Power Tools

30 Critical Disciplinary Literacy Strategies for 6-12 Classrooms

September 2023
More details
  • Publisher
    Myers Education Press
  • Published
    19th September 2023
  • ISBN 9781975505547
  • Language English
  • Pages 200 pp.
  • Size 7" x 10"
  •    Request Exam Copy
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October 2023
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  • Publisher
    Myers Education Press
  • Published
    11th October 2023
  • ISBN 9781975505554
  • Language English
  • Pages 200 pp.
  • Size 7" x 10"

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October 2023
More details
  • Publisher
    Myers Education Press
  • Published
    11th October 2023
  • ISBN 9781975505561
  • Language English
  • Pages 200 pp.
  • Size 7" x 10"
  •    Request E-Exam Copy

Virtually all national standards now require students and teachers to understand the particulars of disciplinary literacy. But recently emerging scholarship suggests that disciplinary literacy is, by itself, an incomplete and potentially problematic approach to secondary literacy instruction. By asking students to “think like” or even “be like” experts, students may receive implicit messaging about whose knowledge is—and isn’t—valued.

Critical disciplinary literacy (CDL) creates space for, and highlights connections between, critical literacies and disciplinary literacies. CDL acknowledges disciplines as unique communities with their own specialized (and often exclusionary) skills, norms, practices, and discourses, but deviates from conventional applications of disciplinary literacy by responding to the ways in which power systems and the analytic skills needed to understand them work differently based on the disciplines at hand. A CDL instructional approach acknowledges that applying the critical literacy skills of “reading the word and the world” to understand the power dynamics of vaccine distributions requires a different skill set and strategy approach than looking at textual representations of masculinity in Romeo and Juliet.

Written by a team of educators with over 70 combined years of classroom experience, Power Tools: 30 Critical Disciplinary Literacy Strategies for 6–12 Classrooms offers readers research-based, multidisciplinary, ready-to-implement disciplinary literacy strategies from critical literacy lenses. The book sets itself apart from other strategy textbooks by offering creative strategy implementation that calls attention to power systems. Educators can learn, for example, how they might employ read-alouds to explore the global refugee crisis, or use the exit ticket strategy to help students reflect on the relationship between race and COVID statistics/experiences.

Power Tools: 30 Critical Disciplinary Literacy Strategies for 6–12 Classrooms provides standards-aligned lessons that both challenge and extend traditional engagement practices to build a more just world. Each chapter includes:

  • An overview of each strategy, situated within the research of best practices;
  • Two disciplinary examples for each CDL strategy (e.g., an example of a CDL think-aloud in seventh grade math and tenth grade ELA classroom). Chapters provide resources such as examples of student work, discussion prompts, dialogue between teacher and students, and reprintables;
  • Ideas for addressing resistance to CDL instruction.

Preservice and in-service teachers, as well as teacher educators and researchers, looking to do and support justice-oriented work in disciplinary spaces will find value in the book.

Power Tools is an ideal text to implement in courses such as Disciplinary Literacy, Secondary Literacy, Content Area Literacy, Methods/Strategies for Teaching Social Justice, Multicultural Education, ELA methods, Science methods, Social Studies methods, and Mathematics methods.

"There is huge value in seeing how well known strategies can be used for incorporating a critical literacy orientation across disciplines. The explanations and examples provided for each strategy are detailed enough for teachers to use with their students and clear enough for teachers to embrace as inspiration for their own critical practice."

Hilary Janks, PhD, Professor Emerita, University of the Witwatersrand

"This book presents a trove of research-based strategies that teachers can use to promote thoughtful, productive engagement with texts, helping students learn to read carefully, critically, purposefully, and with an informed skepticism across genres and content areas. With powerful examples and accessible descriptions for each strategy, the book is an exceptionally practical and timely resource for anyone interested in disciplinary literacy instruction."

