Vocabulary Strategy: Use of ContextAn important strategy to help students build their vocabulary is use of context – i.e., using the clues or hints provided in the text that surround an unfamiliar word to help guess the meaning without depending on a dictionary. This can include words, phrases, or sentences that appear before, after, or close to the word. It can also include visuals or headings embedded in the text – basically anything that helps a reader understand the meaning of an unfamiliar word. Expository, non-fiction text tends to offer more context clues than narrative text.
New Book: The Writing RopeI am pleased to announce that Brookes Publishing in August published my new book titled The Writing Rope: A Framework for Explicit Writing Instruction in All Subjects. I am also delighted that my friend and colleague, Jan Hasbrouck, wrote the foreword. The book can be ordered at the Brookes website. I wrote about The Writing Rope framework in a 2019 article, and again in a Literacy Lines January 2020 blog post.
Culturally Responsive Literacy InstructionCulturally Responsive Teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of meeting students where they are culturally and linguistically. It puts students at the center of instruction that validates and affirms students' identities and gives students from historically marginalized communities an equitable education experience. When culturally responsive educators validate and affirm students and bring them where they need to be academically, students are more likely to feel recognized, valued for their contributions, and eager to learn. (Hollie, 2017)
The Science of Reading ComprehensionThe term Science of Reading has been the focus of attention for several years (see my January, 2020 post). The term refers to the research that reading experts, especially cognitive scientists, have conducted on how we learn to read. This body of knowledge, over twenty years in the making, has helped debunk older methods of reading instruction that were based on tradition and observation, not evidence. Much of the discourse around instruction based on the Science of Reading tends to focus on the importance of explicit instruction for phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency. But what does the research tell us about effective instruction for comprehension?
Reading Intervention for Older Struggling StudentsIn the last few months I have seen a growing interest in adolescent literacy. This includes content literacy instruction for all students that is integrated across subject areas, as well as intervention instruction for older students who struggle with reading and writing. Between 2005 and 2015, a number of adolescent literacy research reports were published based on meta-analyses of research on effective practices for teaching reading and writing to older students, and the website AdLit.org was also launched (see the reference list).
What is adolescent literacy?Ever since the report of the National Reading Panel in 2000, significant emphasis has been placed on research-based practices for teaching reading in the elementary grades. Early literacy achievement, however, is not necessarily a guarantee that literacy skills will continue to grow as students move beyond grade 3. Scores at the secondary level, where there has been relatively little investment by school districts or states, have remained flat. A growing body of research has developed about what students beyond grade 3 need in order to keep growing their reading and writing skills, why some struggle, and what effective instruction looks like, beginning with two seminal research reports: Reading Next (2004) and Writing Next (2007).
Teaching Literacy Skills VirtuallyDuring this unprecedented 2020 to 2021 school year educators, students and parents across the country are struggling to adjust to ever-changing instructional models that combine in-person teaching, virtual online instruction, and asynchronous online learning. The numbers of students prior to the pandemic who had difficulty developing grade-level reading and writing skills was already too high, and the disruption to teaching and learning will only make things worse. Reading and writing skills are the foundation of all learning, so we must do the best we can to teach students of all grades the literacy skills they will need to be able to access the content in all subjects that they are missing because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I have met and heard about so many dedicated literacy educators and organizations who are meeting the challenge by developing resources to teach literacy skills virtually. This month's post will focus on resources for teaching reading and writing virtually.
Science of Reading in the NewsAs the number of articles, podcasts and blog posts related to the science of reading grows, I've been updating a list I started for our Keys to Literacy trainers to share. We have been getting so many requests about the list, that I decided to make it the focus of this post.
Building Executive Function SkillsA piece by Lisa Suh for the Edutopia blog about executive function caught my attention after I recently provided a professional development session for teachers about possible causes for difficulty with reading comprehension. During the training, I reviewed the following skill components associated with executive functions: organizing, goal setting, cognitive flexibility, working memory, and self-monitoring. Click here for a chart that defines each skill and its role in supporting reading.
A literacy planning model to support MTSSIn an earlier Literacy Lines post (What is MTSS? November 16, 2016) we explained an instructional framework that includes a universal screening of all students, multiple tiers of instruction and support services, and an integrated data collection and assessment system to inform decisions at each tier of instruction. An MTSS framework can be used for literacy, math, or supporting positive behavior. In order to successfully implement an MTSS framework for literacy, schools and districts must first complete a process to develop a literacy plan.
Patterns of OrganizationExpository text typically incorporates five common patterns of organization, and transition words and phrases often signal the use of these patterns in text. These patterns are sometimes referred to as text structures. They are more commonly found in informational and opinion types of writing, but may also be used in narratives.
What is Adolescent Literacy?“Reading is the key. Without it, the instruction for playing Monopoly, the recipe for Grandma’s lasagna, The Cat in the Hat, the directions to the job interview, the Psalms, the lyrics to Stairway to Heaven – all these and a lifetime of other mysteries large and small may never be known.” (Kansas City Start newspaper) The quote above reminds us that literacy skills in the 21st century are more essential than ever for success in education, work, citizenship, and our personal lives. However, far too many older students and adults do not have the necessary reading and writing skills to succeed in postsecondary education or the ever-increasing number of jobs that require literacy skills.
