This report presents in-depth reviews of nine promising online reading and writing tools for ELA classrooms. Overall, reviewers found these new resources mostly reflect the instructional shifts called for by Common Core (such as including a balance of text types and text-dependent questions for reading and writing). They also lauded the innovative nature and usefulness of text sets as instructional tools, as well as online resources’ student assessment and data reporting capabilities. However, our reviewers cite a lack of information regarding accessibility and accommodations for students with learning disabilities.
The Right Tool for the Job: Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom
Melody Arabo, Jonathan Budd, Shannon Garrison, and Tabitha Pacheco (March 2017). The Right Tool for the Job Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom. Washington, DC: The Thomas Fordham Institute.
Literacy Achievement Trends at Entry to First Grade
Jerome V. D’Agostino, Emily Rodgers (March 1, 2017) Literacy Achievement Trends at Entry to First Grade. Educational Researcher Vol 46, Issue 2, pp. 78 - 89.
This nationwide study showed that children entering first grade in 2013 had significantly better reading skills than similar students had just 12 years earlier. Researchers say this means that in general, children are better readers at a younger age, but the study also revealed where gaps remain — especially in more advanced reading skills. In the four basic skills, low-achieving students narrowed the achievement gap with other readers. But in the two advanced skills — including actually reading text — the gap widened. The results also show that strategies to help preschoolers who are having trouble with language skills need to be adjusted.
Web-Based Text Structure Strategy Instruction Improves Seventh Graders' Content Area Reading Comprehension
Wijekumar, K. (K.), Meyer, B. J. F., & Lei, P. (2017). Web-based text structure strategy instruction improves seventh graders’ content area reading comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109 (6), 741-760.
Reading comprehension in the content areas is a challenge for many middle grade students. Text structure-based instruction has yielded positive outcomes in reading comprehension at all grade levels in small and large studies. The text structure strategy delivered via the web, called Intelligent Tutoring System for the Text Structure Strategy (ITSS), has proven successful in large-scale studies at 4th and 5th grades and a smaller study at 7th grade. Text structure-based instruction focuses on selection and encoding of strategic memory. This strategic memory proves to be an effective springboard for many comprehension-based activities such as summarizing, inferring, elaborating, and applying. Results from this study showed that ITSS classrooms outperformed the control classrooms on all measures with the highest effects reported for number of ideas included in the main idea. Results have practical implications for classroom practices.
Improving Content Area Reading Comprehension of Spanish Speaking English Learners in Grades 4 and 5 Using Web-based Text Structure Instruction
Kausalai Wijekumar, Bonnie J. F. Meyer, Puiwa Lei, Anita C. Hernandez, and Diane L. August. Improving content area reading comprehension of Spanish speaking English learners in Grades 4 and 5 using web-based text structure instruction. Reading and Writing (December 2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-017-9802-9
The text structure strategy has shown positive results on comprehension outcomes in many research studies with students at Grades 2, 4, 5, and 7. This study is the first implementation of instruction about the text structure strategy expressly designed to accommodate the linguistic and comprehension needs of Spanish speaking ELs in Grades 4 and 5. Strategy instruction on the web for English learners (SWELL) was designed to deliver instruction about the text structure strategy to Spanish speaker English learners. Results show moderate to large-effects favoring the students in the SWELL classrooms over the control classrooms on important measures such as a standardized reading comprehension test and main idea and cloze tasks. This research has practical implications for the use of web-based tools to provide high-quality and supportive instruction to improve Spanish speaking ELs reading comprehension skills.
Learning About Learning: What Every New Teacher Needs to Know
Pomerance, L., Greenberg, J., and Walsh, K. (January 2016). Learning About Learning: What Every New Teacher Needs to Know. Washingtobn, D.C.: National Council on Teacher Quality.
This report asserts that textbook publishers and authors are failing the teaching profession, students and the public by neglecting to provide our next generation of teachers with the fundamental knowledge they need to make learning “stick.” The report finds that out of 48 texts used in teacher-training programs, none accurately described fundamental evidence-based teaching strategies comprehensively. Only 15 percent had more than a single page devoted to evidence-based practices; the remainder contained either zero or only a few sentences on methods that have been backed up by the decades of scientific findings that exist in the field of educational psychology.
Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform
International Literacy Association (2016) Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform [White paper]. Newark, DE
The central tenet of the white paper is that classroom literacy instruction should be grounded in rigorous, peer-reviewed research — not politics, ideology, or speculation. Rather than settling on a specific reform strategy, the white paper offers frameworks for use in drafting or evaluating reform proposals. The frameworks address four key education sectors: literacy learning and teachers; schools and schooling; student support; and families and communities. For each sector, the white paper offers a list of research-validated approaches to literacy advancement, which is designed to function as a rubric to inform, refine, and assess reform proposals. In addition, each framework includes a detailed list of supporting sources to facilitate exploration into the underlying research base.
2014-15 Study of Mississippi Teacher Preparation for Early Literacy Instruction
Barksdale Reading Institute (March 2015). 2014-15 Study of Mississippi Teacher Preparation for Early Literacy Instruction. Oxford, MS: Barksdale Reading Institute and The Institutions of Higher Learning.
The study led to nine key findings, including an improved level of emphasis on the five essential components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The study also highlights a serious gap in the understanding and application of evidence-based practices for early reading instruction both in teacher preparation and in K-3 field experiences. The report culminated in several major recommendations: (1) Adopt research-based practices at every level of reading education (specifically those practices endorsed by the National Reading Panel); (2) Improve P-20 educator knowledge and communications to better inform policy; (3) Repurpose the state’s Reading Panel to include educators and literacy experts from all levels of the system to oversee the credentialing of undergraduate instructors assigned to teach early literacy courses.
Reading, Writing, and the Common Core Standards
Lazarin, M. (August 2016). Reading, Writing, and the Common Core Standards. Washington, D.C.: The Center for American Progress
This report examines these key shifts in the ELA standards more closely, as well as the research basis for their inclusion and the potential benefits for students. In order to fully realize the promise of more rigorous standards to help all students achieve at high levels and graduate from high school truly prepared for college and a career, the Center for American Progress offers the following recommendations to state and district leaders: (1) Push ahead with the Common Core standards and aligned assessments; (2) Strengthen training supports for prospective and current teachers, including teachers of other subjects; and (3) Ensure that teachers have access to and are using high-quality curricular materials and tools aligned to the Common Core.
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability
Bassok, D. and Rorem, A. (2014). Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability. EdPolicy Works, University of Virginia.
Recent accounts suggest that accountability pressures have trickled down into the early elementary grades, and that kindergarten today is characterized by a heightened focus on academic skills. This paper documents substantial changes in kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2006, using two large nationally-representative data sets. Nearly all measures examined changed substantially over this period, and always in the direction consistent with a heightened academic focus. While in 1998, 31 percent of kindergarten teachers indicated that most children should learn to read in kindergarten, in 2006 65 percent of teachers agreed with this statement. Time on literacy rose by 25 percent from roughly 5.5 to 7 hours per week and exposure to social studies, science, music, art and physical education all dropped.
What Works to Improve Student Literacy Achievement? An Examination of Instructional Practices in a Balanced Literacy Approach
Bitter, C., O'Day, J., Gubbins, P., & Socias, M. (2009). What works to improve student literacy achievement? an examination of instructional practices in a balanced literacy approach. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 14(1), 17-44.
A core assumption of the San Diego City Schools (SDCS) reform effort was that improved instructional practices, aligned with a balanced literacy approach, would be effective in improving student outcomes. This article explores this hypothesis by presenting findings from an analysis of classroom instruction data collected in 101 classrooms in nine high-poverty elementary schools. The study found a prevalent focus on reading comprehension instruction and on students' active engagement in making meaning from text. Teachers' use of higher-level questions and discussion about text were substantially higher than that found by a prior study using the same instrument in similar classrooms elsewhere. Analyses of instruction and student outcome data indicate that teacher practices related to the higher-level meaning of text, writing instruction, and strategies for accountable talk were associated with growth in students' reading comprehension.
Children's Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy
Dunst, C, Simkus, A, Hamby, D. (2012). Children's Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy. CELLreviews 5(4). Asheville, NC: Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute, Center for Early Literacy Learning.
The effects of children's story retelling on early literacy and language development was examined in a meta-analysis of 11 studies including 687 toddlers and preschoolers. Results indicated that children's story retelling influenced both story-related comprehension and expressive vocabulary as well as nonstory-related receptive language and early literacy development. Findings also showed that the use of the characteristics that experts consider the important features of retelling practices was associated with positive child outcomes. Implications for practice are described.
Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts
Adams, M.J. (2011). Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts. American Educator, Winter 2010-2011, American Federation of Teachers.
The language of today's twelfth-grade English texts is simpler than that of seventh-grade texts published prior to 1963. No wonder students' reading comprehension has declined sharply.
Beyond Comprehension: We Have Yet to Adopt a Common Core Curriculum That Builds Knowledge Grade by Grade, But We Need To
Hirsch, E.D., Jr. (2011). Beyond Comprehension: We Have Yet to Adopt a Common Core Curriculum That Builds Knowledge Grade by Grade — But We Need To. American Educator, Winter 2010-2011, American Federation of Teachers.
Most of today's reading programs rest on faulty ideas about reading comprehension. Comprehension is not a general skill; it relies on having relevant vocabulary and knowledge.
PreK-3rd: Getting Literacy Instruction Right
Using Instructional Routines to Differentiate Instruction: A Guide for Teachers
Kosanovich, M. (2012). Using Instructional Routines to differentiate instruction. A guide for teachers. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.
The Center on Instruction released a publication to help educators plan differentiated instruction using 72 formatted activities called Instructional Routines, which provide a structure for teaching specific foundational reading skills. Included is a table which displays the alignment between the Instructional Routines and the Common Core State Standards organized by the five reading components (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). This resource provides support in the alignment of instruction in schools that are implementing School Improvement Grants (SIG) and/or College and Career Ready Standards (including Common Core State Standards).
Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade
Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N. K., Pearson, P. D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade: A practice guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from whatworks.ed.gov/publications/practiceguides.
This practice guide focuses on three areas that current research on reading indicates are critical to building a young student's capacity to comprehend what he or she reads: knowledge and abilities required specifically to comprehend text, thinking and reasoning skills, and motivation to understand and work toward academic goals. Five recommendations: (1) Teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies; (2) Teach students to identify and use the text's organizational structure to comprehend, learn, and remember content; (3) Guide students through focused, high-quality discussion on the meaning of text; (4) Select texts purposefully to support comprehension development; and (5) Establish an engaging and motivating context in which to teach reading comprehension.
Educator's Guide: Identifying What Works for Struggling Readers
Slavin, R.E., Lake, C., Davis, S., & Madden, N. (2010) Educator's Guide: Identifying What Works for Struggling Readers. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education.
This report published on the Best Evidence Encyclopedia (BEE) website provides an extensive review of the research on the outcomes of 27 early childhood programs. Six of the programs produced strong evidence of effectiveness in language, literacy, and/or phonological awareness. All of the effective programs had explicit academic content, a balance of teacher-led and child-initiated activity, and significant training and follow-up support.
PreK-Grade 3 Reading and Literacy Practices That Matter
Ryan, M. PreK-Grade 3: Reading and Literacy Practices That Matter. (2010). Education Commission of the States. New York, NY.
This snapshot of five recent research studies addresses reading and literacy in the early grades. Policy recommendations on practices that matter are included for each of the five studies.
Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making
Hamilton, L., Halverson, R., Jackson, S., Mandinach, E., Supovitz, J., & Wayman, J. (2009). Using student achievement data to support instructional decision making (NCEE 2009-4067). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/practiceguides/.
This guide offers five recommendations to help educators effectively use data to monitor students' academic progress and evaluate instructional practices. The guide recommends that schools set a clear vision for schoolwide data use, develop a data-driven culture, and make data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement. The guide also recommends teaching students how to use their own data to set learning goals.
How to get recreational reading to increase reading achievement
Kamil, M. (2008). How to get recreational reading to increase reading achievement. In Y. Kim, V. J. Risko, D. L. Compton, D. K. Dickinson, M. K. Hundley, R. T. Jiménez, & D. Well Rowe (Eds.), 57th Yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 31–40). Oak Creek, WI: National Reading Conference.
