Literacy in PBL

CTL’s model of research-based strategies to engage students in literacy rich environments is a catalyst for authentic project based learning (PBL) experiences. CTL’s comprehensive approach builds a strong framework upon which to establish routines in classrooms. Literacy routines shared across classrooms, make it easier for students to generalize strategies and embed them into their way of working, and also allow students to put more energy into processing the content they are studying.

Beyond exposing students to content, we believe in designing rigorous learning activities to include strategies that have students:

  • Reading with purpose
  • Writing to learn
  • Writing to demonstrate learning
  • Engaging in academic discourse
  • Noting observations

Academic dialogue in PBLBecause PBL stresses having students engage as and with experts in the field, CTL’s content literacy framework lends itself to supporting students reading, writing, speaking, listening, and observing like content area experts. In a science class for instance, as students are formulating and writing a hypothesis for a lab, students call upon their close reading strategies to cite evidence from their reading as part of their statement. Students apply the science vocabulary in academic discourse when asking self and others questions during the lab while using a science journal to participate in writing to learn, noting and drawing their observations.  To synthesize the lab results, students then have resources to utilize in preparation for academic discourse.

As PBL changes a teacher’s role in the classroom so does CTL’s comprehensive approach to literacy. Students and teachers ask more questions, particularly open-ended, giving students more time to respond, seek answers, and formulate further questions.  The teacher and the students mutually contribute to the classroom culture and learning environment.

Literacy in PBLCTL understands that by intentionally incorporating reading and writing strategies students are better able to construct meaning and organize their memory (McKenna, and Robinson, 1990). The addition of purposeful dialogue provides social interactions that students need in order to create understanding (Mercer, 2004; Mercer & Littleton, 2007).



McKenna, M. C., & Robinson, R. D. (1990). Content literacy: A definition and implications. Journal of Reading, 184-186.

Mercer, N. (2007). Sociocultural discourse analysis: Analysing classroom talk as a social mode of thinking. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice1(2), 137-168.

Mercer, N., & Littleton, K. (2007). Dialogue and the development of children’s thinking: A sociocultural approach. Routledge.



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