The Nature of Literacy Instruction in Elementary School History Lessons




disciplinary literacy, historical literacy, content-area literacy, cultural literacy, elementary school


This paper examines literacy-related practices existing in elementary history classrooms and asks to what extent these practices are compatible with the ideals of historical literacy, i.e. disciplinary literacy specific to history. A total of 50 hours were spent observing nine Finnish classrooms. Data sources included numeric data, field notes and classroom artifacts. The results show that the most common text type used was the body text of a textbook while primary sources were few. The textbook was typically addressed as a neutral source of information. Teachers used visual texts only briefly and to support an existing narrative. None of the teachers modeled reading strategies specific to history. The teacher profiles suggest diverse approaches to literacy but the practices used by teachers point more to content-area and cultural literacy than disciplinary literacy. Implications for elementary literacy and history instruction are discussed.

Author Biographies

Amna Khawaja, University of Helsinki

Amna Khawaja is a predoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki. Her research interests include disciplinary literacy at the elementary school level. In her research she has focused on student assessment, teachers’ classroom practices and pedagogical thinking in relation to historical literacy.

Dr. Mikko Puustinen, University of Helsinki

Mikko Puustinen, PhD is a lecturer and a researcher in The Research Group for Social Studies Education at the University of Helsinki. His research interests include history and social studies education as well as teacher education. Recently, he has focused on disciplinary literacy and powerful knowledge.




How to Cite

Khawaja, A., & Puustinen, M. (2022). The Nature of Literacy Instruction in Elementary School History Lessons. Language and Literacy, 24(3), 20–44.