing the Extreme X winter games and professional figure skating performances, Bond focuses the viewer’s attention on the often ignored joys of the poor man’s snow activities and the overlooked backdrop of a big pile of snow. Such alternative images provide a useful vision for those who seek images of other perspectives and allow the viewer to make decisions about social justice in this and other contexts.

Character Portrayal. No one who has seen the illustrations of the Baudelaire children and the evil Count Olaf on the cover of the Lemony Snicket books could possibly mistake Count Olaf for a kind person. His sharp facial features looking directly at his victims contrast with Violet, Klaus, and Sonny Baudelaire’s rounded, innocent-looking features as they cling to each other and look sadly away from Count Olaf. The critical viewer recognizes the way in which the illustrator has biased the viewer to dislike Count Olaf because of his sharp features and glaring stares. The entertainment of these books, which chronicle a series of unfortunate events, lies in the exaggerated nature and characterization of those portrayed. The analysis of the marginalization of Count Olaf in the role of parent, guardian, or caregiver brings to light the parody of Count Olaf and keeps children from taking the evil nature of Count Olaf seriously or transferring his evil nature to parents, guardians, and caregivers in their own lives.

Style and Media. The use of fantasy characters, especially those with a comic style, tells readers not to look too hard for themes; this story is just for fun and escape. An example of this can be found in Jon Scieszka’s book, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! (Penguin, 1989). In this version of the classic fairytale, the wolf tells the story from his perspective, but Lane Smith illustrates him as a convict, who has been jailed for huffing and puffing and blowing houses down. The illustrator. Lane Smith, makes it clear from the start of this book, that readers should not take the wolf’s story seriously. In Caperucita Roja (tal comose lo contaron a Jorge (Alfaguera, 1996), the Red Riding Hood story that was told to Jorge, the boy imagines a comic superhero scenario of Red Riding Hood, while the father imagines a more dramatic and serious struggle with more realistic images. The illustrator seems to be representing the child’s preference for comic superhero entertainment and adventure in contrast to the adult’s preference to use the story as a more serious cautionary tale about why children should obey their parents. Critical viewers recognize that the comic book style is favored in this text. It disrupts the commonplace story and provides an alternative use of media to describe this traditional tale. The boy’s story of comics is featured here perhaps to remind parents of children’s often ignored and much marginalized preference for comic book characters. Again, the critical analysis of this book raises questions of power and authority such as, “Who gets to decide what is attractive?” and “Is it always appropriate for parents to force children to obey them unquestionably?” Such questions and the resulting discussions may advance a class’s understanding of issues of equity and social justice between parents and children.

Reimagining Visual Images

Becoming critically aware of the biases and values of illustrators appears to be a rather complex task if we focus primarily on discussion to model and elicit students’ understandings of critical perspectives. Reimagining illustrations through alternative images and dramatic improvisation allows us and our students to seek a broader understanding of the issues. The discovery and creation of images that challenge and question the commonplace expectations encourage readers to freely express their perspectives as alternatives to the illustrators’ choices. Illustrating and dramatizing also encourage us to use our kinesthetic and tactile modalities to express our ideas. The following two instructional techniques will help students recognize illustrators’ biases and create their own alternative visions.

Alternative Images

Perhaps the simplest personal response readers can make is to reimagine the illustrator’s images by drawing new pictures. For example, students may choose to reimagine Click, Clack Moo: Cows that Type and illustrate the story from a perspective that is more supportive of Farmer Brown. Similarly, although the illustrations in This Place in the Snow show snow as an opportunity to play and have fun, students might create an alternative image in which children go outside and don’t go sledding because there are vehicles careening on the snowy roads. Reimagining images helps students to examine the original illustrations, value their resulting insights, and realize that the illustrator’s drawings are not the only way to see the story.

Dramatic Representations

Improvisational reenactments that result in different outcomes encourage students to reimagine the illustrations from perspectives that differ from the illustrator’s. Using this technique, after reading the book and discussing the bias of the illustrator, students improvise a drama that reflects their perspectives. For example, in the case of Badly Drawn Dog, one child scribbles on several pieces of paper tossing them carelessly on the floor, as the adoring parent scrambles to pick up the child’s “masterpieces,” praising the child profusely and then proceeding to frame all the scribbles. This might help the students to understand the values of the child. It may also help them understand how people with other values might imagine things differently. It’s important to remember that we are not talking about stopping to produce a play, but rather to plan and dramatize relatively quickly.

