Essential Takeaways from Reading Reconsidered by Doug Lemov

Do you want to teach your students how to read more effectively and prepare them for college and life? In this podcast episode, Amanda discusses the book “Reading Reconsidered” by Doug Lemov, which provides a wealth of information on how to improve students’ reading abilities. The book emphasizes the importance of equity in education and student engagement. It is organized around four important elements of reading instruction. Amanda goes through the chapters of the book and highlights key points, such as the importance of selecting challenging texts, using close reading practices, and analyzing meaning via text-dependent questions.

While Amanda praises the book overall, she expresses some reservations about the authors’ reliance on cold calling as a teaching technique. She also recommends being mindful when practicing reading with students who have learning disabilities.

Hello everyone. In the last few episodes I have released recordings from a summer reading series that I did two years ago about eight books for English teachers on the topic of equity and social justice. And it’s been really exciting to release these on the podcast because I have listened to them and just feel like these books and the information on them are so relevant today and will be relevant for years and years to come. It really is timeless information. And I just I don’t know, maybe I’ll kick myself for saying that in a decade or two. You never know. Education changes all the time and what’s prioritized changes all the time. But I feel like the foundational elements of it, such as the importance of equity in education and student engagement and, and really prioritizing those aspects of teaching those those will never go away. They’re very, very important. And I just really have enjoyed listening to these again, and I hope you’re enjoying listening to them. So this week I’m releasing the recording where I discuss the key takeaways and what I learned and appreciated learning from a book.

Probably one of my favorite books in the whole series called Reading Reconsidered. And with everything that’s been going on with the Reading Wars, I think this book is more relevant than ever. And I just it really reminds me and probably you as well, about the importance of going back to basics, I guess, and realizing that when things are. When the pendulum swing shifts, I guess, is what I’m trying to say in education. And we know those of us who have been around a long time myself, I’ve been around for 14 years going into my 15 years as a teacher. There are certain ideas that become really popular and important and such as, for example, when I first started teaching workshop, the workshop method reading and writing workshop, I really latched on to those methods of teaching. But we have to remember that it’s not one size fits all and we can’t just latch on to one method and do nothing else. We have to adapt and change with the times and with our students. And we have to remember that all teachers need a toolkit and they need to be able to have like a big, not literal bag of tools, but like we really do have so much at our fingertips and so many tools and methods available to us and that we can’t just rely on one because it might not work for the students and from front of us.

So Doug Lemov and the co-authors of this book really remind teachers that direct instruction, whole class instruction, are really, really important reading aloud to our students. These are things that have really kind of been made taboo for many, many years for teachers. We felt bad about reading aloud too long, especially in secondary classrooms or about too much lecturing, like we shouldn’t lecture too much. And I talk a lot about this in the recording, so I’m going to stop here and just let you know that this is a really important episode, and I really hope that you get a lot of value out of it. And if you want access to the other eight book talks and notes to go with them, as well as a workshop toolkit and other professional development videos related to all of these eight books, look in the description of this episode and you can get access to all eight books right now today. So that’s pretty awesome because I know many teachers are on summer break and maybe they’re there. Want to read list of books? Professional development books is way too high.

So you’d rather just kind of listen to the key takeaways and how you might apply the information from the book in your own classroom. That’s what this does for you. So go ahead. Take a listen. And if you’re interested in the other eight books, click the link in the description. Thank you so much for your support. I really, really appreciate it. Enjoy. Welcome to the Empower Students Now Podcast. A podcast about equity, neurodiversity, mindfulness and student engagement. There’s a lot that needs to change in our education system. The good news is teachers have the power to make these changes now. Hello. Welcome back to my virtual library. Today we are talking about a book called Reading Reconsidered by Doug Lemov, and there are some other co-authors as well. And so let’s just get started, shall we? So let’s first I’ll share a one-sentence summary of the book Reading Teachers must prepare students from privileged and nonprivileged backgrounds alike for college and life with intentionality. And that is what this book is all about.

Often in reading classrooms, teachers prioritize matching students to books that interest them and making sure there is dedicated time in class to read those books. As a workshop teacher myself. This is definitely how I’ve approached teaching reading. But according to the authors of Reading Reconsidered reading, teachers must do more if they want their students to be successful at the college level and in life. The authors of this book, Work for Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit organization that runs 44 high performing urban charter schools. They were tasked by their employer with figuring out reading their schools were outperforming other schools with similar student demographics, but they wanted to, quote, find a way to help our kids outperform students born to privilege and the lifetime of implicit benefits to literacy that comes with it. So they wanted to outperform even other schools with other demographics, especially schools that had more privileged demographics. Their journey to figure out reading took them into classrooms of highly successful reading teachers. It took several years of observation, observations and research to develop the ideas outlined in this wonderful book.

