My Reader Profile

by Melissa Puritis-Pulley, READ 5317-671

Is There a Need for Disciplinary Literacy Instruction?

Let's begin by describing what "disciplinary literacy instruction" is. Simply put, it is teaching students the cues from each subject. To clarify further, it is coaching students until they have the ability to "talk the talk" of a certain subject (Buehl, 2011). This way, students will read history texts like a historian and literature like a writer and biology articles like a scientist, etc.

In order for students to be successful in school and in their careers, they need to be able to understand texts regardless of discipline. Therefore, the need for disciplinary literacy is great.

Basic Literacy vs. Disciplinary Literacy

Basic literacy is the foundation of all literacy. The skills of basic literacy (decoding, visualization, word recognition, etc) occur in elementary class rooms, specifically in grades 1-3 (Buehl, 2011). From there, Buehl outlines intermediate literacy, the learning process that occurs in upper elementary schools. He explains that "Students improve their reading fluency, expand their vocabularies, and encounter increasingly more sophisticated texts," thus making their ability to comprehend "increasingly important" (Buehl, 2011). Following intermediate literacy is disciplinary literacy. This is the form of literacy that should be taught through out the subject areas beginning in middle school, but certainly not ending there. It is in this area of literacy that students begin to read in different ways, depending on the text.

A person's Reader Profile depends on a person's knowledge or interest in a topic

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In a perfect world, our understanding of all disciplinary reading would match that of image 1.4 above. The reality, as Buehl will show in the next image, is that the profile of a reader changes from person to person.

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For Example: My Reader Profile Through the 5 W's

What- I enjoy reading novels, specifically historical fiction, classics, young adult novels, and mysteries. I also read magazines about fashion and entertainment (Lucky, Vogue, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone). Additionally, I read educational blogs in relation to my profession as well as in regards to my child's educational needs.

Where and When- I read each night in bed after I have put my son to sleep, while my son naps beside me on the couch on weekends, while riding in the car on long drives, at the beach while laying in the sun, and at work.

How- When just reading for enjoyment, I quickly read through each page. When reading for comprehension, I tend to read out loud in order to make sure I read each word. This forces me to slow down and pay attention. I am also an active reader, and enjoy underlining and circling things I find to be important so I can come back to them later.

Why- Some things I read because I am an English/Language Arts teacher; student essays and certain books are read and reflected on as a part of the expectations of my job. I read educational blogs and articles to find new ways to share information with my students as well as to see what kinds of things I can be doing with my young son to help him for the future. Finally, the reason I read is because I love it. I love the escape a new book can bring. I love seeing new places, being new people, watching couples fall in love, seeing battles unfold right before my eyes...

Reader Profile continued

Buehl demonstrates that because of certain aspects of our lives or identities, we read certain things. For instance:

I am a middle school language arts teacher, so I read: Young Adult novels, educational blogs, email, and student essays.

I am a would be fashionista (or at least before my son), so I read: Lucky, Glamour, and Vogue.

I enjoy DIY and arts and crafts, so I read: HGTV Magazine and DIY blogs.

I am a football fan, so I read: sports postings and blogs.

What my Profile Looks Like as a Disciplinary Reader

When I was young, my mother would always get frustrated with my standardized test scores. I was, and still am, an avid reader of novels, but somehow my math scores were always higher than my reading (and I was not the most stellar math student). Text that was not interesting to me would cause my scores to go down. I was also not really instructed on how to be an active reader until English became my major in college. When I became an Advanced Placement student in high school, some of the texts proved challenging in the time period allotted. If I were to make a diagram of my disciplinary literacy, the arrows that would go up the highest would be literary fiction, social studies, and history. As a teacher of English/language arts, I feel that these subjects go hand in hand, so I gravitate and pay more attention to them. Humanities is a similar topic, so while I may not be as strong due to terminology that would be present, I feel that I could still grasp the overall ideas. I feel that health and fitness and bio. science would be straight forward, but not geared to catch my attention, and the others would be a challenge due to my lack of a strong foundation in the area.
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How Disciplinary Literacy Affected Me as a Student

My language arts teachers inspired me to find new worlds in the literature they assigned, though I admit that as I got older, teachers did less of that. For example, The Scarlet Letter and Tess of the D'Urbervilles were miserable experiences because I couldn't grasp the language and I couldn't visualize the scenes. In my recollection, English/language arts teachers and history teachers were maybe the only ones that really tried to have students read through the discipline's lens. Any math or chemistry text book was a challenge to me because I was not taught how to read it or what kinds of connections to make. Technical texts in general become overwhelming to me because I do try to visualize everything I read, and it is too hard for me with those kinds of texts.

How My Reader Profile Affects Me as a Teacher

I am in my ninth year of teaching English/language arts to high school and middle school students. At each grade level I have worked to pick novels that students will either enjoy, learn history from, or both. I do my best to help bring the students into the world the author creates; for instance, making parallels between the movie Mean Girls and the novel Pride and Prejudice helped some of my male students to see the Bennets and Bingleys more clearly.

Before, during, and after each novel, I assign short stories and articles that help students make further connections into the reading of the text. It is my goal that students can make a personal, media, or world connection to everything that we read, and sometimes these extra texts are what it takes to make that happen.

I do not only select texts that I enjoy, though I wish I could, because it isn't fair to the students who like science fiction or fantasy, etc. Additionally, I ask the students to do independent reading projects where they get to read their choice of novel and demonstrate why they enjoyed it. It is my goal to instill in my students a passion for reading and writing, and stifling their love of a certain kind of book will not allow me to achieve said goal.

In his essay Student Readiness for Postsecondary Options, Gary L. Williamson alerts his readers that "Some even question whether young adults have developed enough basic literacy skills to function effectively as citizens" (2004). I believe that helping students to find connections to the past and to the present will help students learn more than just the words on the page, but about they world in which they live and how to function in it. If I do my job well, hopefully, so can they.


Brent's Food and Travel Blog (2014, October 7). Elusive Emma (digital image). Retrieved from

Buehl, Doug (2011). Mentoring Students in Disciplinary Literacy. Developing Readers in the Academic Disciplines (ch. 1). Retrieved from 7903180-dt-content-rid-35771708_1/courses/READ5317671201580/bk845-1-buehl.pdf

Vanderbuilt (Photographer). (2014, August). unnamed (digital image). Retrieved from

Williamson, Gary L. (2004, June). Student Readiness for Postsecondary Options. Retrieved from