Of course, these are just two of many ways in which students can examine the illustrator’s intent and reimagine it using their own ideas. One of our favorite ways to reimagine is to engage in “Switching” (McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2004b), a technique in which students switch or change settings, personalities, genders, or emotions from those expressed in the original text to those that represent their reimaginings. Students’ “switches” can also be shared through illustrations or improvisational drama.

Reading Through and Beyond the Illustrated Text

As literacy professionals, our longstanding goal has been to help students comprehend what they read, but the paradigm has shifted. As David Pearson (2001) has observed, “comprehension is never enough; it must have a critical edge.” Comprehending with a critical edge means moving beyond the literal understanding of text and illustrations. It is understanding the power relationship that exists between the reader and the author/illustrator knowing that even though the author has the power to create and present the message, readers have the power and the right to be text critics, to read, question, and analyze the author’s or illustrator’s message. Understanding this power relationship is the essence of critical literacy. To become critically aware, we need to actively engage to become participants in this power relationship to find new ways of seeing beyond the text (McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2011, 2017). We need to become text critics. We need to move beyond passively accepting information to analyzing it from a critical perspective and taking action. As Van Sluys (2003) has noted, “Critical literacy is about the assembly, manipulation, and constant renegotiation of practices that encourage people to become active participants that question how the world is and work toward more just images of what it might be.”

Children’s Literature

___________ .  I never saw another butterfly: Children’s drawings and poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942 1944. New York: Schocken Books.
Bang, M. (2000). Nobody particular: One womans fight to save the bays. New York: Henry Holt. (Illustrator: Molly Bang)
Bond, R. (2004). This place in the snow. New York: Dutton. (Illustrator: Rebecca Bond)
Bunting, E. (1994). Smoky night. San Diego, CA: Harcourt. (Illustrator: David Diaz)
Cronin, D. (2000). Click, clack, moo: Cows that type. New York: Simon & Schuster. (Illustrator: Betsy Lewin)
Dodson, E. (2005). Badly drawn dog. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s. (Illustrator: Emma Dodson)
Hesse, K. (2004). The cats of Krasinkski Square. New York: Scholastic. (Illustrator: Wendy Watson)
Hoyt-Goldsmith, D. (2001). Celebrating Ramadan. New York: Holiday House. (Illustrator: Lawrence Migdale)
Pescetti, L. M. (1996). Caperucita Roja (tal como lo contaron a Jorge). Buenos Aires: Alfaguara. (Illustrator: O’Kif)
Scieszka, J. (1989). The true story of the three little pigs! New York: Penguin. (Illustrator: Lane Smith)
Sis, P. (2000). Madlenka. New York: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux. (Illustrator: Peter Sis)
Snicket, L. (2007). The bad beginning: Or, orphans! (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1). New York: HarperCollins. (Illustrator: Brett Helquist)


Cummins, J., & Sayers, D. (1995). Brave new schools: Challenging cultural illiteracy through global learning networks. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Freire, P. (1998). Teachers as cultural workers: Letters to those who dare to teach. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Green, P. (2001). Critical literacy revisited. In H. Fehring and P. Green (Eds.), Critical literacy: A collection of articles from the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (pp. 7 14). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Lewison, M., Flint, A. S., & Van Sluys, K. (2002). Taking on critical literacy: The journey of newcomers and novices. Language Arts, 79(5), 382–392.
McLaughlin, M. (December, 2001). Sociocultural influences on content literacy teachers’ beliefs and innovative practices. Paper presented at the 51st Annual Meeting of the National Reading Conference, San Antonio, TX.
McLaughlin, M., & DeVoogd, G. (2004a). Critical literacy as comprehension: Expanding reader response. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 48, 52-62.
McLaughlin M., & DeVoogd, G, (2004b). Critical literacy: Enhancing students’ comprehension of text. New York: Scholastic.
McLaughlin, M., & DeVoogd, G. (2011). Critical literacy as comprehension: Understanding at deeper levels. In D. Lapp & D. Fisher (Eds.) The handbook of research on teaching the English language arts. Philadelphia, PA: Erlbaum.
McLaughlin, M., & DeVoogd, G. (2017). Reading comprehension, Critical understanding: Research-based practice. In D. Lapp and D. Fisher (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching the English language arts (4th ed.). New York: Routledge.
O’Brien, J. (2001). Children reading critically: A local history. In B. Comber and A. Simpson (Eds.), Negotiating critical literacies in classrooms (pp. 37 54), Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Pearson, P.D. (2001). Comprehension strategy instruction: An idea whose time has come again. A paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Colorado Council of the International Reading Association, Denver, Colorado.
Van Sluys, K. (2003). Engaging in critical literacy practices in a multiliteracies classroom. Paper presented at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the National Reading Conference, Scottsdale, AZ.

