Blog Posts

06 August, 2017

Scaffolding the Reading of Seventh-Grade English Learners: How Much is too Much?

Teacher question: I currently teach English as a Second Language to grades 6-8. Next year I will have high beginners, many of whose spring MapR reading scores are in the K-1 range (153-165), and many of whom had interrupted education in their home countries. Where I teach your work is cited as the basis for a requirement that we give all students, regardless of their ESOL level, grade-level texts in English in ESOL class.   While I am OK with scaffolding up 3 or 4 grade levels, I think the gap between readers at a K or 1 level and a 7th-grade ...

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30 July, 2017

Don't Let Content Area Reading Experts Confuse You About Disciplinary Literacy

About the queries: Twice in the past couple of weeks I’ve heard about an article that directly challenges ideas I’ve published on Disciplinary Literacy (Dunkerly-Bean, J., & Bean, T. (2016). Missing the savoir for the connaissance: Disciplinary and content area reading as regimes of truth. Journal of Literacy Research, 48(4), 448-476.) My first contact on that said that I needed to respond somehow. I demurred not thinking it mattered much. Then, this week someone wrote saying that obviously, we don’t need to teach disciplinary literacy since there is no such thing—we can just keep doing what we have been doing with ...

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23 July, 2017

Everything You Wanted to Know about Repeated Reading

We’re in the dog days of summer. Not many questions coming in right now—normal for periods when schools aren’t in session. But the following query came to me this week from Ireland came to me this week via Twitter—showing that it isn’t only the President using that network (which also made me notice that my questioner spelled all the words right). Teacher question: Any link to how the 'Repeated Reading' strategy works? How long text can be repeated, how long can text be, depends on accuracy?  Shanahan response: This is such a basic question that I was gobsmacked by it. These are just the ...

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15 July, 2017

Phonics for English Learners? What Do You Think?

Teacher question:                   I am interested in understanding how phonemic awareness and phonics can support students who do not have a structure for learning the English language. For example, English Language Learners who have no structure for language in their home language or in English. If you can suggest resources that address this matter I would be so grateful.    Shanahan response:                   The research on these aspects of second-language literacy learning is limited. However, the research that has been done indicates that English learners clearly benefit from explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics for English reading (Shanahan & Beck, 2006).                   That ...

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09 July, 2017

Language at the Speed of Sight—On Cueing Systems, Phonemes, Speed Reading, and Sequences of Learning

                  A few months ago, I read Mark Seidenberg’s “Language at the Speed of Sight.” Seidenberg is a psychologist who studies reading, and his book is remarkably intelligent, frank, and witty. I think there is an occasional mistake or ambiguity here and there, but overall I was mesmerized.                   Typically, I don’t do reviews here and don’t intend to today. Instead, I have pulled several incisive quotes from the text that captured my attention (there were many more, I assure you), and I have added comments of my own. I hope you and your colleagues ...

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25 June, 2017

Is Kindergarten Tracking on the Wrong Track?

 Dear Dr. Shanahan,     Currently, I am a Kindergarten Reading Interventionist at our K-2 school. My team is struggling with some philosophical differences about how students are placed in classrooms. Most of the kindergarten teachers feel we should be looking at the whole child (academic, emotional, social…) and find the best match for each individual child. But our school places students by guided reading level. Each class would have a certain range of guided reading levels in their class. The idea is to lessen the range of levels in each classroom so there is not a huge spread, making instruction more ...

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18 June, 2017

Is Building Knowledge the Best Way to Increase Literacy Achievement?

Teacher question:         E.D. Hirsch makes a compelling argument for the systematic teaching of essential knowledge in elementary school as the best way to close the achievement gap. Daisy Daidalou in her book, Seven Myths of Education, makes a similar argument for building a broad, but not necessarily deep, knowledge base in assumed knowledge to improve reading comprehension. First, is there a solid research base for their claims? Second, what are the implications for a middle school, especially one with many students who are lacking strong background knowledge? Thank you.  Shanahan response:       Research over the past 40 years ...

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11 June, 2017

Reading Aloud to Kids and Why Lessons Need Purposes

Teacher’s question: Teachers in grades 3, 4 and 5 spend weeks and weeks (like 5-6) reading aloud chapter books to their students. In some classrooms, students have a copy of the book. Is there research that speaks to the effectiveness of a read-aloud over a period of time? Does student interest wane after 2 weeks or so? Are there ways to think strategically about read aloud time ... to incorporate instruction? What do we want students to know and be able to do as a result of a read aloud in this context? How can we structure close reading of passages for struggling ...

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04 June, 2017

What about those weekly tests that come with our core reading program?

Teacher question:   Our core reading program includes weekly assessments. We are all supposed to give those tests every week, but to tell the truth, it is kind of hit or miss. The tests don’t seem to be linked to our accountability test, but our reading coordinator says that we have to do weekly testing if we are going to use the program “with fidelity.” What do you think? Shanahan response:      We are testing too much. Weighing the pig more frequently don’t make him no fatter! And there are no such thing as "insta-tests" (tests that could be given in an instant ...

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28 May, 2017

Teaching Reading in a Noisy Environment

Teacher question: Our district is exploring and embracing Personalized Learning. We have a committee that has been going to professional development all year and a small group that is trying this out in their classrooms. Next year another group of teachers will be brought on to implement personalized learning and mentor under those trying it this year.   Coinciding with this, our elementary building will be undergoing renovation and a committee has been working on plans. Construction is to begin next school year. We have not seen the final plans. They will not show them to the staff yet. The guidelines for their ...

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