To Lexile or Not to Lexile, That Is the Question

Teacher question:

Our school district is going wild over Lexiles because they are in the Common Core standards. I think they are overdoing it and don’t feel comfortable with some of the decisions that we are making. What are the weaknesses of Lexiles?

First, Lexiles is only one of several readability measures included in the CCSS. They started with that one, but as studies were completed they added ATOS, SourceRater, and several others.

Of Carts and Horses: Where Fluency Teaching Fits in Learning to Read Process

Question from a teacher:

Our preK-5 school has a number of struggling readers, and we were told yesterday that we should focus only on fluency and accuracy, not comprehension or vocabulary. We were also told that we really shouldn't be using our grade level reading materials or complex texts in the classroom until students are fluent and accurate. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what we do when we have large numbers of struggling readers.

11 Ways Parents Can Help Their Children Read

Parents often ask how they can help their children learn to read; and it’s no wonder that they’re interested in this essential skill. Reading plays an important role in later school success. One study even demonstrates that how well 7-year-olds read predicts their income 35 years later!

Here are 11 practical recommendations for helping preschoolers and school-age students learn to read.

More on the Instructional Level and Challenging Text

Teacher question:
I’ve read your posts on the instructional level and complex texts and I don’t think you understand guided reading. The point of guided reading placements is to teach students with challenging text. That’s why it is so important to avoid texts that students can read at their independent level; to make sure they are challenged. The Common Core requires teaching students with challenging texts — not frustration level texts.

Shanahan response:

Report Cards and Standards

From a teacher:

I wanted to ask your opinion regarding the structure of report cards for parents of students in grades 3-5. Understanding that ELA CCSS intertwines the areas of reading, language, spelling, writing, and moving toward creating district standards-based report cards in all K-5 grade levels, how do you think students' progress should be reported out to parents via report cards, as we transition? Would you recommend having an ELA grade on the report card or segregating particular areas as a stand alone grade?

How Much Comprehension Strategy Instruction?

From a teacher:

I have read a few articles and books by Daniel Willingham in the past, and I wonder if you are familiar with his work. I recently read an article about reading comprehension strategies and am curious to know what you think of his ideas. He says that focusing heavily on reading strategies isn’t really necessary.

Disciplinary Vocabulary

When I was 8, there were two boys, Chris and Paul. They were both tow-heads, gentle and quiet, with loping walks; and both could draw beautifully… if a teacher struggled to draw a straight line or a round circle on the chalkboard, she’d ask Chris or Paul, who could do it, seemingly without effort.

Making Whole Class Work More Effective

Recently, I wrote about the quandary of grouping. Small group instruction supports greater student engagement, higher amounts of interaction, greater opportunity for teacher observation, and more student learning. However, the benefits of small group are balanced by the relative ineffectiveness of most seatwork activities. Subtracting the downside of working on one's own away from the teacher from the clear benefits of small group teaching, one ends up with little advantage to all of the effort of orchestrating the small-group oriented classroom.

An Argument About Matching Texts to Students

A reader wrote:

My main response is toward your general notion of the research surrounding teaching kids "at their level."

How Much Text Complexity Can Teachers Scaffold?

How much of a "gap" can be compensated through differentiation? If my readers are at a 400 Lexile level, is there an effective way to use a 820 level chapter book?

This is a great question. (Have you ever noticed that usually means the responder thinks he has an answer).


"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx