About reading

May 22, 2019

Teacher question: Although the Reading Wars might be over (somewhat), I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve entered the era of Research Wars. What’s a literacy coach to do? 

Shanahan's response:

I think you’re onto something. I’ve been seeing the same thing.

Of course, the original “reading wars” back in the 1990s were research...

May 9, 2019

Teacher question: We place children in different kindergarten (or prekindergarten) tracks based upon their performances on a readiness screener — and in consultation with parents. However, our state now has a “Read by Grade Three” law, which requires retention in third grade for students who don’t meet that standard.

We have several students who are very...

April 1, 2019

Teacher question:

There is a big argument in my new district over whether or not it is a good idea to teach children to use the three cueing systems. What do you think? Why don’t you ever write about the cueing systems?

Shanahan’s response:

I don’t write about them because I’m not a fiction writer.

Don’t get me wrong,...

February 13, 2019

Teacher question

I'm looking for help with information or resources about text types for early readers. We have decodable text, text with high-frequency words, and predictive text. It seems like a reasonable strategy to provide our fragile readers with more opportunities to read these low-complexity texts while we shore up issues with phonological awareness. Many...

January 30, 2019

Teacher question:

If you were teaching second-grade what would your schedule look like?

Shanahan's response:

This question — in various forms — came up a lot this week in response to last week’s posting. Here is my thinking on this.

I start from the premise that I want kids to get between 120-180 minutes per day of reading...

January 22, 2019

Teacher question

The National Assessment of Educational Progress says that only 37% of 4th graders are reaching reading proficiency. Why is it so low?

Shanahan's response

Why do so few American kids read well?

There seems to be plenty of blame to go around. Parents? Society? Too much screen time? Poverty? Immigration? You...

December 17, 2018

Teacher question:

I hope and pray that you write about or repost regarding state reading assessments. I just received a call from a frantic academic coach stating that her principal has told her teachers to look at our state test’s achievement level descriptors and create test-based questions aligned to those levels to ask when immersing students in literature and...

November 15, 2018

I talk a lot about research in this space.

I argue for research-based instruction and policy.

I point out a dearth of empirical evidence behind some instructional schemes, and champion others that have been validated or verified to my satisfaction.

Some readers are happy to find out what is “known,” and others see me as a killjoy because the research findings don’t...

August 1, 2018

Teacher question: 

Should we teach letter names or letter sounds to beginning readers?

Shanahan's response:

Twice recently teachers have asked this question. In both instances they said they’d been told teaching letter names confused children and that “best practice” was to focus on the sounds rather than the letter names....

June 15, 2018

Teacher question:

We are trying to raise our third-grade reading scores. What do you think of “platooning” to help us meet that goal?

Shanahan's response:

Platooning, or what in my time was called “departmentalization,” is apparently on the rise in America’s primary grades. Schools like yours are hungry to raise reading and...

April 30, 2018

Teacher question:

I am a reading specialist and a parent. My daughter is in first grade. Her classroom teachers have all the books in the classroom library leveled, and students are not allowed to go beyond their reading level during "Independent" reading. If the teacher assesses a child inaccurately, then that child is stuck reading texts that may be too easy or...

April 9, 2018

The last couple weeks I’ve clarified the definition of “independent reading” and explored the impact of kids doing required reading on their own at school.

Independence is obviously a gradient; the independence teachers often refer to isn’t about whether kids must read or not (it is usually required in these schemes), but it is about who picks the texts and whether there is any...

April 2, 2018

Last week I explained the concept of “independent reading.” Reviewing various documents from across the past 150 years — research studies, government reports, encyclopedia entries, pronouncements of august organizations, teacher blogs, methods guides — revealed that we educators have been pretty sloppy in our use of that term.

Of course, if everybody says independent reading, but no...

February 15, 2018

Teacher question:

I’ve taught literacy and literacy courses in every grade from K-graduate school. I take the view that synthetic phonics taught directly and systematically is essential to any literacy program. However, we also propose that teachers be given the training to use analytic phonics when, after reasonable attempts of using direct instruction, the...

January 23, 2018

Teacher question:

I am a reading coordinator. We are in our first year of implementing a new reading program. As we have rolled out the new curriculum, we've been explicit about the reading instructional practices and routines that we expect to see used each day. We’ve had lots of PD. How else are we going to know the impact that the series has on our achievement...

December 5, 2017

Teacher question:

Our schools have recently sent the home reports and parent-teacher meetings have recently taken place. I have heard from quite a few concerned parents that teachers have told them their child is 'struggling with reading' and have recommended reading to the child at least 20 minutes a day. These are parents of children k-2. The recommendation to...

November 28, 2017

Teacher question

I’ve looked at your framework and am surprised that it doesn’t include oral language. I’m a kindergarten teacher and can’t imagine leaving that out. Am I misunderstanding something?

Shanahan's answer

I feel your pain.

Yes, you’re correct that my framework focuses on the teaching of phonological...

September 14, 2017

Man, sometimes when you publish a blog entry you’d wish you stayed in bed.

You hope to write something that someone will find useful. But the responses might make you feel more like you’ve been dropped onto the set of Fox News or MSNBC.

Recently, I’ve experienced some interesting responses.

For example:

Studies show that phonemic awareness (PA) training helps young...

September 12, 2017

Last week, I pointed out that research had found few interactions in literacy learning. That is, research hasn't actually uncovered many situations in which different kinds of kids learn differently — despite many claims to the contrary.

The idea that research...

September 6, 2017

Someone put a bug in my ear, and I started writing, and by the time I was done, I had two blogs rather than one. I'll set the table with this one, and bring it to conclusion next time.

One of the best things about research is that it can let the wind out of windbags and force some hard thinking. Our field suffers fatuous pronouncements as much as any. An example?

How about the...

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"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb