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Curriculum & instruction

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.

Are read-alongs (round robin, popcorn) a good idea?

Teacher question:

I'm a UK teacher; we use read-along here a lot (the teacher or pupils read a text to the whole class while the other pupils follow in their own text). There is a growing concern that this is ineffective for several reasons. Chief at the moment is that reading and listening simultaneously has a higher cognitive load than either independent reading or listening alone. What do you recommend?

Shanahan's response:

Does Oral Language Instruction Improve Literacy?

Teacher question

I’ve looked at your framework and am surprised that it doesn’t include oral language. I’m a kindergarten teacher and can’t imagine leaving that out. Am I misunderstanding something?

Shanahan's answer

I feel your pain.

Yes, you’re correct that my framework focuses on the teaching of phonological awareness, decoding/spelling, vocabulary, oral reading fluency, reading comprehension, and writing. But not oral language.

And, like you, I agonize over that omission (if it is one).

If You Really Want Higher Test Scores: Rethink Reading Comprehension Instruction

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) began testing fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-graders in 1970 to find out how well American kids could read. NAEP was to evaluate national reading performance twice a decade. The idea wasn’t to provide an estimate of how well each child could read, but simply to index the level of American literacy. In fact, back then NAEP wasn’t even allowed to describe how the individual states were doing; and, at that time no states were evaluating reading.

Boy, have things changed.

Does Reader's Workshop Promote Close Reading Adequately?

Teacher question

I’m a regular reader and it seems to me that you undervalue activities like Reader’s Workshop and what it can do for children. Letting them pick their own books is great for their motivation and this isn’t like free reading, independent reading, or SSR because I meet with them regularly, one-on-one, to talk about what they are reading. There is more to teaching reading than phonics lessons or fluency practice. 

Shanahan's response:

Independent Readers, Independent Thinkers

How to Teach Fluency So That It Takes

Teacher question

I have a question regarding my school's reading program. My question today is about the reading portion of our literacy block and most specifically the partner reading and independent reading.

Is Morphology Training Better Than Phonics Instruction?

Man, sometimes when you publish a blog entry you’d wish you stayed in bed.

You hope to write something that someone will find useful. But the responses might make you feel more like you’ve been dropped onto the set of Fox News or MSNBC.

Recently, I’ve experienced some interesting responses.

For example:

Does One-Size-Fits-All Reading Instruction Work for Everyone?

Someone put a bug in my ear, and I started writing, and by the time I was done, I had two blogs rather than one. I'll set the table with this one, and bring it to conclusion next time.

One of the best things about research is that it can let the wind out of windbags and force some hard thinking. Our field suffers fatuous pronouncements as much as any. An example?

How about the constant drumbeat concerning the failure of “one size fits all” instructional approaches? Seemingly, everybody agrees with that one.

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"I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books." —

Abraham Lincoln