Educational standards have changed rapidly and drastically in the past several years, including an increased focus on literacy within the social studies. Using data from a four-month qualitative study, this article examines how seven secondary social studies teachers talked about and defined literacy, and how those perspectives informed their pedagogical choices. The enquiry is a response to two areas: first, the many and varied definitions of literacy found in the literature (for example, content area literacy, multiliteracies and media literacy); and second, the added attention given to disciplinary literacy in the widely adopted Common Core State Standards. We found these teachers had four common elements when talking about and defining literacy: (1) reading comprehension; (2) writing fluidity; (3) skills; and (4) vocabulary. Additionally, we discovered that teachers discussed using four kinds of literacy teaching strategies: (1) content area reading strategies; (2) disciplinary reading strategies; (3) writing strategies; and (4) dialogue strategies. However, we determined that the teachers' theoretical understanding of literacy had only minor influence on their pedagogical choices. Instead, we found overarching assessments such as an end-of-course, advanced placement or state-wide reading exam had greater influence on the pedagogical choices the teachers made. The findings suggest that the effort to expand literacy instruction into the disciplines is still a work in progress, which falls in the hands of teacher educators and professional development providers.