Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Distinguishing Exposition and Argument in Children's Writing

I am a literacy coordinator. I was wondering how you would respond to a question I was asked recently by a second grade teacher.  "If an opinion is stated in a research [informative/explanatory] paper, does it change the purpose of the paper?" Thanks in advance for your time and your thoughts.

Thanks (a lot). That’s the kind of question that they teach you about in speaker’s school. You are to describe it as an “interesting question”—while you stall hoping that a snappy answer will come to you.

I must admit I was tempted to duck this one. Not because it isn’t a good question, but it reveals the complexity of genre and text organization—and the inadequacy of the clear boundaries we educators tend to claim for them.

Traditionally, we have spoken of narrative, expository/explanatory, and argumentative writing as being distinct. And sometimes they are.

But as this teacher points out, kids (or other writers) don’t always color within the lines. There are definitely hybrids.

For example, Aristotle’s rhetorical distinctions aside, The Illiad is one of the oldest narratives in the history of human culture. It tells a riveting story with plenty of juicy sex, violence, and betrayal (but no car chases). It also has a whole section (the “parade of ships”) that is defiantly expository, rather than narrative. It is a long list, somewhat categorized—elaborating on no plot, whatsoever.

Does the inclusion of this list shift Homer’s epic from the story drawer to that of exposition? I don’t think so, but it would be unproductive not to notice that it doesn’t exactly match well with our story maps.

Similarly, I sometimes read books like Turing’s Cathedral or The Idea Factory. The first tells the “story” about the invention of the computer and the latter of Bell Labs and its inventions. These works are narrative in the main, but both contain long sections describing how transistors work or how electrons behave. There is so much of that kind of science embedded in the stories that I think it’s a closer call. I could almost flip a coin as to which category those books belong to--though I have no problem telling whether a particular paragraph falls on one side of the fence or the other.

Abraham Lincoln often embedded humorous narratives within his legal and political arguments. He was arguing and the judges and opposing counsels understood that he was--but he definitely rooted stories within his arguments and they illustrated his points and drove his arguments home.

What I’m saying is that a text may be a mix of fish and fowl, but its purpose still must be clear. And if it isn’t, that’s a problem. It is fine to combine forms, but good writing must have a discernible point and the seemingly out of place content ought to amplify the point rather than muffling it.  

Is it okay to insert an opinion or position into an expository piece? Yes, if the opinion doesn’t keep it from being an effective expository piece.

For example, let’s say I’m writing a scientific essay aimed at explaining the genetic differences between female chimpanzees and female homo sapiens. There would be nothing wrong with me including an aside stating that despite the seemingly trivial genetic differences I still find Marilyn Monroe much more attractive than Koko the Chimp (a la Lewis Thomas, and other great essayists).

That kind of aside might serve to soften the presentation by relieving the tedium of the technical comparisons, while helping readers to better grasp the idea that even tiny genetic differences can matter. It would still be an expository piece—since it was that in the main, since it had an explanatory purpose, and since my aside didn’t distract from its aim.

But what if I, as a writer and a sexist pig, allowed my opinion to run wild. What if I wrote about Marilyn’s beautiful eyes and skin and hair and shape… uh hum, well, you get the idea. Then, it might read more like my opinion of MM rather than an explanation of the genetic distinctions among species. If so, it just became an opinion piece.

The real question to ask isn’t whether the aberrant information fits the category, but whether it help the writing to accomplish its purpose? If the opinion made the explanation less clear, then it is a problem (not because it crossed the border, but because it did so ineffectively).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

IRA 2014 Presentations

I made four presentations at the meetings of the International Reading Association in New Orleans this year. One of these was the annual research review address in which I explained the serious problems inherent in the "instructional level" in reading and in associated approaches like "guided reading" which have certainly outlived their usefulness.

IRA Talks 2014

Friday, May 31, 2013

Disciplinary Writing

Dear Dr. Shanahan
I am writing to you for some suggestions and recommendations concerning working with science and social studies teachers in light of the writing standards in the common core.  I am a former English teacher with 35 years of experience and have, for the past seven years, worked to develop and present workshops and classes for content area teachers in reading – focusing on both disciplinary and content literacy.  

I have been asked by a school district to provide professional development for secondary science and social studies teachers in implementing the writing standards in the common core.  Their suggestion was to start with a grammar workshop – which I think would be the best way to drive the teachers in the opposite direction as well as provide the wrong focus.  However, I have not found any resources to guide in the best way to involve these teachers in their ability to incorporate these standards in their classes. 

As a proponent of disciplinary literacy, I believe that the writing should be approached from the perspective of the disciplines and not from the perspective of an English teacher.  One idea that I had was to start with sample papers to evaluate and introduce them to the standards through a rubric and the actual evaluation of the papers.  Specific concerns about grammar, diction, sentence structure… then could be addressed through mini-lessons as needed.

I just cannot seem to find any literature to give some guidance. 

Disciplinary Literacy Proponent:
I agree with you on this one. Starting with basic skills is not going to pull in the teachers, and, if it did, it would not pull in the students. You really have two choices: (1) disciplinary writing which means inducting kids into the actual writing of the discipline—focusing on having students write up experiments so exactly that they can be replicated, summarizing observations with all of the hedges and temporizing of science (what were the limitations of the observations?), synthesizing information from multiple conflicting texts in history, writing stories with themes in English, etc.; OR (2) writing to learn by which I mean focusing on getting kids to summarize, analyze, and synthesize information they are studying using writing to help them to remember the information or to understand it better. Either or both of those in some kind of combination will give you a good basis for developing writers (and they will entail some attention to grammar, but not in the way being recommended to you). 

There is very little written on this that I am aware of. I would strongly recommend that you seek out an old book (really booklet) by the late James Howard—Writing to Learn. It makes some really valuable contributions in this area and it will make a lot of sense to the content teachers. Howard, like you wanted to start with disciplinary writing and quality rubrics that the content teachers could easily use. I’ve never found anything better in that category. The guidance he provided was great and the examples of writing assignments, evaluations, and kids’ work are very informative. I know that is no longer for sale (the Council for Basic Education that released it is defunct). However, I think some library collections still have it and these days you might even be able to find it online (it is short enough to download or to photocopy if you locate a copy). I have done some preliminary looking to see if I could locate a copy for you, but with no luck so far.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

IRA Presentations

The IRA conference last week was great. I took part in many presentations and discussions of research and the common core. I gave a talk on close reading the powerpoint for which can be found in the index on the right of my page. I also gave a talk on the changes to writing instruction and that powerpoint is included here

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Writing and Common Core

This fine book on writing instruction will soon have a second edition. If you are looking for a good guide for supporting teachers on writing, this is the book I would turn to now. In this new edition there is a lot more common core relevant information, including a chapter that I wrote about "writing about text." For some reason I struggled to write this chapter, but yesterday I read the page proofs and I was happy with it. It provides guidance on all the ways that common core connects reading and writing: summarizing, modeling, analysis/critical response, and synthesis. It should be out soon and for those who have been looking for common core writing help this text should do it.

NEW FROM THE GUILFORD PRESS        A Major Revision!
Best Practices in Writing Instruction, Second Edition
Edited by Steve Graham, EdD, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University; Charles A. MacArthur, PhD, School of Education, University of Delaware; and
Jill Fitzgerald, PhD, MetaMetrics, Inc., and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Publication Date: April 2013
Copyright: 2013
Pages: 448
Size: 6" x 9"
Paperback: ISBN 978-1-4625-1008-5
Paperback Price: $40.00 tentative/short discount
Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-4625-1009-2
Hardcover Price: $65.00 tentative/short discount
E-book (ePUB Format): ISBN 978-1-4625-1010-8
E-book Publication Date: April 2013
Prior edition cloth ISBN: 978-1-59385-433-1
Prior edition paper ISBN: 978-1-59385-432-4
Website Category: EDUCATION: Literacy
Subject Areas/Keywords: assessments, CCSS, Common Core State Standards, composition, curriculum, elementary, English language learners, literacy, methods, response to intervention, RTI, secondary, struggling writers, teaching, writing difficulties, writing instruction, writing programs
Grade Range Addressed: K to 12
Internal Code: F
Date Issued: January 15, 2013

"This second edition, with chapters written by prominent researchers, shares the latest evidence-based practices in writing instruction and assessment. Literacy teachers and teacher educators will benefit from coverage of hot topics in writing, including the CCSS, writing instruction in a response-to-intervention framework, and teaching English language learners. This is a book for multiple audiences—educators can use the content to build a research-based writing program, while college and university instructors will find it a 'must have' for their courses."—Natalie G. Olinghouse, PhD, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Connecticut

