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Comprehension

Implementing Higher Literacy Standards or Putting on a Show?

Back in the 1930s, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney always seemed to be putting on a show. They were going to be sent to a farm to work for the summer in Babes in Arms, but they wanted to go to Broadway instead — and they did!

Where Questioning Fits in Comprehension Instruction: Skills and Strategies

Teacher question:

It seems to me that asking a series of good questions about what an author appears to be telling us allows students (all of us) to build our knowledge, learn how to question conclusions, and overall just better understand the text at hand. Do you agree or am I still missing something? 

Shanahan's response:

Comprehension Skills or Strategies: Is there a difference and does it matter?

Teacher question:

What’s the difference between comprehension skills and comprehension strategies? Are they synonyms or do we teach different things when we are teaching them?

Shanahan response:

I’m glad you asked.

Comprehension skills and comprehension strategies are very different things.

They are often confused; the terms are often used interchangeably by those who don’t understand or appreciate the distinctions they carry.

And, most importantly, these concepts energize different kinds of teaching.

For the Love of Reading: Independent Reading at School

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.

How Effective Is Independent Reading in Teaching Reading?

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 one means the same thing, there is a communications problem.

What Is Independent Reading and Why Does He Say All Those Horrible Things About It?

Recently I posted a tweet challenging the idea that “independent reading” in the classroom was such a good idea. Not surprisingly I found myself the target of all kinds of Trumpian tweets and vilification. It got so bad that multiple major proponents of encouraging reading contacted me in embarrassment over the responses (because some of it was unprofessional, and much of it was just badly reasoned).

Dazed and Confused: The Main Idea of Main Ideas

Teacher question:

Can you explain the difference between central idea, main idea, and theme? There appears to be a lot of confusions with these terms. 

Shanahan’s response:

You’re correct. There is much confusion and disparity in use of the terms central idea, main idea, and theme. And please add topic and topic sentence to that list, too.

On Science Reading, Informational Text, and Reading Pullout Programs

Question:

More Bad Ideas About Why We Should Avoid Complex Text Reading Instruction

This posting responds to some public comments made by various colleagues concerning complex text and its use in instruction (see related post, What's the Difference Between Close Reading and Teaching Complex Text?). My comments are responses to their handwringing over the requirement that we teach kids to read complex text. 

What's the Difference Between Close Reading and Teaching Complex Text?

Teacher question

Aren’t “teaching with complex text” and “teaching close reading” really the same idea, just in different words? Some of my teachers are confused by these terms. Some of them, like me, think they are the same idea, while others think they are really two different standards. How can I clarify this for them?

Shanahan's response

I must admit that the first time this confusion presented itself to me, I was pretty darned surprised.

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