About reading

November 29, 2016

Letter to Shanahan:   Our school is in review which means that we have to improve reading test performance — or else. We are doing some crazy things with test preparation (that I know you disagree with), but we have also been ordered to put a big emphasis on reading homework. I’ve never been a big fan of homework because not all the kids do it and that doesn’t seem fair....

October 11, 2016

Last week I answered a teacher’s question about free reading time during the school day and its relationship to reading motivation (e.g., making kids like reading). I pointed out that such reading time has a rather weak relationship with learning (various...

September 27, 2016

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...

September 16, 2016

Question: I am now director of literacy in my district. I am advocating for interactive read alouds, shared reading, guided reading, and similar activities in our primary grades (K-3). Is there a research base that would allow me to determine how many minutes of these activities I should prescribe? Could you provide me with a copy of that research? Shanahan's...

August 15, 2016

When I was 18 years old, I was a volunteer tutor in an inner-city school. I wasn’t an education major — that came later — but I was intent on saving the world. I was excited about the idea of going into the city and working with elementary school kids who were growing up in poverty.

July 5, 2016

We in education tend to have very strong beliefs. And, those beliefs can overwhelm our knowledge — or even our willingness to gain knowledge.   Last week’s entry here focused on teaching kids with more challenging texts than we’ve been told to use in the past. The reason for the change wasn’t some brilliant insight on my part, but a gradual accumulation of direct research evidence. Evidence...

May 24, 2016

Teacher question: I have just been hired as a reading coach in a school where I have been a third-grade teacher. My principal wants me to raise reading achievement and he says that he’ll follow my lead. I think I’m a good teacher, but what does it take to raise reading achievement in a whole school (K-5) with 24 teachers?   Shanahan's response:   It...

February 29, 2016

I was making a presentation about how to raise reading achievement. I was taking my audience through research on what needed to be taught and how it needed to be taught if kids were to do as well as possible. I was telling about my experiences as director of reading of the Chicago Public Schools at a time when my teachers raised reading achievement.

When I finished, a teacher approached...

January 5, 2016

If you have ever had surgery, you probably have had the weird experience of signing off on a bunch of medical paperwork. The oddest form is the one that gives the surgeon permission to assault you. Think about it. Usually we don’t want people poking at us with knives. Doctors can’t do that either, unless we give our permission. Otherwise, every tonsillectomy would lead to a 911 call.

...

October 19, 2015

Teacher question:

Our school district is going wild over Lexiles because they are in the Common Core standards. I think they are overdoing it and don’t feel comfortable with some of the decisions that we are making. What are the weaknesses of Lexiles?

First, Lexiles is only one of several readability measures included in the CCSS. They started with that...

October 13, 2015

Reader Question:

The Atlantic just published an article about the mistake American educators make by teaching reading in kindergarten. Shouldn’t we do what the Finns do: let kids learn to read when they want to and end up with...

September 30, 2015

Question from a teacher:

Our preK-5 school has a number of struggling readers, and we were told yesterday that we should focus only on fluency and accuracy, not comprehension or vocabulary. We were also told that we really shouldn't be using our grade level reading materials or complex texts in the classroom until students are fluent and accurate. I'd love to hear...

September 24, 2015

Today I was talking to a group of educators from several states. The focus was on adolescent literacy. We were discussing the fact that various programs, initiatives, and documents — all supposedly research-based efforts — were promoting the idea that teachers should collect formative assessment data.

I pointed out that there wasn’t any evidence that it actually works at improving...

July 2, 2015

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...

April 16, 2015

Our district is wrestling with how much emphasis to give rhyming as an early literacy skill. We had previously downplayed rhyming as a necessary focus but the new CA ELA/ELD Framework and CCSS where rhyming is specifically called out has resurfaced old questions.

Our struggle is this .... with our very high (87%) English Learner population, rhyming is one of the later...

April 6, 2015

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...

December 1, 2014

Years ago, when the National Reading Panel (NRP) report came out, Congress tried to impose a national literacy sequence on American schools. Their plan only allowed phonemic awareness instruction until kids could fully segment words. Then the law would let us teach phonics… but no fluency until the word sounding was completed. Eventually we’d even get to comprehension — at least for the most...

November 25, 2014

In a recent workshop I attended, the following comment was made:

"A child cannot read and comprehend at a level higher than they can listen and comprehend. A deficit in listening comprehension predicts a deficit in reading comprehension." Could you explain this correlation further or refer me to professional reading material that would expound on this topic?

This long-standing...

November 4, 2014

Want to win an argument about literacy? Just claim your approach is “balanced.”

Balanced is a affirmative term. That’s why Fox-News claims to be “fair and balanced.” It not only makes your position sound reasonable, but implies your opponents may be a bit off, you know, imbalanced.

So it is not too surprising that school principals and district literacy leaders often...

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"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." — Frederick Douglass