Posts tagged ‘Literacy’

Strategies for Teaching Reading

How can you prepare every student for reading success?Reading strategies are explicit, planned actions that help translate the printed word into sounds and meaning. Reading skills benefit every kind of student, but they are essential for emerging readers, struggling readers, English Language Learners, and students with learning challenges, according to Reading Horizons.

Here are some of the widely used practices:

Guided reading is an instructional approach that involves a teacher working with a small group of students who demonstrate similar reading behaviors and can all read similar levels of texts. The text is easy enough for students to read with your skillful support.


Direct instruction (DI) is a general term for the explicit teaching of a skill-set using lectures or demonstrations of the material to students. … DI teaches by passive learning, in contrast to exploratory models such as inquiry-based learning, discovery learning or active learning.


Mastery-Based Learning: In any situation where you’re given a set of labs, problems, or activities where your progression is dependent on successful completion of various tasks rather than seat time, you’re engaging in mastery-based learning–a teaching method premised on the idea that student progression through a course should be dependent on proficiency as opposed to amount of time spent on academic work.

As every teacher knows, classroom management is a consummate juggling act. To remain attentive to the needs of all students, teachers must engage the more advanced students while helping the struggling ones catch up. At any given point in a lesson, a teacher must decide whether to move through the material aggressively and add more challenges and twists to the problems presented, or build in more of cushion for those who are confused. Any one of these strategies is bound to leave some students feeling bored or confused. Mastery-based learning aims to help teachers in this respect by allowing students to move through coursework at their own pace.

Key features of mastery-based learning (MBL):

1. Curriculum design hinges on assessments
2. Assessments may take any form as long as they determine proficiency
3. Graduation to the next grade/level/topic is contingent upon successful completion of prerequisite assessment.
4. Curriculum is committed to the success of all students; students are not “allowed” to give up.

SOURCE: 5 Myths about Mastery-Based Learning The Knewton Blog


Recommended: The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers, by Jennifer Serravallo  

With hit books that support strategic reading through conferring, small groups, and assessment, Jen Serravallo gets emails almost daily asking, “Isn’t there a book of the strategies themselves?” Now there is.

“Strategies make the often invisible work of reading actionable and visible,” Jen writes. In The Reading Strategies Book, she collects 300 strategies to share with readers in support of thirteen goals-everything from fluency to literary analysis. Each strategy is cross-linked to skills, genres, and Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to give you just-right teaching, just in time. With Jen’s help you’ll:

  • develop goals for every reader
  • give students step-by-step strategies for skilled reading
  • guide readers with prompts aligned to the strategies
  • adjust instruction to meet individual needs with Jen’s Teaching Tips
  • craft demonstrations and explanations with her Lesson Language
  • learn more with Hat Tips to the work of influential teacher-authors.

Whether you use readers workshop, Daily 5/CAFE, guided reading, balanced reading, a core reading program, whole-class novels, or any other approach, The Reading Strategies Book will complement and extend your teaching. Rely on it to plan and implement goal-directed, differentiated instruction for individuals, small groups, and whole classes.

“We offer strategies to readers to put the work in doable terms for those who are still practicing,” writes Jen Serravallo. “The goal is not that they can do the steps of the strategy but that they become more comfortable and competent with a new skill.” With The Reading Strategies Book, you’ll have ways to help your readers make progress every day.





Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction

By Michael Strickland

Too much that is known about how to teach spelling isn’t being put into practice. I can think of no subject we teach more poorly or harbor more myths about than spelling.—Richard Gentry, 1987

9780137035106_H1For decades, more people seem to have considered themselves poor spellers than good spellers, despite the fact that most of us spell correctly the vast majority of the words we write. With spelling, we seem to expect that all of us should spell one hundred percent correctly, even on first drafts, and even as young children, according to Heinemann Publishers.

Perhaps it is this unrealistic expectation that leads some parents and others to object when teachers use newer methods of helping children learn to spell, such as encouraging children to “use invented spelling” in their early attempts to write. Such critics mistakenly assume that children who initially use approximate spellings will never become good spellers, or that if the time-honored method of memorizing spelling lists were used instead, every child would become a perfect speller. Neither observed experience nor research supports these assumptions.

What research demonstrates

Young children using invented spelling employ a considerably greater variety of words in their writing than those encouraged to use only the words they can spell correctly (Gunderson & Shapiro, 1987, 1988; Clarke, 1988; Stice & Bertrand, 1990).

By the end of first grade, children encouraged to use invented spellings typically score as well or better on standardized tests of spelling than children allowed to use only correct spellings in first drafts (Clarke, 1988; Stice & Bertrand, 1990).

Young children encouraged to use invented spellings seem to develop word recognition and phonics skills sooner than those not encouraged to spell the sounds they hear in words (Clarke, 1988).

At least in grades 3-6, it is not clear that spelling instruction has much of an effect beyond what is learned through reading alone, if children are reading extensively (Krashen, 1991). The developmentally driven Words Their Way ® instructional approach is a phenomenon in word study, providing a practical way to study words with students. The keys to this successful, research-based approach are to know your students’ literacy progress, organize for instruction, and implement word study. The Fifth Edition features an innovative redesign and introduces technology integration aligning text to all new classroom video, an interactive classroom assessment application, prepared and create-your-own word sorts, games, and more specific to each chapter. It gives you all the tools you need to carry out word study instruction that will motivate and engage your students, and help them to succeed in literacy learning. Ordered in a developmental format, Words Their Way ® complements the use of any existing phonics, spelling, and vocabulary curricula.

About the Authors

Donald R. Bear is director of the E. L. Cord Foundation Center for Learning and Literacy where he and preservice, Master’s and doctoral students teach and assess children who struggle to learn to read and write. Donald is a professor in the Department of Educational Specialties in the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Reno. Donald has been a classroom teacher and he researches and writes about literacy development and instruction. He is an author of numerous articles, book chapters, and books, including Words Their Way® , Words Their Way ®with English Learners, and Vocabulary Their Way.

Shane Templeton is Foundation Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he is Program Coordinator for Literacy Studies. A former elementary and secondary teacher, his research focuses on the development of orthographic knowledge. He has written several books on the teaching and learning of reading and language arts and is a member of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. He is author of the “Spelling Logics” column in Voices from the Middle, the middle school journal of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Marcia Invernizzi is a professor of reading education at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Marcia is also the director of the McGuffey Reading Center, where she teaches the clinical practica in reading diagnosis and remedial reading. Formerly an English and reading teacher, she works with Book Buddies, Virginia’s Early Intervention Reading Initiative (EIRI), and Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS).

Francine Johnston is a former first grade teacher and reading specialist who learned about word study during her graduate work at the University of Virginia. She is now an associate professor in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she teaches courses in reading, language arts, and children’s literature. Francine frequently works with regional school systems as a consultant and researcher. Her research interests include current spelling practices and materials as well as the relationship between spelling and reading achievement.


Bolton, F., & Snowball, D. (1993). Teaching spelling: A practical resource. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Buchanan, E. (1989). Spelling for whole language classrooms. Katonah, NY: Richard C. Owen.

Clarke, L. K. (1988). Invented versus traditional spelling in first graders’ writings: Effects on learning to spell and read. Research in the Teaching of English, 22, 281-309.

Cunningham, P. M. (1995). Phonics they use: Words for reading and writing (2nd ed.). New York: HarperCollins College Pubs.

Gentry, J. Richard. (1987). Spel . . . is a four-letter word. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Gunderson, L., & Shapiro, J. (1987). Some findings on whole language instruction. Reading-Canada-Lecture, 5 (1), 22-26.

Gunderson, L., & Shapiro, J. (1988). Whole language instruction: Writing in 1st grade. The Reading Teacher, 41, 430-437.

Laminack, L. L., & Wood, K. (1996). Spelling in use. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

McGee, L. M., & Richgels, D. J. (1990). Literacy’s beginnings: Supporting young readers and writers. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Routman, R. (1991). Invitations: Changing as teachers and learners K-12. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Routman, R., & Maxim, D. (1996). Invented spelling: What it is and what it isn’t. School Talk, 1 (4). Urbana, IL:National Council of Teachers of English.

Stice, C. F., & Bertrand, N. P. (1990). Whole language and the emergent literacy of at-risk children: A two-year comparative study. Nashville: Center for Excellence, Basic Skills, Tennessee State University. ERIC: ED 324 636.

Temple, C., Nathan, R., Temple, F., & Burris, N. A. (1993). The beginnings of writing (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Wilde, S. (1992). You kan red this! Spelling and punctuation for whole language classrooms, K-6. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Prepared for the Michigan English Language Arts Framework project and © 1996 by Constance Weaver. A similar version was published as a SLATE Starter Sheet by the National Couincil of Teachers of English (1996). In C. Weaver, L. Gillmeister-Krause, & G. Vento-Zogby, Creating Support for Effective Literacy Education (Heinemann, 1996). May be copied.


Recipients of the 2013 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards were announced newsImg978by the Jane Addams Peace Association.

Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin, is the winner in the Books for Younger Children Category. We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, written by Cynthia Levinson and published by Peachtree Publishers, is the winner in the Books for Older Children category.

Each Kindness Small actions, or the lack of them, can be haunting as is the case for Maya and for Chloe in their rural elementary school. This open-ended, profound tale created in free verse and sober watercolors glimpses interactions between Chloe and Maya, the new girl arriving midyear in broken sandals, before the teacher invites students to ponder their kindnesses.

We’ve Got a Job In 1963, four thousand young African American students, from elementary through high school, voluntarily went to jail in one of the most racially violent cities in America. Focusing on four of these students, this photo essay recounts the riveting events throughout the Children’s March.

Two books were named Honor Books in the Books for Younger Children category.

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, written by Sarah Warren and illustrated by Robert Casilla, published by Marshall Cavendish Children, has been named an Honor Book for Younger Children. In California in the 1950s, teacher Dolores Huerta was concerned for her students. Learning the conditions of the migrant families, Dolores became a determined activist who fought for labor rights through her words and actions.

We March, written and illustrated by Shane W. Evans, and published by Roaring Brook Press, a Neal Porter imprint of Macmillan, has been named an Honor Book for Younger Children. Simple and powerful illustrations capture the excitement and hope for even the youngest reader of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The colorful crowd of 250,000 demonstrates their strength and unity in marching to Martin Luther King’s historical speech for racial equality.

Two books were named Honor Books in the Books for Older Children category.

Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr’s Final Hours, written by Ann Bausum and published by National Geographic, is named an Honor Book for Older Children. A long sanitation worker strike began in 1968 following the deaths of two sanitation workers on the job sanitation workers in Tennessee. The strike became part of the larger civil rights movement and brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to Nashville to support the workers in their fight for for integration, safety, better pay and union protection.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the WorldbySy Montgomery, published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, is named an Honor Book for Older Children.  This biography with much first person input from Ms. Grandin herself explains how her autistic mind works, how her peers and family perceive her, and her relentless efforts as an activist.

Since 1953, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually acknowledges books published in the U.S. during the previous year.  Books commended by the Award address themes or topics that engage children in thinking about peace, justice, world community and/or equality of the sexes and all races.  The books also must meet conventional standards of literacy and artistic excellence.

A national committee chooses winners and honor books for younger and older children. Members of the 2012 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee are Marianne Baker (Chair, Barboursville, VA), Ann Carpenter (Harwich, MA), Julie Olsen Edwards (Soquel, CA), Lauren Mayer (Seattle, WA), Beth McGowan (DeKalb, IL), Sonja Cherry-Paul (Yonkers, NY), Tracy Randolph (Sewanee, TN), Lani Gerson (Watertown, MA), Susan Freiss (Madison, WI), and Jacqui Kolar (Chicago, IL). Regional reading and discussion groups of all ages participated with many of the committee members throughout the jury’s evaluation and selection process.

The authors and illustrators of the 2013 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards will be honored on Friday, October18, 2013 in New York City. Details about the award event and about securing winner and honor book seals are available from the Jane Addams Peace Association (JAPA.)  Contact JAPA Executive Director Linda B. Belle, 777 United Nations Plaza, 6th Floor, NY, NY 10017-3521; by phone 212.682.8830; and by email

For additional information about the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards and a complete list of books honored since 1953, see

How Classroom Libraries Work

Research shows that classroom libraries help students attain reading achievement. These key points from Scholastic’s Classroom Libraries Work: Research & Results provide concrete examples that will help you build an effective skill-building library for your students. Additional research support for the importance of classroom libraries can be found here.

  • Children learning to read need access to meaningful and personally interesting books.
  • Effective teachers of reading incorporate diverse trade books into their reading curriculum, introducing their students to the wide range of genres, authors, and topics.
  • While the best predictor of reading success is the amount of time spent reading, reading achievement is also influenced by the frequency, amount, and diversity of reading activities.
  • By providing access to a rich classroom library, teachers promote greater amounts of reading, increased reading frequency, and more diverse reading experiences among their students, thus helping them to attain greater levels of reading achievement.
  • Effective teachers of reading know that comprehension is enhanced by reflection and social interaction. Therefore, they provide their students with multiple opportunities to respond to their reading and interact with their peers through a variety of activities such as book clubs and discussions.
  • Increased vocabulary knowledge helps students understand what they read, and reading comprehension is enhanced when students understand the meaning of words. Thus there is a reciprocal benefit to independent reading of trade books — vocabulary growth and reading comprehension.
  • Effective teachers know the reading levels of their students and reading levels of the trade books in their classrooom, so that they can match their students to texts that can be read with success, thus assisting their students to grow as readers.

Five Major Functions of the Classroom Library
Excerpted from: Your Classroom Library: New Ways to Give It More Teaching Power, by D. Ray Reutzel and Parker C. Fawson800px-ClassroomLibrary.

If you think of a classroom library as a cozy, welcoming space where students can read quietly or browse through a rich collection of texts, you are only partially correct. The fact that classroom libraries are places for storage and quiet is only one small part of their purpose. They are, in the broadest sense, the backbone of classroom activity: Much of what goes on each day draws from or occurs in or around the resources and space within the classroom library. As we see it, there are at least five important functions of an effectively designed classroom library.

1. Supporting Literacy Instruction
The first function of a classroom library is to support reading and writing instruction—in school and out. To this end, outfit your classroom library with books and other media materials to support student learning in all of the daily curriculum subjects. Include materials related to science, health, mathematics, history, economics, geography, music, art, drama, dance, languages, grammar, spelling, literature, computers, and other topics. Build an adequate collection of fiction and nonfiction materials at enough different levels to accommodate the many interests and abilities of students designing to check out books for take-home reading.

2. Helping Students Learn About Books
Next, an effective classroom library provides a place for teachers to teach and children to learn about books and book selection. Here children can experience a variety of book genres and other reading materials in a smaller and more controlled environment than in the school or public library. You can also use the classroom library to teach students how to take care of books. You can set up a book repair area for instruction on repair, and display a poster with clear directions on how to mend torn pages, remove marks in the books, cover frayed edges, or fix broken bindings. You can also use the classroom library to teach students effective strategies for selecting relevant, interesting, and appropriate reading materials. A good classroom library helps students locate books easily and gives them room to get comfortable.

3. Providing a Central Location for Classroom Resources
You can also use your classroom library as an organized central storage location for classroom instructional resources. Here is additional space for organizing science equipment, CD and tape players, VHS and DVD tapes, computers wired to the Internet, games, magazines, and other materials that support learning. In this respect, the classroom library mirrors the organization of media centers at the individual and district levels.

4. Providing Opportunities for Independent Reading and Curricular Extensions
The fourth important function of a classroom library is as a resource and location for independent reading, personal exploration, project research, and individual assessment. Every good comprehensive reading program provides students daily time to read independently. The classroom library is typically the resource that supports children’s daily independent reading of self-selected books that meet their personal, recreational reading interests. The classroom library also provides students with readily accessible print materials, expository books, computer technology, and media for conducting research or completing curricular extension projects. Further, an in-class library offers a setting for students to quietly read aloud and discuss a book with a peer or the teacher. This provides an ideal opportunity for you to conduct an informal assessment of each student’s reading, which will help you to plan individualized instruction.

5. Serving as a Place for Students to Talk About and Interact with Books
The effective classroom library also functions as a gathering spot where students and teachers can express their lives as readers. Think of it as a place that makes books exciting, that sells reading. It should be a place students can’t wait to get to. Here they can talk about their reactions to books, write a critical review and share it with peers, or draw a poster to advertise a favorite book. A few other ideas follow:

  • The library can be a place where students can contribute to a list of “The Top Ten Books This Week in [__] Grade.”
  • It may also be a place where students can advertise a “book swap” with other students.
  • It can be a place where students plan a dramatization of a book with a small group of peers.
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