"The book provides a thorough and incisive consideration of new and effective practices in writing instruction, giving timely attention to the CCSS. This is a rich source for current research and best practice guidelines that is sure to be of interest to people engaged in all aspects of writing instruction, including teaching, curriculum development, assessment, and research. It is a valuable text for both graduate and undergraduate courses."—Joanna P. Williams, PhD, Department of Human Development, Teachers College, Columbia University

"Designed to drive classroom practice, this book has the potential to revolutionize how writing is taught in today's schools and classrooms. The editors and contributors describe how instruction should evolve to meet the writing standards of the CCSS. The volume also addresses important writing skills and processes that are not addressed in the CCSS but are necessary for a balanced, comprehensive writing program. It distills a dense body of research into a highly readable synthesis of what is core and critical to K–12 writing instruction. For current or aspiring teachers—as well as administrators whose responsibilities include leading, supporting and developing teachers—this is a 'must read.'"—Catherine D'Aoust, MS, Co-Director, University of California, Irvine Writing Project

"This edited volume makes a sound argument, based in empirical research, for adopting process approaches to writing instruction and involving learners in such an approach from early on. Furthermore, the contributing authors provide sound rationales and practical advice for focusing student attention and instruction on global concerns of audience, purpose, and communication."
Reading and Writing (on the first edition)

An indispensable teacher resource and course text, this book presents evidence-based practices for helping all K–12 students develop their skills as writers. Every chapter draws clear connections to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Leading authorities describe how to teach the skills and strategies that students need to plan, draft, evaluate, and revise multiple types of texts. Also addressed are ways for teachers to integrate technology into the writing program, use assessment to inform instruction, teach writing in the content areas, and tailor instruction for English language learners and struggling writers. Helpful case examples are featured throughout.

 New to This Edition
*Revised and expanded to address the CCSS.
*Incorporates the latest research and instructional procedures.
*Chapters on teaching argumentative and informative writing.
*Chapters on college and career readiness, writing to learn, writing about texts, and response to intervention.

> Major revision of an acclaimed, successful work—more than 80% new material.
> Incorporates crucial, detailed new content on the CCSS (K–12).
> Nine new chapters.
> Cases, figures, and teaching strategies add utility for  professional development and text use.

K–12 classroom teachers, literacy specialists and coaches, and teacher educators.

Serves as a text in undergraduate- and graduate-level courses on writing instruction.

I. Designing Writing Programs
1. Designing an Effective Writing Program, Steve Graham and Karen R. Harris
2. Writing Instruction in Preschool and Kindergarten, David L. Coker, Jr.
3. Best Practices in Teaching Writing for College and Career Readiness, Dolores Perin
II. Types and Purposes of Writing
4. A Developmental Approach to Teaching Narrative Composition, Anne McKeough
5. Best Practices in Teaching Argumentative Writing, Ralph P. Ferretti and William E. Lewis
6. Best Practices in Teaching Informative Writing from Sources, George E. Newell, Jennifer VanDerHeide, and Melissa Wilson
7. Best Practices in Writing to Learn, Perry D. Klein and Amy Meichi Yu
III. Strategies for Teaching and Learning in Writing
8. Best Practices in Teaching Planning for Writing, Cindy Lassonde and Janet C. Richards
9. Best Practices in Teaching Evaluation and Revision, Charles A. MacArthur
10. Best Practices in Sentence Construction Skills, Bruce Saddler
11. Best Practices in Spelling and Handwriting, Bob Schlagal
12. Best Practices in Promoting Motivation for Writing, Pietro Boscolo and Carmen Gelati
13. Best Practices in Using Technology to Support Writing, Rachel Karchmer-Klein
14. Best Practices in Writing about Text, Timothy Shanahan
15. Best Practices in Writing Assessment for Instruction, Robert C. Calfee and Roxanne Greitz Miller
IV. Special Populations
16. Best Practices in Teaching Writing to English Learners: Reducing Constraints to Facilitate Writing Development, Carol Booth Olson, Robin Scarcella, and Tina Matuchniak
17. Writing Instruction within a Response-to-Intervention Framework: Prospects and Challenges for Elementary and Secondary Classrooms, Gary A. Troia

