All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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AdLit 101...

Improving Literacy Instruction in Your School: The Essentials


In 1997, the U.S. Congress funded the creation of a National Reading Panel (NRP), a blue-ribbon group assigned to review the available research on reading instruction and to figure out which teaching practices are best supported by the evidence.

The NRP's report, published in 2000, urged teachers in grades K-3 to focus on five key "building blocks" of literacy: phonemic awareness (recognizing how individual sounds combine to make syllables and words), phonics (learning how letters go together to make those sounds and words), fluency (decoding those letters and words quickly and accurately enough to make sense of texts), vocabulary, and comprehension.

The impact of the NRP report has been profound. Since 2000, its recommendations have been incorporated into countless curriculum guides, lesson plans, teacher workshops, textbooks, commercial reading programs, and so on. Further, it was used as the basis for the federal Reading First program, which has directed billions of dollars to the states over the past several years, mostly to support teacher training in early reading instruction.

But the NRP report also had a serious limitation — while it provided a clear and useful framework for teaching young children the basics of reading, it had nothing at all to say about adolescent literacy instruction. Even though millions of secondary-level students continue to need help with basic skills, and even though all students need to be taught how to read and write higher-level texts, the NRP was silent on these issues.

Over the last several years, experts in adolescent literacy have been trying to fill in this missing part of the picture, so as provide middle and high school teachers with useful advice on working with older kids.

One watershed report was the 2004 publication of Reading Next, whose authors took a second look at the research reviewed by the NRP, highlighting those studies that touched on the upper grades. Since then, a flurry of additional research reviews has followed, including publications on writing instruction, literacy coaching, literacy instruction for adolescent English Language Learners, school leadership for effective literacy instruction, and other topics.1

While the research on adolescent literacy has only just begun to hit its stride, a strong consensus has emerged already as to the key steps that teachers and administrators ought to take in order to improve instruction in their schools:

Have a special interest in literacy instruction for English language learners or students with learning disabilities? Visit our sister sites, Colorín Colorado and LD Online.



Endnotes

1ACT (2006). Reading between the lines: What the ACT reveals about college readiness in reading. Ames, IA: Author.

References

References

Click the "References" link above to hide these references.

ACT (2006). Reading between the lines: What the ACT reveals about college readiness in reading. Ames, IA: Author.

Bates, L., Breslow, N., and Hupert, N. (2009). Five states’ efforts to improve adolescent literacy (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2009–No. 067). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands.

Biancarosa, G., & Snow, C. (2006). Reading next: A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Graham, S. and Perin, D. (2007). Writing next. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Haynes, M. (2005). Reading at risk: How states can respond to the crisis in adolescent literacy. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Boards of Education.

Heller, R. and Greenleaf, C.L. (2007, June). Literacy instruction in the content areas: getting to the core of middle and high school improvement. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

National Association of Secondary School Principals. (2005). Creating a culture of literacy: A guide for middle and high school principals. Reston, VA: Author.

National Association of State Boards of Education.(2009). State Actions to Improve Adolescent Literacy: Results from NASBE's State Adolescent Literacy Network. Arlington, VA: Author.

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). (2004). On Reading, Learning to Read, and Effective Reading Instruction: An Overview of What We Know and How We Know It. (NCTE Guidelines by the Commission on Reading). Urbana, IL: Author.

National Governors Association. (2005). Reading to achieve: A governor’s guide to adolescent literacy. Washington, DC: National Governors Association, Center for Best Practices.

Short, D. J., & Fitzsimmons, S. (2007). Double the work: Challenges and solutions to acquiring language and academic literacy for adolescent English language learners: A report to the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Southern Regional Education Board (2009). A critical mission: Making adolescent reading an immediate priority. Atlanta. GA: Author.

Torgesen, J. K., Houston, D. D., Rissman, L. M., Decker, S. M., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J. Francis, D. J, Rivera, M. O., Lesaux, N. (2007). Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the Center on Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

Boardman, A. G., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Murray, C. S., & Kosanovich, M. (2008). Effective instruction for adolescent struggling readers: A practice brief. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

Boardman, A. G., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Murray, C. S., & Kosanovich, M. (2008). Effective instruction for adolescent struggling readers: A practice brief. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

Hart, T., & Risley, B. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.
Biemiller, A. (2006). Vocabulary development and instruction: A prerequisite for school learning. In S. Neuman and D. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook of Early Literacy Research (Vol 2) (41-51). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Moje, E. B., et al. (2008). The complex world of adolescent literacy: Myths, motivations, and mysteries. Harvard Educational Review 78:107-154.
Wade, S. E., & Moje, E. B. (2000). The role of text in classroom learning. In Kamil, M., Mosenthal, P., Barr, R., & Pearson, P. D. (Eds.), The handbook of research on reading. (Volume III, pp. 609-627). Mahwah , NJ : Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Applebee, A., & Langer, J. (2006). The state of writing instruction in America’s schools: What existing data tell us. Albany, NY: Center on English Learning and Achievement.