Language at the Speed of Sight—On Cueing Systems, Phonemes, Speed Reading, and Sequences of Learning

A few months ago, I read Mark Seidenberg’s Language at the Speed of Sight. Seidenberg is a psychologist who studies reading, and his book is remarkably intelligent, frank, and witty. I think there is an occasional mistake or ambiguity here and there, but overall I was mesmerized.

Reading Aloud to Kids and Why Lessons Need Purposes

Teacher question:

Teachers in grades 3, 4 and 5 spend weeks and weeks (like 5-6) reading aloud chapter books to their students. In some classrooms, students have a copy of the book.  Is there research that speaks to the effectiveness of a read-aloud over a period of time?

Does student interest wane after two weeks or so? 

How Do You Make a Good Reader? Just the Basics

Teacher question:

What makes good readers? What are kids lacking making them not so good readers?

Shanahan's response:

New Evidence on Teaching Reading at Frustration Levels

For generations, reading experts have told teachers that they had to teach students to read at their instructional levels. Teachers were admonished that if they taught children with books that were too easy, there would be nothing for the kids to learn. If they taught with books that were too hard, then the reading instruction would frustrate rather than improve.

Sight Vocabulary for Preschool

Teacher question:

I am preschool teacher and I would like to know how I can implement a sight word program with 4 year old students. I have tried my best to implement at least three but I feel my strategies are not working. I am trying to do a program to help preschoolers to be ready when they go to kindergarten.

 Shanahan's response:

How Complex a Text Can I Scaffold?

Teacher question:

Doug Lemov Interviews Tim Shanahan

Usually these blog entries are replies to educators questions. Recently Doug Lemov interviewed me about reading instruction and posted it on his blog. We got into issues like reading strategy instruction, vocabulary assessment, close reading, and guided reading. Many of you know Doug's books, Teach Like a Champion and Reading Revisited. I was honored to talk to him and this will serve as a good introduction to Doug and his site as well as to useful info about these hot literacy topics.

Why an Overemphasis on Foundational Reading Skills Isn't Healthy for Kids

Principal's question:

A Fine Mess: Confusing Close Reading and Text Complexity

Reader question:

Vocabulary's Three-Legged Stool: The Place for Dictionary Skills in Vocabulary Instruction

Teacher question:

I’m a literacy coach, and one of the teachers in one of my online classes asked the following question: “The article mentions that using a dictionary to define a word is a superficial method of vocabulary acquisition. While it may be too rash to discontinue using dictionaries, how should they be used in vocabulary instruction, and how much should teachers rely on them in the classroom?”

Shanahan's response:


"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables