Content Area Literacy

May 28, 2017

Perhaps growing up in Southwest Florida inspired Susan Stockdale’s love of nature. Perhaps it was being the youngest of five that encouraged her to look closely at the world all around. In any case, Susan now lives near Washington, D.C. where she both illustrates and writes lyrical nonfiction for children, sharing her appreciation and unique perspective on nature familiar and extraordinary....

March 16, 2017

A slew of letters seeking ideas on disciplinary literacy: Teacher 1: The Common Core highlights that every teacher is a reading and writing teacher in their discipline. I think this idea is important in combination with the best practices for content area learning. My main interest in this is based on helping students who struggle to learn to read in early grade levels,...

February 7, 2017

We’ve had a mild winter here in Virginia and the lack of snow got me thinking about a past cold and snowy adventure to the boyhood home of Almanzo Wilder in upstate New York.

The trip to the Wilder farm happened long before my mother, niece, son and I took our summertime Little Journey to the homes of Laura Ingalls Wilder...

January 25, 2017

It all started with a question. What was their story? Author Linda Barrett Osborne wanted to find out more about her great grandparents who came from Italy in the 1880s and 1890s to the United States — much like the English who settled in Jamestown, Virginia, in the 17th century.

What she found was that America offered hope to people seeking a better life through economic and...

October 11, 2016

There are few adults who don’t remember where they were on September 11, 2001.  People young and old continue to feel the impact of the events of that day.  It’s hard to keep in mind that there are many, many children who were simply not born when the horrific events of that day unfolded and may not be conscious of how their lives have been altered.

Two recent books reminded me not...

August 30, 2016

Monica Brown’s life is full of words. She not only writes for and teaches adults, she introduces children to memorable characters in fact and fiction. I met Monica first through stories about Marisol, Lola, and Celia Cruz but one day met the woman behind the words. I stopped at a booth during a conference and met the writer who brought these characters to life for me. Happily, she agreed to...

August 30, 2016

This summer we traveled to France for a friend’s wedding and the Tour de France. It was a trip that included a long road trip with multiple stops. I thought a fun way to get the kids excited about the trip would be a map exercise: creating a visual itinerary to help the kids understand where we were going and what we’d be seeing.

It gave us an excuse to check out some books...

August 22, 2016

We live in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and it’s been hot. Really hot. And based on the weather reports we’ve seen this summer, much of this country has experienced at least one, if not many heat waves already. Addie and I have been reading about the topic of weather, and she was...

August 11, 2016

When you ask my daughter Addie what she wants to be when she grows up, she’ll say a number of things, one of which is wanting to be an architect. When you ask her why she wants to be an architect, she’ll tell you that buildings come in all sorts of interesting shapes and designs. She may also mention that it’d be fun to build dollhouses.

I wanted to help her explore the world...

August 9, 2016

Last month I read an article about Clip-Air, a concept for a new modular aircraft. Clip-Air would separate the wings from the fuselage so that body of the plane could be loaded with passengers or cargo anywhere — like a bus station or train depot — and then driven to the wings for takeoff. Even more cool is that up to three passenger or...

August 4, 2016

Reader question: We just started close reading in our district last year. Our second graders were given text that was a grade level above their reading level. We were told to let them figure it out. They could not even read the first sentence it was too hard for their reading level. The reading coaches said they will learn to read it by letting them struggle with it. The...

August 3, 2016

As a parent, I’m always looking for outdoor activities in the summer to do with the kids right at home, especially the “no fuss, no muss” types of activities. It turns out having your very own Olympics at home is easy to set up, and easy to execute. With the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics upon us, it was the perfect time to host our very own “Go Olympics!” event, and it also turned out to...

June 28, 2016

The Smithsonian's Learning Lab team members are in Denver, Colorado this week for the 2016 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. Staff members traveled to unveil more than one million digital resources that students can use to discover, create, and share.

Educators and students who are into maker spaces, project-based learning, and Universal...

June 20, 2016

Thanks Listen Current! Great stories await learners in grades 5-12 this summer and this listening comprehension program is free.

Get on board at Summer of Listening, an audio approach to learning about the real world. The program of podcasts stands to improve listening...

June 20, 2016

"Summertime and the living is easy, fish are jumping, and the cotton is high..."    It is summer and not a good time for a long blog on literacy teaching. So, I took the time to write a short one. I didn't want to get worked up in the summer heat, so have provided a pithy critique of 5 popular myths about reading instruction.  1.  The fact that you do not use a textbook to teach...

May 3, 2016

Years ago I took ballroom dance. I used to write about those experiences in this space. It was a great opportunity for me as teacher, since with dance I struggled greatly (something there is about having your legs bound for the first year of life that makes graceful movement a challenge).

April 20, 2016

Reader question: I am currently teaching workshops and courses on reading and the Common Core and have approached these with regard to disciplinary literacy. So many of the teachers involved are seeing the value of creating discipline-specific reading experiences in their classrooms. This is especially true of secondary teachers but upper elementary as well.

Where we...

April 4, 2016

Anyone who has taught reading — or really any course that requires a textbook — knows about kids who struggle to make sense of the text. Often they don’t even try. The text just looks hard and they’re ready to run. We’ve been talking a lot about complex text since the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) burst on the scene. But most of that talk has focused on how to find texts that meet the...

March 21, 2016

Teacher question: I’m confused. Our standards say that we have to teach kids to read at 820 Lexiles, but my third-graders aren’t even close to that. They are instructional at Level N on the Fountas & Pinnell gradient that my school uses. This makes no sense. How can I get my kids to such a high level in the time that we have? Shanahan responds:

I receive...

January 20, 2016

Teacher question: In terms of teaching comprehension to grade 3-5 students, what is the best way to help the readers transfer the strategies they are taught so they can be independent, self-regulated readers? Shanahan's response:  If you want to teach reading comprehension strategies to on-grade level students between the ages of 8-10, we have a pretty...

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"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb