About reading

August 19, 2019

Last week, I posed 5 questions as the first half of the Great American Phonics Quiz. I hope you did well on those items that focused on whether students could learn to read without phonics, what kind of contribution it makes to learning, whether phonics instruction needs to be...

August 12, 2019

Schools are so tied up with testing these days, and this being the season of “monitoring assessments,” maybe a back-to-school phonics quiz would be a good way to welcome you all back.

I was having so much fun writing these test questions that I considered either putting in for a job at ETS or including a Part II next week ... I decided on the latter.

Let’s see how you do. The...

June 28, 2019

Teacher question: Dr. Shanahan, I know that you don’t support independent reading at school. However, in my graduate program we are learning that research evidence shows that kids who read the most become the best readers. I don’t get why you don’t support this research-based practice.

Shanahan's response

In grad school my statistics...

June 11, 2019

Recently, the PBS News Hour aired a report about the parents of children who suffer from dyslexia. Their kids weren’t being taught phonics and weren’t learning to read. When phonics instruction was provided, they did better, and so the moms were pressuring their state to ensure other kids wouldn’t face the same neglect. It was a classic story of public institutions (in this case schools) not...

June 3, 2019

Recently PBS News Hour broadcast a segment about dyslexia and reading instruction. In response, 57 members of the Reading Hall of Fame submitted a letter of complaint, which has since been posted publicly.

Here is a link to the PBS segment and the letter is posted in the comments section following the video segment on this site:...

May 29, 2019

Teacher question: I keep hearing that teachers don’t know the science of reading. But all the teachers that I talk to say that they teach phonics. What’s really going on?

Shanahan's response: 

I suspect that both the critics and the teachers are telling you the truth.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a national education inspectorate...

May 22, 2019

Teacher question: Although the Reading Wars might be over (somewhat), I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve entered the era of Research Wars. What’s a literacy coach to do? 

Shanahan's response:

I think you’re onto something. I’ve been seeing the same thing.

Of course, the original “reading wars” back in the 1990s were research...

May 9, 2019

Teacher question: We place children in different kindergarten (or prekindergarten) tracks based upon their performances on a readiness screener — and in consultation with parents. However, our state now has a “Read by Grade Three” law, which requires retention in third grade for students who don’t meet that standard.

We have several students who are very...

April 1, 2019

Teacher question:

There is a big argument in my new district over whether or not it is a good idea to teach children to use the three cueing systems. What do you think? Why don’t you ever write about the cueing systems?

Shanahan’s response:

I don’t write about them because I’m not a fiction writer.

Don’t get me wrong,...

February 13, 2019

Teacher question: I'm looking for help with information or resources about text types for early readers. We have decodable text, text with high-frequency words, and predictive text. It seems like a reasonable strategy to provide our fragile readers with more opportunities to read these low-complexity texts while we shore up issues with phonological awareness. 

...

January 30, 2019

Teacher question:

If you were teaching second-grade what would your schedule look like?

Shanahan's response:

This question — in various forms — came up a lot this week in response to last week’s posting. Here is my thinking on this.

I start from the premise that I want kids to get between 120-180 minutes per day of reading...

January 22, 2019

Teacher question: The National Assessment of Educational Progress says that only 37% of 4th graders are reaching reading proficiency. Why is it so low?

Shanahan's response

Why do so few American kids read well?

There seems to be plenty of blame to go around. Parents? Society? Too much screen time? Poverty? Immigration? You and me...

December 17, 2018

Teacher question: I hope and pray that you write about or repost regarding state reading assessments. I just received a call from a frantic academic coach stating that her principal has told her teachers to look at our state test’s achievement level descriptors and create test-based questions aligned to those levels to ask when immersing students in literature and...

November 15, 2018

I talk a lot about research in this space.

I argue for research-based instruction and policy.

I point out a dearth of empirical evidence behind some instructional schemes, and champion others that have been validated or verified to my satisfaction.

Some readers are happy to find out what is “known,” and others see me as a killjoy because the research findings don’t...

August 1, 2018

Teacher question: 

Should we teach letter names or letter sounds to beginning readers?

Shanahan's response:

Twice recently teachers have asked this question. In both instances they said they’d been told teaching letter names confused children and that “best practice” was to focus on the sounds rather than the letter names....

June 15, 2018

Teacher question:

We are trying to raise our third-grade reading scores. What do you think of “platooning” to help us meet that goal?

Shanahan's response:

Platooning, or what in my time was called “departmentalization,” is apparently on the rise in America’s primary grades. Schools like yours are hungry to raise reading and...

April 30, 2018

Teacher question:

I am a reading specialist and a parent. My daughter is in first grade. Her classroom teachers have all the books in the classroom library leveled, and students are not allowed to go beyond their reading level during "Independent" reading. If the teacher assesses a child inaccurately, then that child is stuck reading texts that may be too easy or...

April 9, 2018

The last couple weeks I’ve clarified the definition of “independent reading” and explored the impact of kids doing required reading on their own at school.

Independence is obviously a gradient; the independence teachers often refer to isn’t about whether kids must read or not (it is usually required in these schemes), but it is about who picks the texts and whether there is any...

April 2, 2018

Last week I explained the concept of “independent reading.” Reviewing various documents from across the past 150 years — research studies, government reports, encyclopedia entries, pronouncements of august organizations, teacher blogs, methods guides — revealed that we educators have been pretty sloppy in our use of that term.

Of course, if everybody says independent reading, but no...

February 15, 2018

Teacher question:

I’ve taught literacy and literacy courses in every grade from K-graduate school. I take the view that synthetic phonics taught directly and systematically is essential to any literacy program. However, we also propose that teachers be given the training to use analytic phonics when, after reasonable attempts of using direct instruction, the...

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"I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books." —

Abraham Lincoln