Blog Posts

11 February, 2018

Reading Recommendations for the Five and Unders

Recently I was interviewed by Fatherly, a website that focuses on providing parenting advice to dads. They wanted some book recommendations for babies, toddlers, and kindergartners. This link will connect you to the first in their series on this topic, and below I provide elaborated answers to these timely questions.    What is the ideal form of baby books? Babies very early on exhibit what is called the palmar reflex… that is if something touches or grazes their palms, their little hands lock on it. I guess that keeps them from falling out of trees or something. Try touching a finger or your hair ...

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04 February, 2018

Which is best? Analytic or synthetic phonics?

Teacher question: I’ve taught literacy and literacy courses in every grade from K-graduate school. I take the view that synthetic phonics taught directly and systematically is essential to any literacy program. However, we also propose that teachers be given the training an option to use analytic phonics when, after reasonable attempts of using direct instruction, the synthetic phonics approach fails a particular child. I recognize that currently virtually no one is doing it that way. At the moment my criticism of systematic synthetic phonics is not that is shouldn’t be done, it should. Rather it is that the way it is ...

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27 January, 2018

On Science Reading, Informational Text, and Reading Pullout Programs

Question: I came across your article Informational Text: Or How Thin Can You Slice the Salami and wanted to reach out to you. I'm analytical and I work with other analytical thinkers. But I am also surrounded by reading specialists, literacy coaches, etc. who think differently. When I visit schools, I observe students who are analytical. They're interested in facts and the world. They prefer expository books to narrative nonfiction or fiction.  I'm concerned that young analytical thinkers are being underserved by literacy educators, who are more comfortable with narrative writing.  Shanahan responds: Your letter came at a very good time. Recently, I’ve been working ...

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21 January, 2018

Should We Test Reading or DIBELS?

Teacher question: I teach first-grade and this year I switched schools. In my previous school, we tested our students with DIBELS three times a year. The idea was to figure if the students were having trouble with decoding so that we could help them. That isn’t how my new principal does it. He has us giving kids a reading comprehension test with leveled books. I asked him about it and he said that the district didn’t care about DIBELS and he didn’t care about DIBELS (he only cares about how kids do on the ____ test). I’m confused. I thought the ...

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14 January, 2018

The New Reading Program Implementation Blues

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 data if we don't have fidelity our first year? That's the direction that we've taken. I'm sure that you appreciate the “change” process. We've changed a lot of behaviors but I'm afraid that we haven't changed a lot of beliefs of teachers about reading instruction. Our mid-year reading performance data ...

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07 January, 2018

More Bad Ideas about Why We Should Avoid Complex Text Reading Instruction

Welcome to 2018.   During the interim, several intriguing questions have been submitted and soon I’ll be taking those on. This posting responds not to your questions, but to some public comments made by various colleagues concerning complex text and its use in instruction. My comments are responses to their handwringing over the requirement that we teach kids to read complex text.  We should be concerned about the use of complex text for instruction because text complexity has a negative correlation with reading comprehension and reading fluency.   The premise here is correct, but the conclusion is false. This is what logicians refer to as the ...

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21 December, 2017

Have a Happy and Literate Holiday

No blog today, just holiday greetings. Wishing you and yours a wonderful and literate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and New Years. Thank you for following my blog. I look forward to our continued relationship in the coming year.

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17 December, 2017

What's the Difference Between Close Reading and Teaching Complex Text?

Teacher question: Aren’t “teaching with complex text” and “teaching close reading” really the same idea, just in different words? Some of my teachers are confused by these terms. Some of them, like me, think they are the same idea, while others think they are really two different standards. How can I clarify this for them?  Shanahan response: I must admit that the first time this confusion presented itself to me, I was pretty darned surprised. I was supposed to make two presentations to some California teachers—an AM and a PM talk, and the reading supervisor wanted to know the two titles. I suggested one ...

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09 December, 2017

What Does Listening Capacity Tell Us about Reading?

Teacher question: I was wondering if you are able to provide me with a clearer understanding of what a “silent Reading and Listening Capacity Test” is all about.  Shanahan responds: The whole idea of administering silent reading and listening capacity tests is two-fold. A silent reading test would be used to determine how well a student can comprehend text when reading silently. Typically, such a test would be administered using graded or leveled passages. Thus, if the student could read the fourth-grade passages with 75% or higher comprehension, but could only read the fifth-grade passages with 50% comprehension, we might say something like, ...

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02 December, 2017

Time for Literacy Charity

It is that time of the year again. For the past five years, I have devoted one blog posting to encouraging readers to support literacy charities. I know many of you do so much to teach and promote reading and writing, and I applaud your good works. It only seems fitting that your charitable giving be aligned with your admirable personal and professional efforts on behalf of literacy. Each year, I have provided a list of international and national (or at least multi-regional charities) that support literacy teaching or provide books to needy populations. I lack the resources to vet all the ...

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One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

He studies reading and writing across all ages and abilities. Feel free to contact him.