Zhihui Fang, PhD, University of Florida

"'But how do we do this?!' Too often, educators are provided the what and why of justice-oriented practices without the requisite direction for incorporating these practices into their own instruction. Power Tools offers a robust response to this always-apt question through its presentation of critical disciplinary literacy. Opening the book with a succinct explanation of concepts, purpose, and audience, the authors make a clear argument for the implementation of critical disciplinary literacy in content area classrooms, borne out by the specific strategies and subject-specific examples that follow. This book puts the power of justice-oriented work in teachers’ hands and, with its guidance, teachers have the power to enact it in their classrooms."

Melanie Shoffner, PhD


Foreword by Richard Beach



1 Fishbowl Discussion

 ELA*: Toxic Masculinity in Romeo and Juliet

 Math: Conic Sections

2 Think-Aloud

 ELA: Gender Norms in A Room of One’s Own, Serena Williams’ Vogue essay

 Math: Percentages in Relation to Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Food Production

3 Questioning the Author      

 Math: Questioning Deadly Force Statistics

 SS**: Unpacking the Supreme Court Hearing on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

4 Cornell Notes

 Science: Reading Race across CDC COVID Data

 ELA: Unpacking Persuasive Speaking in Political Speeches

5 Biopoem

 Science: Writing about the Impact of Henrietta Lacks

 SS: Remembering Emmett Till and Evaluating Injustice


 ELA: Questioning Perspective in Huck Finn

 SS: Exploring Immigration Policy in the United States

7 Six-Word Memoir

 ELA: Considering Positionality in Of Mice and Men

 SS: Jewish Resistance and Stories of the Holocaust

8 Venn Diagram

 ELA: Double Consciousness in The Hate U Give/W.E.B. DuBois’ Writing

 Math: Comparing and Contrasting Problem-Solving Techniques

9 Verbal and Visual Word Association

 Science: Connecting Vocabulary to Henrietta Lacks

 SS: Studying Settler Colonialism

10 Gallery Walk

 ELA: Book Banning

 Math: Negative Numbers and Varied Representations on Number Lines

11 Interview Me

 Math: Interviewing Inequalities

 ELA: Toni Morrison/The White Gaze

12 Mode Translation

 Proof Positive: Presenting Mathematical Proofs in Various Formats

 SS: Shifting Power Structures in Ancient Rome

13 Stop and Jot

 Math: Lateral Area, Surface Area, and Volume for Prisms

 Science: Reading Nonfiction Texts

14 Drawing on the Text

 Science: Types and States of Energy

 ELA: Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”

15 Peer Review Circle

 Science: Lab Reports and Procedures (Scientific Process/Method)

 Math: Constructing a Graph

16 Puzzle Pieces

 SS: Exploring Perspectives on the Vietnam War

 Math: Productive Struggle

17 Read-Aloud

 SS: Introduction to the Somali Civil War and Somali Refugees

 ELA: 1984, The Elf on the Shelf, Nonfiction, and Surveillance

18 Mentor Text(s)

 SS: Policy Briefs in Practice

 Science: Exploring Openly Licensed Mentor Texts

19 Text Set

 SS: Exploring the Haitian Revolution

 Science: Unpacking the 17 Sustainable Development Goals from the United Nations

20 Zoom In

 SS: Atomic Bomb on Nagasaki

 ELA: Historical Fiction and Art

21 Which One Doesn’t Belong

 Math: Fraction Patterns and Belonging

 ELA: Considering Perspectives across To Kill a Mockingbird

22 Notice and Wonder

 Math: Data Visualization

 Science: Gender Diversity in Science

23 Exit Ticket

 Math: Thoughts, Questions, and Epiphanies About Graphs

 ELA: Studying POV in All American Boys

24 The Answer Is___, What’s the Question      

 Math: Voting Statistics

 Science: Marine Biome

25 Headline Stories

 Math: The Storylines of Numbers

 Science: The Living Planet Index

26 Poster Carousel

 Social Studies: Native Americans & Treaty Rights in Washington State

 Science: Scientific Research

27 KWL

 Social Studies: Key Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement

 Science: Environmental Justice

28 Socratic Seminar

 ELA: Censorship, Racism, and To Kill a Mockingbird

 Math: Number Systems

29 Human Continuum

 SS: Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act

 Math: Rational Numbers and the Politics of Mathematics

30 Double Entry Journals

 ELA: “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Women’s Rights and Mental Health