Pietro Boscolo, PhD, Department of Developmental and Socialization Psychology, University of Padua, Padua, Italy
Robert C. Calfee, PhD, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University, Stanford , California
David L. Coker, Jr., EdD, School of Education, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware
Ralph P. Ferretti, PhD, School of Education, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware
Carmen Gelati, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
Steve Graham, EdD, Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
Karen R. Harris, EdD, Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
Rachel Karchmer-Klein, PhD, School of Education, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware
Perry D. Klein, PhD, Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
Cindy Lassonde, PhD, Department of Elementary Education and Reading, State University of New York at Oneonta, Oneonta, New York
William E. Lewis, PhD, School of Education, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware
Charles A. MacArthur, PhD, School of Education, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware
Tina Matuchniak, MA, PhD candidate, School of Education, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California
Anne McKeough, PhD, Professor Emerita, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Roxanne Greitz Miller, EdD, Graduate School of Education, Chapman University, Orange, California
George E. Newell, PhD, College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Carol Booth Olson, PhD, School of Education, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California
Dolores Perin, PhD, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York
Janet C. Richards, PhD, College of Education, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida
Bruce Saddler, PhD, Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York
Robin Scarcella, PhD, School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California
Bob Schlagal, PhD, Department of Language, Reading, and Special Education, Reich College of Education, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
Timothy Shanahan, PhD, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Gary A. Troia, PhD, Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Jennifer VanDerHeide, MEd, College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Melissa Wilson, PhD, College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Amy Meichi Yu, BS, Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

Steve Graham, EdD, is the Warner Professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. A current editor of the Journal of Writing Research, he has received many awards, including the Career Research Award from the Council for Exceptional Children, and is a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association. The author or editor of numerous books on writing instruction, he is coeditor of the Guilford series What Works for Special-Needs Learners. His research focuses on identifying the factors that contribute to writing development and writing difficulties, developing and validating effective instructional procedures for teaching writing, and the use of technology to enhance writing performance.

Charles A. MacArthur, PhD, is Professor of Special Education and Literacy in the School of Education at the University of Delaware. He served as coeditor of the Journal of Special Education and serves on the editorial boards of several other journals. His major research interests include writing development and instruction for struggling writers, adult literacy, development of self-regulated strategies, and applications of technology to support reading and writing. Dr. MacArthur has published over 100 articles and book chapters and several books, including the Handbook of Writing Research (coedited with Steve Graham and Jill Fitzgerald).

Jill Fitzgerald, PhD, is Distinguished Research Scientist at MetaMetrics in Durham, North Carolina, and Professor Emerita at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is currently Adjunct Research Professor in the School of Education. She is a recipient of the American Educational Research Association's Outstanding Review of Research Award and the International Reading Association's Dina Feitelson Research Award, and is a member of the Reading Hall of Fame. Her research interests center on literacy issues for multilingual learners and understanding text complexity. With more than 100 publications, Dr. Fitzgerald is associate editor of the Journal of Educational Psychology and serves on the editorial boards of several other journals.

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Tel: (212) 431-9800            Toll Free: (800) 365-7006
Fax: (212) 966-6708           E-mail: [email protected]
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thank Goodness the Writing Scores are Going to Drop

Okay, so you’re thinking: “This guy is even more nuts than I thought. How can he root for kids to write poorly?"

I hope I’m not nuts, but one of the major new tests to be used to monitor student performance against the common core state standards is well designed (truth in advertising: I serve on the English Language Arts Technical Work Groups for that test). However, those new designs are almost certain to lower student writing scores, which I hope will be good for kids—at least in the long run.

PARCC is a 23 state consortium that is designing new English language arts assessments (mostly for states east of the Mississippi River). Earlier this week, PARCC released item and task prototypes and I hope that you’ll take a careful look at them—even if you are not in a PARCC state:

How can I be so sure writing scores are going to drop with PARCC? I’ve been studying this topic for more than three decades and one thing that I’ve learned is that reading and writing are not perfectly related or aligned. The correlations of reading and writing are lower than one would expect—which angered many people when I first started reporting that in the early 1980s.

That means that while there are a lot of students who read and write poorly or who read and write well, there are also surprising numbers who read well and write poorly and vice versa.

