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

About Teaching Reading

Teaching reading is a complex process. The best teachers develop an extensive knowledge base and draw on a repertoire of strategies for working with struggling students. To dig deeper, visit other sections of the website, including Vocabulary, Fluency, and Comprehension.


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Scaffold Mindful Silent Reading

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

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.

The Teaching Moves of a Strategic Teacher

Research demonstrates the effectiveness of the 12 strategic teaching moves described in this article. On any given day in any given classroom, the strategic teacher employs all of these moves — whether with the whole class, a small group, or just one student.

Reading (and Scaffolding) Expository Texts

To help students comprehend expository text structures, teachers can acquaint them with the signal or cue words authors utilize in writing each of the structures and use the graphic organizers offered in this article

Previewing Texts in Content Classrooms

Textbook previewing strategies focus not only on the structure of the text — such as the table of contents, index, chapter introductions, and so forth — but on a content overview, which focuses on the concepts and questions covered in the chapter and their interrelationships.

Use Cooperative Learning Groups to Engage Learners

When teachers structure cooperative learning groups as part of the overall reading program, they also open the door to a multiple intelligences approach to literacy, which is inherent in cooperative learning. This article offers guidance on Literature Circles and Cooperative Tear, two cooperative learning strategies supported by research.

Read Aloud, Read Along, Read Appropriately to Foster Flexible Readers

The read aloud, read along, and read appropriately strategies involve three phases of reading instruction. As the teacher thinks aloud about what he or she is reading, students begin to understand the connections between the words on the page and what they mean; in the read along strategy, teachers provide needed word prompts and cues, as well as fluency in the reading act; and the read appropriately strategy promotes the policy of reading material at an appropriate instructional level for greatest individual gains.

Literacy Coaching in the Middle Grades

From time constraints to a de-emphasis on literacy to a limited research base, coaches in middle schools face challenges that do not exist in the elementary grades.

Effective Reading Programs for Middle and High Schools: A Best Evidence Synthesis

Many reading programs claim to boost student performance, but how is that measured? Johns Hopkins University examined more than 200 published studies to create this quick guide to programs.

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.

How Can Instruction Help Adolescent Students with Motivation?

Teachers have an important role to play in influencing and supporting students' motivation for learning. This article highlights four classroom strategies that educators can use to engage students with texts.

Intensive, Individualized Interventions for Struggling Readers

Because the cause of adolescents' difficulties in reading vary, interventions may focus on any of the critical elements of knowledge and skill required for the comprehension of complex texts, including fundamental skills such as phonemic awareness, phonemic decoding, text reading fluency, vocabulary-building strategies, and self-regulated use of reading comprehension strategies.

Extended Discussion of Text Meaning and Interpretation

Teachers should provide opportunities for students to engage in high-quality discussions of the meaning and interpretation of texts in various content areas as one important way to improve their reading comprehension.

Recommendations for Improving Adolescent Literacy

In its practice guide Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices, the Dept. of Education offers five recommendations for increasing the reading ability of adolescents. Those recommendations are summarized in this checklist.

The Enhanced Reading Opportunities Study: Early Impact and Implementation Findings

While much has been learned about literacy in the elementary grades, less is known about programmatic approaches that help struggling adolescent readers acquire the skills they need to succeed in high school. The Enhanced Reading Opportunities Study tests the effectiveness of two supplemental literacy interventions targeted to ninth-grade readers with reading comprehension skills that are two to four years below grade level. The interventions studied are (1) Reading Apprenticeship for Academic Literacy from WestEd and (2) Xtreme Reading from the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning.

Enhanced Reading Opportunities Study: Key Findings

An overview of findings from the second year of the Enhanced Reading Opportunities (ERO) study, an evaluation of two supplemental literacy programs — Reading Apprenticeship Academic Literacy and Xtreme Reading — that aim to improve the reading comprehension skills and school performance of struggling ninth-grade readers.

Provide Models, Examples and Nonexamples

Similar to expert craftsmen teaching their trades to apprentices, teachers can model thinking and problem-solving skills to their students. Read more about various classroom modeling techniques.

Five Areas of Instructional Improvement to Increase Academic Literacy

How can content-area, non-reading-specialist teachers contribute to academic literacy? They can incorporate these five techniques throughout their lessons: (1) provide explicit instruction and supported practice in effective comprehension techniques, (2) increase the amount and quality of reading content discussions, (3) maintain high standards for text, conversation, questions, and vocabulary, (4) increase student motivation and engagement with reading, and (5) provide essential content knowledge to support student mastery of critical concepts. Find out why these strategies and the literacy areas they represent are so important.

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.

Use Easy Nonfiction to Build Background Knowledge

A Texas librarian shares his strategy of using nonfiction picture books to introduce new concepts to struggling adolescent readers and to build their background knowledge. Once students have been exposed to academic content in easy reading material, they are more confident in making the transition to textbooks.

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.

Use the Cooperative Learning Model

Cooperative learning fosters group accountability and provides struggling readers with the opportunity to work with stronger academic role models. Learn how to introduce this strategy in the classroom.

Reading Next

Millions of today's adolescents lack the reading skills demanded by today's world. The impending crisis — millions of under-literate young people unable to succeed economically and socially — requires an immediate response. This report outlines 15 key elements of effective adolescent literacy programs and recommends that schools use a mix of these elements, tailoring the combinations to the needs of individual students.

Cognitive Strategies Toolkit

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

Academic Language: Everyone's "Second" Language

Being able to speak English fluently does not guarantee that a student will be able to use language effectively in academic settings. Fluency must be combined with higher order thinking skills to create an "academic language," which allows students to effectively present their ideas in a way that others will take seriously. The author, an ELL teacher, describes her use of "protocols" (a cheat sheet of sentence starters) to build students' cognitive academic language proficiency.

Enhancing Outcomes for Struggling Adolescent Readers

With so much required of high schools today, there is little time or money to spend on the students who lack basic skills. This article presents important factors leading to success for struggling adolescent readers, taken from successful reading programs.

Integrating Student Progress Monitoring (SPM) into Your Classroom: The Teacher's Perspective

Is your school planning to implement student progress monitoring (SPM)? Are you thinking of using it in your classroom? If so, consider a number of factors to make SPM an integral part of classroom activities, rather than a series of isolated assessments unconnected to other parts of the learning experience. This brief offers some suggestions on how to use SPM in an integrated way.

Audiobooks: Ideas for Teachers

Encourage students to become better listeners and readers through audiobooks.

What Are the Key Elements of Student Engagement?

As part of their series to help schools understand the federal No Child Left Behind Law, Learning Point Associates describes the four key elements of student engagement — student confidence, teacher involvement, relevant texts, and choice among texts and assigments.

Using Student Engagement to Improve Adolescent Literacy

For struggling adolescent readers, creating student interest is as vital as teaching language skills.

How to Adapt Your Teaching Strategies to Student Needs

Teachers are often asked to modify instruction to accommodate special needs students. In fact, all students will benefit from the following good teaching practices. The following article takes the mystery out of adapting materials and strategies for curriculum areas.

How to Modify Your Teaching for Students With Low Organizational Skills

Classrooms today have students with many special needs, and teachers are often directed to "modify as necessary." The following article takes the mystery out of modifying your teaching strategies with concrete examples that focus on students' organizational skills.

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

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.

Using Multiple Texts to Teach Content

Each of us, every day, has to contend with multiple messages or texts—in the news, over the Internet, in our workplace, in books, and in conversation. Making sense of these sometimes conflicting messages is critical. But without being explicitly taught how to do so, students can have trouble synthesizing multiple texts—gathering facts without keeping an eye toward the different perspective of each. This Learning Point Associates article offers a case study and guidelines for using multiple texts in the classroom to increase the critical thinking and academic sophistication of older students.

Re-Conceptualizing Extra Help for High School Students in a High Standards Era

The push to ensure all students engage in challenging classes in high school has created new demands on high schools, including a demand to providing extra help for students who are behind in reading, mathematics, and advanced reasoning skills. This report looks at the nature of the extra help schools must provide and argues that the old model of offering only three types of extra help — functional skills for students deemed to have limited futures, remedial instruction in elementary skills; or tutoring for students struggling to pass a course or improve their test scores — must be abandoned and replaced by interventions that support and accelerate the development of intermediate and even more advanced skills.

Teaching Word Meanings as Concepts

The most effective vocabulary instruction teaches word meanings as concepts; it connects the words being taught with their context and with the students' prior knowledge. Six techniques have proven especially effective: Concept Definition Maps, Semantic Mapping, Semantic Feature Mapping, Possible Sentences, Comparing and Contrasting, and Teaching Word Parts.

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.

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.

Grouping Students Who Struggle With Reading

There are a variety of grouping formats that have been proven effective for teaching reading to students with learning disabilities: whole class, small group, pairs, and one-on-one. This article summarizes the research and implications for practice for using each of these grouping formats in the general education classroom.

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