Literacy in Every ClassroomThe focus of the February 2017 issue of Educational Leadership is “Literacy in Every Classroom”. The journal has several excellent articles aligned to our work at Keys to Literacy. Only members of ASCD can access the full edition, but there are a few articles that are available free to the public. I have listed them below and added notes connecting the instructional practices suggested by the authors with our Keys to Literacy teacher training routines.
Teaching Secondary Students to Write EffectivelyThe last decade has seen a renewed focus on improving the content writing skills of middle and high school students. A new Educator’s Practice Guide was just published in November, 2016 by the IES (Institute of Education Sciences) titled Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively. This report presents writing instruction recommendations aligned with several earlier research reports including Writing Next (2007) and Writing to Read (2010). The authors of the report (Steve Graham and colleagues) organized their recommendations into three sections. Similar to reading instruction where the focus after grade 4 shifts from learning to read to reading to learn, the focus for writing instruction also shifts from learning to write to writing to learn. As students move through grades 6 to 12, the need grows to learn to write specifically for different content areas (i.e., disciplinary writing). This opening paragraph from the introduction of the new report sums up the important role of writing.
Free Online Course: Content Literacy InstructionI recently learned of a free online professional development course available called “Reading and Writing in the Disciplines”. It was produced by WGBH Educational Foundation and made available by the Annenberg Foundation. It can be accessed for free at the website Annenberg Learner: Teacher Resources for Professional Development Across the Curriculum....
Content Literacy Skills: Building a Stronger PlateI recently read an article in the Washington Post about one school district’s plan to make an overhaul of literacy instruction a priority, especially in its high schools. The Prince George’s County School District in MD set a goal of ensuring that by 2020, 90 percent of its students graduating from high school will be prepared for college and the work force. The district decided to fully embrace the Common Core focus that instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility among all content teachers within a school – literacy instruction is being filtered into every subject classroom, including math, science, and health class....
Why We Need Writing Instruction in ScienceI work with a lot of science teachers while visiting schools to deliver literacy professional development. The Common Core literacy standards call for teachers of all subjects to provide reading and writing instruction. Understandably, many science teachers tell me they don’t understand why literacy instruction is something they should be doing, especially given classroom time demands placed on them to cover a lot of science content. My response: look at the science standards!....
Tips for Motivating Your StudentsExperts say there are six variables of human motivation. Whether we are two years old or 92 years old, experiences from our past contribute to our future decisions. One of those variables is success. We must be at least 50% successful at something in order to be motivated to do it again. It makes sense for me. At age 17, I went downhill skiing. It was an horrific experience. To this day, I will not even cross country ski; there may be a decline in the terrain and in seconds I will be kissing the ground. I have zero motivation to ski. I snowshoe, thank you...
Literacy Legislation in the New ESSA LawOn Dec 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) which replaced the “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) of 2002.
There are a number of key changes in the new law. Here at Keys to Literacy we are most interested in the LEARN part of the legislation: Literacy Education For All, Results for the Nation.
The program addresses reading and writing instruction across ALL grades and ages – i.e., birth through grade 12...
Literacy Instruction ResourcesPart of the Keys to Literacy mission is to make research-based, practical instructional material available to educators. To address this goal, we provide a wide range of free resources that can be accessed from the Keys to Literacy website. We recently updated much of this material, so I decided to focus this blog entry on identifying these resources and providing links to them. ..
What Are Prospective Teachers Being Taught About Literacy?The answer: Sadly, not enough!
The International Literacy Association recently released new research brief about teacher preparation for literacy instruction based on states’ requirements. It is part of a larger effort by ILA to examine overall teacher preparation for literacy instruction.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the ILA found that there is inconsistent and insufficient state requirements for ensuring that teachers have the training and knowledge to provide literacy instruction....
Raising Kids Who ReadI often find articles written by Daniel Willingham (a researcher and psychology professor at the University of Virginia) thought-provoking, including a piece he wrote for the Spring 2015 edition of American Educator titled “For the Love of Reading.”
The article is based on his new book Raising Kids Who Read, which I decided to purchase after reading the article. In both pieces, Willingham addresses the challenge for parents and teachers to get children, especially teens, to read more....
Challenge Students With Challenging Text?The title of a recent piece in The Hechinger Report caught my attention: ”Should we tailor difficulty of a school text to child’s comfort level or make them sweat?”
The author of the piece, Annie Murphy Paul, notes that the practice of leveling students’ reading material so that teachers can adjust the difficulty of text to suit the ability and skills of the reader is very popular and has been around for over sixty years....
Closing the Reading Gender GapNow that the air has been taken out of football season and the conversations about deflated sports equipment have been packed away, it is fair game to recognize what is arguably one of the more admirable qualities of Colts QB Andrew Luck: Luck loves to read.
“Quarterbacks have playbooks. Luck has lots of other books, too” states Steven Holder (2014). In his USA Today article, Holder recounts Luck’s visible excitement when sharing a book about concrete with his fellow teammates. Concrete? Really? Well, after all, the Stanford grad did major in architectural design....
Teaching Revision – Where do I begin?In order to address this question, let’s start with some of my beliefs about writing:
- Writing is struggle
- Writing is a craft that can be learned
- And real writing happens in revision
These beliefs mean that as teachers we must explicitly teach the revision moves that our students so desperately need, but we also need to understand that we serve our students more effectively when we model the authentic struggle of writing....