Curriculum and instruction

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, quoted from this blog....

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 well-researched...

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 experienced educators to...

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 strong phonemic...

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...

October 29, 2019

When I became a reading interventionist, my first graders taught me that Guided Reading isn’t as effective as I had once believed. Initially, my attention was on my readers’ “strengths.” Mistakes in reading were not problems but rather “miscues,” windows into my students’ minds and reassurance that they needed me for guidance as they read.

But as I observed my students, I noticed them...

October 21, 2019

There’s new momentum behind teaching reading more directly and explicitly, but many of us are wondering: is this just another swing of a pendulum? It’s hard to believe that investing in new reading practices is worthwhile if the new practices will fall out of favor in a few years. But for district leaders who want to make a lasting impact, there is no better focus than reading...

October 21, 2019

Teacher question: I know phonics should be taught explicitly and we have looked through several sources to determine the patterns to teach in first grade. I have been pouring through leveled texts and have found a high concentration of blends, digraphs, long vowel/silent 'e', and predictable vowel teams in text as low as levels 4 and 6. We are not teaching these patterns...

October 7, 2019

Teacher question:

What does it mean that something has research support? I’ve been a teacher for years and I’ve taught hundreds of children to read. Now I’m being told that in our district we are expected to teach in some new way that has research behind it. I like how I teach reading and I don’t want to change. Why should I?

Shanahan's response...

September 30, 2019

Teacher question: What’s the best way to teach and have students master vocabulary?

Shanahan's response:

My original reaction to this question was not exactly what I’d label a model of helpfulness.

The question was asked by someone new to my blog and I started to send him a note telling him I’d written about that several times...

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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