What’s Hot in Literacy: Exemplar Models of Effective Practice: Volume 11

Cover of What’s Hot in Literacy: Exemplar Models of Effective Practice

Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Hot Topics


Today’s digitally connected classrooms have the potential to be places for rich and engaged disciplinary learning. This chapter takes two topics that have been identified in the What’s Hot in Literacy 2019 study, digital literacies and disciplinary literacies, and illustrates their intersections and synergies. Both areas have remained hot and very hot as individual topics. In this chapter, the authors explore the powerful opportunities to harness the learning potential of the Internet to engage learners across disciplines. By forging connections between digital literacies for disciplinary learning, the authors examine practices and develop pedagogies that youth deserve.


Purpose: To present small cases of teachers who undertook inquiry-based collaborative work to implement and refine disciplinary literacy instruction in various content areas.

Design: Disciplinary literacy is explored alongside best practices in teacher professional learning, since disciplinary literacy is an instructional shift. This chapter addresses the question of how teachers might use an exemplary collaboration process to identify and test promising disciplinary literacy instructional practices.

Findings: Findings from various research projects point toward inquiry and collaboration as promising mechanisms for refining instruction to make it more disciplinary in purpose and implementation.

Practical Implications: The authors argue that disciplinary literacy is a relatively new conception of literacy skills in various content areas, and therefore jumping immediately to exemplary practices is unwise. Instead the authors recommend collaboration and inquiry as tools to generate and refine practices thoughtfully over time.


In the “What’s Hot in 2019: Expanded and Interconnected Notions of Literacy” survey (Cassidy, Grote-Garcia, & Ortlieb, 2019), Early Literacy was identified as a “very hot” topic. This chapter addresses how literacy practices in homes and in schools contribute to early literacy achievement; neighborhood realities are acknowledged. A brief list of expectations for early literacy learners is discussed, and competencies not always found in standards lists are described. Examples of current community activism efforts are noted, and there is a call for literacy academics to speak out against inequities in literacy learning.


In this chapter, the authors provide an introspective account of how teachers in mainstream classrooms can use questioning to more effectively differentiate literacy instruction for English learners across subject areas. The authors offer a rationale for constructively responsive questioning and share tools and strategies for adapting levels of questioning to students’ English proficiency and grade levels with the goal of strengthening instruction and promoting student engagement in learning.


Purpose: This chapter provides a working definition of formative assessment and explores methods and tools in the context of “What’s Hot in Literacy Instruction?” and what is new.

Design: Formative assessment is largely understood as assessment for learning, but it is not always clear what the relationship of assessment for learning is to instruction. A metaphor is provided to demonstrate how formative assessment, instruction, checking for understanding, and feedback are interrelated. Underutilized formative assessment tools are suggested.

Findings: The author discusses how the analysis of student work can help teachers refine their instruction. Tools and approaches including gamification, social media memes, and alternatives to traditional rubrics are explained and demonstrated.

Practical Implications: By expanding the definition of formative assessment to include new or untried approaches, teachers can more precisely guide students as they learn.


Purpose: The purpose of this chapter is to understand adolescent literacy instruction and learning in diverse classrooms.

Approach: A historical account of the evolution of adolescent literacy instruction to what it is today is discussed. The authors then ask the questions, “Who are adolescents today?” and use worked examples of illustrate how to optimally reach their instructional needs.

Findings: The authors believe that knowing what’s hot in adolescent literacy is paramount to effective adolescent literacy instruction. Expanding traditional notions of adolescent literacy instruction can provide a catalyst to academic achievement and engagement.

Practical implications: Designing effective literacy practices for today’s adolescents requires following a basic set of guidelines that considers such factors as student’s backgrounds, experiences, and prior knowledge. These factors are particularly important in determining where to begin instruction with each student, and how to proceed.

Topics Gaining Traction


Purpose: To describe the importance of exemplary literacy teacher preparation today, the changing landscape of teacher preparation accreditation and the recently revised and launched International Literacy Association (ILA) National Recognition programs.

Design: In this chapter, the authors examine the current context of literacy teacher preparation in the United States, including the changing landscape of national accreditation, national recognition, and certification requirements. Next, the authors provide a brief overview of the ILA Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 (Standards 2017) (International Literacy Association (ILA), 2018) and consider how Standards 2017 may inform literacy teacher preparation programs, state standards, and certification. Then, the authors discuss how the role of reading/literacy specialist in Standards 2017 is being applied in the ILA National Recognition program. To close the chapter, the authors share guiding questions and two case studies from exemplary literacy preparation programs – West Virginia University and the University of Texas at San Antonio – in an effort to provide practical examples of program innovation and improvement in these challenging times in literacy teacher preparation.