 SS: 19th Amendment and BIPOC women

* English Language Arts

**Social Studies  

About the Authors


Jeanne Dyches

Dr. Jeanne Dyches (she/her), an associate professor at Iowa State University, researches the relationship between curriculum, racial literacies, and antiracist teaching practices. Specifically, she works to understand how teachers and students resist limitations of their curriculum in order to engage antiracist, emancipatory, and joyful secondary literacy instruction. A former high school English teacher and literacy coach, Dr. Dyches has won awards for her teaching on both the secondary and post-secondary levels. The American Educational Research Association, American Reading Forum, Society of Professors of Education, and Iowa Academy of Education have recognized Dr. Dyches’ research and scholarly contributions to the field of education. Dr. Dyches has published in many journals, including Harvard Educational Review, Journal of Teacher Education, English Journal, and Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.

Ashley S. Boyd

Ashley S. Boyd (she/her) is an associate professor of English/English Education at Washington State University, where she teaches graduate courses on critical theories and anti-oppressive pedagogies and undergraduate courses on Young Adult Literature and Methods for Teaching English. A former secondary English-language arts teacher, Ashley’s scholarship examines practicing teachers’ social justice pedagogies and their critical content knowledge; explores how young adult literature is an avenue for cultivating students’ critical literacies; and investigates how students select, organize, and implement social action projects. Her books, including Social Justice Literacies in the English Classroom: Teaching Practice in Action, analyze and amplify how teachers subvert traditional classroom curriculum to advance equity and justice. She is co-author of Reading for Action: Engaging Youth in Social Justice through Young Adult Literature, and she has also published in the Journal of Teacher Education, English Education, and The ALAN Review.

Katherine Baker

Dr. Katherine Baker is an associate professor of education at Elon University. She received her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a mathematics education focus from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She supports prospective teachers in their fieldwork in Pre-K–5 schools and teaches courses including Mathematics Methods, Education and Society, and Number & Algebra for K–8 Teachers. She has previously worked as a 4th and 5th grade classroom teacher and a K–5 Math Lead Teacher. Baker is a member of several professional mathematics organizations and an active board member of, and contributor to, state professional organizations. She collaborates with educators to explore and uplift students’ mathematical thinking in indoor and outdoor learning spaces, and then uses that thinking in instructional decision-making that promotes equitable and accessible mathematics.

Alex Kaulfuss

After earning a B.A. in English Education from North Carolina State University, Dr. Alex Kaulfuss began teaching 9th- and 12th-grade English and Forensic Debate. Over the next decade, as a classroom teacher, Kaulfuss continued to further his own education and professional growth, earning an M.S. in English Education; acquiring additional certifications in Mathematics, Computer Science, and Information Technology; becoming a National Board Certified Teacher; receiving the Jenrette Teaching Excellence Award; and earning a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. Kaulfuss became an Education Consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and then an Instructional Technologist with North Carolina State University’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, working with teachers to find ways to incorporate technology in the classroom. Kaulfuss returned to public education as part of the founding faculty of a full-scale, blended-learning high school, teaching first Mathematics, then Python and Java, before returning to English at the Wake Early College of Information and Biotechnologies. Kaulfuss’s education and research interests include implementing technology in the classroom, utilizing visual texts to augment the overall reading experience, and fostering collaboration and metacognition in young adult learners.

secondary literacy; content area literacy; disciplinary literacy; critical disciplinary literacy; teaching methods; teaching strategies; social justice; multicultural education; curriculum; CDL; DLS