About reading

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.

As a...

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...

January 23, 2018

Teacher question:

I am a reading coordinator. We are in our first year of implementing a new reading program. As we have rolled out the new curriculum, we've been explicit about the reading instructional practices and routines that we expect to see used each day. We’ve had lots of PD. How else are we going to know the impact that the series has on our achievement...

December 5, 2017

Teacher question:

Our schools have recently sent the home reports and parent-teacher meetings have recently taken place. I have heard from quite a few concerned parents that teachers have told them their child is 'struggling with reading' and have recommended reading to the child at least 20 minutes a day. These are parents of children k-2. The recommendation to...

November 28, 2017

Teacher question

I’ve looked at your framework and am surprised that it doesn’t include oral language. I’m a kindergarten teacher and can’t imagine leaving that out. Am I misunderstanding something?

Shanahan's answer

I feel your pain.

Yes, you’re correct that my framework focuses on the teaching of phonological...

September 14, 2017

Man, sometimes when you publish a blog entry you’d wish you stayed in bed.

You hope to write something that someone will find useful. But the responses might make you feel more like you’ve been dropped onto the set of Fox News or MSNBC.

Recently, I’ve experienced some interesting responses.

For example:

Studies show that phonemic awareness (PA) training helps young...

September 12, 2017

Last week, I pointed out that research had found few interactions in literacy learning. That is, research hasn't actually uncovered many situations in which different kinds of kids learn differently — despite many claims to the contrary.

The idea that research...

September 6, 2017

Someone put a bug in my ear, and I started writing, and by the time I was done, I had two blogs rather than one. I'll set the table with this one, and bring it to conclusion next time.

One of the best things about research is that it can let the wind out of windbags and force some hard thinking. Our field suffers fatuous pronouncements as much as any. An example?

How about the...

August 27, 2017

Teacher question:My district has moved into an approach of asking teachers to locate materials for standards-based instruction. They have opted to create assessments to isolate individual standards to teach/test each standard individually. Each assessment is named by reading standard and is associated with grade-level English Language Arts courses. What thoughts do you...

August 22, 2017

Teacher question:

I coordinate reading interventions for my district. I have been told to stop referring to the National Reading Panel, as it is old and no longer relevant. Our universal screener is based on the 5 components of reading, and our basal interventions are also aligned to the "big 5". I don't think there is any way for me to stop referencing the NRP....

July 10, 2017

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.

Typically...

June 1, 2017

Teacher question:

Our district is exploring and embracing Personalized Learning. We have a committee that has been going to professional development all year and a small group that is trying this out in their classrooms. Next year another group of teachers will be brought on to implement personalized learning and mentor under those trying it this year.

...

May 28, 2017

Teacher question:

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

Shanahan's response:

I love this question because it cuts to the heart of everything we do. If teachers don’t have clear purchase on what it takes to become a good reader, and what some kids might be...

May 28, 2017

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.

In general,...

April 2, 2017

Great report about beginning reading achievement in the most recent issue of Educational Researcher (Literacy Achievement Trends at Entry to First Grade). D’Agostino and Rodgers show that, beginning literacy skills have improved annually from 2002 through 2013. Beginning first-graders have...

January 17, 2017

Teacher question:   I truly want to help teachers strengthen their literacy instruction and students develop and strengthen their reading comprehension. I just viewed your online presentation on “How and How Not to Get Higher Test Scores” and I am intrigued. With only a few short months away from the testing frenzy as you can imagine administrators and teachers are in a...

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"If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book." —

J.K. Rowling