The conclusion from these studies is that recreational reading by itself has no effect on reading achievement — teachers and instruction are the critical variables in the relationship of recreational reading to reading ability. The current research provides a strong test of the notion that having students read a lot will produce reading achievement gains. This holds true for the entire range of measures used from alphabetics to comprehension. However, instruction can leverage recreational reading to produce some gains in reading achievement, most notably in fluency and comprehension. When recreational reading is encouraged in the context of improved instruction, there are improvements in fluency and comprehension, although not in vocabulary.
Using Research and Reason in Education: How Teachers Can Use Scientifically Based Research to Make Curricular & Instructional Decisions
Stanovich, P. J. & Stanovich, K. E. (2003). Using research and reason in education: How teachers can use scientifically based research to make curricular & instructional decisions. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; Department of Education; and Department of Health and Human Services.
As professionals, teachers can become more effective and powerful by developing the skills to recognize scientifically based practice and, when the evidence is not available, use some basic research concepts to draw conclusions on their own. This paper offers a primer for those skills that will allow teachers to become independent evaluators of educational research.
Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension
This research article summarizes much of the research about reading comprehension and what good readers do when they read. While the article does not specify that it is intended for adults and draws from research in the K-12 field, it has the potential to be useful to adult educators. The article makes a strong case for balanced comprehension instruction (explicit instruction and time to practice) and the need for a classroom that supports reading, provides real texts, provides a range of different genres, and provides an environment rich in language experiences including discussion about words and their meanings and text (meaning and interpretation).
Effective Schools and Accomplished Teachers: Lessons About Primary-Grade Reading Instruction in Low-Income Schools
Taylor, B.M., Pearson, P.D., Clark, K.M., & Walpole, S. (2000). Effective schools and accomplished teachers: Lessons about primary-grade reading instruction in low-income schools. The Elementary School Journal, 101, 121-165.
This study investigated school and classroom factors related to primary-grade reading achievement in schools with moderate to high numbers of students on subsidized lunch. Fourteen schools across the U.S. and two teachers in each of grades K-3 participated. A combination of school and teacher factors, many of which were intertwined, was found to be important in the most effective schools. Statistically significant school factors included strong links to parents, systematic assessment of pupil progress, and strong building communication and collaboration. A collaborative model for the delivery of reading instruction, including early reading interventions, was a hallmark of the most effective schools. Statistically significant teacher factors included time spent in small-group instruction, time spent in independent reading, high levels of student on-task behavior, and strong home communication. More of the most accomplished teachers and teachers in the most effective schools supplemented explicit phonics instruction with coaching in which they taught students strategies for applying phonics to their everyday reading. Additionally, more of the most accomplished teachers and teachers in the most effective schools employed higher-level questions in discussions of text, and the most accomplished teachers were more likely to ask students to write in response to reading. In all of the most effective schools, reading was clearly a priority at both the school and classroom levels.
Text Matters in Learning to Read
Heibert, E.H. (1999). Text matters in learning to read (Distinguished Educators Series). Reading Teacher, 52, 552-566. Retrieved June 28, 2005, from CIERA Rep. No. 1-001.
This report examines texts based on high-frequency and phonetically regular words as well as the trade books of current literature-based reading programs. It considers each type of text by examining the task it poses for beginning readers. What does a beginning reader need to know about written English to be successful with a particular type of text? What will a beginning reader learn about text if consistently presented with a particular type of text? From a task perspective, consistent reading of particular types of texts can be likened to a diet where children eat particular food groups but not others. Through experiences with particular texts, children may be acquiring some nutrients (or skills) and not others. This article addresses the diets provided to beginning readers by different instructional texts. To paraphrase Allington (1994), the three sections of the paper deal with (a) the texts used, (b) the texts had, and (c) the texts needed.
Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able to Do
Moats, L. C. (1999). Teaching reading is rocket science: What expert teachers of reading should know and be able to do. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.
This foundational report reviews the reading research and describes the knowledge base that is essential for teacher candidates and practicing teachers to master if they are to be successful in teaching all children to read well. Developed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
Beating the Odds in Teaching All Children to Read
Taylor, B., Pearson, P., Clark, K., & Walpole, S. (1999). Beating the odds in teaching all children to read. CIERA Report 2-006. University of Michigan: Ann Arbor.