Findings: The authors discuss the current context of teacher preparation today, the ILA Standards 2017 with specific attention to the reading/literacy specialist role and standards.

Practical Implications: ILA National Recognition program involve reflection, self-study, on-site visits by peers to support and inspire ongoing literacy teacher preparation program quality and improvement.


Purpose: To describe how a reading response unit that encourages students to generate their own questions to assigned reading using sequenced instruction can serve as a basis for literary analysis, providing students with a much needed sense of purpose for and authentic engagement with a writing assignment.

Design: Educational reform efforts have focused significant attention on engaging students in assignments, –with the implication that educators connect the purpose and relevance of assignments to the students’ backgrounds and interests. Although educators have typically attempted to forge this connection via the topic or material around which an assignment is centered, the authors argue that purpose, relevance, and engagement are achieved more readily through developing the students’ own thinking about a given topic; their own thinking rather than a given topic, thus becomes the basis for the assignment.

Findings: The authors detail the sequence of instruction they employed to implement a reading response unit in an accelerated sophomore English class, the goal of which was to help students develop a literary analysis essay. The authors discuss how the structure and sequencing of the assignment led to increasing student purpose and engagement.

Practical Implications: Detailing the steps of a reading response unit designed to prepare students for literary analysis based on their own ideas can provide insights to current writing teachers and teacher educators regarding ways in which they can design/modify their assignments to be more purposeful and therefore more engaging for those they teach.


Purpose: This chapter will examine and delineate the intersection of social, emotional, and cultural learning with literacy. Shared are promising practices, while encouragement is offered to educators for implementing the discussed practices with fidelity and consistency.

Design: Examined is research to explain the significance and benefits of social, emotional, and cultural learning in literacy. Additionally, promising practices are also identified through the review of existing literature.

Findings: The findings in this chapter indicate that students benefit from curriculum that intersects social, emotional, and cultural learning with literacy.

Practical Implications: Educators should learn how to effectively implement social, emotional, and cultural learning in their literacy classrooms daily. Teacher education preparation programs must examine their curriculum and if needed, revise to include social, emotional, and cultural learning in literacy.


Purpose: To describe how an approach to instruction that intentionally considers elements of motivation and engagement, intensity of instruction, and cognitive challenge can accelerate the reading achievement of lower-performing readers by giving them access to and support to meet reading and knowledge building with success.

Design: The authors discuss a set of high-leverage practices squarely under the teacher’s control. Grounded in longstanding and rigorous research, the integrated set of practices have been shown time and time again to accelerate achievement beyond typical growth while also intentionally considering the experiences, cultures, and linguistic knowledge students bring to the classroom. The re-conceptualized approach forefronts student agency and engages students in meaningful interactions with text to build knowledge of the world they live in.

Findings: The authors illustrate the comprehensive approach through a composite vignette drawn from work with teachers and students in school and clinical contexts. The focus of the vignette is on the actions of the classroom teacher who is working to meet the needs of three struggling readers within the broader context of her 5th-grade classroom, while also establishing a coherent instructional approach with fellow teachers.

Practical Implications: By re-conceptualizing their approaches to working with struggling readers, teachers increase the likelihood that students will not only develop component skills related to reading but also integrate these components and develop the conceptual expertise that anchors future reading and learning.


Purpose: The purpose of this chapter is to provide research-based information to foster positive discussions about the need for phonics and phonemic awareness instruction in the primary grades. In order to read, students must possess secure knowledge of the alphabetic principle (i.e., that speech sounds are represented by combinations of letters in the alphabet) as well as the ability to aurally separate the distinct sounds (phonemes) that make up words.

Design: In this chapter, the authors provide essential definitions of phonics and phonemic awareness terms, highlight peer-reviewed research and best instructional practices, and clarify findings in relation to the recently renewed controversy over how to effectively teach reading to young children. The authors draw from respected research journals and years of classroom experience to provide recommendations to literacy teachers.

Findings: Explicit, systematic phonics instruction is crucial for beginning readers because most children will not intuit phonics concepts. To set the stage for phonics instruction (connecting speech sounds with their written representations), students must understand how to separate sounds in words. Therefore, instruction in phonemic awareness must be given independently of alphabetic representations; that is, students need to be able to hear the distinct sounds before mapping them onto written words. Once a student has mastered this understanding, however, instructional time need not be devoted to its development.

Practical Implications: This chapter contributes to the literature on phonics and phonemic awareness by clearly explaining the differences between the two concepts and their necessary inclusion in any beginning reading program. It includes practical activities teachers can use to develop these understandings in the classroom and provides research evidence to support their use.

Cover of What’s Hot in Literacy: Exemplar Models of Effective Practice
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Book series
Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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