Skill Instruction Research

LiteracyTA’s teaching philosophy and methodology is built on skill-based pedagogies, research on adolescent literacy, and over 100 years of combined classroom practice.

The sources listed below provide a snapshot into the types of texts that have influenced our work and guided our practice both as teachers and educational leaders.

Our ideas continue to be inspired by our students, our daily work in the classroom, our LiteracyTA members, and by talented researchers and practitioners who help move education forward. We are thankful to all who have dedicated their lives to helping students reach their dreams and ultimate potential.


Bridging the Gap: A Critical Reading and Writing Guide

Jonathan LeMaster (2007)
This thesis project is designed to assist secondary teachers in the explicit teaching of academic literacy. The development of this project was inspired by the need for a deliberate approach to the teaching of academic reading and writing. One of the methods of this project is to define the gap that exists between high school competencies and post-secondary expectations.

The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction

Robert J. Marazon (2007)

In this book, Marzano offers a useful framework for effective teaching. Marzano provides questions for teachers to help them plan and evaluate their teaching while providing ways for students to participate in the learning process. This insightful teacher book can help teachers examine and develop their knowledge and skills.

Common Core Standards Website
The official Common Core (CCS) website, and its appendices, include the nine Anchor Standards, articulated across academic levels (K-12) and content areas for an overwhelming total of 356 pages. For the specific realizations of the Anchor Standards at academic levels and in disciplines, see sections of this website.

Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology

John Dunlosky, Katherine A. Rawson, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Mitchell J. Nathan, and Daniel T. Willingham
Many students are being left behind by an educational system that some people believe is in crisis. Improving educational outcomes will require efforts on many fronts, but a central premise of this monograph is that one part of a solution involves helping students to better regulate their learning through the use of effective learning techniques.

Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating achievement

Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth & Christopher Lehman (2012)

This accessible and carefully-researched volume should be required reading for anyone interested in the motivations, research, and values behind the Common Core Standards (CCS). The authors point out what the standards are---and what they are not--- and provide specific implications for instruction and school-wide adoption.

The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners

Carol Ann Tomlinson (1999)

Written by the "guru" of the differentiated instruction movement, this classic text works from a definition of differentiated instruction ("teachers begin where the students are, not the front of a curriculum guide") and then explains, in considerable detail how such a classroom can be established and the instructional strategies that work.

Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms

Jeff Zwiers (2008)

This volume is chock full of suggestions for approaching vocabulary sensibly in the classroom. In addition to providing a considerable number of enjoyable and focused activities, the author provides an excellent suggestions for teaching brick (specialized terms) and mortar (cross-disciplinary terms) within, and beyond the content areas.

Comprehending in the content areas: The Challenges of Comprehension, Grades 7-12, and What to Do about Them

Elizabeth Birr Moje (2010)
After debunking the idea of "reading comprehension" as a series of multiple choice questions on a standardized test, the author defines effective comprehension as "the interaction of a reader and text immerse in particular activities, situated in specific and broad contexts, reading for particular purposes." After explaining the differences between elementary and secondary school reading, she discusses the types of knowledge necessary for effective comprehension (semantic, discipline-specific, discursive, and pragmatic), she makes practical suggestions for teachers across the curriculum.

A Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary School

Carol Booth Olson and Robert Land (2007)
This study was conducted by members of a site of the California Writing Project in partnership with a large, urban, low-SES school district where 93% of the students speak English as a second language and 69% are designated Limited English Proficient. Over an eight-year period, a relatively stable group of 55 secondary teachers engaged in ongoing professional development implemented a cognitive strategies approach to reading and writing instruction, making visible for approximately 2000 students per year the thinking tools experienced readers and writers access in the process of meaning construction. The purpose of the study was to assess the impact of this approach on the reading and writing abilities of English language learners (ELLs) in all 13 secondary schools in the district.

Academic Literacy Instruction for Adolescents: A Guidance Document from the Center of Instruction

Torgesen, J. K., Houston, D. D., Rissman, L. M., Decker, S. M., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J. Francis, D. J, Rivera, M. O., Lesaux, N.(2007)
This section presents research-based information on essential instructional practices to support adolescents’ growth in academic literacy. It assumes more than a beginning level of familiarity with literacy and literacy concepts and is based on research in two areas: (1) the nature of reading and reading comprehension in adolescents and (2) the types of instruction that lead to improvements in reading comprehension among adolescents.

Teaching Academic Language in L2 Secondary Settings

Mary J. Schleppegrell and Catherine L. O'Hallaron
Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 31, 3-18. Mary Schleppegrell and her colleagues have completed studies of the language of mathematics, of history, and of other content areas in secondary schools. Her work takes into consideration not only vocabulary but the structure of sentences and their purposes. This is one of her many publications.

Reading for Understanding: How Reading Apprenticeship Improves Disciplinary Learning in Secondary and College Classrooms

Ruth Schoenbach, Cynthia Greenleaf, and Lynn Murphy (2012)

In this volume, the authors first discuss what real reading means (e.g., it's not "decoding"); then, they provide suggestions for engaging students in the reading process, making their thinking visible, completing long reading and sustained reading assignments, and assisting students to build their knowledge in the content areas.

Content-Area Reading: Literacy and Learning Across the Curriculum

Richard T. Vacca, Jo Anne L. Vacca, and Maryann E. Mraz (2005)

In an accessible volume that has been very successful, these authors apply research and theory to classroom practices, answering questions such as: "What influences content literacy?" "What do good readers do?" and "How can the two types of metacognition (knowledge and task) be defined and taught?" These questions are followed by examples of applications, e.g., story problems, webs for creating a thesis, and double-entry journals.

The Transition to College Writing

Keith Hjortshoj (2009)

This intelligent volume, written by a Cornell college professor, examines with knowing eyes the differences between high school and college, approaches to sustained reading, "how good writing gets written," referring to the work of others, and the remarkable variations in form and purpose in college assignments. Arguing that "the purpose of college writing is to give individuals more to say, with broader perspectives and stronger voices of their own with which they can take more active, constructive roles in the professions and public life." The author demonstrates how disciplinary contexts and other factors influence the individuals and their purposes.

Everyday Genres: Writing Assignments across the Disciplines

Mary Soliday (2011)

This volume emphasizes the importance of understanding, analyzing, and contextualizing different types of writing in the disciplines. After explaining the contemporary definition of genre as a contextualized text that "carries significant ethical and social values and ways of being in the world," p. 1, she explains the importance of instructors' sharing, analyzing, and assigning different genres, depending upon their discipline and the class goals. Providing examples of assignments and activities in various disciplinary classrooms, she suggests how instructors of science, history, music, math and other areas of instruction can share their expertise in the classroom.

Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices

Education Northwest
This research document highlights that 69 percent of all eighth-graders are not proficient in comprehending the meaning of text at their grade level, and 26 percent of students read below the basic level. The writers of this report provide five practical recommendations to help teachers address the achievement gap and improve literacy skills for all students.

Teaching and Researching Reading: Reading (Applied Linguistics in Action)

William Grabe, and Fedricka L. Stoller (2002)

Grabe and Stoller offer practical advice for practitioners and researchers, including evidence-based teaching ideas and a multi-step iterative process for conducting meaningful action research on reading-related topics.

They Say/ I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein (2006)

This light and useful book shows students how to frame their arguments in the larger context of what else has been said about their topic, providing templates to help them make the key rhetorical moves in argumentation.

Why Don't Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom

Daniel T. Willingham (2009)

This easy to read volume provides useful research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning. Willingham's work can help teachers improve their practice by explaining how they and their students think and learn.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

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