June 23, 2020

Teacher question: You say that one-quarter or one-fifth of the reading instruction time should be spent on oral reading fluency. But I teach kindergarten and most of my kids can’t read, so fluency instruction doesn’t make any sense. What should I do instead?

Shanahan's response:

When we talk about oral reading fluency — or what I prefer...

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 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...

May 5, 2020

Teacher question: When providing fluency instruction, should time, such as the number of words per minute, be an element? Our school has been doing that, but elsewhere I’m hearing that we shouldn’t be doing that.

Shanahan's response

Fluency is a bit of a mash up and not a pure skill.

In fluency, it is important that students read...

April 21, 2020

Teacher’s question:

Our school psychologist tests all of our boy and girls for RAN. He says it is the best predictor of reading ability. How can I improve my students’ RAN performance?

Shanahan’s response:

If someone tells you that you can teach RAN, run!

RAN refers to “rapid automatized naming.” Back in the 1970s,...

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 ...

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 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...

January 5, 2020

Teacher question: What do you think about “modeling” in literacy instruction?

Shanahan’s reply:

Tyler’s mom sent me a video. It was riveting.

Like many 21st century parents, she had a camera going in the nursery at naptime. And, the camera revealed something pretty cool during an afternoon nap.

Tyler was a toddler. He had...

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...

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 23, 2019

My district, like so many others, uses Fountas and Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) as the primary measure of student reading progress. But if you’ve had doubts about the assessment and the ways BAS data is often used, you’re on to something…

Limited materials

An F&P Benchmark Assessment System kit provides us with only two books (one fiction...

August 6, 2019

Teacher question: When measuring oral reading fluency by, say, having kids read a grade-level text for one minute, I take note of speed and accuracy.  

1. Should I also measure expression? I certainly know expression is part of fluent reading, but isn’t a kid trying to read fast and accurate not really able to read with perfect expression? For...

May 29, 2019

Teacher question: I keep hearing that teachers don’t know the science of reading. But all the teachers that I talk to say that they teach phonics. What’s really going on?

Shanahan's response: 

I suspect that both the critics and the teachers are telling you the truth.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a national education inspectorate...

February 13, 2019

Teacher question: I'm looking for help with information or resources about text types for early readers. We have decodable text, text with high-frequency words, and predictive text. It seems like a reasonable strategy to provide our fragile readers with more opportunities to read these low-complexity texts while we shore up issues with phonological awareness. 


January 30, 2019

Teacher question:

If you were teaching second-grade what would your schedule look like?

Shanahan's response:

This question — in various forms — came up a lot this week in response to last week’s posting. Here is my thinking on this.

I start from the premise that I want kids to get between 120-180 minutes per day of reading...

January 7, 2019

Teacher question: 

How much does reading speed matter?  And if it is important, what is the best way to develop it in our learners? I’ve heard that 100 wpm is the minimal speed for comprehension. Is that a real thing? I believe the average speed is 200 wpm. 

Shanahans response:

I can find no minimal reading or listening speed for...

December 3, 2018

Teacher letter: 30% of our children are second-language learners — mainly from Mexico and Central America. The reason that I’m writing is that our school’s RtI program only provides Tier 2 interventions that are aimed at teaching decoding. That means when our 1st and 2nd graders are having trouble in reading (and many of them are), they get more phonics teaching. ...

April 18, 2018

Teacher question:

I wonder if you could comment on your blog about this crazy idea that the reading specialists should change the program every 12 weeks if a student is not showing growth on the one-minute reading fluency measure. I have second grade student who reads 80 wcpm with 97% accuracy. She made great growth in the fall but has leveled out this...

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...


"Reading is not optional." —

Walter Dean Myers