Part 3. Jack and the Beanstalk: Reading from a Critical Stance

In this plan, the authors illuminate the essentials of a critical literacy lesson, putting into practice the theory we discussed in Chapter 4. We are sharing it as a model of teaching from a critical stance that incorporates both the nature of critical literacy and critical practices, such as problem-posing, gender switching, and taking action based on critical insights.


In this lesson based on Jack and the Beanstalk, Olivia Brake teaches her third grade students to view the story from a critical literacy perspective. Olivia had been teaching about critical literacy since the start of the school year. When she taught this lesson in the spring, she inspired her students to deepen their thinking by challenging the text. She invited them to use problem-posing questions to analyze Jack and the Beanstalk from a critical stance.

Readers, who are critically aware, see beyond the literal level of the text. They question what they are reading to understand the author’s intent, how ideas are emphasized, and the purposes of production. The goal is to see past the literal meaning of the text to examine issues such as what the author wants readers to believe, and which gender, ethnic group, or philosophy is the focus of the text and which is missing, discounted, or marginalized.

When Olivia taught this lesson, she suggested questions to help students analyze what the author wanted them to think. These included:

  • What message does the text seem to convey?
  • What do the “good”’ characters do that makes them so “good?” So “bad?”
  • What are the values we might learn to use in our lives after reading this book?

(McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2004)

She also engaged the students in examining what an alternative text might tell by encouraging them to analyze how gender switching might change the story. The students then explored how genders were represented in the story and how the story might change if the lead character had been Jack’s sister (if he had one) instead of Jack.

Text: Jack and the Beanstalk

Teacher: Olivia Brake

Grade: 3

Text Summary

In this classic fairytale, Jack sells his cow for some magic beans. The beans sprout a beanstalk that extends to the castle in the sky where the giant lives. Jack climbs the beanstalk and enters the giant’s castle. Once inside, Jack steals some gold, the hen that lays the golden eggs, and a magic harp. In the end, Jack escapes down the beanstalk, cuts down the beanstalk with the giant on it, and the giant dies.

Engaging Students’ Thinking

Olivia began her lesson by asking her students if they were familiar with the book Jack and the Beanstalk. Most of the students acknowledged that they were, so the class created an oral retelling. Then Olivia explained that she would be reading the story shortly, but first she wanted the students to express their thoughts about Jack. “What do you think of Jack? How would you describe him?” Olivia inquired. Her students were eager to respond.

“He’s a good kid,” said Ryan.

“Yes, he helped his mom,” added Felicia.

“He didn’t listen to his mom, but in the end he helped her,” Jose said.

Other student comments were very similar. In summary, Olivia’s students thought Jack was a good person who was nice to his mom. Olivia listened carefully and recorded her students’ descriptors of Jack on the left side of the whiteboard.

Guiding Students’ Thinking

Before reading, Olivia reminded her students about reading from a critical stance and questioning the author’s message. Next, she read the book, stopping occasionally to prompt students’ thinking and engage in discussion. Then, she asked her students what they thought the author wanted them to believe. They reiterated what they said earlier: Jack is a good kid who helped his mother.

After a brief discussion, Olivia asked additional questions to stimulate students’ thinking from a critical stance. For example, she queried, “What does Jack do in the story that makes you think he is a good kid?” A few students said that Jack shared what he took from the giant with his mother and they weren’t poor any more.

Then, Bobby said, “We are saying Jack was a good person because he took things from the giant. That is not right. Jack stole from the giant. A good kid wouldn’t do that.” Bobby’s comment sparked a discussion that produced a very different view of Jack. Details included that Jack broke into the giant’s home, stole from him, and killed him.

After that, Olivia engaged her students in a critical discussion of the other characters in the story. She encouraged the students to consider Jack’s mother, the bean trader, the giant, and his wife. Then she asked, “Do you think these characters seem to be good or bad? What do the ‘good’ characters do that makes them so ‘good’? What do the ‘bad’ characters do that makes them seem ‘bad’?” She invited the students to work with a partner to discuss the four remaining characters, using ideas from the text to support their thinking. When the pairs shared with the whole class, their thoughts ranged from Jack’s mother and the giant’s wife seemed to be good people to the bean trader and the giant seemed to be bad. Jack’s mother, they noted, took care of him even though she did yell at him for selling their cow for beans. The giant’s wife seemed nice, because she didn’t tell the giant that Jack was in the house and she offered him food. Most pairs felt that the bean trader and the giant were bad, because the bean trader swindled Jack out of his cow and the giant chased Jack and threatened to eat him.

