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  • Joanne Jacobs

Teaching reading in high school

Memphis high schools are teaching reading skills to teenagers who didn't learn to read well in the early grades, reports Sarah Mervosh in the New York Times.


Some need to learn basic phonics, she writes. "Every students -- including top performers -- is learning to break down new vocabulary words, part by part."

With his new tools, Roderick studied “I Have a Dream,” the speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — no longer skipping unfamiliar words, but instead circling them to discern their meaning.

Literacy is embedded in English, social studies and science classes.


Tennessee's Reading360 initiative doesn't just train teachers in the science of reading, writes Scott Langford, assistant director of schools in Sumner County, in Curriculum Matters. It gives teachers curriculum tools.


Furthermore, the state is training upper-grade teachers in reading science across all content areas, he writes. Teachers say the training is "incredibly beneficial."


In Sumner County, using a more rigorous curriculum exposed the fact that "so many of our kids were guessing at words," writes Langford. But improving reading instruction in the early grades isn't enough. Teachers were seeing reading problems in upper grades, until "our shift to knowledge-building curriculum."


His bottom line: Foundational skills are the easy (and important!) win; knowledge-building is harder.


Schools spend a lot of time teaching comprehension skills and strategies, such as finding the main idea, but not nearly enough teaching knowledge, writes Natalie Wexler. For example, "kindergartners who got a literacy curriculum grounded in science topics had better reading comprehension" than similar students taught general comprehension skills, according to recent research.


2022 was a big year in reading instruction, as states and districts climbed on the "science of reading" bandwagon, writes Sarah Schwartz in Education Week. This part of her summary struck me: The "science of reading" isn't just about building a foundation. It includes "evidence-based strategies for teaching vocabulary, comprehension, text structure, and other skills and knowledge that students need to become skilled readers."


Schools are switching to curricula that "aim to systematically build students’ knowledge about the world, diving deeply into topics like the solar system or the civil rights movement by introducing them to lots of different texts on those topics," she writes. It seems to work.


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