Literacy Blogs

26 May, 2009

Irish Literacy

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. ...

read more
11 May, 2009

Teaching with Clenched Teeth

First posted May 11, 2009. Blast from the past July 20, 2017 Here we are at the height of summer... I just got back from the International Literacy Association conference and I was hearing about teachers already preparing to start back to school this month! Summers used to mean baseball--not the school year. This blog might remind everyone of a key characteristic of effective of reading teachers. Teaching should follow research, and teachers ought to use the kinds of tools and routines that have been found to be effective in the past. In the Chicago schools, I imposed time standards to make sure ...

read more
01 May, 2009

Reforming NCLB: What to Keep

The next version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is going to be quite different from “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). That’s both good since real changes are needed, but it’s a little scary, too, because NCLB represented a remarkable and positive break with past federal education policy.   A quick pre-2000 history lesson: At the federal level, Republican and Democratic views of education had evolved into an unfortunate stalemate. Republicans usually opposed federal education spending for Constitutional and budgetary reasons. Their argument was that education was the responsibility of the states and that Uncle Sam should stay out of the ...

read more
30 March, 2009

Persistence of reading problems: Research-based fact or urban myth?

Blast from Past: First posted March 30, 2009; reposted May 3, 2018. I didn’t think I’d be re-issuing this one, but this week, I heard two of these myths repeated so, perhaps, time for a reminder of the facts.   Last week, I heard from the Education Writers Association requesting information about what happens to children who don’t learn to read well by third grade… Do they drop out of high school? End up in jail? Become wards of the state? Go into politics? (Okay, they didn’t really ask that last one, I was just checking to see if you were paying attention.) The Writers had checked NAEP reports and ...

read more
25 March, 2009

Demolishing a Straw Man: Should We Teach Fluency?

What’s the relationship between oral reading fluency and reading comprehension? Does fluency instruction automatically lead to comprehension? Are reading comprehension and fluency independent processes? Reasonable questions like those abound about this aspect of learning to read. However, if you are seeking answers to such questions in the recent article on fluency and reading comprehension that appears in The Reading Teacher (RT, March 2009, vol. 62 (6), pp. 512-521), don’t bother.   The problem is that the authors, M. D. Applegate, A. J. Applegate, and V. B. Modla, have made up a straw man (um, straw person) argument implying that someone out there ...

read more
21 March, 2009

The Problem with Guided Reading

The main point of “guided reading” is to make sure kids are being taught from books that are not too far beyond their skills. If a book seems like hieroglyphics to a kid, then not much learning could be expected. (Likewise, books can be too easy… presenting neither challenge nor much to learn). Trying to get kids into the “just right” reading level has been an issue of long interest in the field of reading.   The independent/instructional/frustration level scheme has now been around for about 60 years (since Emmett Betts described these levels in his landmark textbook). Frustration level is the ...

read more
17 March, 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 ...

read more
13 March, 2009

Why It Sometimes Looks Like Teaching Does Harm

Blast from the Past: This blog originally posted March 13, 2009; and was reissued on November 29, 2017. Teachers often experience frustration when it looks like the kids are regressing as a result of teaching. This entry may be a healthy reminder as to what is actually going on. Keep teaching.         I was speaking with a teacher who was not a big fan of phonics instruction. It was not that she was totally against it, in fact, her concerns had arisen from observing the children who she was teaching phonics too. She was concerned because, often, when she introduced ...

read more
11 February, 2009

Teacher Education and Reading Achievement

IES released what will be a highly influential report, “An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification Final Report.” You can get a copy through this link:   The report is important because it tests the impact of young teachers who complete traditional teacher preparation programs and those who complete alternative certification programs that require a lot fewer hours of training. Sadly, it finds that the “alt-cert” teachers do as well as the traditional certification teachers in terms of children’s learning. That finding represents a serious challenge to Colleges of Education.   As with any study, this one has problems, but it ...

read more
08 February, 2009

Why the Stimulus Bill Will Not Really Increase School Funding

This week Congress will approve the Obama stimulus plan and soon schools will get a big pile of new money for their Title I programs and Special Education programs. How they’ll spend it will depend on current rules and regs, because the stimulus bill doesn’t seem to carry any new guidance.   Of course, those of us in education should be pleased as this new money should mean fewer layoffs for teachers. However, I suspect there will be a couple of problems with these dollars. The first is that I doubt that this assistance will do much for kids. The money isn’t ...

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.