All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Hot Topics in Adolescent Literacy


Reading isn't really reading if students don't understand what they have read. Many struggling adolescent readers can recognize and pronounce words from print, but cannot understand or answer questions about what they have just read. This section includes information on methods to improve students' comprehension.


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A Theory of Adolescent Reading: A Simple View of a Complex Process

How do adolescents move from reading words to applying knowledge learned from a text? See the adolescent reading model and the Strategic Intervention Model (SIM) clearly illustrated.

Blending Multiple Genres in Theme Baskets

The theme-basket concept of literature instruction combines several approaches known to work with marginalized readers, students with learning disabilities, and ELLs: 1) a thematic approach to teaching literature, 2) the use of children’s books in secondary classrooms, 3) the coupling of young adult books with the classics, and 4) capitalizing on young adults’ background knowledge, interests, and skills in reading multiple genres. This article includes a sample theme basket with The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck as its centerpiece.

Cognitive Strategies Toolkit

This article describes eight cognitive strategies — including monitoring, tapping prior knowledge, and making predictions — to help readers develop their comprehension skills.

Create Reading Accountability

Engaged, accountable reading requires students to interpret, and respond, often creatively. This article suggests several personalized ways to hold students accountable for their reading.

Critical Thinking: Why Is It So Hard to Teach?

Learning critical thinking skills can only take a student so far. Critical thinking depends on knowing relevant content very well and thinking about it, repeatedly. Here are five strategies, consistent with the research, to help bring critical thinking into the everyday classroom.

Direct, Explicit Comprehension Strategy Instruction

Comprehension strategies are routines and procedures that readers use to help them make sense of texts. Struggling adolescent readers need direct, explicit instruction in comprehension strategies to improve their reading comprehension.

Expect Students to Activate, Connect and Summarize Daily

The activate, connect, and summarize daily routine can help struggling adolescent readers acquire new content. It consists of asking students to activate (what did we learn yesterday?), connect (draw a connection between your life and the topic that we'll discuss today), and summarize (give me a keyword or phrase that describes today's lesson) in the classroom everyday.

Explicit Comprehension Strategy Instruction

Use explicit strategy instruction to make visible the invisible comprehension strategies that good readers use to understand text. Support students until they can use the strategies independently. Recycle and re-teach strategies throughout the year.

For Middle Schoolers: Activities to Build College-Level Reading Skills

ACT has developed the following list of activities to help middle-school students improve their reading ability. Parents and educators can use this information to help ensure that these students are on target for college and career readiness.

For Teens, Phonics Isn't Enough

Schools often struggle to find appropriate materials and approaches to support adolescent literacy. Strategies that work for children can ignore teens' existing skills, knowledge, and life experience, and exclude them from the critical content that their peers are studying. Here are some effective teaching strategies for struggling older students.

Helping Students Improve Their Performance on Reading Comprehension Tests

This article describes some of the thought processes that can help students perform well on standardized tests of reading comprehension. It includes two reading passages along with sample test questions that call on skills that eighth grade students should master to be on track for college readiness. Also included are explanations for the correct answer choices.

Higher Order Thinking

As students grow older, they are asked by their teachers to do more and more with the information they have stored in their brains. These types of requests require accessing higher order thinking (HOT).

How to Increase Higher Order Thinking

Parents and teachers can do a lot to encourage higher order thinking. Here are some strategies to help foster children's complex thinking.

Key Literacy Component: Text Comprehension

Text comprehension allows readers to extract or construct meaning from the written word. Students who misread words or misinterpret their meanings are at a disadvantage. Proper instruction can boost students’ skills in this key area.

Literacy Processes and Levels of Thinking

Multiple Texts: Multiple Opportunities for Teaching and Learning

Engaging all students in a themed study or unit is a challenge that teachers can resolve by using materials that match students’ independent or instructional reading levels (Robb 1994, 2000). When students face textbooks that are above their reading levels, teachers can help them access the required information by filling their classrooms with multiple texts that vary in readability level. Multiple texts improve students’ application of reading–thinking strategies, build confidence, and develop the motivation to learn. Through the use of multiple texts, all students have the opportunity to learn new information and make meaningful contributions to discussions. Moreover, varied texts provide multiple perspectives that help students rethink events and issues that impact everyone and deepen their knowledge of literary genres.

Reading (and Scaffolding) Narrative Texts

Students need to learn the purposes and methods of narration in order to understand the narrative framework and to eliminate frustration when they read. When students know the narrative elements, they can more easily follow the story line and make successful predictions about what is to occur. In addition, understanding these elements develops higher-level thinking skills.

Scaffold Mindful Silent Reading

Help students internalize and routinize their reading comprehension monitoring with this sample lesson.

Seven Strategies to Teach Students Text Comprehension

Comprehension strategies are conscious plans — sets of steps that good readers use to make sense of text. Comprehension strategy instruction helps students become purposeful, active readers who are in control of their own reading comprehension. The seven strategies here appear to have a firm scientific basis for improving text comprehension

Teach the Seven Strategies of Highly Effective Readers

To improve students' reading comprehension, teachers should introduce the seven cognitive strategies of effective readers: activating, inferring, monitoring-clarifying, questioning, searching-selecting, summarizing, and visualizing-organizing. This article includes definitions of the seven strategies and a lesson-plan template for teaching each one.

What Do Reading Comprehension Tests Measure? Knowledge.

The federal No Child Left Behind law requires more testing of students, and has spurred some frantic and ineffectual test preparation in many schools, says the author, E. D. Hirsch, Jr. Reading tests must use unpredictable texts to be accurate measures of reading ability, but if you cannot predict the subject matter on a valid reading test, how can you prepare students? Hirsch says you can't, and, therefore, you shouldn't try. The only useful way to prepare for a reading test is indirectly by becoming a good reader of a broad range of texts, an ability that requires broad general knowledge."

What Works in Comprehension Instruction

The National Reading Panel identified three predominant elements to support the development of reading comprehension skills: vocabulary instruction, active reading, and teacher preparation to deliver strategy instruction.

Why Students Think They Understand When They Don't

Students often think they understand a body of material and, believing that they know it, stop trying to learn more. But come test time, it turns out they really don't know the material very well at all. Can cognitive science tell us anything about why students are commonly mistaken about what they know and don't know? Are there any strategies teachers can use to help students better estimate what they know?

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