 They found that methods like giving students books they like to read and hoping for the best. I’m guilty of doing this, just won’t cut it. The Common Core Standards also guided their work to discover the reading instruction practices that create real results in the lives of students and the practices that needed to go. The whole book is organized around four important elements of reading instruction. Here they are. They call these four elements the core of the core. So they just consolidated the core into four elements. The core Common Core. Number one, read harder texts. Number two, close read texts rigorously and intentionally. Number three, read more. Nonfiction More effectively. Number four, Write more effectively in direct response to texts. Okay, Let’s go into kind of the chapters of this book and what they’re all about. So chapter one is all about selecting texts. There are solid reasons for why our jobs are to make sure students are reading challenging texts. And I have this really lengthy quote, but I think it’s super important to read out loud to you so you can kind of fully grasp what students have ahead of them.

Arrive This is a quote. Arriving at college means making adaptations to dorms and meal halls, to bigger classes, to managing time. But it also means encountering science classes that require the reading of highly technical abstracts and dense textbooks, social sciences courses that tend to transition from using secondary sources. Discussion of a text of document in a textbook, say to primary sources reading the document itself, a bit of Freud or Darwin or the Declaration of the of Independence and English classes that introduce texts that deliberately resist easy making meaning, making by readers John Dawn, Ralph Ellison or William Faulkner. Gabriel Garcia marquez to send students who are unfamiliar with the struggle of challenging text. Never mind having never read a book more than 100 years old to this environment is to send them unprepared. The first chapter discusses text selection at length. Overall, the authors advocate for a shared school canon, so a school developing their what they’re going to read and trying to kind of be consistent about the kinds of challenging texts they’re introducing to students grade by grade.

There’s a lot of information in this book to read in depth about how to select texts, but it should be developed as a school and by teachers who realize that their books need to be challenging, have literary utility. So having defining literary devices in the book and also how they connect with other texts that are being read throughout the year and in different grade levels, the book should have cultural capital, which has shared knowledge of our society, disciplinary literacy see the way that authors influence each other throughout history. I’m going to just kind of in this chapter with a quote There is power in shared reading in the classroom power that is generally underrated. So just they’re really all about having shared reading experiences. So whole class novels. Okay, so chapter two is all about close reading. In this chapter, close reading is defined and important close reading practices are provided. So here’s the definition of close reading. If students need to read harder texts, then they need the tools to do so. Close reading is a set of tools students use to solve a text that is out of their comfort zone to read.

But it’s important to note that close reading can’t happen if students aren’t provided with texts above their reading levels and supported through the process by their teacher. So there are four parts to a close reading lesson, but unplanned close reading bursts can also be done is what they say. So the four parts are using layered reading. So reading all the way through a text before analyzing it, and then going into kind of line-by-line reading, leapfrog reading, which is jumping to different places in the text to analyze different parts of the text. So layered reading is like, you know, rereading really like going back to the text over and over again to gain meaning and comprehension, but also to analyze. Um, and then the second part of a close reading lesson is establishing meaning via text-dependent questions. If students get the gist or a main idea, we can’t assume they understand the text fully. tDCS can’t be answered. Text-dependent questions can’t be answered without fully grasping the text being read. These types of questions can be created as a teacher.

Close reads a text prior to lessons and develops questions that help students understand the text better and be able to analyze the components of the text. There are many types of questions to consider asking students. I’m not going to go into all of them. The book describes a whole bunch of different types of questions you can ask students. Um, and so if anyone’s interested, I mean, I can share what they kind of the types of questions they have. And I do have I’m reading from notes so I can share those with you as well. The next part of a close reading lesson is analyzing meaning via text dependent questions. So the first part is establishing meaning, making sure students understand the text, and then analyzing. So analyzing like. And then there’s a bunch of different types of questions for analyzing, analyzing, figurative meaning, analyzing connotation, key line questions like pointing out a key line and analyzing that allusion question. There’s so many. So I’m not going to go into detail about all of them. And then the fourth part of a close reading lesson is processing insights and the book or the text through writing.