Extending Students’ Thinking

Next, Olivia asked her students what values they might incorporate in their lives based on what they had learned from Jack’s story.

Alicia said, “I think we should be honest and not steal like Jack did.”

Alberto replied, “I agree. I think we should also do what our parents ask and not hurt people.”

Everene added, “I think we should respect others and not go into their homes unless we are invited.”

Emma said, “I think we should treat boys and girls the same. They can all be good.”

Nickolai commented, “I think we should think more carefully when we are reading and listening. We all thought Jack was a good kid, but when we listened to the book and thought about it critically, we found out he wasn’t.”

Olivia recorded the students’ responses opposite their original thoughts on the whiteboard. Then she pointed to the newer ideas and said, “These ideas, support what we learned when we investigated Jack and the Beanstalk from a critical stance.” The students agreed and engaged in further discussion.

After that, Olivia encouraged her students to revisit Jack and the Beanstalk to consider how the critical literacy practice of switching in this case gender switching might affect their insights into characters in the story. Then, she noted that Jack was a boy in the story and asked her students if they thought the story would have been different if instead of Jack being the main character in the story, his sister had been. Olivia asked, “What if Jack’s sister had gone to sell the cow? What might have changed?” The students met in groups of four to discuss the possibilities. Olivia encouraged them to write and draw about their ideas. Later, the students reported their conclusions:

  • A few groups thought there would have been no story, because Jack’s sister probably would have sold the cow and brought the money back to help her family. That caused others to ask how the family would have survived. The cow was the last thing of value they had. After it had been sold, the money would have been the last they would have. They wondered what would have happened to the family when the money was gone. The students suggested the family would have needed to go to live in a shelter.
  • Some thought Jack’s sister would have done exactly what Jack did and come home with the beans. Then, they thought she would have also climbed the beanstalk, but rather than steal from the giant, she would have told the giant’s wife that they were very poor and the giant’s wife would have offered to help them.
  • Still others thought that Jack’s sister would have talked to the giant and explained how poor they were. Those students believed that the giant would have invited Jack’s family to live with him and his wife in the castle.

After listening to all of the gender switching scenarios, the students decided that gender played a role in the story. All the males in the story (Jack, the giant, and the bean trader) did bad things and the females (the mother, Jack’s sister, and the giant’s wife) did good things. The students had different views of what a woman would/might do (Mother took care, the giant’s wife gave food, Jack’s sister would obey mother, not steal, and attempt to persuade rather than merely act) as opposed to what Jack actually did. Consequently, Olivia challenged her students’ thinking by asking, “How do the story and the scenarios you created help us understand our stereotypical biases about boys and girls?” An energetic discussion ensued. Then Olivia guided each group in writing an alternative story in which Jack’s sister (if he had one in the story) played the main role and acted in stereotypical ways and non-stereotypical ways. Later, the students shared their alternative stories with the class.

Finally, Olivia engaged her students in small group discussions of ways in which they could support those who are treated unfairly in life. Olivia monitored the discussions, and each group shared its thoughts with the class. Ideas included helping homeless shelters and food banks, but not supporting gender stereotyping. Then the students decided to make posters to announce a food drive in their school. A week later, workers from the school transported the food teachers and students had donated to a local food bank, and the food drive became an annual tradition. The class also decided that girls and boys act in a range of ways and one cannot predict how girls or boys will act. In their interactions with each other, the students pledged to not engage in gender stereotyping by thinking of all girls in one way and all boys in another way.>

Final Thoughts on the Jack and the Beanstalk Lesson

The students’ traditional identification with the main character of a story as a good kid was challenged in Olivia’s classroom as students analyzed the story and discovered that Jack behaves in ways the students determine to be bad. Recognizing that Jack was foregrounded in the text, receiving most of the attention of the author, students come to understand that the main character might be portrayed by the author to do bad things. The author could just as easily have made it seem as if the giant was good or the giant’s wife was bad. This disrupts their understanding of story grammar, informs them of author’s values, and provides them with a different point of view concerning how goodness is constructed. Goodness is being socially constructed in the story and in Olivia’s classroom by how one behaves not by how much attention one gets.

