Literacy Blogs

13 July, 2024

What Do We Do With Above Grade Readers?

Teacher question: I know that you encourage teachers to teach reading with grade level texts even if this means they would be working at their frustration level. But what about the boys and girls who can already read at grade level? What should we do with them? Shanahan response: There is a great deal of diversity in American classrooms. Teachers can expect to be responsible for students at a wide range of reading levels. I suspect this skews low – meaning most teachers will be scrambling to meet the needs of more kids below grade than above it. But that’s statistical. If your ...

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29 June, 2024

Does a 4-day Week Mean Lower Reading Scores?

Teacher question: There is much interest in many states to reduce the number of student contact days.  The typical 180 student contact days are being questioned and often replaced with fewer instructional days that are often only a few minutes longer.  Is there any research on four-day weeks versus the typical 180 school day calendar? Shanahan responds: Amount of instruction is an important variable in academic achievement. Usually, if we increase the amount of teaching by a reasonable amount, we tend to see increases in learning. From eyeballing the research studies, I’d estimate that 20-30 hours more reading instruction per year, tends to lead to ...

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22 June, 2024

What about tracing and other multi-sensory teaching approaches?

Blast from the Past: This blog first appeared on May 16, 2020, and an updated version was released on June 22, 2024. The research references have been updated. If you would like to read the 26 comments that the original release attracted click here:  Teacher question:  I have read the work of researchers like Louisa Moats, Stanislas Dehaene, and Linnea Ehri and understand of how reading works in the brain. I understand the critical role of connecting graphemes to phonemes. My question is what is the true role of the kinesthetic activities promoted in many intervention programs? In a webinar that I watched ...

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08 June, 2024

Choral Reading: Good Idea or Not?

Teacher question: I know you advocate fluency instruction. But what do you think of choral reading? I love to do that with my second graders, and they have a lot of fun with it. We usually follow Tim Rasinski’s advice and do choral reading with poetry. Do you think that satisfies the fluency teaching requirements? Shanahan responds: I must admit that I am not a big fan of choral reading, though to be fair this is not a research-based opinion. There simply are too few studies of choral reading on which to base a sound judgment. First my objections and then a consideration of ...

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01 June, 2024

Should We Teach with Decodable Text?

Blast from the Past: First published August 25, 2018; updated June 1, 2024 This blog considered the value of decodable text. Since then, there has been more research on the issue, so I thought it a good time to update. There have been several thoughtful reviews of the empirical research over the years, and these reflect a great deal of consistency among the scientists who think deeply about this issue. None of them rules out the use of decodables, but none claims that their use improves reading achievement. Those who recommend a heavy and/or long-term dose of decodable text in beginning ...

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18 May, 2024

What about the textbook reviews?

Parent Question: Our school district is using a program that has received many bad reviews, including by EdReports. We raised that with our School Superintendent, and she indicated that EdReports is revamping its review process so their evidence doesn’t mean anything. What do you think? Teacher Question: EdReports and Knowledge Matters Campaign and others are requiring that high quality texts build background knowledge—a good thing.  However, they are expecting it to be through a topical approach not a broader thematic approach. One curriculum that is touted as strong in this area addresses one topic for 18 weeks!  So the question I am asking is ...

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04 May, 2024

Ensuring Success: Pre-Remediation as a Valuable Alternative

Teacher question: I would love to know your advice on pre-teaching. My colleague does this for math instruction and has seen great gains. She teaches the whole group lesson for the day to those students she suspects of needing a double dose of instruction in small group before the whole group lesson is presented. She’s seeing great gains in confidence with these students during whole group instruction due to them having had this pre-teaching beforehand. What would this look like for ELA? I’m eager to try it, just not sure how. Shanahan responds: I know of no research on this scheme, but it ...

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20 April, 2024

What does it mean to follow a reading program?

Blast from the Past: This blog entry first posted on May 5, 2018, and re-posted on April 20, 2024. The reason for this re-post is twofold: I received the letter below from an educational consultant who was troubled about how some school districts were using commercial reading programs and wanted my take on it. Also, recently, some critics have been making claims about the appropriate design of commercial reading programs if they were to be used successfully to enhance literacy achievement – unproven design claims that seem to come out of the same camp that this letter was reacting to. ...

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13 April, 2024

What is the Best Way to Organize a Classroom for Reading Instruction?

Teacher question: One of our younger teachers saw you speak, and she says you discouraged the use of small group instruction. She has been trying to teach her lessons to the whole class. I assume that she didn’t understand what you were saying because everybody knows small group instruction is the best way to teach reading. I’ve been a teacher for 18 years and I would appreciate it if you would respond so I could set her straight, I think she could be a fine teacher. Thank you.RELATED: Does Research Support “Guided Reading?” Practical Advice on Directing Reading Shanahan responds: I think I’m going ...

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06 April, 2024

Does Research Support “Guided Reading?” Practical Advice on Directing Reading

Teacher question: One of the most important activities in my class is guided reading. Not the “Guided Reading” program (we use a textbook) but group work with the children reading under my guidance. Some of our teachers do this with the whole class. I think it works better the way I do it, with small reading groups. The students read the text and I ask questions and we talk about it. In my experience that is helpful. Is there any research supporting that?RELATED: Does Literature Count as Knowledge? Shanahan response: First, let’s set aside the term “guided reading.” It now appears to a be ...

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