Improving Reading, Writing, and Content Learning for Students in Grades 4–12


Rosemarye T. Taylor

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    List of Figures


    As I look back on my professional journey, it is easy to see that literacy has always been the first and foremost purpose of my work. As a naive first-year teacher, I was thrust into an environment in urban Atlanta where my sixth-grade reading and language-arts students read between first- and third-grade levels. This was my introduction to below-grade-level readers and the lifelong quest to find solutions. From that time forward, my number one focus has been to research, design, implement, and evaluate strategies and systems to improve reading, writing, and hence content learning. Although my work has been grounded in research, it is confirmed in action research in diverse schools with a wide range of teachers and students.

    As you consider the ideas and suggestions within this text, keep in mind that about 55% of elementary students read on grade level, about 45% of middle school students read on grade level, and only about 35% of high school students read on grade level. Much of this can be attributed to the differences in the expectations of the assessments from elementary to middle to high school, which are related to the amount of nonfiction (science and social studies) reading and levels of questions on the middle and high school assessments. This trend in reading scores will be addressed and corrected only with consistent implementation of research-based instructional strategies in all classes in all grade levels. In a recent meeting of executive administrators in a diverse district of 80,000 students, the executive director for high schools attributed the gains in the district's high school reading to the consultation and support provided by the concepts and strategies in this book. I hope that readers will find success with the practical suggestions within.


    Antoinette (Toni) Worsham, supervisor of English/language arts/reading and foreign language in the Mobile County Public School System in Alabama, had encouraged me for years to write a teachers' book on developing readers, writers, and content learners in Grades 4 and up. Toni's leadership in a very diverse and challenging district is a model for pushing the higher achievers even higher and pulling up everyone else! Thank you, Toni, for being a role model and for your encouragement.

    There are many others to be acknowledged who have assisted teachers in improving literacy across schools in kindergarten through twelfth grade. These exemplars have implemented consistency in reading, writing, and content learning across grades and academic areas. Listed here are those who invited me into their schools and districts, and from whom I gratefully borrowed examples of excellence included herein.

    • Brennan Asplen and faculty, Millennium Middle School, Sanford, FL
    • Darvin Boothe and faculty, Lake Brantley High School, Altamonte Springs, FL
    • Frank Casillo and faculty, Lyman High School, Longwood, FL
    • Nancy Fuleihan, reading specialist, Southwest Middle School, Orlando, FL
    • Debbie Graves, principal of alternative schools, Orlando, FL
    • Carlotta Iglesias, former principal, Stonewall Jackson Middle School, Orlando, FL
    • Althea Jackson, Lillian Gividen, and faculty, Hiawassee Elementary School, Orlando, FL
    • Peggy Jones and faculty, Sebastian River High School, Indian River, FL
    • Marshall Kemp, administrators, and faculty, Logan County Schools, Russellville, KY
    • Deborah Peterson, visiting teacher/school social worker, Cobb County Schools, Marietta, GA
    • Shaune Storch and faculty, Lake Howell High School, Winter Park, FL
    • Bill Vogel, administrators, and faculty, Seminole County Schools, Sanford, FL
    • John Wright and faculty, Timber Creek High School, Orlando, FL

    Corwin Press gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following individuals:

    • Christene Alfonsi, Teacher
    • Fairfield Senior High School
    • Fairfield, OH
    • Allyson Burnett, Instructional Interventionist
    • Alief Hastings High School
    • Houston, TX
    • Janet Hurt, Associate Superintendent
    • Logan County Schools
    • Russellville, KY
    • Raymond Lowery, Associate Principal of Instruction
    • Alief Hastings High School
    • Houston, TX
    • Martha Jan Mickler, Independent Literacy Consultant
    • Strategic Literacy Consulting
    • Bellair Beach, FL
    • Cathy Puett Miller, Independent Literacy Consultant
    • Huntsville, AL

