Welcome to The Literacy Cookbook

Recipes for Effective Literacy Instruction




Analyzing Literature
Most of us became teachers because we love to read.  If we do our jobs well, our students will love it, too.  This section includes handouts you can use with literature to engage students in higher-level thinking. 

The Book Talk Project
This project requires students to read a nonfiction book, describe it briefly, then answer the audience’s questions about it.  The project includes an overview of the assignment, the audience’s questions, a scoring checklist, and a list of recommended nonfiction books.  This assignment has worked very well with HS students and can be modified for MS students or for a different genre of reading.

Building Robust Vocabulary
This section provides a sample mini-unit of how to teach vocabulary using lessons from Bringing Words to Life, by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (New York: The Guilford Press, 2002).  It offers strategies to introduce the words, Do Nows, a game, homework, and a quiz.  Many thanks to Jessica Majerus at Greater Newark Charter School for sharing these helpful models! 

Comprehension 101
What are the key critical reading skills, and how do we use them to comprehend?  This section presents my latest thinking on comprehension.

Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin, and we use tests as one way to measure students’ abilities to do both.  In Connecting Reading, Writing, and Test-Prep Instruction, we examine how all three overlap. 

  • In Part I, “MAIN IDEA/ARGUMENT: Finding One vs. Building One,” we consider how to find a main idea/argument (reading and test-taking) vs. how to build a main idea/argument (writing).
  • Part II, “CRITICAL READING AND ROBUST WRITING” provides code words for different types of critical reading questions, strategies for reading fiction and nonfiction, and suggestions for how to create more robust writing.

Idiom Power
On the road to comprehension, idioms are speed bumps.  When we talk about reading comprehension gaps (to toss in another metaphor), I believe idioms are THE MISSING LINK.  No matter how you slice them (I can’t help myself), idioms are essential to lucid comprehension.  This section explains why and how you can help your students boost their Idiom Power.

Independent Reading
How can we help students to LOVE reading?  
One approach is to implement a school-wide independent reading program.  But it is not as simple as it sounds.  Some schools have attempted this hastily and failed.  However, some have planned carefully and succeeded.  You will need to provide ample resources and support for teachers, students, and parents.  You will also need incentives and accountability measures.  This section provides some questions to consider and resources you can use.  NOTE: If you're looking for ideas about SUMMER READING, check out this page!

Literature Circles
If you're thinking about launching Literature Circles, check out this page!

Mentor Texts
Looking for models to share with students?  This page provides exemplars of excellent writing!

Nonfiction Reading Strategies
How can we make nonfiction come alive for students?  What strategies will help them understand and appreciate nonfiction texts? 

While this Website focuses predominantly on reading COMPREHENSION, this page explains the importance of phonics instruction for early readers

Recommended Reading
One of the nicest gifts anyone can give me is the title of a great book.  This page is for you.  The downloadable lists are for your students. 

Root of the Week
While some schools use “The Word of the Day” to boost vocabulary, the words tend to be arbitrarily selected and unrelated to one another.  As a result, their meanings do not stick.  I recommend trying the “Root of the Week” approach.

Textbook Reading
Textbooks can play a key role in instruction.  Unfortunately, students often do not read textbooks well, and their learning suffers as a result.  This section is provides suggestions for how to make more effective use of textbooks as a resource.

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