English Language Arts


Teaching Decoding Skills
Teaching Decoding (pdf) by Dr. Louisa Moats is a must-read summary of what we know about teaching decoding skills. The article is from a seminal issue of American Educator, The Unique Power of Reading & How to Unleash It, which was published in 1998. Dr. Moats has also written a superb document for the American Federation of Teachers called Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able To Do (pdf).

Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading & Spelling (LETRS), created by Dr. Louisa Moats, is based on the belief that, to reach all learners, teachers must understand how students learn to read and write, the reasons why some children fail to learn, and the instructional strategies best supported by research. In addition, teachers must have an understanding of the language structures they are teaching. These core understandings have been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers and the Learning First Alliance. LETRS modules are designed to teach teachers the content outlined in these consensus documents on reading instruction.

Making Sense of Phonics: The Hows and Whys by Dr. Isabel Beck is one of very best books on decoding and phonics.

Balanced Reading, a site developed by Dr. Sebastian Wren of the Southwest Education Lab, provides effective reading instruction resources for teachers, administrators, and parents.

Soundabet, developed by kindergarten teacher Dan Gurney, is a literacy support system that makes learning the code (44 sounds and 26 letters) easy and fun for K-1 students. It can be used as a supplement to Open Court, Houghton Mifflin, or any other solid core language arts program. Request Soundabet materials via email to dangurney51@gmail.com.

CIERA, the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement, has many useful resources, downloadables, presentations, research papers, etc. with a particular focus on K-3 reading issues. One example of the work you can find at the CIERA website is Learning to Read Words: Linguistic Units and Strategies, a paper by Dr. Connie Juel of Harvard University.

Word Sorting/Word Study “E-Resources”
Words Their Way by Bear et al. includes a CD-ROM with printable word sorts.

Effects of Traditional Versus Extended Word-Study Spelling Instruction …, by Dr. Mary Abbott, suggests that word study is superior to traditional memorization-based spelling. This is an example of how research support for word study and word sorting is continuing to build.

Timothy Rasinski, Ph.D., has written over 150 articles, books, chapters, etc. on word study and related topics. For an array of free articles and downloads, as well as links to many published materials, visit his website.


Reading Fluency, The Bridge From Decoding to Comprehension
The National Reading Panel has put together a “state of the art” summary of what works in building reading fluency. Aligned with those findings are a number of excellent research-informed programs to build fluency, all of which focus on guided oral repeated reading at your instructional level. A few of the best are Read Naturally, Great Leaps, Fluency Formula, and Quick Reads. Noted teacher educator Dr. Timothy Rasinski from Kent State University has put together an excellent book on fluency, The Fluent Reader.

Dr. Rasinski is one of our nation’s leading experts on reading fluency and how to develop these skills in all readers. His presentation, Effective Teaching of Reading From Phonics to Fluency, is especially useful.

Focus on Fluency Forum
Pacific Region Educational Lab (PREL) hosted a star-studded cast of researchers sharing information on fluency. A free publication from the Focus on Fluency (2003) conference is available online.

Assessing Fluency
Here are three fluency assessment systems worthy of a look: 1) Reading Fluency Benchmark Assessor, 2) DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency and Retell Fluency and 3) AIMSweb.

It’s essential to have research-informed guidance to determine what a fluency score means. The most comprehensive information we have was gathered by Jan Hasbrouck and Gerald Tindal and is summarized in the Hasbrouck-Tindal Table of Oral Fluency Norms.

Dr. Jan Hasbrouck’s website is also a goldmine of practical information about all aspects of reading fluency.

Sustained Silent Reading is not a Fluency Solution
Published in the American Educator, Dr. Jan Hasbrouck’s article Drop Everything and Read – But How? summarizes the uses and abuses of Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) and clarifies how teachers can build fluency for students who need this support.