And there’s more about that in another chapter. Okay. The third chapter is all about reading nonfiction and just the challenge of background knowledge. Students need more nonfiction because this is what they mostly read in college and in life. They also need it because the more background knowledge that is stored in long term memory, the more text students will be able to comprehend. Background knowledge is essential in helping students become strong readers. Teachers can highlight novels they are reading through nonfiction. This allows students to. To develop cross textual connections and understand the text better and be able to analyze them better. So basically they’re saying like pair whole class novels with nonfiction texts that relate with the novels and really bring the the main ideas and the themes of the novel out and to. Uh, to just better understand the text and kind of, you know, even develop kind of background about the context of the book and things like that. Chapter four is about writing for reading. And of course, this was my favorite chapter. Writing in response to part of a text can give the teacher a lot of quality information about how her students are doing, not only comprehending the text, but also in their ability to analyze.

It also gives students an opportunity to develop their own ideas about the text via writing. The authors point out that teachers make a huge mistake when they allow students to discuss a text and then write about it because often students write about what they heard their peers say or what they heard their teacher say. And so they’re not really developing their own ideas. So there’s a lot of variety of ways this can be avoided. So there’s these different cycles that they discuss. So the most classic cycle is you read a part of the book, you discuss it, and then you read some more. Um, but it’s important to embed more writing into this. So how do you do that? Well, first you, you could try this type of cycle read, have students write or stop and jot and then read some more. There’s also the read and then write and then discuss cycle. This allows students to develop their own ideas first so they’re prepared to discuss. And so any misunderstandings can be cleared up during the discussion.

This also allows teachers to assess students’ individual understanding. Then the probably most ideal way to do this is to read, then write, then discuss, then revise the original writing cycle. This is ideal because students have a purpose for the discussion. They are, you know, thinking about ways that they can change their writing that they did. And they can also, um, listen to their peers to get more ideas for their revision, which is really awesome. Okay. And that chapter has a lot of information. This book is dense, so, um, I’m not, I can’t go over all of it in 15 minutes, but I’m doing my best. Okay. Chapter five is all about approaches to reading. The authors argue that reading aloud has been undervalued in our school systems. Independent reading is important, but there are many drawbacks when it comes to teaching students how to approach challenging texts and analyze those texts effectively. And so this requiring students to read independently and do all of this alone is a little bit unrealistic.

This is why the authors suggest approaching reading in other ways, too. So. So, for example, the teacher reading out loud to students cold, calling students to read aloud. And this really helps with engagement increases engagement increases your ability to have all students focused and attentive on what you’re reading. Um, the also the authors also discussed that in order for reading to be meaningful, it should build in accountability expressiveness and be highly leveraged for accountability. Teachers need to be able to assess if students are actually reading rather than just daydreaming or looking at pictures for expressiveness. It should be very obvious if a student can comprehend a text through their expressive reading. Um, for highly leveraged teachers want to get the most bang for their buck or the most students reading and comprehending what is read. The authors have a method they share in the book called Control the Game. This basically means that teachers in the teachers in control of who reads and when some of the helpful advice gleaned was We should keep the reading short and the reader unpredictable.

Reduce transaction costs. So this is the time it takes to transition from one reader to the next spot Check. So leaving out a word and having the class fill in it in as you’re reading aloud, and then using cues for students to hold their place, such as a finger or pen to the page. Um. Okay. That’s it for that chapter. Chapter six is all about vocabulary instruction. The authors discuss vocabulary word tiers, so there’s tier one words, tier two words and Tier three words. Tier one are simple and straightforward. Tier three are technical vocabulary specific to a subject area. Tier two words are highly useful to teach explicitly to students and appear mostly in print and likely to appear in many places. In print there are the words we should focus. These are the words we should be focusing on teaching. We need to teach Tier two words explicit. Directly with a formal lesson and implicitly as words are encountered encountered throughout a challenging text. The authors go into great detail about how to pick the words to teach explicitly and how to selectively neglect words.

They also discuss many vocabulary instruction strategies that are highly useful. The one that I found the most useful was just having a word wall. A whole bunch of your tier two words up on the wall so that students can use them in discussions and in their writing. One important point I want to bring up about this chapter is that the authors emphasize the importance of getting away from the synonym model of teaching vocabulary. When teaching Tier two words, we need to share kid friendly definitions of the words with students, but not just synonyms for the words. Here’s a quote When we rely too heavily on the synonym model or even basic definitions alone, we risk allowing our students to miss these subtleties of a word’s meaning. Chapter seven is all about reading systems. In this chapter, the authors discuss the vital importance of classroom systems, but they specifically discuss interactive reading and discussion systems. And when they say interactive reading, they mean like writing in the margins of a text like annotation. So they do not advocate for highlighters. They think that students should be using pens or pencils to do their interactive reading.