Traditional state writing assessments were designed so that students did not have to read to do the writing. Students who wrote well, but read poorly, did well on past tests.

PARCC is going to have students read texts, answer reading comprehension questions, and then write about those texts (summarizing or synthesizing, according to the prototypes). Students who manage to express themselves well, but who struggle with reading, will be at a marked disadvantage on the writing assessment. Such students will fail to write well not because of weaknesses in composition, but in comprehension.

That’s why the scores are going to drop. But why would I cheer for this?

Two reasons really. Research shows that literacy is improved when students write about what they read. Recently, there has been little emphasis on correlating reading and writing instruction and PARCC’s test design will push many teachers to combine reading and writing. That’s a real plus for kids.

Also, past measures provided a purer assessment of “writing,” but it wasn’t the writing that allows individuals to succeed academically and economically. Writing about reading is not as pure a measure of writing, but it is a much better measure of writing about reading, which has greater value to our children.

So, the writing scores are going to drop, but that means students are more likely to end up with higher real proficiency, especially with the skills that we most want them to have. That is going to look bad, but it is a real benefit for the kids. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Irish Literacy and Some New Audio Resources

What a great week... I just got back from a very pleasing visit to Dublin, Ireland. My Irish friends invited me over to see if I could provide any help to their wonderful "youngballymun" project. Ballymun is an area of Dublin that is economically challenged. Ireland has one of the world's best education systems and among the highest literacy levels, but everything isn't what it should be in Ballymun.

As in major cities all over the U.S., the kids who live in economically-challenged neighborhoods (with the worst housing, the most serious health problems including drug abuse, etc.) do worst in school. Some Irish areas manage remarkably to avoid this unfortunate pattern, but not Ballymun.

Consequently, Atlantic Philanthropies has teamed up with the Irish government to provide support to make things go better in such neighborhoods. The team in Ballymun is working closely with the schools to get improvements there, but they are also expanding preschool, afterschool, and health care opportunities, and doing everything they can to try to make it possible for more kids to do well in this changing neighborhood.

The current environment there reminds me of Chicago when they were tearing down the Robert Taylor homes--the high rise public housing projects that didn't work well for the residents in Chicago. Right now in Ballymun the ever-changing landscape is punctuated by abandoned high rises, piles of rubble from the demolition, and hopeful new housing. But while changing the physical environment is a good idea, that alone will not likely lead to improved achievement without real changes in these children's educational lives.

That was why they brought me over. I visited all the schools, attended a plethora of meetings, shared my framework with everybody who would listen, and kept up the mantra that it is the children's experience that matters: amount of teaching, curriculum focus, and quality of delivery are what improve literacy--everything else is just commentary. I look forward to continuing to work with this vibrant and commited group, and will keep you posted on their progress. For more on the youngballymun project go to

Also, while I was away Just Read, Florida has posted some professional development materials that you might be interested in. They conducted an interview with me about oral language development, decoding and fluency, explicit comprehension instruction, vocabulary development for older students, writing, and ELL. You can listen to the interview or download the transcript at:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ten Things Good Writers Do

I was asked to write the following for a local high school that wanted to provide some writing guidelines for its students. This might be of use to you, too. I hope so.

Ten things good writers do…

1. Good writers make a good first impression. They put extra effort into their introductions and first paragraphs because they want readers to read on. Consider this wonderful opener from E. B. White:”When Mrs. Frederick C. Little’s second son was born, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse.” That simple sentence took a lot of work, but it sure makes you want to find out about Mrs. Little’s mouse-sized son.

2. Good writers make their endings strong, too. No one wants to read a piece that doesn’t leave them feeling fulfilled and satisfied at the end, and good writers usually pull everything together with a rewarding climax or a thoughtful summary.

3. Good writers organize their articles and stories so that readers can follow along without getting lost or confused. That might mean that a good writer writes stories with clear beginnings, middles, and ends, or that they use an understandable logical plan in their science essays. For some kinds of writing it is a good idea to tell the reader right up front what is going to follow.

4. Good writers rewrite. In fact, someone once even said that good writing is bad writing that has been rewritten. It is very difficult to write something that another person can understand and enjoy, so good writers make a real effort to polish their work. Once they have a draft of what they want to say, they go back several times to add, delete, or change it so that it will be just right. Rarely are good writers happy with the first words they come up with, so good writing is rewriting.

