Book Study Begins

Hello to all,

January 5th starts the first week of our Book Study.  In order to get started, we are going to post from the LINCS Study Guide (available for download in the documents tab) the questions that we will be addressing this week.

Please note:  Questions 1-3 can be applied to any and all chapters.  We don’t expect you to respond to every question in the discussion.  Choose the question(s) that are most relevant to you.  In your post, be sure to indicate which question you are responding t

  1. How did the ideas in this chapter speak to your experience as a teacher?
  2. What in this chapter particularly caught your attention?  Cite a specific phrase, sentence or group of sentences that grabbed you and explain why.
  3. Were there ideas or sections in this chapter you had questions about?  Anything you want to know more about?

Chapter 1:  Engaged Academic Literacy for All

  1. What is your reaction to the descriptions on pages 6-11 of “Solutions That Don’t Solve the Problem”?  Do some of these reflect or contradict your own experience?
  2. What did you feel and/or think when you read the sections on teachers’ and students’ “untapped resources” (pages 12-14)?

Chapter 2:  The Reading Apprenticeship Framework

  1. What questions and reactions do you have regarding the definition of reading that begins this chapter?
  2. What parts of the Reading Apprenticeship framework (if any) make sense to you and reflect your experience?  What parts (if any) seem hard to understand, picture, or relate to?
  3. Which of the six elements of this framework (4 dimensions and metacognitive conversation and extensive reading) are most related to your teaching interests and experience?  Which of them are further from your teaching practices?  Which are you most interested in learning more about?

We are sure that these comprehensive questions can get the discussion rolling.  Let’s begin.


Meryl Becker-Prezocki and Susan Finn Miller



The authors of this text state that tapping into the reading resources that teachers and students already possess lies  "at the heart" of their approach. As I read this, I realized that I have rarely thought about the reading strategies I use to understand complicated texts. Before reading this chapter, I would have attributed my abilities simply to many years of reading and writing academic texts.  As I delved into the chapter, however, I began to notice how often I paged back through what I had already read, how my mind wandered to specific challenges I faced when teaching adult students to read such text, and how much this approach works in tandem with the teaching of academic writing. I also found myself writing questions that I hoped to have answered as I read further. In other words, I became much more aware of how much I was interacting with the text I was reading.  I look forward to learning how to model this process to students.

Kathleen, I appreciate your acknowledging the value of getting in touch with our own reading strategies. I am beginning to understand how important this is, too. We teachers need to be able to do what you are doing and step outside to observe ourselves and think about what we actually do to understand what we are reading.

Best, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Susan, I would love to know how you and others get in touch with your own reading strategies.  I am trying to observe myself as I read, but it is more difficult than I thought it would be. Perhaps this is explained further in the text.  In any case, has anyone found an effective way to do this?

Thanks, Kathleen

Kathleen and all, I think it would be a very worthwhile for us to have a conversation here to explore ways we can become more aware of our own strategies. It's kind of like Stanford University professor Jeff Zwiers says, "we are like fish trying to describe water" since these moves are so automatic for those of us who are fluent readers. I think one way to get at it is to read something more complex than we usually read, and pay attention to what we do to monitor and fix comprehension when it breaks down. For instance, I know I often reread when I have lost a point. I also sometimes look up words in the dictionary, although not always -- only if it's essential to the meaning of the text I'm reading. I just finished reading a book on a science topic that was filled with words I didn't know. Believe me, I didn't look up every word! So, to keep reading --even when I don't understand everything-- is a strategy, too.

What are some other ideas folks have for how to become more aware of our own reading strategies? What do you do when you have lost the meaning of what you are reading?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Hi Susan,

Great question! I for sure reread when I do not understand something. I also find it very helpful when I read out loud. Sometimes, when I read things in my head, they do not make sense, but as soon as I verbalize it, it becomes clear. When that does not help, I break the sentence down. I literally break it down, section by section and if it is a word I am stuck on that I do not understand, that is where I grab a dictionary and thesaurus.


General Questions #1, 2; Chapter 1 question 1 - The ideas on page 5 the "Literacy Ceiling" speak to my experience as an ESL teacher.  I've seen other ESL teachers deal with this literacy ceiling issue and have expressed frustration when low literacy students who are in their ESL Classes have trouble keeping up and following what is being taught from their book. 

The responses to this are

  1.  “Teaching around the text” so the student gets something from the lesson by using videos and pictures.
  2. Provide them with remediation and pulling them out of class during reading activities since they can’t follow along with what is being taught in the book.
  3. The teachers even move the student to a lower level - which really doesn’t help them at all. 

It’s frustrating when we as teachers feel like students are not learning or getting anything out of our class.  We want to help all students and students who can’t read or are poor readers are particularly challenging.

