Blog Posts

15 October, 2017

It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over: On the Idea of Developing Third Grade Readers by Grade Three

  I often use this space to challenge myths about the teaching of reading.       And there are a bunch of those. (Sisyphus ‘R Us.)     Which one caught my eye this week?       A blog follower raised a question about educational policies aimed at getting all kids up to a third-grade reading level by Grade 3. He was surprised about my response, and maybe you will be, too.       There is a slew of studies that reveal the persistence of reading problems... for instance: http://www.shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/persistence-of-reading-problems-research-based-fact-or-urban-myth#sthash.rtzSGGAi.dpbs Those studies show that kids who are struggling with reading in the primary grades continue to ...

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08 October, 2017

How Do You Make Kids Love Reading?

How do you make kids love reading?   Before I answer, let’s consider something similar.   Several years ago, I invited Bertram Bruce to speak to our graduate students. Chip is a thoughtful, soft-spoken, Fulbright scholar at Urbana-Champaign who has spent a lot of time considering the role of technology in learning, and he has done some cool studies on reading and community inquiry.   While we were visiting, I asked him a question that was then nagging our Literacy faculty: How could we teach the teachers enrolled in our Master’s program to teach technology in their classrooms? Teacher preparation standards were starting to require that kind ...

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01 October, 2017

Creating an Effective Book Buddies Program: No More Magical Thinking

Teacher question: I am a reading specialist at a K-5 elementary school and I am working with classroom teachers to implement a book buddy program where older students (2nd and 3rd grade) will read to younger students (K and 1st grade). I am planning to spend some time with the older students to coach them on selecting appropriate books and engaging their buddies by reading with prosody and stopping to ask questions, make observations, etc. I would love to hear if you have done any research on the effectiveness of such programs or if you have any tips on how to ...

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24 September, 2017

We're Getting Odd Reading Results from Our Progress Monitoring Tests

Teacher question:   We are having an interesting conversation in our district. We currently give AIMSweb as a screening probe three times a year. One of the school psychologists pointed out that for the last several years the first graders seem to do better in the fall than in the spring on nonsense word fluency. When we look at measures of comprehension and fluency using other measures we do not see a decline. Is there any research out there that might help us understand what we are seeing and whether or not this is a serious issue?   Shanahan responds:   What you describe is a ...

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17 September, 2017

How to Teach Fluency So That It Takes

Teacher question: I have a question regarding my school's reading program. My question today is about the reading portion of our literacy block and most specifically the partner reading and independent reading. I'm finding that my homogenous group of fourth-grade students aren’t fluent readers. The routine expectation is that partners take turns reading a paragraph at a time. The partner who is following along and not reading aloud is to provide a brief summary of what was read by the partner before reading the next paragraph. I love this, except that my students aren't fluent readers, so I feel that first the comprehension ...

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10 September, 2017

Is Morphology Training Better Than Phonics Instruction?

Man, sometimes when you publish a blog entry you’d wish you stayed in bed. You hope to write something that someone will find useful. But the responses might make you feel more like you’ve been dropped onto the set of Fox News or MSNBC. Recently, I’ve experienced some interesting responses. m For example: Studies show that phonemic awareness (PA) training helps young kids learn to read (PreK through Grade 1). From those studies, I claimed we should teach PA to the point where kids can fully segment words into their individual phonemes. This conclusion was based both on the experimental impacts of training studies and ...

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03 September, 2017

Does One-Size-Fits-All Reading Instruction Work for Everyone Part II

 The Learner Characteristic that Leads to Different Learning       Last week, I pointed out that research had found few interactions in literacy learning. That is, research hasn't actually uncovered many situations in which different kinds of kids learn differently—despite many claims to the contrary.       The idea that research would identify important aptitude-treatment interactions has been trumpeted for a long time (Cronbach & Snow, 1977). It just hasn’t panned out, for the most part, when it comes to reading instruction.       Individual differences are extensive in reading—and in lots of variables that have a big impact upon learning (e.g., IQ, SES, ...

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27 August, 2017

Does One-Size-Fits-All Reading Instruction Work for Everyone

Someone put a bug in my ear, and I started writing, and by the time I was done, I had two blogs rather than one. I'll set the table with this one, and bring it to conclusion next time.        One of the best things about research is that it can let the wind out of windbags and force some hard thinking. Our field suffers fatuous pronouncements as much as any. An example?       How about the constant drumbeat concerning the failure of “one size fits all” instructional approaches? Seemingly, everybody agrees with that one.     I typed the terms ...

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20 August, 2017

A Spirited Reaction to One District's Approach to Standards-Based Reading Instruction

Teacher question: My district has moved into an approach of asking teachers to locate materials for standards-based instruction.  They have opted to create assessments to isolate individual standards to teach/test each standard individually. Each assessment is named by reading standard and is associated with grade-level English Language Arts courses. What thoughts do you have on how I might guide them to move from assessing isolated standards to a more integrated approach?  Shanahan response: Research has made it pretty clear that it is not possible to assess any of the individual standards so spending time on as your district is doing is a fool’s errand. Whatever scores or ratings ...

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13 August, 2017

Can I Still Rely on the National Reading Panel Report?

Teacher question: I coordinate reading interventions for my district. I have been told to stop referring to the National Reading Panel, as it is old and no longer relevant. Our universal screener is based on the 5 components of reading, and our basal interventions are also aligned to the "big 5". I don't think there is any way for me to stop referencing the NRP. Would you please comment? Shanahan's response:  That’s about as dopey as it gets.   The National Reading Panel reviewed a great deal of empirical study in the late 1990s (we published the NRP Report in 2000). There was not a ...

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