And then they also talk about discussions like having systems for discussions, routines and procedures you implement so that all students are able to have a rigorous and lively discussion about the text. The authors explain that we must model and practice rituals such as having students make eye contact with the speaker, not interrupting when someone’s talking with their, you know, by raising their hands, using listening gestures such as head nodding, having students use complete sentences using sentence stems can help with this. Having students speak to each other rather than always looking at the teacher, prompting students to use technical vocabulary from your word wall, prompting students to use loud and clear voices and just prompting for more information from students and cutting students off when they’re just like totally on a tangent and not, you know, not on on topic and having a purpose for these discussions and objective. Okay. Chapter eight is all about moving toward intellectual autonomy. This chapter delves into the importance of having a purpose for reading analysis. There are multiple frameworks discussed. The frameworks are story form.

So analyzing how a story is formed, analyzing imagery, literary devices, figurative language, knowledge, just the information in the text, the author’s intention and position, analyzing characters and like intellectual intertextual connections between different texts that you’re reading throughout the year. Planning for independence involves having the teacher decide the frameworks at first when reading a text, but gradually allowing students to choose the framework that they want to analyze in a text. The literary Analysis protocol lap is what they call it is also shared in this chapter. This is a repeatable protocol that you can model and guide students through that eventually they will be able to do with any excerpt of a text. So number one, identify the characters in this passage. Number two, identify where in the plot of the book the scene takes place. Number three, explain how the scene discusses, discusses or reflects on an idea that’s important to the larger text. Number four Compare the scene in the passage to at least one other scene in the novel or story or something else. The class is read explaining how the themes, ideas and motifs are portrayed.

So this is kind of like a cycle that students are always going to go through when you present them with an excerpt from a text. All right. So my review, we’re we’re kind of wrapping up here. This book is packed with helpful information for middle and high school reading teachers. It’s a bit daunting, honestly. It’s so long, over 300 pages. I read every word. I mean, it’s it’s really awesome. But I really think that if a teacher really, really wants to master the craft of teaching, reading and excel her students reading capabilities, then this book is exactly what you need to do that kind of work. Even though it’s super dense, it’s worth it to read. The other awesome thing about this book is there’s a CD that comes with videos of lessons and action that support the work discussed in the book. So if you didn’t want to read the book, you could just watch all the videos on the CD and get a lot out of it. And then through the though, the book is dense, it’s organized really well.

And once you’ve read it fully, it’s easy to kind of flip to a particular part to get the tools you need when you’re planning your lessons. The only aspect of the book I didn’t like was the reliance on cold calling. I do see the benefits of putting students on the spot. They’re more likely to be engaged in the reading being done. I just hesitate to put this practice into play because the authors don’t really talk about how to handle cold calling students with learning disabilities. I do have some ideas about how to approach this maybe serving kids at the beginning of the year about their feelings when it comes to being cold called and reading aloud in front of their peers and just having some private conversations with students who encounter extreme stress when put into these kind of situations. My sister is actually one of these kids. She’s an adult now and she’s very successful, has a career and everything, super happy. But she was diagnosed with a learning disability in elementary school and she was in special ed all through school. She has resonant trauma from being called on to read aloud in front of her classmates.

So I just I really think that we should be mindful when doing this kind of practice of students with learning disabilities. Okay. So if you’re a teacher who doesn’t feel you have the tools necessary to teach the kind of reading students are going to be expected to do in college, then I highly recommend you read this book. If you feel pretty confident in your abilities to teach rigorous analytical reading skills, then don’t know. Maybe you don’t need this book, but I really found it very, very, very helpful and I hope that you found this really brief overview of a very dense book. Helpful as well. Thanks for joining me for the English Teacher Summer Reading series. I’m so happy you all are here. And so I’ll see you next week. All right. That is the recording from 2021 about this book. Again, if you’re interested in getting these overviews about the seven other books, click the link in the description of this episode and you’ll be taken to a page where you can purchase these book talks and get access to all my notes and a toolkit of materials you can use to apply what you learned from the books.

If you do purchase this book talk series, you are supporting the work that I do. It’s only $36. It’s well worth it. And I appreciate you and thank you for supporting my work and growing as a social justice educator.



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