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01.22.16Reading Reconsidered–An Overview and Annotated Table of Contents

Reading ReconsidredI was grateful to get to spend some time recently talking about Reading Reconsidered with Liana Heitin of EdWeek, but I found myself feeling like I didn’t capture the book in talking about it–bits and pieces maybe but no sense of the whole.

One reason–other than my own failure to describe–is that it’s a big sprawling book–got a chapter on vocabulary and a chapter on reading non-fiction and a chapter on close reading.  Each of those could be a book.  In short, nine largish chapters in all is a bit hard to explain. So if you read Liana’s article you could be forgiven for thinking the book was all about text selection when in fact that’s just one chapter.

Anyway, I thought some of the geekier types might appreciate an annotated table of contents to get a better sense for the arc of the book.  Basically I took the books table of contents–it’s broken into modules, which are distinct sub-topics within each chapter–and wrote up a tiny description of each module below so you could get a sense for what the book is about.  Over time I will try to link theses descriptions to previous blog posts I’ve shared about them


Part 1         THE CORE OF THE CORE

We discuss four “big ideas” from the Common Core that we think are sound and worth pursuing–reading harder texts, close reading, reading more non-fiction, writing directly from the text.

Chapter 1: Text Selection

  • Module 1.1         The Decline of the Canon–A reflection on the fact  that what gets read in schools is increasingly less consistent and what that means for teachers.  We’re not arguing for the rehabilitation of the canon, by the way. Just reflecting on a post-canon universe.
  • Module 1.2         Text Attributes and Leveling Systems–Common Core advises us to read harder texts… as measured by Lexiles generally.  Here we look at some of the limitations of Lexiles and other quantitative text complexity tools.
  • Module 1.3         The Five Plagues of the Developing Reader–We propose five ways text can be complex that aren’t measured by common algorithims and reflect on how to get students experience with them. Read more here.
  • Module 1.4         Book Choice–We reflect on further issues to consider in choosing what to read.
  • Module 1.5         Managing Selection–We reflect on the benefits of selection of texts becoming a more intentional conversation within schools and even upon the potential benefits of coordinated decisions by teachers in some cases.

Chapter 2: Close Reading–Close Reading is the set of tools students use to learn to read difficult texts above their comfort zone.  See more here

  • Module 2.1         Layered Reading–Deciding how to attack a text for a first or second or third read is a form of problem solving. We discuss how we might teach students different ways to read and re-read.  See more here
  • Module 2.2         Establish Meaning via Text-Dependent Questions–We lay out a taxonomy of questions that allow teachers to help students lock down the meaning and substance of challenging texts.
  • Module 2.3         Close Reading to Analyze Meaning-We lay out a taxonomy of questions that allow teachers to help students analyze the meaning and substance of those texts.
  • Module 2.4         Processing Ideas and Insights in Writing, and the Power of Clear Focus–We reflect on the importance of writing to distill students’ analyses.
  • Module 2.5         Close Reading Bursts–We reflect on how to adapt the ideas in a close reading lesson to shorter more portable units as the need or opportunity arise.

Chapter 3: Reading Nonfiction, and the Challenge of Background Knowledge

  • Module 3.1         The Key Challenge: Background Knowledge–We reflect on one of the core paradoxes of reading–it requires and relies on content knowledge and is also one of the primary tools through which that knowledge is built.  What’s a teacher to do?
  • Module 3.2         Absorption Rate–We observe that the rate at which knowledge is absorbed while students are reading is not always the same.  In other words, there are things teachers can do to increase how much knowledge students take away when they read.
  • Module 3.3         Embedding Texts to Increase Absorption Rate and Build Background Knowledge–Our primary focus in this chapter is on how to combine the reading of fiction and non-fiction on related topics to unlock greater engagement in and knowledge from both.  See more here and here and here.
  • Module 3.4         Other Ways to Build Background Knowledge–Thoughts on how the questions you ask when reading fiction could reinforce knowledge development as much as skills. See more here.
  • Module 3.5         Some Unique Challenges of Nonfiction–Our reflection on the quirky conventions of non-fiction writing–we call them “micro-skills”–and how they can pose a barrier to the uninitiated.

Chapter 4: Writing for Reading  See more here.

