Literacy Blogs

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 ...

read more
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 ...

read more
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. ...

read more
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 ...

read more
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 ...

read more
23 March, 2024

The Instructional Level Concept Revisited: Teaching with Complex Text

Blast from the Past: This piece first posted on February 7, 2017, and was reposted on March 23, 2024. Nothing to change or update here, but given recent questions and discussions on social media, I think it would be worthwhile to revisit the topic. I’ve been beavering away at a book manuscript that will go into much greater detail on this topic, that I hope will be available to everyone in 2025. It won’t reach different conclusions either, even given new scholarship on the issue. Boy, oh, boy! The past couple weeks have brought unseasonably warm temperatures to the Midwest, and ...

read more
16 March, 2024

Does Literature Count as Knowledge?

Teacher question: Our district and state are making a big push to develop social studies knowledge through reading. I appreciate that and understand the importance of social studies (previously we hardly taught it at all). Our ELA textbook still has stories – each of these is connected to social studies or science topics. We are being told that if time is tight (and it always is – we have so many things to teach now) that we can skip the stories and focus on the social studies selections alone. I always thought reading class was for literature and social studies was ...

read more
02 March, 2024

Can a Program of Professional Development Raise Reading Achievement?

Principal Question: We are trying to do better in reading achievement – our school is second lowest in our district. I’m convinced structured reading is the way to go and I’m willing to use my budget to pay for our primary teachers to attend the XXXXX professional development program. I’ve heard that having teachers take that training is an effective way to improve reading achievement. However, several of my teachers say they don’t want to go, and I can’t require it. I know they respect your opinion, what do you think of that training?RELATED: Small Group Phonics in the Classroom – Good ...

read more
17 February, 2024

Small Group Phonics in the Classroom – Good Idea or Not?

Teacher Question 1: Our district adopted a systematic phonics program and instruction is delivered whole class for each grade level for about 30 minutes per day. We have a wide range of learners in each class, so my question is, is whole class instruction an effective use of instructional time since some students are being exposed to phonics instruction beyond their level? For example, a second grader who still hasn’t mastered CVC words, but is focused on whole class instruction focused on CVCe words. Is there any research to substantiate that exposure to explicit phonics instruction beyond their current level of mastery is going to be ...

read more
10 February, 2024

Should we grade students on the individual reading standards?

  Blast from the Past: This entry first posted on September 7, 2019, and reappeared on February 10, 2024. It seems to be that time of the year again. Principals are being encouraged by central administrations to put on the full court press for higher test scores this year. I know that, not because of Mardi Gras or Groundhog Day, but because I'm starting to get those questions from teachers. Here is one that just came in: "Dr. Shanahan, you have stated that STANDARDIZED reading test items analysis is a 'fool's errand.' My district requires me to complete an items analysis ...

read more
Sorry! No articles found. Please select another topic or category.

One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

He studies reading and writing across all ages and abilities. Feel free to contact him.