Olivia’s students used problem-posing questions to challenge the text, and, in the process, made decisions about what makes up the identity of a character who is good. The intellectual tools of analysis of identity (good and bad) gave the students the skills, the encouragement, and permission to disrupt the author’s intentions. Their examination of gender, the naming of Jack as “bad” and the process of analysis in which they engaged gave the students the skills and the words to take action in the future. The students also took social action by creating an annual food drive to help those in need.


McLaughlin, M., & DeVoogd, G. (2004). Critical literacy: Enhancing students’ reading comprehension. New York: Scholastic.

Chapter 6

Vocabulary Instruction: Research and Practice

Susan Watts-Taffe, University of Cincinnati
Peter Fisher and Camille Blachowicz, National-Louis University

The following two resources are intended to further share information related to vocabulary learning and instruction.


Chapter 9

Word Study, Research to Practice: Spelling, Phonics, Meaning

Shane Templeton, University of Nevada, Reno
Donald R. Bear, Iowa State University

Lesson Examples

The following examples are shared to model word study instruction.

Video 1

1. Vocabulary Study of Prefixes and Suffixes, Day 1—5th Grade

Video 2

2. Vocabulary Study of Prefixes and Suffixes, Day 2—5th Grade

Video 3

3. Small Group Reading and Sorting—Kindergarten

Video 4

4. Sorting Short -e, -o, and –u with Initial Blends—1st Grade

Video 5

5. Whole Class Reading and Picture Sort—Kindergarten

Credit and Acknowledgement

Bear, Donald R.; Invernizzi, Marcia; Templeton, Shane; Johnston, F. Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction. 6th Ed., ©2016. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York.

Video Transcriptions

Maureen McBride
Director, University Writing Center
Director, Northern Nevada Writing Project
University of Nevada, Reno

Chapter 12

Discipline Literacy

Cynthia Shanahan and Timothy Shanahan, University of Illinois at Chicago

Blog Entries, Comments, and Responses

A Disciplinary Literacy Bibliography

Disciplinary Literacy: The Basics

Disciplinary Literacy: What About Music and Other Subjects?

Disciplinary Literacy Is Not the New Name for Content Area Reading

Disciplinary Vocabulary

Disciplinary Writing

Don’t Let Content Area Reading Experts Confuse You about Disciplinary Literacy

Getting with the Disciplinary Literacy Fad

Multimedia Resources

Voice of Literacy Webcast Interview: Cynthia Shanahan on Disciplinary Literacy\

What is Disciplinary Literacy? Video from Friday Institute, North Carolina State University


Shanahan, C., Shanahan, T., & Misischia, C. (2011). Analysis of expert readers in three disciplines: History, mathematics, and chemistry. Journal of Literacy Research, 43, 393–429.

Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2008). Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents: Rethinking content area literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 78, 40–59.

Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2010). What is disciplinary literacy and why does it matter? Topics in Language Disorders, 32, 7–18.


Disciplinary Literacy in Science

Literacy in Social Studies

Multiple Texts in Disciplinary Literacy

Teaching Disciplinary Literacy


Common Core State Disciplinary Literacy Standards

English Language Arts Collaborative at the University of Texas at Austin

Montana Office on Public Instruction

National History Education Collaborative

Shanahan On Literacy

Stanford History Education Group

Teaching Channel

Literacy Beat

Chapter 18

I Know I Can!: Teacher Self-efficacy in the English Language Arts Classroom

Megan Tschannen-Moran, The College of William and Mary
Denise Johnson, The College of William and Mary
Bronwyn MacFarlane, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

The teachers’ sense of efficacy for literacy instruction was developed to provide a means for researchers to examine this subject-specific aspect of teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs. A pool of items specific to various aspects of literacy instruction was constructed, drawing on the NCTE IRA Standards for the English Language Arts (1996) and the IRA Standards for Reading Professionals (2004). Items tapped such aspects of literacy instruction as the ability to use word study, decoding, and comprehension strategies, modeling effective strategies, integrating instruction across the language arts, grouping practices, use of a wide variety of genres, meeting the needs of both high ability and struggling readers, and the ability to motivate students to value reading. You are welcome to use this measure in research that contributes to our collective knowledge about this important construct. You will find a copy of the measure at Please use the following citation:

Tschannen-Moran, M. & Johnson, D. (2011). Exploring literacy teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs: Potential sources at play. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27,751–761. DOI: 10.1016/j.tate.2010.12.005