Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 275 DL, Chapter 12: Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum

Reading to Learn

Trade Books: High-quality picture and chapter books used in teaching thematic units. These books can be found in science, social studies, or other topics. They help students learn about these topics because they can make connections to their own lives or background knowledge they already have.

Text Sets: A collection of books or other reading materials on topics in a thematic unit. This could include items such as:

  • Maps
  • Brochures
  • Digital Articles
  • Films and Videos
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Nonfiction Books
  • Photographs
  • Poems or Songs
  • Reference Books
  • Stories
  • Websites

Mentor Text: The use of stories, nonfiction books, and poems that students are familiar with to model what the writer did. Teachers reread these texts and point out certain things they want the students to listen for such as the use of strong verbs, writing from different perspectives, or the tone of putting adjectives after nouns.

Writing to Learn

Learning logs are a great way for students to record and react to what they have learned in social studies, science, or other areas.

Double-entry journals are used for multiple types of information. The journal pages are divided into two parts, for example, the students could write facts on one side and their opinions or reactions on the other side.

Quickwriting is when students write on a topic for 5-10 minutes just letting thoughts flow and not focusing so much on the grammar. This could be used at the beginning of a lesson where students write down the things they know about a topic.

Demonstrating Learning

Essays are used for students to explain, analyze, and persuade. These essays are usually no longer than 2 pages talking about a personal topic or a national/international issue. They are written in the voice of the student.

Students could also work together to make a collaborative book. Each student could write their own page or they could work in small groups to write chapters.


To make textbooks easier to understand, the reading process can be used:

Stage 1: Prereading – Teachers can prepare students to read the chapter by doing these things:

  • Activate and build students’ background knowledge about the topic
  • Introduce big ideas and technical words
  • Set purpose for reading
  • Preview the text

Teachers can use KWL charts to show what the students already know, what they want to learn, and what they did learn. Anticipation guides can also be used to introduce a set of statements on the topic of the chapter, students can agree or disagree with these statements, and check their answers as they read.  Teachers can also use a prereading plan where they present a big idea to the students and the students brainstorm words and ideas related to it. Students can also preview the chapter by looking at the headings and turning them into questions. The students then need to read to find the answer to these questions. This is known as the question-answer relationship.

Step 2: Reading – Teachers can support students as they read in these ways:

  • Ensure that students can read the assignment
  • Assist students in identifying the big idea
  • Help students organize ideas and details

Stage 3: Responding – Teachers help students with comprehension as they think, talk, and write about what they have read in these ways:

  • Clarify students’ misunderstandings
  • Help students summarize the big ideas
  • Make connections to students’ lives

This is also where you could use quick writes or double entry journals.

Stage 4: Exploring – Students are asked to look more into the text and focus on vocabulary, examine the text, and analyze the big ideas in these ways:

  • Have students study vocabulary words
  • Review the big ideas in the chapter
  • Help students to connect the big ideas and details

Students create semantic feature analysis charts or data charts to record information according to the big idea. They can also do word sorts to emphasize the relationships among the big ideas.

Stage 5: Applying – Students then create projects to apply what they have learned. Teachers support students by:

  • Expanding students’ knowledge about the topic
  • Having students personalize their learning
  • Expecting students to share their knowledge

Learning How to Study

As students study, they do these things:

  • Restate the big ideas in their own words
  • Make connections among the big ideas
  • Add details to each of the big ideas
  • Ask questions about the importance of the ideas
  • Monitor whether they understand the ideas

Students can take notes, use the question-answer relationship, or the SQ4R study strategy. This strategy is a six step technique usually not taught until 7th and 8th grade. SQ4R means survey, question, read, recite, relate, and review. This strategy has been researched to be successful unless students are in a hurry and skip a step.

How to Plan a Thematic Unit

  1. Determine the Focus
  2. Collect a Text Set
  3. Coordinate Textbook Readings
  4. Locate Digital and Multimedia Materials
  5. Plan Instructional Activities
  6. Identify Minilesson Topics
  7. Plan Ways to Differentiate Instruction
  8. Brainstorm Possible Projects
  9. Plan for Assessment

Alternative Assessment: Some students may have difficulty with regular assessments because they don’t understand, especially English Learners. Teachers need to find different ways of assessing these students, such as having them draw pictures about big ideas and adding words to the word wall so that they can label or write a little bit about what they drew instead of writing an essay. They can also talk with the teacher about what they learned.

All above information comes from:
Tompkins, G. E. (2017). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson

Classroom Application

I liked how the reading process was also used for a textbook. I would use a lot of the prereading strategies that I listed above. I also liked the alternative assessment because sometimes even students who aren’t English Learners struggle with understanding the assessment that is being used, I think this is a great way to see how every student is learning.

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