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

Curriculum & Instruction

We now know a lot about effective adolescent literacy instruction, including how to identify at-risk children and how to intervene effectively. The articles in this section offer information on what effective instruction looks like — in the classroom, throughout a school, and district-wide.


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Pairing Texts with Movies to Promote Comprehension and Discussion

Thematic pairings of novels/short stories with movies can help students access difficult texts and can lead to deeper comprehension and lively classroom discussion. This article suggests pairings for some commonly assigned middle and high school texts.

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.

Why Teach the Holocaust?

Teachers often find the Holocaust to be an overwhelming subject to approach with their students. While the Holocaust offers important lessons to today's students, it can be a difficult to find the appropriate amount of information to share with young learners. This article highlights the importance of the Holocaust in today's classroom, and offers suggestions for integrating historical fiction into the unit of study.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Adolescents and Literacy: Reading for the 21st Century

This report reviews and analyzes existing research on effective literacy instruction and the impact of successful literacy programs for students in grades 4-12.

Using the Classroom Walk-Through as an Instructional Leadership Strategy

Classroom walk-throughs can be an important strategy to facilitate discussions among principals and teachers about classroom practice.

Do Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learners Need Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Instruction?

How does the mind work — and how does it learn? Teachers' instructional decisions are based on a mix of theories learned in teacher education, trial and error, craft knowledge, and gut instinct. Such gut knowledge often serves us well, but is there anything sturdier to rely on?

Interventions for Struggling Adolescent Readers

This article presents a round-up of intervention initiatives aimed at struggling adolescent readers. It provides a snapshot of program characteristics and research findings for Reciprocal Teaching, Apprenticeship in Reading, Read 180, Language!, SRA Corrective Reading, and Strategic Instruction Model (SIM).

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.

Teach to the Test? Just Say No

It is possible for educators to make better choices about how and when to teach to the test than the alarmist newspaper articles and editorials would seem to suggest. This article from the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement aims to help readers think beyond simple compliance with federal law or basic implementation of programs.

School Culture: The Hidden Curriculum

Walk into any truly excellent school and you can feel it almost immediately — a calm, orderly atmosphere that hums with an exciting, vibrant sense of purposefulness. This is a positive school culture, the kind that improves educational outcomes.

RTI and Reading: Response to Intervention in a Nutshell

RTI is not a particular method or instructional approach, rather it is a process that aims to shift educational resources toward the delivery and evaluation of instruction that works best for students. This article provides a quick overview of RTI as it relates to reading.

A Closer Look: Closing the Performance Gap

The performance gap — what students are expected to do versus what they can do — is compounded each year a child falls short of acquiring expected skills. As a result, underachieving high school students are at great risk for academic failure, discouragement, and disengagement. This article offers a framework to support adolescent literacy that ties improved student outcomes to an instructional core and an infrastructure core.

Principal as Instructional Leader: Designing a Coaching Program That Fits

Research shows that effective school leaders focus on improving classroom instruction, not just managerial tasks. A natural way for school leaders to take on the role of instructional leader is to serve as a "chief" coach for teachers by designing and supporting strong classroom level instructional coaching. Here's how to selecting a coaching approach that meets the particular needs of a school and how to implement and sustain the effort.

Rethinking Schools: An Introduction to New York City's Experience

Only half of New York City's public school students complete high school in four years, one- third of all 9th graders fail, and fewer than 40% of students in large, low-performing schools graduate. To address student needs and thereby increase future student achievement, the district is working with nonprofit organizations and funders to support and develop small high schools. The preliminary results of these efforts are promising.

What Is Scientifically Based Research? A Guide For Teachers

Teachers can strengthen instruction and protect their students' valuable time in school by scientifically evaluating claims about teaching methods and recognizing quality research when they see it. This article provides a brief introduction to understanding and using scientifically based research.

How to Know a Good Adolescent Literacy Program When You See One: Quality Criteria to Consider

Literacy programs seem to have sprung up everywhere, but how can you tell the good ones from the bad ones? This guide identifies the key elements to consider in evaluating adolescent literacy programs.

Ten Myths About Learning to Read

There are many beliefs and a great deal of dogma associated with reading acquisition, and people are often reluctant to let go of their beliefs despite contradictory research evidence. Here are 10 of the most popular and most potentially pernicious myths that influence reading education.

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.

So If Retention is So Harmful, What Should We Do? Teach!

Studies on grade retention reach the same conclusion: Failing a student, particularly in the critical ninth grade year, is the single largest predictor of whether he or she drops out. What must teachers know to identify students’ needs and apply appropriate instructional strategies to reduce dropouts?

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.

The Components of Effective Vocabulary Instruction

Effective vocabulary instruction begins with diverse opportunities for word learning: wide reading, high-quality oral language, word consciousness, explicit instruction of specific words, and independent word-learning strategies. This article explains how these opportunities can be created in the classroom.

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.

The Effects of an Intensive Reading Intervention on the Decoding Skills of H.S. Students with Reading Deficits

This article summarizes a study that evaluated the effectiveness of intensive instruction in the Word Identification Strategy, a learning strategy for decoding multi-syllabic words. Results indicate that intense strategy instruction within a relatively short time period can boost students' decoding skills by several grade levels.

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.

What's the Big Idea? Integrating Young Adult Literature in the Middle School

Drawing on New York City teachers' experiences, this article examines three ways to effectively integrate young adult literature into the curriculum: use core texts (usually novels, but also other genres as well) that the entire class read and study together; organize literature study with text sets, allowing students to select from multiple texts to read; and incorporate independent reading into coursework (via Sustained Silent Reading or at-home reading assignments).

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