  • Module 4.1         Reading Class Cycles–We look at the order in which reading and writing happen in class… and how often… and propose ways to engineer the process to get more learning,
  • Module 4.2         Writing Is Revising–Look everyone asks students to write and revise their essays and compositions, but it’s the revision of more mundane everyday writing that may be more valuable in the long run.  We examine that topic here.
  • Module 4.3         Art of the Sentence–The sentence–the “complete thought”–is often over-looked, but teaching students to slow down and write single complete thoughts of complexity and nuance not only makes them better writers, it makes them better readers.  See more here and here.
  • Module 4.4         Building Stamina–Writing activities only really work in your ELA classroom if, everyone actually writes when you ask them to, and they have the capacity to write the whole time.  Reflections on how to build students’ ‘stamina’ for writing.  See more here and here.
  • Module 4.5         Monitoring and Assessment via the Stack Audit–We discuss and describe one of the most powerful tools we know of for self-study.  Se more here.


Common Core or not, some things have always been in the bailiwick of the reading teacher. Always have been, always will be.

Chapter 5     Approaches to Reading: Reading More, Reading Better

  • Module 5.1         Approaches to Reading–A reflection on the relative benefits and limitations of students reading aloud, students reading silently, and students being read to.
  • Module 5.2         Accountable Independent Reading (AIR)–How to get the most out of independent reading in class so you know kids are doing it successfully.
  • Module 5.3         Control the Game–How to get the most out of students reading aloud in class so they come to love reading and so you learn a lot about their skill. See more here.
  • Module 5.4         Read-Aloud–The “lost” technique of reading aloud to kids and how to get the most out of it.

Chapter 6:     Vocabulary Instruction: Breadth and Depth

  • Module 6.1         Explicit and Implicit Vocabulary Instruction Compared–There are two arguments about teaching vocabulary: teach words explicitly or rely on lots of reading to develop students’ vocabulary.  Daringly, we come down in favor of both, and discuss why and how they are both different and mutually important.
  • Module 6.2         Explicit Vocabulary Instruction: The Daily Word Rollout to Achieve Deep Word Knowledge–How to use explicit vocabulary instruction to build deep knowledge of words and how to play with words via problem solving games.  See more here and here.
  • Module 6.3         Implicit Instruction: Building Vocabulary During Reading–How to help make sure that students learn more words–and more about the words they learn–as they encounter them in reading.
  • Module 6.4         Maintenance and Extension–How to practice and play with words once you know them to expand knowledge and keep familiarity alive.

Chapter 7:     Reading Systems

  • Module 7.1         Interactive Reading: An Overview–Thoughts on the important art of text mark-up as a system.
  • Module 7.2         Phases of Implementation: Rollout, Modeling, Prompting, Autonomy–How to install any system of good habits you might use during reading.
  • Module 7.3         Interactive Reading System: How to Mark Up a Text (and What to Mark)–Details on how to teach students to mark-up text as they read.
  • Module 7.4         Discussion Systems: Laying the Groundwork for Habits of Discussion–First of two modules on making discussions efficient and effective through positive habits.
  • Module 7.5         Discussion Systems: Beyond the Groundwork–Second of two modules on making discussions efficient and effective through positive habits.

Chapter 8     Toward Intellectual Autonomy

  • Module 8.1         Frameworks for Interpretation–Ways of thinking about a text that students can learn, practice and fly solo with.
  • Module 8.2         Technical Vocabulary–How technical vocabulary builds autonomy and independence in talking or writing about literature.
  • Module 8.3         Phases of Development–Thoughts on how to strategically release autonomy for interpretation to students to they are successful and rigorous.
  • Module 8.4         Autonomous Writing Structures–Ways to socialize students write about texts that foster their autonomy.
  • Module 8.5         Autonomous Discussion Structures–Ways to socialize students discuss texts that foster their autonomy.

One Response to “Reading Reconsidered–An Overview and Annotated Table of Contents”

  1. Eric Pollock
    January 31, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    “…but I found myself feeling like I didn’t capture the book in talking about it–bits and pieces maybe but no sense of the whole. ”

    That was my feeling when I first read TLAC. OK, great, I have 69 techniques, now what? Will I be able to get students to react to those techniques in my disorderly and disruptive classroom? How do I really incorporate them? Just an example, of course. But it reminds me of the books that have hundreds of strategies, but no sense of an entire picture. I loved the Plug-and-Play Strong Start. How to start well, but I also want how to keep the class on course, and how to finish strong.

    The book chapters look inviting, but I hope they have an overall operational system to use in the classroom.
    Discussions Systems should be Chapter 8 or at least a separate chapter after Reading Systems;, and if you have Reading Systems, do you have Writing Systems as well? I would love to see how to incorporate them into lessons or lesson plans.

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