What schoolwide practices characterize schools in which at-risk learners are beating the odds? What instructional practices are used by the most accomplished primary-grade teachers and by teachers in the most effective schools? The authors used quantitative and descriptive methods to investigate school and classroom factors related to primary-grade reading achievement. Fourteen schools across the U.S. with moderate to high numbers of students on subsidized lunch were identified as most, moderately, or least effective based on several measures of reading achievement in the primary grades. A combination of school and teacher factors, many of which were intertwined, was found to be important in the most effective schools. Statistically significant school factors included strong links to parents, systematic assessment of pupil progress, strong building communication, and a collaborative model for the delivery of reading instruction, including early reading interventions. In all of the most effective schools, reading was clearly a priority at both the building and classroom level.
Literacy Instruction in Nine First-Grade Classrooms: Teacher Characteristics and Student Achievement
Wharton-McDonald, R., Pressley, M., & Hampston, J.M. (1998). Literacy instruction in nine first-grade classrooms: Teacher characteristics and student achievement. The Elementary School Journal, 99, 101-128.
Classroom observations and in-depth interviews were used to study 9 first-grade teachers from 4 districts who had been nominated by language arts coordinators as outstanding or typical in their ability to help students develop literacy skills. Based on observational measures of student reading and writing achievement and student engagement, 3 groups of teachers emerged from the original 9. The following practices and beliefs distinguished the instruction of the 3 teachers (2 nominated as outstanding, 1 as typical) whose students demonstrated the highest levels on these measures: (a) coherent and thorough integration of skills with high-quality reading and writing experiences, (b) a high density of instruction (integration of multiple goals in a single lesson), (c) extensive use of scaffolding, (d) encouragement of student self-regulation, (e) a thorough integration of reading and writing activities, (f) high expectations for all students, (g) masterful classroom management, and (h) an awareness of their practices and the goals underlying them. Teaching practices observed in 7 of the 9 classrooms are also discussed. The data reported here highlight the complexity of primary literacy instruction and support the conclusion that effective primary-level literacy instruction is a balanced integration of high-quality reading and writing experiences and explicit instruction of basic literacy skills.
Questioning the Author: A Yearlong Classroom Implementation to Engage Students with Text
Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., Sandora, C., Kucan, L., & Worthy, J. (1996). Questioning the author: A yearlong classroom implementation to engage students with text. Elementary School Journal, 96, 385-414.
Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print
Adams, M.J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
This book reconciles the debate that has divided theorists for decades over the "right" way to help children learn to read. Drawing on a rich array of research on the nature and development of reading proficiency, Adams shows educators that they need not remain trapped in the phonics versus teaching-for-meaning dilemma. She proposes that phonics can work together with the whole language approach to teaching reading and provides an integrated treatment of the knowledge and process involved in skillful reading, the issues surrounding their acquisition, and the implications for reading instruction.
K-W-L: A Teaching Model That Develops Active Reading of Expository Text
Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39, 564-570.
This simple procedure helps teachers become more responsive to students' knowledge and interests when reading expository material, and it models for students the active thinking involved in reading for information.
Reciprocal Teaching of Comprehension-Fostering and Comprehension-Monitoring Activities
Palincsar, A.S., & Brown, A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 2, 117-175.
In these two studies, 7th graders with low reading comprehension were taught four study activities: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. Instruction was by reciprocal teaching, where an adult tutor and children alternately discussed the text. In Study 1, a comparison between the reciprocal
teaching method and a second intervention modeled on typical classroom practice resulted in greater gains and maintenance over time for the reciprocal procedure. Reciprocal teaching, with an adult model guiding the student to interact with the text in more sophisticated ways, led to a significant improvement
in the quality of the summaries and questions. It also led to sizable gains on criterion tests of comprehension, reliable maintenance over time, generalization to classroom comprehension tests, transfer to novel tasks that tapped the trained skills of summarizing, questioning, and clarifying, and improvement in standardized comprehension scores. Many of these results were replicated in Study 2. In contrast to Study 1, which was conducted by an experimenter, Study 2 examined group interventions conducted by volunteer teachers with their existing reading groups.
QAR: Enhancing Comprehension and Test Taking Across Grades and Content Areas
Raphael, T.E., & Au, K.H. (2005). QAR: Enhancing comprehension and test taking across grades and content areas. The Reading Teacher, 59, 206-221.