Vocabulary's Three-Legged Stool: The Place for Dictionary Skills in Vocabulary Instruction

Teacher question: I’m a literacy coach, and one of the teachers in one of my online classes asked the following question: “The article mentions that using a dictionary to define a word is a superficial method of vocabulary acquisition. While it may be too rash to discontinue using dictionaries, how should they be used in vocabulary instruction, and how much should teachers rely on them in the classroom?”

Shanahan's response:

How Can Reading Coaches Raise Reading Achievement?

Teacher question: I have just been hired as a reading coach in a school where I have been a third-grade teacher. My principal wants me to raise reading achievement and he says that he’ll follow my lead. I think I’m a good teacher, but what does it take to raise reading achievement in a whole school (K-5) with 24 teachers?
Shanahan's response:
It’s easy. Just do the following 9 things:

1. Improve leadership

Where Does Content Fit In Literacy Learning? Learning to Dance and Talk at the Same Time

Years ago I took ballroom dance. I used to write about those experiences in this space. It was a great opportunity for me as teacher, since with dance I struggled greatly (something there is about having your legs bound for the first year of life that makes graceful movement a challenge).

19 Graphic Novels That Engage Students and Keep Them Reading

"Graphic novels are the books with the tattered covers crowding the “hold” shelf and the books that generate the longest wait lists," according to Kyle Redford, a fifth grade teacher in Northern California and the education editor for the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.

Graphic novels

Should I Set Reading Purposes for My Students?

For nearly a century, leading educators and school textbooks have encouraged teachers to set a purpose for reading. Sometimes these purposes are called “motivation” or they might be stated as questions, “What is a population?” or “What is the major problem the main character faces?”

It makes sense. We want our kids to be purposeful and such purpose-focused reading leads to higher comprehension, right?

On Climbing the Mountain: Four Ways Not to Deal with Complex Text

Anyone who has taught reading — or really any course that requires a textbook — knows about kids who struggle to make sense of the text. Often they don’t even try. The text just looks hard and they’re ready to run. We’ve been talking a lot about complex text since the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) burst on the scene. But most of that talk has focused on how to find texts that meet the complexity requirements of CCSS. Or how to ask questions that probe that complexity.

Writing as a Response to Reading

Teacher question: My students talk about the stories through collaborative conversations and class discussions, but I hardly allow time for students to write written responses.  How often should I have students write a written response and should students be taking notes on the story?

Shanahan's response:

Teaching Reading Comprehension and Comprehension Strategies

Teacher question: In terms of teaching comprehension to grade 3-5 students, what is the best way to help the readers transfer the strategies they are taught so they can be independent, self-regulated readers?

Shanahan's response:  If you want to teach reading comprehension strategies to on-grade level students between the ages of 8-10, we have a pretty good idea of how to do that successfully. The teaching of strategies is a good focus as well, given the large amount of research showing that strategy instruction can be beneficial.

Close Reading and the Reading of Complex Text Are Not the Same Thing

Recently, I was asked to make some presentations. I suggested a session on close reading and another on teaching with complex text. The person who invited me said, “But that’s just one subject… the close reading of complex text. What else will you talk about?”

Her response puzzled me, but since then I’ve been noting that many people are confounding those two subjects. They really are two separate and separable constructs. That means that many efforts to implement the so-called Common Core standards may be missing an important beat.

Kids Need to Read Within Instruction

If you have ever had surgery, you probably have had the weird experience of signing off on a bunch of medical paperwork. The oddest form is the one that gives the surgeon permission to assault you. Think about it. Usually we don’t want people poking at us with knives. Doctors can’t do that either, unless we give our permission. Otherwise, every tonsillectomy would lead to a 911 call.

That means context matters. Stick a knife in someone in an OR and that is cool, do the same thing down at the local tap and you'll do 5-7 in the state penitentiary.


"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall." — Roald Dahl