I never particularly liked the think out loud approach but do see its value with reading to help understand what the students are encountering.  For ESL, a lot of the confusion comes from words that have multiple meanings and they are using the wrong meaning so the whole text doesn’t make any sense to them.  If we give them opportunities to express what they are reading about, it helps us guide them to better use context clues.  Sometimes in academic reading, it is the more complex grammar structures that they have trouble figuring out exactly what a text is trying to say.  Again having the students make their thought process “visible” helps not only the students gain insight into their own reading processes, but also gives the teacher insight into what the students are struggling with and how better to help them develop reading strategies. I realize what we as native English speakers take for granted really cause a lot of confusion for our ESL students.

“More reading, more text focused discussion, and more talk about reading and problem-solving processes- these distinguish Reading Apprenticeship classrooms from content area classes in which students are expected, but not taught, to handle complex reading tasks.”  P.24

A lot of our ESL students want to go on to attend the university where they are just expected to handle the complex reading tasks.  I believe that we can help them build these strategies so they are more successful in academic settings. I am interested to read more about reading apprenticeship framework.

Chapter 2 Question 1 – I agree that reading is not just a basic skill and that it is a complex process with “backtracking, relating things personally, interpreting words from context and having an internal conversation with the author.”  P.18

Aimee, Many adult educators have to deal with the kind of multilevel class you describe. It is definitely difficult to engage everyone, especially when there are students who have limited schooling in the primary language mixed in, too. We want to introduce authentic texts as early as possible, and we need to find ways to support students to access these texts. At the same time, I am looking for ways to support and challenge students to read as much as possible on their own --with reading materials that are of high interest and at a level that is comfortable for them. I'm hoping we get some good ideas for how to do that during this book study.

Best, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

I was not surprised at the teachers’ untapped resources because I use these often in order to model reading.  I know that students’ have resources for reading but I found that when it was mentioned their ability to translate from a first language to English, navigating the internet, persistence in mastering video games, reading the moods and behaviors of others was a unique way of looking at what the student has to offer.  Bringing all these together allows for a great climate for learning.

Chapter 2:  The Reading Apprenticeship Framework

1.    What questions and reactions do you have regarding the definition of reading that begins this chapter? I thought the definition of reading in this chapter was dead on. Although the author points out the primary grade teachers, subsequent teachers and college instructors, I would like to add family as well. It does not have to be the parent(s), but anyone in the home that is able and willing to read to and with a child helps develop a framework for building the child’s ability to read and give these teachers/instructors something to build upon.

2.    What parts of the Reading Apprenticeship framework (if any) make sense to you and reflect your experience?  What parts (if any) seem hard to understand, picture, or relate to? I find the Cognitive and Knowledge-Building dimensions ones I can relate. I think these make sense as well. I teach reading using these two frameworks specifically. I try to develop the student’s critical thinking and deductive reasoning/logic skills from the very beginning. I think this prompts them to develop their own questions and question what they are reading, hence leading into the Knowledge-Building dimension. I think these two go hand-in-hand.

Personal and social dimension seemed hard for me to relate to, to a certain extent. For example, not all students are open to reading and feel embarrassed to read out loud in class because of their low level reading skills. I teach in a very interactive manner that involves everyone and creates a community of learning, yet I do not push my students to do things they feel embarrassed about. I try to have my students lead me on what activities should be done in the class in efforts to build their confidence and range in reading. Sometimes this works and other times, it creates a bit more frustration. I can relate to Personal dimension depending on the student.

I guess with the social dimension I would really need more information on it to fully grasp its dimension as I am not fully grasping it.

3.    Which of the six elements of this framework (4 dimensions and metacognitive conversation and extensive reading) are most related to your teaching interests and experience?  Which of them are further from your teaching practices?  Which are you most interested in learning more about?

Cognitive and Knowledge-Building are the most ones I can relate to my teaching experience, but after reading the chapter, Personal dimension has peeked my interests. I think social dimension is the farthest from my teaching experiences. It would be the one that I am most interested in learning about as it does peek my interests and I do not have much experience in it.

Thank you for pointing out the importance of family/parents in this process as well! I do think that this is vital for us to recognize, especially as teachers of adults.  So many of our students are from poverty backgrounds and research has shown that the interaction is less with parents and their children.  There are so many important things that they can model for their own children and teach them before they are in school, to provide them with a better upbringing than they received.  I think that it is important that we highlight this for our students, especially the ones who are parents.  The RA model is something that we are doing with them, but it is something that they can in turn talk about with their own children.  Of course just encouraging them to read to/with their children is important too, but if we can encourage them to carry some of these skills home, we may help them be more supportive of their own families too which would be amazing.  I often think one of the best "buy-in's" we have for our adult students is how what they are learning in the classroom can directly benefit their children/families.

