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Curriculum & instruction

Why I'm Not Impressed with Effective Teachers

I was making a presentation about how to raise reading achievement. I was taking my audience through research on what needed to be taught and how it needed to be taught if kids were to do as well as possible. I was telling about my experiences as director of reading of the Chicago Public Schools at a time when my teachers raised reading achievement.

When I finished, a teacher approached me. “What do you think is the most important variable in higher reading achievement?”

My answer was, “The amount of teaching — academic experience — that we provide to our children.”

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.

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.

Do We Teach Decoding in Small Groups or Whole Class?

Teacher question:  

You are confusing me. You have said that we should “never do in small group what could have been done as well as whole class,” but you also say that phonological awareness and phonics instruction are more effective when they are taught in small group. What should be taught in small group and what can be taught in whole class?

Shanahan's response: 

On Progress Monitoring, Maze Tests, and Reading Comprehension Assessment

Teacher question:

Lindamood Bell Reading: Effects Are Potentially Positive, Mixed, Says US DOE Clearinghouse

A new report from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences describes an update for the Lindamood Bell approach to reading instruction (LiPS®). Findings show some potentially positive effects and some mixed effects.

Can Be Important

20 Questions/Answers about Dyslexia That Teachers Can Use to Reshape Instruction

Dyslexia often is confusing for parents and teachers as the manner in which it presents can differ widely among children and youths. Dyslexia can go undetected for a long time, but it is neurologically based, known to be inherited, and will not be outgrown. Once students fall behind, their problems connected with reading, writing, and spelling can become complicated by negative feelings that affect their self-esteem.

To Lexile or Not to Lexile, That Is the Question

Teacher question:

Our school district is going wild over Lexiles because they are in the Common Core standards. I think they are overdoing it and don’t feel comfortable with some of the decisions that we are making. What are the weaknesses of Lexiles?

First, Lexiles is only one of several readability measures included in the CCSS. They started with that one, but as studies were completed they added ATOS, SourceRater, and several others.

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.

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"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio