We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Exercises*: Listening to Stories is More Efficient Than Direct Instruction for Vocabulary Acquisition

Study reviewed: Loftus-Rattan, S. M., Mitchell, A. M., & Coyne, M. D. (2016). Direct vocabulary instruction in preschool: A comparison of extended instruction, embedded instruction, and incidental exposure. The Elementary School Journal, 116(3), 391-410. (pay wall) Everyone agrees that reading storybooks to young children helps them build vocabulary. But lots of researchers think they can […]

Do Good Scrabble® Players Read More Than the Rest of Us?

Protzner, A. B., Hargreaves, I. S., Campbell, J. A., Myers-Stewart, K., van Hees, S., Goodyear, B. G., … & Pexman, P. M. (2016). This is your brain on Scrabble: neural correlates of visual word recognition in competitive Scrabble players as measured during task and resting-state. Cortex, 75, 204-219. I’m a sucker for academic clickbait. This […]

Reading Science Books for Pleasure Will Help You in Science Class: Chen, Chang, & Yang (2017)

Study discussed: Chen, S.Y., Chang, H.Y, and Yang, S. (2017). Content-Based Recreational Book Reading and Taiwanese Adolescents’ Academic Achievement. Journal of Education and Learning, 6(1). (Open Access) One of the current fixations of the reading field is teaching “academic language,” especially academic vocabulary, via direct instruction. Most of these efforts have produced very meager results, […]

Academic Vocabulary Instruction II: Learning 1 Word in 5 Hours Shouldn’t Count as a Success

Study reviewed: Townsend, D., & Collins, P. (2009). Academic vocabulary and middle school English learners: An intervention study. Reading and Writing, 22(9), 993-1019. In a previous post, I noted that one of the studies often cited for the success of academic vocabulary instruction, Snow, Lawrence, and White (2009), is in fact an example of its questionable effectiveness. […]

The New York Times Goes Back to the Future: The New Literacy Crisis, Writing Edition

The New York Times education reporter Dana Goldstein on the rather silly notion that most kids are not “proficient” in writing: Three-quarters of both 12th and 8th graders lack proficiency in writing, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress. And 40 percent of those who took the ACT writing exam in the […]

Academic Vocabulary Instruction: Does Word Generation Really Teach You Two Years’ Worth of Words in 22 Weeks?

Study reviewed: Snow, C., Lawrence, J., & White, C. (2009). Generating knowledge of academic language among urban middle school students. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2(4), 325-344. One of the hot topics of the past decade or so in language education research has been the teaching of “academic language” and “academic vocabulary.” I have […]

Closing the Books on Open Court Reading

Back in the 1990s, the Los Angeles Times was a big fan of the scripted reading curriculum, Open Court, designed to teach reading in the elementary grades through a heavy dose of explicit, systematic phonics. The Times reporters wrote lots of favorable articles about phonics instruction in general, especially then-education reporter, Richard Lee Colvin. Others […]

The Goldilocks Corollary to the Input Hypothesis

Zoe M. Flack, Jessica S. Horst. Two sides to every story: Children learn words better from one storybook page at a time. Infant and Child Development, 2017; e2047 DOI: 10.1002/icd.2047 (paywall) The Input Hypothesis (more generally referred to now as the Comprehension Hypothesis) states that we acquire language by understanding messages (Krashen, 1981, 1982). How exactly do we […]

Do ELLs Need More Grammar and Spelling Instruction?

Swanson, H. L., Orosco, M. J., & Kudo, M. F. (2017). Do Specific Classroom Reading Activities Predict English Language Learners’ Later Reading Achievement? Reading & Writing Quarterly, 33(3), 199-210. Swanson and colleagues observed reading instruction in 50 elementary classrooms with 270 Spanish-speaking English-language learners (ELLs) over a period of two school years. Three grade levels were […]

I Know What You Shouldn’t Have Done Last Summer

Rachel R. Romeo, Joanna A. Christodoulou, Kelly K. Halverson, Jack Murtagh, Abigail B. Cyr, Carly Schimmel, Patricia Chang, Pamela E. Hook, John D.E. Gabrieli. Socioeconomic Status and Reading Disability: Neuroanatomy and Plasticity in Response to Intervention. Cerebral Cortex, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhx131 (paywall) I admit that the opening paragraph of the MIT press release last week for […]

What Kaplan and Princeton Review Don’t Want You to Know About the SAT

A recent article in the New York Times recommended that students from low-income backgrounds should prepare for the SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test) “like a rich kid” by spending hundreds of hours studying test prep books, visiting tutors, and taking online cram courses. This is very poor advice, whether you are rich or not. Most studies find […]

Spelling Nonsense Words Requires Rules Useful in Spelling Nonsense Words

Study Reviewed:  P. Mitchell, N. Kemp, & P. Bryant. (2011). Variations among adults in their use of morphemic spelling rules and word-specific knowledge when spelling. Reading Research Quarterly, 46(2), 119-133. There’s no better way to start a discussion of almost any topic related to reading and writing than a quote from Frank Smith.  Here’s one […]