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Curriculum & instruction

Should We Teach Spelling? Part 2

My last blog entry was written in response to a fifth-grade teacher who wanted to know about spelling instruction. Although teachers at her school thought that formal spelling instruction, like working with word lists, was a bad idea, it turns out that such teaching is beneficial to kids. The same can be said for studying word structure and its implications for spelling, pronunciation, and meaning.

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.

Response to Complaint About What Works Clearinghouse

I have recently encountered some severe criticism leveled at reviews and reviewers from What Works Clearinghouse (for example, this from the National Institute for Direct Instruction). I am concerned about recommending this site to teachers as a resource for program evaluations. I'm wondering if you agree with the criticisms, and if yes, where you would recommend teachers go for evidence-based program reviews.

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.

Why Standards-Based Teaching Has Failed to Raise Reading Achievement

Standards-based educational reform goes back to the early 1990s. Since then, test scores have see-sawed a bit, but for the most part we are doing about as well as we’ve been doing since 1970 (when we first started collecting national reading data).

That means standards-based reform has not led to higher achievement. Establishing educational goals and aligning teaching to those goals to ensure kids succeed has not happened.

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).

Close Reading: A Video Replay

Last week, I provided a link to a close reading video that a reader sent me. The link purported to present a model “close reading” lesson.

Although, there was much to like about the lesson, I complained that it wasn't close reading. Close reading is not a synonym for reading comprehension (or even "really good reading comprehension").

A Close Read of a Close Reading Video

My daughters are Erin and Meagan. When they were little, Meagan would get upset because we always “ran Erins,” but never “ran Meagans.” That’s cute when a little one doesn’t know the meaning of a word. But such miscommunication can be a real problem in Common Core State Standards implementation. It’s getting so that I hate to hear the term “close reading” because it is misused so often these days. A comment from a reader of last week’s blog entry challenged me to evaluate an online video of a close reading lesson.

Why Reading Strategies Usually Don't Help the Better Readers

Last week, I explained why disciplinary reading strategies are superior to the more general strategies taught in schools. That generated a lot of surprised responses. Some readers thought I’d mis-worded my message. Let me reiterate it here: strategies like summarization, questioning (the readers asking questions), monitoring, and visualizing don’t help average or better readers. They do help poor readers and younger readers. I didn’t explain why better readers don’t benefit, so let me do that here. Readers read strategically only when they have difficulty making sense of a text.

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"You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." — Paul Sweeney