Monday, January 19, 2015
Monday, October 22, 2012
We also published a brief related article on oral language and early childhood literacy in Language Magazine. Here is that link:
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Last week I did a webinar in which I shared the results of the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP), which reviewed research on literacy development and instruction with preschoolers and kindergarten (there is a link to the report in the right hand margin of my site).
I was asked if I would answer questions mailed in by the audience. I agreed, and below have included my answers. Thought they might be interesting to a larger audience, so here they are:
1. In our preschool classrooms, what are the top 5 techniques we should being using?
Staying very close to the findings I would say: (a) definitely teach the alphabetic code; that means working with phonological awareness, letter names, and letter sounds (such teaching was found to be beneficial with kids in this age group and the teaching seemed to have long-lasting value); (b) also, it is a good idea to read books to children daily and to talk to them about what you are reading (ask them questions about it, explain the vocabulary, listen to their ideas, make connections to what they know)--reading to children in this way helps build their language; (c) involve children in writing (pretend writing, writing their names, dictating words/stories/ideas to you); (d) build the children’s language (use interesting and complex language yourself, engage children in activities that raise ideas and that give the opportunity for using language (e.g., cooking, measuring, science activities, arts and crafts), don’t accept vague or weak language from the children, but elaborate on it and get them to speak in complete thoughts, using the right words; and (e) get moms and dads helping in the process, they can help with many of the items above.
2. Is there a literacy readiness test that is highly correlated with actual readiness that you can recommend?
Get Ready to Read! which is made available by the National Center for Learning Disabilities is a good predictor and its design is consistent with the research findings on early literacy.
3. Did the survey find any longitudinal studies of very early decoding? What I have in mind is children who learn to decode at age two, say--how do they do later on?
No, and there are very few studies of younger children (none of 2 year olds, and only a handful with 3 year olds). Generally, we found that the children younger than 5 (meaning the 3s and 4s) who did well with decoding, also did well with later reading (both decoding and comprehension). It is clearly valuable to get them started early, but no info on the 2s.
4. Does RAN (rapid naming) correlate to the use of flash cards? Are you recommending flash cards, and if so, at what age levels? What is your opinion about using flash cards with very young children?
I know of no studies connecting RAN to flash card use, and I do not believe that the evidence in any way suggests that you should even try to teach RAN. (Flash cards with words or pictures or letters are okay to use with young children at any age, BUT if you spend a couple of hours a day engaged in the types of activities noted in item 1 above, proportionally it would make sense to work with flashcards only for a few minutes of that time (in other words, it wouldn’t even get 5% of your literacy time). Flashcards can be a useful tool for memorization (I use them myself when I am trying to learn this kind of information), but their use has to be lively, quick, and brief to have much value.
5. What are the most important early childhood teaching implications for this research?
That you can provide young children with supports for their literacy learning from the very beginning. I vividly remember when “experts” (without data) were claiming that either young children would not be ready to benefit from such teaching or that such teaching would do harm. What the research overwhelmingly shows is that young children clearly benefit from such teaching and the benefits can be long lasting (if the schools build on these children’s early learning). A second important idea is that there is not one thing that has to be done (different activities had different outcomes and young readers need support in various literacy-related outcomes to be successful).
6. What are the teaching implications for older students who may not have these pre-requisite skills to be able to use reading for learning? grades 4-8?
There were no implications for those kids at all from this analysis. However, the National Reading Panel (NRP) looked at such issues (there is a link to that report on the right as well) and they found that teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, and oral reading fluency to struggling readers in those age ranges resulted in improvement. However, in all cases, the NRP concluded that such learning was slower and more difficult (so definitely try to accomplish it early) and some of this teaching (such as phonics) didn’t have the same impact on other aspects of reading that it did when children were younger (again, it is critical that these skills get accomplished as early as possible, but when that has not happened it is important to try to build that foundation later on--though that effort will likely be difficult).
Monday, October 11, 2010
Well, anyway, youngballymun is working with the schools and community groups (afterschool progams, etc.), to try to improve things for the kids there, and to me it looks like they are making progress, getting buy in, and moving forward in some good ways. It was fun to be part of it. Also, a healthy reminder for me about the face of low literacy. It is easy in the states to think of folks with literacy limitations as being minority or severely disadvantaged (since those groups suffer inordinately here, especially in big cities). And yet in Ireland those who are low in literacy look like me and my kids. Of course, there are plenty of people who struggle in the states who look like me and my kids too, but even though there are great numbers of them, they are somewhat hidden in plain sight. Literacy is not an just issue for someone else or somewhere else.
While I was in Ireland I met with many government officials who are trying to figure out policies, and was covered by the Irish Times and "Drivetime," the big radio show there. I also found some time to speak at the Reading Association of Ireland, about the reading of second-language learners (yes, Ireland, like the rest of the western world is experiencing immigration). As promised, here is a copy of the speech that I presented there.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Applying Research to the Teaching of Reading: Here is a Brief Update on the National Reading Panel Findings
I was to talk to them about the reading research as reviewed by the National Reading Panel (NRP). There is a problem with doing that, however. The NRP completed its work in 2000, and there have been two major federal panels since that time, the National Early Literacy Panel (that looked at preschool and kindergarten literacy) and the National Literacy Panel for Language Minority Children and Youth (that looked at second-language literacy). There have also been a plethora of federal research reports and other research, such as the Reading First impact study. We want teachers to follow the research, but not just the research from a decade ago.
What I did is gave a fairly conventional talk in which I laid out the research findings in the five instructional areas where NRP had findings, but for each of them, I have added a what's new section. So, for example, I shared the studies from NRP that show that phonemic awareness instruction matters, but I then noted that NELP had found a payoff for phonological awareness for younger kids (that is, that it is important to start out with larger sound units than phonemes to get the ball rolling). Or, I explained the NRP phonics findings, but supplemented those with the findings showing that English learners sometimes bring adequate phonics to English (e.g., if they can already read Spanish), and that phonics instruction has a smaller effect size with second language kids (meaning that just raising their phonics won't have as big a payoff for these kids). I showed the comprehension findings from NRP, but pointed out that Reading First had little impact on either the teaching of comprehension or comprehension achievement.
I thought it was a useful way to go, and the audience responded positively, so here is a copy of the powerpoint for your use. It is a nifty summary of the NRP, with some useful updates.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
It's kind of neat: you can submit questions or comments that get posted, but then throughout next week, Laura, Tori, and I will be posting our responses, etc. It is a nice opportunity. Here is the address for subscribing to that discussion, hope I see you there:
And here is more information about it:
The Impact of the Findings of the National Early Literacy Panel March 9 - 13, 2009
The Family Literacy Discussion List will facilitate a panel discussion about the recommendations of the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) and their impact on educators, parents and other children's caregivers. Three members of the NELP will participate in the discussion. The discussion will take place March 9-13, 2009. Please read the details below, think about the questions, raise questions of your own, and prepare for an exciting look at the findings of the National Early Literacy Panel.
The National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) was convened in 2002 to conduct a synthesis of the scientific research on the development of early literacy skills in children ages zero to five. The objective for convening the NELP was to identify interventions and practices that promote positive outcomes in literacy for preschool children.
The National Institute for Literacy (Institute) acted as the lead agency in this project, in consultation with cooperating agencies from the Partnership for Reading. The National Center for Family Literacy, working closely with the Institute, coordinated NELP's work in the completion of the synthesis.
The panel's report, Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel, was released on January 8, 2009. Developing Early Literacy serves as the basis for several, research-based recommendations for parents and the early childhood community, including educators, caregivers, and Head Start providers on promoting the foundational skills of life-long literacy.
Laura Westberg is Director of Special Projects/Research at the National Center for Family Literacy. In this capacity, she oversees research and evaluation across the organization for determining the effectiveness of products and services that contribute to the literacy development of young children through adults. Her responsibilities include project management and supervision, project design, product development, research and evaluation, and proposal and grant writing. Ms. Westberg directed the work of the National Early Literacy Panel and coordinated a meta-analysis on parent involvement in children's reading acquisition for the National Institute for Literacy.
