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).

Round Robin by Any Other Name ... Oral Reading for Older Readers

I am seeking your advice based on the email correspondence below that I have had with my principal. She noted that I was practicing "round robin reading" on a classroom observation. Upon asking her to remove it (since it was not what I was doing), I realized that she doesn’t entirely understand what that practice looks like. I gather from her response that she is only interested in the teacher modeling expert reading and students not reading aloud in the classroom at all. I personally believe that there is a place in the classroom for students to read aloud.

Middle School Interventions

We are a K-12 district and are revamping our grade 6 through grade 8 instructional supports, which include a 40 minute additional session of reading and/or math instruction anywhere from 3 to 5 days a week. This extra instruction is provided to any student below the 50th percentile on the MAP assessments — roughly 2/3 of our student population in our five middle schools.

Teaching Visual Literacy Makes a Big Difference

Would you add some thoughts about visual literacy, that is, questioning the artist/illustrator in the same way we are questioning the author/text … prior to analyzing the text. Thank you.

I’ve been carrying this question around for a while, trying to think up a good answer.

On the one hand, I’ve never been a big fan of “visual literacy.” It’s not that I’m insensitive to the idea that pictures have value, but I’ve never been willing to put pictures on the same plane as the printed word.

Examples of Close Reading Questions

As a principal, I want my teachers to teach student how to read a text closely. After going through your Powerpoint, reading the questions you suggest and the responses, I think professional development in developing questions would be required to ensure they were actually asking the right kind of questions.

Concerns About Accountability Testing

Why don’t you write more about the new tests?

I haven’t written much about PARCC or SBAC — or the other new tests that other states are taking on — in part because they are not out yet. There are some published prototypes, and I was one of several people asked to examine the work product of these consortia. Nevertheless, the information available is very limited, and I fear that almost anything I may write could be misleading (the prototypes are not necessarily what the final product will turn out to be).


"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." — Frederick Douglass