Curriculum and instruction

June 12, 2020

Teacher question: I very much like your idea of teaching students to read with grade-level books. However, I’ve always taught with guided reading groups, trying to match my students to books that they can already read reasonably well. I don’t know how to go about what you are recommending. Help!

Shanahan's response:

As a primary grade teacher, I...

May 29, 2020

NOTE: Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Maryanne Wolf for adding her thoughts this piece.

More the same than different

Many of us assume that, because each child is a unique human being, every child learns to read in a different way. This widespread misconception causes unnecessary difficulty...

May 11, 2020

Teacher question: I attended your recent webinar and you said that students should figure out the meanings of words from context and that they needed to be able to deal with syntax. But I’ve also read that you are against the 3-cueing systems. Isn’t that a contradiction? It seems hypocritical to criticize teachers for teaching 3-cueing and then to turn and around and...

April 14, 2020

This month’s school closures have forced families to become teachers at home overnight. 

What we know about beginning readers

Children progress as readers at different rates, but they pass through predictable stages of development. For typically-developing readers, the stages of reading can be ...

April 6, 2020

Hello, Reading World! As with most of you, I’m sheltering in place … biding my time until the Great Pandemic Pandemonium subsides. Although despite being at what is currently an awkward (and apparently dangerous) age, I feel pretty safe locked down here in Chicago. Nevertheless, like all of you, I'm worried about family members who are on the front line in this fight, my...

March 23, 2020

Teacher question: I’m confused. I’ve worked with Lexiles for years and my district provided us with a chart showing the levels of books to use for each grade level. Then Common Core came along with a different chart that put different book levels with each grade level. I don’t live in a Common Core state, but I’m still not sure which chart to use. Can you help me?...

March 10, 2020

Teachers can speak a lot of things into existence (a quiet line in the hallway, students sitting “criss, cross, applesauce”) but a love of reading isn’t one of them. Enthusiasm is a part of good teaching, but communicating a love of books isn’t the same thing as teaching reading. I learned that the hard way.

When reading comes easily, it’s easy to love it

Reading courses in my...

February 24, 2020

Teacher question: Everyone says reading and writing are connected. But our school focuses on only reading. We have a reading program (we don’t have a writing program). We test the students three times a year in reading, but never in writing. Writing isn’t even on our report card, though I guess it is part of Language Arts. What should we be doing with writing?

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February 17, 2020

Recently, The Washington Post published an article about the latest hostilities in the “reading wars.” I noticed it because the columnist, Jay Matthews...

February 6, 2020

Teacher question: When working with state educational standards are the expectations for the student to be able to accomplish each of the standards with grade level text. Some of us believe that if a fourth-grade student can determine the main idea in a second-grade text that the student has mastered that standard. Please help us settle this argument.

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January 30, 2020

Confession

I always had students who entered my fourth grade class reading significantly below grade level. And each year, when I passed them on to fifth grade, those students were still behind. I did everything I knew how to do — I taught Guided Reading lessons, provided independent reading time, found them books to love, replied to readers’ response journals- but no matter what I tried in...

January 27, 2020

Interesting question.

Before I answer, let me ask one: What keeps Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, up at night?

You know Amazon, the trillion-dollar corporation that delivers something like a 5 billion packages a year.

I’m at a professional meeting. The chair asks what “levers” we have for improving reading achievement in the U.S.

It’s an easy question. There are...

January 23, 2020

As the foundations of Balanced Literacy begin to crumble, the proponents of Balanced Literacy are  presenting a new theory of reading, which they call the Complex View.  In this reincarnation of the reading wars, the Complex View seeks to counter a...

January 21, 2020

Teacher Question: I’m a big phonics promoter. Recently, someone challenged me saying that the fact that Reading First didn’t work shows that emphasizing phonics is a bad idea. Can you help?

Shanahan's response:

In 2001, the President and the U.S. Congress agreed on the creation of a $5 billion program to enhance reading instruction K-3...

January 13, 2020

Teacher question: I read your recent article on teaching with complex text in Perspectives in Language and Literacy and I agree with you. But I also read the IES Practice Guide that said that we should make sure kids are reading texts at instructional and independent levels (on page 33). Who’s right?

Shanahan's response:

Uh oh, don’t...

December 18, 2019

Planning with the creative and hard-working teachers on my fourth-grade team was rewarding (and occasionally hilarious), but our enthusiasm sometimes produced overly-complicated plans. If a plan was becoming unwieldy, one of us would interrupt the process and say to the team:

If it’s this complicated, it’s probably not right.

We’d then pause, rearticulate our goals,...

December 8, 2019

It’s been a bad week for fluency instruction.

I started getting emails questioning me on whether I supported the fluency ideas that my friend Tim Rasinski was advocating. These messages seemed to fall into two categories: those who were honestly horrified that Tim would offer something beyond what they believed to be part of the “science of reading” and those who hoped to bait me into...

November 26, 2019

Thank you for writing No One Gets to Own the Term “The Science of Reading.” I am so relieved that discussion of reading science has made its way into the balanced literacy community and that you’ve added your own voice to the conversation. You’re making it safe for...

November 20, 2019

I was determined to undo the bad reading habits my students had developed during guided reading. I exchanged a leveled reading program for one with decodables and used a diagnostic phonics assessment to regroup my students.

For some students, cracking the code was easy

Students with...

November 11, 2019

Teacher question: I've attached a Student Work Analysis tool that we are using. I have read that you oppose attempts to grade students on the individual reading standards. Although this tool is not used for grading students, it is a standard-by-standard analysis of the students’ work, and I wonder what you think of it? [The form that was included provided spaces for...

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"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person ..." —

Carl Sagan