Victoria Molfese is the Ashland/Nystrand Chair in Early Childhood Education at the University of Louisville and Director of the Center for Research in Early Childhood. She received her PhD in Developmental Psychology from the Pennsylvania State University and has published journal articles, books, and book chapters in the area of cognitive development in infants, children and adults. She has received grants in support of research activities, including an NIH funded longitudinal research grant on brain and behavioral predictors of language, reading and cognitive development in children from birth through age 13 years. She currently is conducting research on early predictors of reading and mathematics abilities in infants and preschool children, efficacy of mathematics intervention in preschoolers on improving skills of children at risk at kindergarten entry and the development of interventions for infants and preschoolers to mitigate development of learning disabilities. Dr. Molfese served as a member of the National Early Literacy Panel.
Timothy Shanahan is the chair of the National Early Literacy Panel. Dr. Shanahan is also a Professor of Urban Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Director of the UIC Center for Literacy. He has served as Director of Reading for the Chicago Public Schools, and is a former first grade teacher. His research focuses on the relationship of reading and writing, the assessment of reading ability, family literacy, and school improvement. He has published more than 100 articles, chapters, and books on these topics.
1. What were the questions that the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) answered?
2. What types of interventions did the NELP look at?
3. What are the implications of the NELP findings for the instruction and assessment of young children?
4. What do the findings of the NELP mean to adult/parent educators?
5. How can parents best utilize the findings of the NELP to bolster the learning of their children?
Read the Executive Summary of the NELP Report, Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel, to enrich your participation in the discussion. It may be downloaded from http://nifl.gov/nifl/publications/pdf/NELPSummary.pdf
A copy of the full report can be downloaded from http://www.nifl.gov/nifl/publications/pdf/NELPReport09.pdf
Free print copies are available from EDPubs at http://edpubs.ed.gov/
A powerpoint presentation of NELP:
Friday, January 30, 2009
The winter issue of The California Reader includes a spirited response by Glenn DeVoogd to an article that I published in that outlet this fall. Nothing wrong with differences of opinion, so I’ll not use this space to try to argue that I’m wrong and he’s right on those issues. However, I will address some egregious errors in his claims.
1. Glenn says the National Reading Panel (NRP) promoted “a more skills-based approach to reading rather than a meaning-based approach focusing on comprehension” (p. 5). In fact, NRP looked at 205 studies on the teaching of reading comprehension, all with reading comprehension as the outcome. NRP considered 45 studies on vocabulary teaching and 16 on oral reading fluency, all with comprehension outcomes. Even 18 of the 52 phonemic awareness studies and 35 of the 38 phonics studies focused on reading comprehension. Maybe the complaint isn’t that NRP failed to focus on comprehension outcomes, but that we dared to consider a broader set of outcomes (like spelling, fluency, and word recognition).
2. He also claims NRP “missed some well-designed studies supporting the use of” sustained silent reading (SSR), the Book Flood studies of Warwick Elley. NRP did not ignore those studies. It searched for them systematically as described in the report, examined them, and set them aside because they only included second-language learners (beyond NRP’s scope). We were concerned about differences between first- and second-language learners, and, we were not willing to generalize from one group to the other given that their learning situations are so different.
Later the National Literacy Panel for Language Minority Children and Youth (NLP), a panel devoted to synthesizing research on second-language learners, examined the Elley studies. Glenn claims the Elley studies were well-designed, but the NLP scientists were troubled by lack of either random assignment or any kind of pretesting. The supposed “gains” from Book Flood may have been pre-existing differences. One book flood study had a sounder design and a positive result, and it was included in NLP. A provocative pattern emerged from that analysis. Three studies, including book flood, showed positive benefits for encouraging reading and three did not. The three that did had second-language learners reading independently in English, and the three negatives had the kids reading in their home languages. The English learners in the positive studies were very isolated from English and had little opportunity to hear it, see it, or use it beyond their school lessons, and this might have been why this treatment was successful. It’s funny that having kids read in their home language had no impact on their reading skills, sort of like the SSR studies with native English speakers.
3. Glenn repeats the incorrect claim that the NRP set aside studies of SSR that did not include oral reading fluency outcomes. That is not the case. That was claimed many years ago by Jim Cunningham whose critique was rife with that kind of misinformation. Glenn apparently believed the critic, but failed to check this out himself. Nope, NRP did not miss some big group of SSR studies that focused on comprehension. Didn’t happen. Those studies were ALL included.