    About the Author

    Rosemarye (Rose) T. Taylor has a rich background that includes beginning her career as a middle and high school reading, language arts, and Spanish teacher. She also has served as a middle and high school administrator and as a district-level administrator in Georgia and Florida. In private-sector management, she was Director of Professional Development for Scholastic, Inc., New York. Currently, she is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

    Much of her success is due to conceptualizing, creating, and implementing fail-safe systems that work seamlessly to support improvements in student learning. As an example, Rose led the research, design, and implementation of the Orange County Literacy Program, which has successfully impacted thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students and teachers. The classroom concept designed with her leadership has been produced as a literacy intervention product by Scholastic, Inc. In Orange County Public Schools, Orlando, Florida, she designed and implemented a curriculum system including curriculum, instruction, assessment, and staff development supporting the notion that systems make the work of administrators and teachers easier. Through working to support the development and implementation of learning communities to advance student achievement, principals have the structure within that empowers the classroom teachers to make gains day by day.

    At the University of Central Florida, her specialty is instructional leadership. She has conducted research on leadership particularly as it relates to accountability. Presentations on this topic have been given at the University Council of Educational Administration, American Association of Educational Research, American Association of School Administrators, International Reading Association, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, National Association of Secondary School Principals, and National Middle School Association conferences. Her articles have been published in journals such as the Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, Middle School Journal Schools in the Middle, American Secondary Education, AASA Professor, The National Staff Development Journal, Principal Leadership, The School Administrator, and International Journal of Education Management. Four books, Literacy Coaching: A Handbook for School Leaders, The K-12 Literacy Leadership Fieldbook, Literacy Leadership for Grades 5–12, and Leading With Character to Improve Student Achievement, reflect the commitment to all students learning more through leadership that creates ethical fail-safe systems, particularly literacy systems. She serves as a consultant to schools, districts, and professional organizations, such as Phi Delta Kappa and ASCD, in the areas of literacy, creating district and school literacy systems, small learning communities, curriculum system development, and leadership.

  • Resource A: Teacher Reflection Guide

    Teacher Reflection Guide

    Part 1. Reading Components

    • What did students do to develop vocabulary today?
    • What did students do to improve fluency?
    • How did students strategize to comprehend the text?
    • What will I do differently next time?

    Part 2. Framing Print Instruction With Before-, During-, and After-Reading Strategies

    • What strategies did I use today?
      • Before reading
      • During reading
      • After reading
    • Which ones worked really well?
      • Before reading
      • During reading
      • After reading
    • What will I try next time?
      • Before reading
      • During reading
      • After reading

    Part 3. High Levels of Thinking

    • What levels of thinking did students work on today?
    • Which questions were at levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation?
    • Which levels of thinking will students work on tomorrow?
    • Who developed the questions today—teacher or students?

    Part 4. Questioning

    • What questioning strategies did I use today?
    • Which questioning strategies worked well?
    • Which ones will I work on tomorrow?
    • Did I call on every student?
    • Did I validate every student?
    • Were incorrect responses corrected and confirmed, clarifying meaning?
    • Were questions asked on all levels, low to high?

    Part 5. Writing

    • How was writing used to develop vocabulary?
    • How was writing used for students to show comprehension?
    • How was writing used before, during, and after reading?
    • Did students write down their questions before we answered them?
    • Did students peer-review writing and provide feedback?
    • Do students have the rubric for grading? Is it always consistent?

    Copyright © 2007 by Corwin Press. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Improving Reading, Writing, and Content Learning for Students in Grades 4–12, by Rosemarye T. Taylor. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Resource B: Accountable Independent Reading Log

    Accountable Independent Reading Log

    Student: _____Book: _____Author: _____Genre: _____

    Resource C: Book Talk Checklist

    Book Talk Checklist

    Student: _____Book: _____Author: _____Genre: _____

    Directions: Please assign up to 5 points for each of the five categories on the checklist. Sign your name after totaling up the points you are awarding the student. Each student will give the book talk 4 times, one time to each of 4 different adults, earning a possible total of 100 points.


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    Corwin Press

    The Corwin Press logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin Press is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK–12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin Press continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”

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