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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

When fourth graders can't read

Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers have many more students who read poorly because they missed out on decoding instruction when their classes went remote, writes Timothy Shanahan on his literacy blog. "The problem is part of the backwash from our COVID shutdown tragedy."

Upper-grade teachers aren't trained to teach decoding, he writes. They don't know what to do.

Educators should test to see how many students in upper grades need explicit decoding instruction, Shanahan advises. If the numbers are high, make it part of the regular curriculum for a year or two. If the problem isn't universal, provide extra help for students who need it.

Upper-grade teachers will have to learn how to teach decoding.

"We don’t have a lot of models of high quality, successful upper grade phonics instructional efforts," he writes. But "data suggest that if kids don’t reach threshold levels of decoding, then they don’t improve in reading in the middle and high school years – no matter what we try."

"These kids really are slipping through the cracks," teachers tell Shanahan.

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