Blog Posts

19 November, 2017

Are read-alongs (round robin, popcorn) a good idea?

Teacher question:   I'm a UK teacher; we use read-along here a lot (the teacher or pupils read a text to the whole class while the other pupils follow in their own text). There is a growing concern that this is ineffective for several reasons. Chief at the moment is that reading and listening simultaneously has a higher cognitive load than either independent reading or listening alone. What do you recommend? Shanahan response: The practice of having students read-along as you describe is often referred to with what is now a pejorative term, “round robin.” That term originally comes from the UK, so perhaps ...

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12 November, 2017

Does Oral Language Instruction Improve Literacy?

Teacher question: I’ve looked at your framework and am surprised that it doesn’t include oral language. I’m a kindergarten teacher and can’t imagine leaving that out. Am I misunderstanding something? Shanahan answer: I feel your pain.   Yes, you’re correct that my framework focuses on the teaching of phonological awareness, decoding/spelling, vocabulary, oral reading fluency, reading comprehension, and writing. But not oral language.   And, like you, I agonize over that omission (if it is one).   I emphasize PA, phonics, and the rest of those literacy components as the focus of teaching because research shows that teaching those things leads to improvements in literacy. You teach kids to ...

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05 November, 2017

If You Really Want Higher Test Scores: Rethink Reading Comprehension Instruction

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) began testing fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-graders in 1970 to find out how well American kids could read. NAEP was to evaluate national reading performance twice a decade. The idea wasn’t to provide an estimate of how well each child could read, but simply to index the level of American literacy. In fact, back then NAEP wasn’t even allowed to describe how the individual states were doing; and, at that time no states were evaluating reading. Boy, have things changed. In the early 1990s, NAEP expanded to permit state comparisons—meaning that more students had to be ...

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29 October, 2017

Are E-Books a Good Idea for the Science Class?

Teacher question:  A colleague asked me about using e-books in high school science classes instead of textbooks. I like the idea that e-books might be more current and kids would likely read outside of class if they didn’t have to lug a huge book home. However, I remember reading something about the brain processing the reading of e-books differently than traditional texts. Do you know of any sound research on that? Shanahan response: I knew this question was coming.   Back about 25 years ago or so, I just knew someone would ask me about such reading. So I conducted a small study.   No, I didn’t ...

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22 October, 2017

Does Reader's Workshop Promote Close Reading Adequately?

Teacher question: I’m a regular reader and it seems to me that you undervalue activities like Reader’s Workshop and what it can do for children. Letting them pick their own books is great for their motivation and this isn’t like free reading, independent reading, or SSR because I meet with them regularly, one-on-one, to talk about what they are reading. There is more to teaching reading than phonics lessons or fluency practice.  Shanahan response: Thanks for being a regular reader and I hope that you’ll continue to be after you read my answer. Your inference is right on the button. I’m not a big ...

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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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