On an unrelated/related note in the January 2015 edition of the National Geographic there is an article "The First Year of Life" which is a profound look at child development/language acquisition/etc. that does not have much to do with RA, but as an educator I just have to recommend it if you have nat geo available to you.

Hi Jennette,

How are you?

Thanks for reading and responding to my post. You are so dead on, a lot of our students are from poverty-stricken backgrounds where the interaction with their children is little to none or they did not have this interaction with their parent(s) growing up so they follow the cycle. When I say "family" getting involved, I am speaking of making it a communal thing. This simply means, if our students do not have time to interact, read with their children, maybe the grandparent, uncle or aunt, etc. in the home or caregiver can. I also think if we ask our students to read to their children, it will help them become better readers and critical thinkers on what they are reading to their children and how to respond to questions their children may have. And yes, critical thinking can even be applied in reading and sharing a Dr. Seuss book. I find the whole point is to get them to interact, read and think.

Thanks for the reference to the article!



I love your idea of having ELL students read to their children.  You could even give them discussion questions to ask their children as they read and then have them report back to the class.  By discussing their children's reactions to a story, moreover, students avoid being embarrassed by their own misunderstanding.  Besides, children always come up with the most wonderful interpretations of the stories they hear.


Holly, Kathleen and all, Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the role of family in children's learning. We should also encourage parents and other adults or even older siblings to read to young children in the primary language. Building a literacy foundation, including expanded vocabulary knowledge, in the primary language is going to support children's learning to read and write in English when they are ready for that. It will also help children to become profitably bilingual as they grow up.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Holly, We'll look forward to hearing how you support readers to generate their own questions ... which not only enhances critical thinking skills but, as you note, builds knowledge. I believe question generation is a critically important component.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

I am currently an adult education teacher serving in many different areas, including in a general section as well as in an I-BEST/CNC setting.  My background is in high school math, though.  I am looking forward to the different ways this book study can help me better my reading instruction (as I have had very little experience teaching reading and no training in it either.)  I think at the end of the day reading is pervasive in life/school/work/(on the HiSet test!) and so important to our students, but they may not always see the value in developing their reading skills.  My program will soon be adopting the STAR reading program and I know nothing about it.  I would appreciate it if anyone who is currently implementing STAR can speak to how it relates to and/or is complemented by the Reading Apprenticeship model as we progress through this book study.


I have seen teachers in the building do read-alouds (every student is expected to read no matter what) and it can get to be very painful in terms of listening to those students who are really struggling to read words and interpret what is going on.  I worry how RA can be implemented so that it does not feel as though it is only for those students who have difficulty with the text and is targeting them and their issues (although really that is who need it the most).  I agree with what we have read so far but cannot visualize what it will look like in implementation.


Still I am excited by what I have read so far because much of it – the collaboration, inquiry, relating to past experience, transferable strategies, making thinking visible – are all aspects I was trained to use in my best practice mathematics teaching.  Many of the principles of Reading for Understanding I have used with my students to help them make sense of math, it will just be encouraging them to apply those pieces in a different subject area or to different material.

Jennette, The way you describe your approach to teaching math seems closely aligned to RA principles. I think a lot of cringe when thinking back to the round robin reading you describe above.

It would be great to hear from teachers using STAR about how RA complements the STAR approach to reading instruction.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Something that struck me was a comment in that nearly 2/3's of students are unable to read and comprehend academic materials, according to the NAEP. I am currently changing positions at the community college. In addition to teaching in an ELL STAR Reading classroom, I'll be adding HISED Reading and Writing classes. I ran into a reading teacher on the "credit" side of the college one afternoon. As I was telling her that I would be helping to prepare these students to move into classes like hers, Composition and Writing, she loved the idea of this transitional class. She said that students come in all the time and simply cannot do the work in her class. Then she left me with the comment, "Please do a good job so they'll be ready for my class!" To be honest, I'm feeling overwhelmed with that task. Trying to fill those achievement gaps seems as daunting to me as I sometimes think the students must feel when faced with some of the Computerized Testing they are expected to pass before getting into their programs. They don't see themselves as capable and get discouraged. I like how this text looks and I hope to overcome some of my own discouragement with how to actually, truly teach students to read critically and gain the confidence to move into their desired program of study. 


Barbara, You are not alone! Many of us share your experience and--of course-- want the very best for the learners we work with. What I love about this book group and the LINCS Communities of Practice is that we have the opportunity to share our struggles as well as our joys and successes here.

Since you have been using STAR, we'd love to hear your thoughts as we progress through our book group about how these approaches complement one another.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

I have been involved in STAR for about 7 years. My role is coordination of STAR trainings, new and continuing participants, technical assistance support, and resource development. While reading Chapters 1 and 2, I noticed many similarities between STAR's and RA's research foundation and recommended practices. Chapter 1: STAR also recommends that "remediation restart" placement be based on diagnostic reading assessment of all four reading components  - not just standardized test scores. STAR also recommends (actually insists upon) explicit instruction and organized reading routines. In fact, these Chapter 1 similarities comprise three of the four goals of STAR implementation! Chapter 2: STAR also recognizes the complexity of the reading process, the crucial role of teacher modeling, and the value of extensive and guided reading practice. Many adults finally feel safe in STAR classes: a place to become a reader with regular instruction and teacher/peer support. I think RA may be the continuation of evidence-based reading instructional practices for students beyond Low/High Intermediate ABE and Advanced ESL levels (our STAR target populations). Check with me later...I've got a lot of reading to do!

I have gone through the STAR training as well, and we have been working to implement it's principles in our classrooms to varying degrees.  I find one of the most helpful techniques STAR has provided me is modeling, which RA emphasizes as well.  However, personally, I'm struggling more with the differences between the two approaches, starting with the research base.  STAR is grounded in the National Reading Panel report coming out of the No Child Left Behind years, which emphasizes the four component approach, especially phonics and decoding, and reading comprehension is primarily judged through cloze-type exercises.  However, in their own words, the authors push back against that research/policies (p. 4) and the practices of returning to phonics/decoding, which STAR pushes heavily.  During my training, I was also constantly told to "teach the reader not the text," which meant that our focus should be on teaching vocabulary, decoding (alphabetics), fluency, without much regard, if any, to the meaning of the text. RA's approach, though, seems to be founded on  the inextricable relationship between reader and text. Finally, their focus on teaching complex texts, especially to struggling readers, seems to run counter to the kind of texts recommended to us during STAR training (Six-Way Paragraphs, for example). I hope to find more bridges between the approaches, but I also want to think through the differences. 

Marn and John, Thank you both for sharing your experience with STAR. I think it's quite worthwhile for us to explore the similarities and differences in these two approaches. The issue of text level is certainly a relevant one with the strong emphasis on the use of complex text in the CCR standards.

Looking forward to hearing more from both of you and others on this.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP


One thing that really stood out to me was the importance of metacognitive conversation.  In particular "But it is central to Reading Apprenticeship that the discussion is always metacognitive--a conversation about not only what texts mean but also how you know what they mean" (pg.26).  As teachers, we often focus on reading comprehension.  Did the student answer the question right at the end of the reading?  Did they understand the content of the passage?  But neglecting to talk about how the student arrived at the answer, leaves students with a tool box of reading strategies that they are unable to access.  As a teacher,I often spent my time focusing on the comprehension piece to prepare my students for success on exams, however in doing so, I was limiting their ability to really grow and access a wide variety of reading materials.  I failed to see a larger picture.  

Metacognitive conversations are not easy conversations to have.  I found myself thinking of supports to offer ELLs when encouraging these conversations to happen.  It's necessary for teachers of ELLs to spend time teaching students the language of metacognition.  I would provide students with sentence stems and anchor charts to help support the use of this language.  I also think there would be a place for L1 conversations between students to help deepen the understanding.  

Becky, this section of the chapter jumped out at me as well.  I agree with you that it is important to teach students the language of metacognition. Often English language learners do gain more understanding of a reading than we realize, but they lack the language to express that understanding.  I'm intrigued by your idea of giving students sentence stems to help them with this.  Later in Chapter 2, in the section titled "Building Knowledge of Language," .the authors also stress the need to help students develop metalinguistic awareness  by exploring the syntax of complex sentences that characterize academic writing. That is, they argue that students need to understand the use of "multiple embedded clauses, verbs that have been turned into nouns standing for large disciplinary concepts, and Latin- and Greek-derived vocabularies" [Kindle loc. 1362]. I especially like their emphasis on turning students into "academic codebreakers." 

Becky, I can so relate to what you are saying. I really appreciate your mentioning how we need to teach the language associated with metacognition explicitly. We can't assume students know and understand this language. I would suggest that many, if not most, students at the ABE level who speak English fluently also need to understand these terms as well as how to tap into this knowledge.

It's great that you plan to provide sentence stems and anchor charts to help support the use of this language. If you have examples you can share with us here, that would be most welcome!

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

I really liked the graphic on p. 25, box 2.3.  It is a great summary of all of the things I need to be thinking about before, during, and after instruction, and the basis for all is extensive reading.  I look forward to drilling down into each of these areas.