The Power of Disciplinary Literacy: How AVID Weekly Brings Subjects to Life

Middle School Students

The first time Valerie Minor truly felt the power of disciplinary literacy was when she introduced her AP biology students to the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

“I was able to tie it in to what we were learning in class, and quickly realized that adding the cross-curricular literacy piece was so powerful,” Minor explains. “Now I believe that we are doing a disservice to our students by relying solely on ELA teachers to teach reading and writing. Literacy and critical reading skills can be developed in any subject.”

Minor currently serves as a Professional Learning and Leadership Coordinator for Keller ISD in Texas, where she regularly points educators toward AVID Weekly: Literacy Connections Schoolwide as a resource. AVID Weekly provides educators with robust lesson plans for teaching students how to access and understand rigorous texts—across disciplines. Lessons are written for teachers by teachers and are aligned with AVID’s critical reading process.

“Now every teacher I come across, I share this resource. Because if students don’t know how to read a text, they’re not going to understand it. And if they don’t understand it, they’re not going to be engaged,” she explains.

AVID for Literacy

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress more than two-thirds of students read below grade level. Today’s educators need strategies to help students develop literacy skills—which are vital not only to success in elementary and high school, but into college and beyond.

AVID Weekly lessons incorporate tools, strategies, and scaffolds to ensure that students can read, comprehend, and connect the content to their learning through the use of WICOR (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading) instructional methodologies.

“Getting kids familiar with these skills, along with showing them how to read like a scientist or like a mathematician—those are the skills that they are going to need later in life in jobs,” explains Heather Ridley, a Digital Learning Coach at Los Lunas Schools in New Mexico. “Those are the skills that will help them outside of the classroom.”

Ridley, who attended her first AVID Summer Institute in 2010, now uses AVID Weekly regularly in her work as a Digital Learning Coach. “AVID helped me flip the script and understand that students need to be empowered to share their knowledge—and that we need to provide them with interesting and impactful lessons they can really engage with.”

AVID Weekly lessons meet this need by featuring high-quality content from partners such as National Geographic and Highlights for Children, Inc. Ridley stresses that the most important priority is giving students the opportunity to move through and master the critical reading process.

“It’s all about using critical reading strategies to engage—really leaning into strategies like marking the text, writing in the margins, and other ways students can interact with the content.”

How AVID Weekly Supports Teachers

Tracey Merritt, Assistant Principal in Osceola County School District in Florida, says the benefits of AVID Weekly go beyond helping students to think and read critically.

“The biggest benefit? It teaches our teachers how to teach reading,” Merritt explains. “These days, every school district is hiring teachers out of field, so you might have a teacher who has a physics degree teaching 4th grade, for example.

Because the AVID lessons are so detailed, we can use them to show our teachers how to teach reading—how to incorporate pre-reading, purposeful rereads, and other strategies they never had the opportunity to train in.”

Merritt also notices that educators who employ AVID strategies tend to feel more confident when it comes to professional observation.

“Teachers say, ‘If I teach like AVID Weekly is showing me how, I’m going to do better on observations,’” she explains.

Getting Started with AVID Weekly

So what advice do educators have for those new to AVID Weekly?

“I tell teachers to first take a look at all the different lessons and topics—to familiarize themselves with the reading or content to see what best supplements what they’re learning. I also remind them to go slowly—maybe start with one or two strategies and grow from there,” says Minor.

AVID Weekly is available for all schools, whether or not they are AVID members. A subscription comes out to less than $84/month and provides monthly lessons for the full school year and access to the lessons from the preceding year.

It’s also helpful that texts for AVID Weekly Secondary (grades 5–12) indicate readability levels by both grade band category and Lexile® level, and at least one ELL (English language learner) lesson is included each month. And with the broad array of topics and sources for the texts, they offer a lot of flexibility.

Merritt explains that she uses AVID Weekly lessons more than once, across varies subjects. “It’s so nice when you can find a piece of text that really supports and enhances what you’re already working on in class. The lessons are very engaging, so there’s usually high interest. It’s a win-win!”

Understanding the AVID Critical Reading Process

ActivatePlanning for Reading:
Establish a purpose for reading. Then, intentionally identify strategies that are needed to successfully read the text. Both content and skill development play a role in planning, as does identifying how a “content expert” would read the text.

Selecting the Text:
Select the texts, or portions of texts, that will be read. Educators will select texts initially, with the goal being that students will eventually play a role in the selection process. To maximize the effectiveness of texts, use the suggested text-selection criteria to identify the ideal text.

Determine what work needs to be done prior to the successful reading of a text. Preview the text and connect to or build background knowledge by looking both inside and outside the text.
EngageBuilding Vocabulary:
Understand and connect key academic and content-related vocabulary to aid in deeper comprehension of the text. While this is included within the “engage” portion of the critical reading process, vocabulary building can happen at any point.

Interacting With the Text:
Interact with the text to process information as it is read. This is done by numbering paragraphs or chunking texts, marking texts to isolate key information, writing in the margins, questioning, and visualizing texts. Usually, a deeper processing of a text occurs over multiple reads with varying purposes for each read.
ExtendExtending Beyond the Text:

Utilize the text to complete the assigned academic task. “Extend” strategies focus on the development of academic thinking skills such as apply, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize.

Source: The Three Phases of the Critical Reading Process


  1. I agree that teachers should include more reading and writing within other content areas. Students are struggling with literacy skills, so exposing them to as much as you can, can help them build those skills. As a teacher, you’re also expanding your students interests and giving them more topics to like or dislike. Some younger students have not found their interests in literacy, because they have not been exposed to multiple genres in school.