ASCD Special Report -- Reading: The Core Skill (Part II) | Understanding what makes text complex | Teacher: Reading aloud benefits students
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March 29, 2012
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Special Report: Assessment-Driven Instruction
ASCD Special Report -- Reading: The Core Skill (Part II)
ASCD SmartBrief continues its look at Reading: The Core Skill. In Part II of this two-part, in-depth special report, we examine best practices, technology, testing and how tight budgets have pushed reading off the page and onto the screen.

In case you missed it, Part I, which was published Tuesday, focused on the benefits of reading and writing with students, nonfiction texts, teaching early reading and whether holding back struggling readers is a good idea.

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At a Glance
Understanding what makes text complex
There are several factors that determine whether text is complex, says Timothy Shanahan, a professor and department chairman at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, professors at San Diego State University, California. They write in this article that vocabulary, sentence structure, coherence and organization of the text can indicate its complexity. Another factor, however, is the level of knowledge students have before reading the text.
Educational Leadership (3/2012) 
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Lexia Closes the Gap within in One School Year
In a recent national study, 56 percent of a representative sample of K-3 at-risk students using Lexia Reading as recommended advanced through one or more grade level of material to finish the year at the end-of-year benchmark for their grade. Learn More
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Best Practices
Teacher: Reading aloud benefits students
A middle-school language-arts teacher writes in this blog about the benefits of reading aloud with students -- a practice celebrated on World Read Aloud Day, March 7. Donalyn Miller writes that reading aloud builds community, exposes students to books they might not read on their own and supports developing readers.
Education Week Teacher (premium article access compliments of EdWeek.org)/The Book Whisperer blog (2/15) 
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Should students read books in their entirety?
Students should be given the opportunity to read and analyze books in their entirety, says Ariel Sacks, a seventh-grade English teacher and member of the Teacher Leaders Network. She writes in this article about an alternate approach to the typical piecemeal instruction of text. Instead, she suggests teachers select a literary work, give students time to read, track students' progress, assign group projects and discuss the literature with students.
Education Week (premium article access compliments of EdWeek.org) (2/29) 
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How literacy can benefit math lessons
Four educators in Missouri are studying whether there are connections between English and math instruction that could be utilized in classroom lessons. Early findings show that writing improves students' engagement in math lessons. Some of the benefits are "bigger than learning," the educators found, citing an improved relationship between teachers and students following the introduction of written work.
Education Week Teacher (premium article access compliments of EdWeek.org) (2/29) 
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Other News
Introducing the First Data-Driven Reading App
Lexia Reading for the iPad is the only research-validated literacy program available for tablet devices, providing data-driven, individualized learning. Fun, engaging, and age-appropriate activities for K-3 students of all abilities, and struggling students grades 4-12 Available in late 2012.
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Testing and Standards
Common core includes focus on nonfiction texts
As school districts move closer to adopting the Common Core State Standards, educators say they are working to ensure they are prepared for the new focus on informational texts. Some educators say students are less familiar with nonfiction and how to read it. Experts also urge educators to ensure they maintain a balance with instruction on fiction texts.
Education Week (premium article access compliments of EdWeek.org) (3/14) 
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Ind. launches new state reading test
Schools in Indiana are using the IREAD-3 (Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination assessment) for the first time this year. Educators say they prepared for the exam, administered to third-grade students, through an eight-step process in which students are evaluated every three weeks. Students who fail the exam will be allowed to take it again over the summer. Those who fail after that will be held back one grade.
The Herald Bulletin (Anderson, Ind.) (3/15) 
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Find more time for individualized instruction. Nearly 25% of teacher time is spent testing, rather than teaching. Lexia Reading® individualizes instruction, delivers real-time assessment data without testing, and provides recommended resources to differentiate instruction. Learn more.
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Technology in the Classroom
Evaluating the reliability of digital resources
Students today are inundated with digital information -- not all of it reliable -- so the author of this article suggests several digital reading strategies. Debbie Abilock, author and co-founder of NoodleTools, says students should examine who has reviewed online sources, compare the online text to other sources and analyze information presented in graphics.
Educational Leadership (3/2012) 
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Calif. school uses iPods to improve reading instruction
Educators at a California elementary school are using iPods as part of a reading program to help boost students' reading performance. The strategy, which has students using iPods to listen to audiobooks as they read along with the print versions, originally was used with English-language learners and struggling readers but is now being used with other students as well. The school has 400 audiobooks and 50 devices for use by students.
T.H.E. Journal (3/7) 
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Other News
Budgets and Funding
IPad 2 devices now less-costly electronic-textbook option
The lower cost of iPad 2 tablet computers, brought on by the March 7 unveiling of the newest iPad version, could lead more schools to consider deploying the devices for students, says Vineet Madan, vice president of McGraw Hill Education, which is partnering with Apple on its e-textbook initiative. "The iPad 2 still a phenomenally powerful device," Madan said. "Our content performs incredibly well on that device. At the same time, we can build better things for new iPad."
Talking Points Memo (3/12) 
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Schools see savings by using Kindle Fire for reading, tests
Middle-school students in an Illinois school are testing the use of the Kindle Fire in the classroom as part of a pilot program in which students use the devices to read, take quizzes and conduct research. Officials say the Kindle Fire -- which costs $200 -- could be a more affordable option than laptop computers. If adopted, officials say parents could pay for the Kindle devices and students could keep them when they leave school.
Chicago Sun-Times (free registration)/Northbrook Star (3/13) 
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ASCD Resources
More on Reading: The Core Skill
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