Curriculum & instruction

Does Preschool Improve Later Literacy Achievement?

Here we go again.

Last week, Dale Farran and a team of researchers at the University of Tennessee concluded that preschool education gets kids off to a great academic start, but by the end of kindergarten the results start to wear off. And, by the end of second grade you can’t even tell that the kids had attended preschool or not.

That suggests that preschool education is a lousy investment — if the goal is to improve students’ later reading and math achievement.

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.

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:

Sorting Out the Arguments Over "Independent" Reading

Teacher question:

Teaching Vocabulary

From a teacher:

What do you recommend is the best way to teach vocabulary to struggling readers at the middle school level?

My snappy reply:

Why We Need to Teach Reading and Writing

Many educators trumpet the idea of reading-writing relationships, emphasizing how close reading and writing are. As a teacher I was a big believer in this — my kids wrote every day, despite the lack of a report card space for writing, a writing curriculum, writing standards, or even any professional development on the topic. I strongly believed that when you taught writing, you were teaching reading.

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.

Why Research-Based Reading Programs Alone Are Not Enough

From a reader:

Every teacher has experienced this. While the majority of the class is thriving with your carefully planned, research supported instructional methods, there is often one kid that is significantly less successful. We work with them individually in class, help them after school, sometimes change things up to see what will work, bring them to the attention of the RtI team that is also using the research supported instructional methods. But what if the methods research support for the majority of kids don't work for this kid?

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.


"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain