Curriculum & instruction

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.

To Group or Not to Group — That Is the Question

A teacher’s (thoughtful) questions:

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).

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.


"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