Blog Posts

07 September, 2016

Independent Reading Levels are Problematic, Too

Teacher question: I am looking for research articles on how reading at your independent level helps increase your reading ability.  And I am looking for articles that talk about the volume of reading necessary to make gains in reading.  Do you know of a couple articles on these topics? Also, which journals do you recommend:  Reading Teacher and Journal of Literacy Research?  I will be using these to do some research for my county. I am looking for articles that are teacher friendly and easier to read.  Shanahan response: There is a body of research that explores the impact of reading on various outcomes ...

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06 September, 2016

Eight Ways to Help Kids to Read Complex Text

Teacher Question: My district is currently "grappling" with the idea of asking students to read complex text if they are significantly below the grade level. As an example, within one fourth grade class, a teacher identified that more than half her class is 1-2 grade levels below the expectation for reading (using multiple measures). Her response is to change the level of the text, and try to move the students forward. The common theme in our schools is that growth is what matters, not proficiency. However, our new reading series expects students to perform in more complex texts. Even the "approaching" level books are above what ...

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30 August, 2016

Should We Stop Using Guided Reading Because of Common Core?

Teacher letter: I am now a literacy specialist in a middle school and am hoping you can give me your opinion on the process of the guided reading method of reading instruction. I completely agree with you that the F&P levels are ludicrously low and it would be difficult to transition students to the end goal of CCSS using these levels. However, I’m curious what you think about the usefulness of listening to individuals read in a small group, using running records to track a struggling reader’s progress with CCSS grade-level text used in the classroom, and explicitly teaching strategies and vocabulary in ...

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21 August, 2016

How Much Teacher Guidance Versus How Much Independent Work?

I've been reading your blog articles very carefully, and in one entry you recommended having the kids read a lot during the literary block time (and all other subjects), suggesting possibly 50% of the time should be spent reading. My question is how much of that reading time should be teacher-led (for close reading and complex text), and how much should be just independent work?            All of the school reading time—or almost all of it—should be teacher-led. Kids are sent to school to learn things. Teachers are paid to teach things. There is no question that kids ...

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14 August, 2016

The Role of Early Oral Language in Reading Comprehension

           When I was 18-years-old I was a volunteer tutor in an inner-city school. I wasn’t an education major—that came later—but I was intent on saving the world. I was excited about the idea of going into the city and working with elementary school kids who were growing up in poverty.            But I was also nervous about it. I didn’t know a damn thing about working with kids, the inner city, or reading. A trifecta of ignorance.            I decided to school myself the evening before my first day of tutoring, so I went to the university library and looked for ...

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07 August, 2016

Why An Overemphasis on Foundational Reading Skills Makes Kids Sick

Principal’s question: District leadership has advised primary teachers to focus on the Foundational Skills Strand, and de-emphasize the other strands. The belief is that if students go into Grade 3 having mastered foundational skills, they will be prepared to master the rigor of the other strands. As the principal, the message I'm considering sending is to teach all strands, closely monitoring foundational skills with DIBELS, immediately addressing gaps. Students who are meeting foundational skills standards may spend more time in other strands while those struggling get focused support in assessed areas of foundational skills difficulty. Does that sound reasonable? I'm concerned that de-emphasizing ...

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03 August, 2016

A Fine Mess: Confusing Close Reading and Text Complexity

We just started close reading in our district last year. Our second graders were given text that was a grade level above their reading level. We were told to let them figure it out. They could not even read the first sentence it was too hard for their reading level. The reading coaches said they will learn to read it by letting them struggle with it. The kids would become so upset and began to hate reading because of they were so frustrated at how the district was making us implement close reading. For it to be of any value ...

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28 July, 2016

How to Screw Up Student Learning Under RtI

I am a classroom teacher (grade 3) and a follower of your blog.  I also have an M.A. in Reading. Last year our new principal told us that our RtI students do not need to be in the classroom during grade level instruction. I strongly disagree. I think that these students benefit from scaffolded grade level instruction and benefit from the kind of thinking and reading the class is being asked to do during this time.     Am I wrong to insist my students be in the room during regular reading instruction? If so, please set me straight.         Dear Perplexed:     The point of ...

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15 July, 2016

The Spirit is Willingham, but the Flesch is Weak

Teacher’s Question: I have read a few articles and books by Daniel Willingham in the past, and I wonder if you are familiar with his work. I recently read an article (attached) about reading comprehension strategies and am curious to know what you think of his ideas. He says that focusing heavily on reading strategies isn’t really necessary. (I often question the need for so many reading strategies, particularly when they take away from reading being a pleasurable activity. I can understand the importance of visualizing, using prior knowledge, and maintaining focus, but teaching the other “strategies”, in my opinion, is confusing ...

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10 July, 2016

Teaching Kids to Interpret Theme: The Limits of Practice

  Many years ago my daughter, Meagan, had a homework assignment. Her literature teacher assigned a short story to read and Meagan was to figure out the theme.                 The theme she came up with: “People do a lot of different things.”                 Needless to say, it doesn’t matter what the story was, that wasn’t the theme. (Though she was a little surprised that I could know that without even reading it.)                 “Meagan how do your teachers teach you to figure out theme?”                 “That’s just it, Dad. They don’t. They tell you what a theme is and I know what  a theme is,  and then when you get ...

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