Reading across the Curriculum: Reading across the Curriculum

This guide includes references on the topic, best practices and some tools to use in the classroom.

Reading across the curriculum, also called content literacy or active reading, is defined as "the ability to use reading and writing for the acquisition of new content in a given discipline. Such ability includes three principle cognitive components: general literacy skills, content specific literacy skills  and prior knowledge of content (McKenna & Robinson, 1990)

Theory #1

Theory #1: The Three Stages of Reading [An Active Reading  Approach]

Prof. E. Marsh          Developmental Skills

Theory #1 is an active reading method or approach that can increase comprehension, comfort and recall of any reading task. It is comprised of three stages and each stage has a set of activities to accomplish. At first, while training in this method, all activities are recorded or written down. The hope is that with training and use - this approach will become a natural habit when reading and the recording of the steps will not be needed. By using this approach, the reader switches from a passive and non-engaged role to an active as well as productive participant in the reading process. This transition may be uncomfortable at first but as with most things in life – with effort, commitment and guidance – the rewards will be worth the trial! 


These tasks are completed before you start reading the selection to warm up.

  1. Read the title, author and any preview information provided.
  2. Write a reaction to this “before” information. What did it remind you of? What do you know about this information? How do you feel about reading about this topic? [ Activates a schema ]
  3. Create predictive questions based on your reaction. What do you think will be answered while reading the text? [ These questions will help you keep focus while reading the selection]

This is where you will read the selection but with an added effort to be active.

  1. Read with a pencil, pen or highlighter in your hand so that you mark and annotate the text while reading. [This action will help you de-construct the text and mark or comment on the essential information.] *refer to models of marking and annotating text in our textbook.
  2. Look for the answers to your “Before Stage” questions and mark the possible answers.
  3. Circle any challenging vocabulary. These are words that you do not know or ones that you may have seen before but do not often use. 

These stages were developed by Prof. E. Marsh for English Basic Skills classes

This is the cool down stage where you will “lock in” your work into your memory. This will help you avoid “The Flush.” [See instructor for explanation]

  1. Immediately following reading the last line of the text – write a brief reaction. What did you learn? What was interesting? What was difficult? How do you feel after reading? Etc.
  2. Now answer your “Before Stage” questions and any other questions or tasks you were assigned.
  3. Look up the definitions for the challenging words you circled. [This action will help you build you sight or field vocabulary.]

Theory #4

Literal Level Skills: On the line reading and thinking 

  • Main Idea [Direct or Implied]
  • Supporting Details [major & minor]
  • Context Vocabulary

Critical Level Skills: Between the line reading and thinking 

  • Author’s purpose, consider audience, evaluate author’s argument, bias/point of view, tone, facts vs. opinion, inferences [educated guesses]

Affective Level Skills: Beyond the line reading & thinking

  • This is where you take the “learned information” and apply it to the world in a task
  • Your classroom or field of study world
  • Your personal world
  • The global world