4. Glenn confuses the effects of independent reading with the effectiveness of the methods used to get kids to read more. That is a huge interpretive problem. That reading CAN have positive effects is not proof that particular ways of encouraging kids to read more will be effective (maybe not all approaches for encouraging kids to read work). I remember when Newt Gingrich set up a program to pay kids to read during the summer. Lots of school people set up a howl that claimed paying kids to read would be ineffective. The assumption behind such complaints is that the Gingrich approach is a bad one, not that reading is bad for kids. The fact that SSR has almost no impact on kids learning (average effect sizes are a negligible .05 to .10) should bother people who want to encourage kids to read, since if it doesn’t work, something else should be tried. (Since NRP various researchers, such as James Kim, have been conducting studies where they try to get a learning effect from encouraging reading. They are having a heck of a time of it, because it turns out it is not that easy to get kids to increase their reading enough to make a difference, but we are certainly learning important things from their efforts—more than we are from the folks who are clinging to the failed SSR methodology).
5. Glenn attributed causality to studies that show a correlation between amount of reading and reading quality. Doing that opens the door to lots of quack remedies to reading problems like eye movement training, learning styles, balance beam exercises, etc.—all of which claim effectiveness on the basis of such correlations. A bigger problem with correlations is the fact that the relationship between two variables can be due to their relationship with an intervening variable. I’m surprised those who push these correlations as evidence don’t bother to control for the effects of parent’s socioeconomic status. When you do that, the correlation between amount of reading and reading ability drops dramatically. Kids whose parents have high incomes and high education read more than kids who don’t. (Shhh! Don’t tell the teachers: they might not use SSR if they knew that was the evidence on which it was based).
Glenn expresses concern that teachers have stopped using SSR because of the NRP finding that it had insufficient evidence showing it works. He apparently thinks it is bad that teachers have dropped this ineffective approach. Interestingly, Glenn suggests some ways to improve SSR—and all of his recommendations make it more like instruction, very different from the SSR designs recommended in textbooks or evaluated by research or that one commonly sees practiced in actual classrooms (but more like the reading comprehension interventions that have been found to be so effective). That’s good advice in my opinion, but it makes me wonder why such a smart man is insistent that teachers continue to use such problematic approaches instead of pushing hard for alternative procedures like the ones he notes.
6. Another area I talked of in my article was the findings being reported for studies of reading to children. It turns out that almost none of those studies have reading outcomes, and that the oral language measure used to evaluate the effectiveness of these procedures (simple receptive vocabulary) has a very low relationship with later reading achievement. Glenn’s response is that reading to children has been shown to have a close connection to pre-reading skills… in other words, he takes a “skills-based approach to reading rather than a meaning-based approach focused on comprehension.” Wow that is a very different standard than the one he had a page or two earlier for the NRP. It is those inconsistencies that undermine his arguments: he wants to be able to cherry-pick the evidence that supports his case, no matter what measures were used or how badly the studies were executed, and he wants to be able to ignore the evidence that doesn’t fit with what he wants teachers to do.
Ultimately, that’s why these large public syntheses of research studies by scientists are so important. They are an antidote to the priesthood of professors who claim to be the ones who know best what needs to be done in schools, even as they obscure their claims in mysterious evidentiary standards and inconsistent logic.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Today at the National Press Club, the National Early Literacy Panel Report was released. All of us on the panel were relieved to have this work completed and that it is now available to everybody. If you would like a copy, click here:
This report focuses on what works in improving the literacy skills of preschoolers and kindergarten children. It got a lot of attention from the press and various policy people (including someone from the Obama Transition Team). This is important work and it is sure to be a widely cited and used work in early literacy. More details on this later, but for now, read the report!
Friday, May 9, 2008
At Lesley Morrow's preconvention institute on Sunday, I spoke about teaching fluency to young children (preschoolers and primary grade kids).
On Tuesday, I gave two addresses on Disciplinary Literacy based on work that Cyndie Shanahan and I have been doing. One of these talks was for the Reading Hall of Fame (this was my induction talk) and the other was for a symposium that Carnegie Corporation sponsored (they funded our work on this).
On Wednesday, I gave a talk reporting some of the results of the Report of the National Early Literacy Panel. I was pleased to do this because Patricia Edwards had invited me to present on behalf of the National Reading Conference.
Finally, on Wednesday I gave a booth talk for Pearson Publishing, the publishers of my program AMP, on motivating middle school students to read.
All of those talks can be found with the following link: