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Timothy Shanahan

University of Illinois at Chi­cago, UIC Center for Literacy
Timothy Shanahan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chi­cago where he was Founding Di­rector of the UIC Center for Literacy. Previously, he was director of reading for the Chicago Public Schools. He is author/editor of more than 200 publications on literacy education. His research emphasizes the connections between reading and writing, literacy in the disciplines, and improvement of reading achievement. Tim is past president of the International Literacy Association. He served as a member of the Advisory Board of the National Institute for Literacy under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and he helped lead the National Reading Panel, convened at the request of Congress to evaluate research on the teaching reading, a major influence on reading education. He chaired two other federal research review panels: the National Literacy Panel for Language Minority Children and Youth, and the National Early Literacy Panel, and helped write the Common Core State Standards. He was inducted to the Reading Hall of Fame in 2007, and is a former first-grade teacher.

Latest Blog Posts

Read Between the Lines

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

What Does It Take to Teach Inferencing?

Reading comprehension instruction should focus on guiding students to think actively about the ideas in text. I suggest treating inferencing not as a skill but as a strategy for intentionally making sense of text.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

My Middle School Requires Fluency Instruction: Help!

It is sensible to teach text reading fluency to middle schoolers (and high schoolers) class wide, and I’ve worked with more than 100 secondary schools that did this so successfully that it helped raise their reading achievement.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Does text structure instruction improve reading comprehension?

Meta-analyses indicate that it is effective to teach kids about multiple text structures, and that text structure instruction is particularly potent when writing, graphic organizers, and guidance on watching for “clue words” are included.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Does Close Reading Reject the Science of Reading?

I want kids to be close readers … I think teachers should strive to accomplish the standards their states have established. But take a gimlet-eyed look at what it is that you are teaching. Is it really close reading?

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Why We Need to Teach Sentence Comprehension

Instruction in how to make sense of sentences can play an important role in reading comprehension. For example, when students struggle with sentences written in the passive voice, teach with some texts that use this construction.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

How to Improve Text Fluency in the Middle Schools and High Schools

Schools should provide students with up to 30 minutes a day of fluency instruction. But remember, this is across all classes and content areas. Get quick tips on paired reading, repeated reading, and other ways to improve reading fluency.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Cool New Study on Text Difficulty and Adolescent Literacy

A new study indicates that it is not beneficial for most students (English learners are one exception), to shift to easier texts to facilitate their reading — as long as you are ready to provide instructional support.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

My Two-Handed Opinion on Teaching with Novels

[I recommend] balancing the needs for sustained attention and stamina and the possibility of exposing kids to some really great novels against exposing kids to a broader and more varied experience with elements of literature, literary works, and racial

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

What Do You Think of Guided Reading for Secondary School?

Having classes/groups of students read common texts with teacher scaffolding is a good idea, whether we are talking about the reading of a short story in an English class or a chapter from a science book.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Should We Read to High School Students?

Oral sharing and video and audio presentations have their place in the high school English curriculum. But it is a small place, so teachers need to be honest with themselves as to why they are using those approaches.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Does Homework Improve Reading Achievement?

In grades 3-8, homework has a fairly consistent impact on achievement — and the payoff tends to increase as students advance through the grades (but so does the amount of homework time needed — more on that later).

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Round Robin by Any Other Name … Oral Reading for Older Readers

While I encourage, and even require, oral reading instruction in middle schools, I don’t countenance round robin. Engage your kids in paired reading and they’ll get much more oral reading practice than in the round robin approach.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Pre-reading and ELLs: Let’s Take off the Training Wheels

Instead of front-loading the first reading, you could try front-loading the second or third — after the kids have had a chance to “pedal the bike themselves” — even if that pedaling isn’t perfectly successful.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Disciplinary Literacy: The Basics

Disciplinary literacy is based upon the idea that literacy and text are specialized, and even unique, across the disciplines. Historians engage in very different approaches to reading than mathematicians do, for instance.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Should We Stop Using Guided Reading Because of Common Core?

Only part of guided reading is under challenge by Common Core. Small group instruction should afford teachers opportunities to observe student problems with reading and interpretation, and this insight should be used to shape instruction. 

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Think-Pair-Share in Reading Instruction: Is It Effective?

When kids get the opportunity to discuss something with a partner before responding to a teacher question, positive outcomes have been seen in the primary grades in reading and in the upper grades with second-language learners.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Writing as a Response to Reading

Writing about text or talking about text? There is a place for both in your classroom.Steve Graham and Michael Hebert analyzed data from more than 100 studies on writing about text.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Culturally Responsive Literacy Instruction

A middle school reading coach asks if it is important for African American children to read African American literature. Alfred Tatum, author of Engaging African American Males in Reading, shares his thoughts.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Vocabulary Teaching

Vocabulary learning is incremental and there are more words that kids need to learn than we can teach. Kids need lots of opportunities to confront words in their reading and listening.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

A Disciplinary Literacy Bibliography

Disciplinary literacy refers to the specialized or somewhat unique texts or text features in those texts that are the province of a particular field of study and the specialized approaches to reading and writing texts used by experts in a field of stud

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Middle School Interventions

Above the 30-35th%ile cutoff, I would definitely just give these kids extra time with the demanding grade-level materials. Below that line, and I would want to provide at least some explicit instruction in foundational skills.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Carol Jago on Literature or Not Literature

For those of you upset about literature being dropped from the English curriculum, you might want to read this lovely piece written by my friend, Carol Jago.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Common Core Standards versus Guided Reading, Part III

Students seem to do better when they get a steady diet of more challenging text, but there is also the widespread belief that there is an optimum difficulty level for texts used to teach students to read.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

Marilyn Adams on Text Complexity

This idea of using challenging (not impossible texts) is important. Students do need texts that they can read, but they also need to stretch. Towards that end, I suggest the following.

Blog: Shanahan on Literacy

To Story Map or Not to Story Map

We want students to understand stories as more than a bunch of structural blocks. Stories are really about conflict, and story maps don’t get at this idea very well.