5. Good writers don’t just tell something, they show it. A good writer doesn’t just state an opinion without real examples that reveal why he or she holds that opinion. Similarly, a good story writer doesn’t tell you that a character is unhappy, he/she shows it (maybe the character punches a pillow or kicks over a garbage can – anything that reveals the feeling without the writer just telling it).

6. Good writers use sentences that are varied and interesting. No one wants to read a paper that says, “A nanotube is very small. A nanotube can be used to make a little radio. A nanotube uses carbon. A nanotube….” Boring! Repetition can be effective in some instances, but in this case it doesn’t work. This is better: “Nanotubes are so tiny they can’t be seen by the naked eye. And, yet, it is possible to make a radio from one. Imagine listening to hip-hop on a radio that no one can see!”

7. Good writers write for the ear, not the eye. That is, a good writer tries to make sure the text would sound good if someone were to read it aloud (in fact, good writers often read their stuff aloud when they are revising just to make sure it sounds like it should).

8. Good writers elaborate; they try to share a lot of information and detail. It helps to be analytical, to be able to break a topic into its parts and then to tell about the parts. In a science class that might mean writing about a structure of an organism and then connecting the structure to the processes that the organism is involved in. Or, in a social studies class it might mean describing an involved chain of events that led to a particular historical outcome.

9. Good writers get their facts right, even when they are writing fiction. It isn’t enough to sound right, it has to be right. In a report, that means checking that your facts are correct (and, if facts are in dispute, that fact should end up in the report, too). Truth in fiction is a little trickier, but it matters as well; even in far out science-fiction writing the imaginary worlds have to make sense (if an imaginary universe has no gravity, it can’t just magically have gravity later in the story—maybe something changed it so that it did, but the change has to be plausible).

10. Good writers should know when to quit. When you’ve said what you wanted to say it’s time to stop. And, since I set out to tell 10 things that good writers do, I think this would be a good place to end!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How To Observe Reading Instruction

It is important that principals know what to watch for in a reading lesson. What makes it effective? It is important for coaches to, if they are to give teachers any kind of supportive guidance. And, let's face it, good teachers are likely to do much more self evaluation than being observed by others.

One thing that complicates reading instruction is there are lots of different kinds of lessons, and each of these lesson types has its own requirements. Basically, reading is both a skilled activity that requires a lot of precision performance without much conscious awareness (like recognizing high frequency words or common spelling patterns). But, it also requires actions that are synonymous with thinking and these require a lot of reflection and depth of thought. That means that a comprehension lesson ought to look pretty different from a phonics lesson; not just in content, but in the kinds of cognitive action the lesson leads kids to engage.

So, if you need to do observations -- including self observations -- you might find the following document to be useful. It tells the kinds of things I would watch for in various reading lessons.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Improving Adolescent Reading

From time to time, I'm aksed to give talks about improving adolescent literacy. Recently, Pearson Publishing asked me to do so (I have developed an instructional program for teaching reading to adolescents who read between the 3rd-5th grade levels: AMP Reading Systems).

I gave the speech to a group of teachers in Minnesota, and yesterday the publisher gifted me with the following video clips of parts of my talk. I've posted the powerpoint slides of this talk previously, but now you can actually hear what I say about the various slides. Hope you find these useful. I've listed the topics of each clip below in the order that they are listed.

Key 1: The Need for Learning Standards
Key 2: Require Reading
Key 3: Increase Reading Instructional Time
Key 4: More Time for Low Readers
Key 5: Teach Vocabulary
Key 6: Oral Reading Fluency
Key 7: Reading Comprehension
Key 8: Writing
Key 9: Professional Development
Key 10: Motivation

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What About Writing?

Over the years, one question has come to me more than any other about the work of the National Reading Panel: "Why didn't you look at writing?"

Some of you might know that I have spent much of my career studying the reading-writing relationship, and I think it is fair to say that have been a major proponent of putting writing into the reading curriculum. So, the omission of writing surprised a lot of people.

NRP considered looking at writing, but the votes just weren't there. It will strongly be recommended to the new Commission on Reading by me and others once they begin their work. I hope they will do so.

Until then, I think the research review done recently by Graham and Perin is excellent and the attached presentation is based to a great extent on their fine work.