Blog Posts

02 February, 2013

How Can I Teach with Books that are Two Years Above Student Reading Levels?

Teacher question: I teach 4th grade general education. I have read several of your articles the last few days because I have a growing frustration regarding guided reading. I believe a lot of your ideas about what does not work are correct, but I don't understand what you believe we SHOULD be doing. I am confused about how to give students difficult text books to read without reading it to them. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I do not know how to scaffold science or social studies text for students that are 2 years ...

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18 January, 2013

Q & A On All Things Common Core

Recently, I participated in a webinar for McGraw-Hill about teaching with the common core standards. Participants sent in some questions and I have provided answers to those questions. Thought you might be interested in the wide-ranging conversation. Here is a link to the webinar itself in case you want to start there.   Any suggestions as to how raising text levels will work for students that are learning English? Are the same ideas relevant? I suspect that it isn’t that different across languages in terms of how this works generally or how well it will work. What needs to be scaffolded might differ, ...

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17 January, 2013

Diane Ravitch v. Tim Shanahan: Informational or Literary Text

Yesterday, I debated the literature-informational text mix recommended by Common Core with Diane Ravitch on Minnesota Public Radio. Not a bad discussion all in all. A few observations: (1) Press and media are starting to get wise to the fact that the common core does NOT require that we diminish literature in the curriculum, but they still want a contention hook as the price of admission for their attention to common core. (2) Many of the observers up in arms over this issue claim that literary interpretation transfers to all other life pursuits. Thus, if you can read Ulysses, you ...

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11 January, 2013

Carol Jago On Literature or Not Literature

For those of you upset about literature being dropped from the English curriculum, you might want to read this lovely piece written by my friend, Carol Jago. She knows something about the teaching of literature and I think you'll find her insights helpful. This is a must to distribute to middle school and high school English teachers (and their supervisors).

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02 January, 2013

Graphic Novels in the Literature Class

Happy New Year. It's tood to be back and good to have you back.   Last week, I read a fascinating article in the Chicago Tribune about the place of graphic novels in the high school literature curriculum (“Comics in the Curriculum”, December 27, 2012).   Let’s start with me and my prejudices.   I loved comics as a kid (particularly Superman), but never had much use for them as a teacher. Their reading levels can be pretty low, though estimating readabilities of comics is hazardous since the pictures carry a lot of the meaning; even if the vocabulary or sentence structure is challenging, students may ...

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12 December, 2012

Willful Ignorance and the Informational Text Controversy

           Recently, I wrote here about the issues of informational text and literature. Since then, there seems to be even more controversy and teacher confusion.           In the past, most states required the teaching of literary and informational texts, though they were not very specific about this imperative. The National Assessment has long used a roughly equal mix of literary and informational texts in their testing, a feature replicated by many state tests. During the past decade, elementary reading textbooks have been rebalancing their selections, including more informational text all the time.           Nevertheless, there has long been an ...

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12 December, 2012

Common Core and the Fog of Education Policy

Recently, I made a presentation for the Reading Hall of Fame at the Literacy Research Association meetings in San Diego. My basic contention is that policymakers have failed to recognize the magnitude of the changes required by the Common Core State Standards in terms of English language arts instruction. Because of this failure, they are neither moving fast enough or seriously enough to ensure that schools successfully and effectively adopt the standards.   In the past, perhaps, that different states had different educational goals militated against any kind of joint response to students' educational needs. Now, with common standards in place, states ...

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27 November, 2012

Common Core Videos and Other Resources

I recently received an excellent letter from a literacy supervisor who is trying to prepare her colleagues to succeed with common core. She sent a copy of her planned approach for my comment. This is the kind of energy and thoughtfulness that the common core is going to require. This plan is bright and thoughtful, so with her permission I'm passing it on.   As literacy supervisor for our district of 450+ teachers, I am responsible for our teachers' professional learning regarding anything literacy. It is quite a responsibility with the implementation of the CCSS, and though I have been in education ...

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21 November, 2012

Pre-reading and ELLs: Let's Take off the Training Wheels

I received this recent question from a teacher in Tennessee:   I have had many questions from my ESL teachers regarding the role of frontloading with ELLs.  We have been reading and learning about the importance of minimizing frontloading in the general education classroom, per Common Core recommendations.  However, we still feel that ELLs benefit from frontloading.  Can you please give us some insight on the role of frontloading for ELLs, either in or out of the general education setting?  Also, we would greatly appreciate some advice on where to look for scaffolding models to use with ELLs to help them access ...

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14 November, 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Teacher question:      As supervisor of reading and language arts K-5, I've stressed the importance of small group instruction during the literacy block as a means to differentiate and to work explicitly with all students. Teachers recognize the importance of flexible grouping but many attempt have divided their class into 5-6 groups and as a result, meet very infrequently with the groups or for only 10-12 minutes at a time. The instructional block for grades 3-5 tends toward whole group instruction with little time for small group. I've suggested that teachers attempt no more than 3 groups so that students receive ...

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