Into Reading: Research Foundations
At a glance
  • Demonstrates a Rationale
  • Program: HMH Into Reading
  • Subject: Literacy
  • Report Type: Research Foundations
  • Grade Level: Elementary

Today, students learn to read across a variety of genres and formats, from environmental texts, to the classics, to graphic novels. With new formats come new opportunities and challenges, as students encounter and interact with traditional print and digital content in all aspects of their daily lives.

Research is now more important than ever to guide educators’ choices to determine what is evidence proven rather than simply a passing popular fad. Robust research on teaching strategies and insights from learning science demonstrates the necessity to put the student at the center of the learning ecosystem—supported by teachers, encouraged by the community, upheld by standards-aligned curricula, and rooted in the work of leading academic institutions.

Despite some improvement in the percent of students scoring proficient on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), fourth-grade reading scores have remained relatively stagnant since 1992, with no significant change in average scores since 2005. The performance of diverse students continues to remain below the average fourth-grade students, with only 20% of African-American students, 23% of Hispanic students, 9% of English learners, and 12% of students with disabilities scoring at or above proficient on the 2017 NAEP reading assessment. Moreover, the gap between the highest and lowest performing students is widening despite efforts to narrow this divide (U.S. Department of Education, 2018).

In addition, the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) assessment, which provides a comparison of reading achievement of U.S. fourth-grade students and students from 57 countries around the world, showed similar disappointing results (Warner-Griffin, Liu, Tadler, Herget, & Dalton, 2017). The most recent NAEP and PIRLS data highlight the great need to improve the reading skills of students from diverse backgrounds, especially racially and ethnically diverse students and students with disabilities.

Persistent dismal performance by U.S. students on the NAEP and PIRLS illustrates the need for a strong foundational literacy skills base to be developed in the earliest grades through effective reading programs containing authentic rigorous content with explicit instruction on foundational skills and comprehension strategies. The results also emphasize the urgency for effective literacy interventions to differentiate instruction based on students’ needs, ultimately developing all students into the confident and capable readers they deserve to become (Murphy, 2010).

For over 180 years, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt® has been deeply committed to literature and improving lives through literacy. HMH Into Reading™ continues that tradition. Specifically, this Into Reading Research Foundation Paper explains how Into Reading draws on the best research on instruction and learning in order to give students in Grades K–6 the foundation they need to be successful readers and writers. In this report, the research base is presented, followed by how Into Reading delivers on the research.

Program Overview

HMH Into Reading is a Grades K–6, comprehensive literacy curriculum that meets the needs of the changing educational landscape to equip students at each grade to become successful readers and writers. The core instruction is based on a reading workshop model and text sets that provide students with a rich array of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and media, anchored by strong scaffolding and close reading support. Whole-class instruction is based on short, focused mini lessons that deliver a shared reading experience. Small-group instruction—where much of the learning and instruction occurs—incorporates a comprehensive leveled reader offering that provides high-quality texts to match students’ needs and maximize student growth. The explicit step-by-step writing workshop approach provides modeling and instruction in process and technique and integrates grammar within the context of writing. Mentor texts are used as springboards for students’ daily writing. In the early grades, systematic and explicit instruction of foundational literacy skills is delivered in a gradual release model with small-group support for differentiation. In addition, support for dual language students, as well as intervention students, is embedded within the daily lessons.

An interim growth measure, plus a full range of embedded assessments, reporting, analytics, and grade-level measures, offers teachers and administrators just-in-time evaluation of student performance as well as yearlong progress against skills and standards. Ed: Your Friend in Learning®—a next-generation teaching and learning system—saves teachers time by doing some of the laborious work of classroom planning and management so they can focus on what matters most—their students. For instance, Ed allows teachers to easily group students and manage those groups, as well as find resource recommendations based on individual student needs. The full Into Reading offering is available digitally. In addition, an equitable Spanish program, ¡Arriba la Lectura!, is available and features authentic Spanish reading and a foundational skills strand that represents the way Spanish learners acquire foundational literacy skills.

Instructional Context

The instructional design of Into Reading is driven by current thought leadership and best practices supported by years of reading and writing research. It promotes a classroom culture that cultivates student voice, choice, and action. Into Reading’s workshop model offers a balanced and comprehensive approach that fosters literacy motivation and builds confident, enthusiastic readers through a gradual release of responsibility.

  • High-quality, engaging text sets reflect culturally and ethnically diverse content that is the foundation for the delivery of key vocabulary, essential skills, and topic knowledge.
  • Small-group lessons, including the Reading and Writing Workshop tools and resources, are designed to allow teachers to individualize instruction to meet the needs of all students.
  • Teacher resources, routines, and tools streamline and support delivery of instruction and cultivate a thriving classroom community.
  • Instructional architecture allows alignment to district curriculum mandates and enhances district-created materials.
  • Easy-to-interpret reports give you a window into students’ learning, progress, proficiency, and growth and allow teachers to provide the right resources and texts to support each individual’s learning path.
  • Into Reading program assessments provide ongoing insights into student’s current proficiency level in Foundational Skills, Reading, Language, Writing and Research, and Speaking, Listening, and Viewing. Results from program assessments provide teachers with specific skills-based recommendations.
Into Reading’s comprehensive approach drives student academic and social-emotional growth.
Instructional Model

A statement in a position paper published by the International Reading Association is as apt today as it was when published almost 20 years ago (International Reading Association,1999):

There is no single combination of methods that can successfully teach all children to read. Therefore, teachers must have a strong knowledge of multiple methods for teaching reading and a strong knowledge of the children in their case so they can create the appropriate balance of methods needed for the children they teach. (p. 2)

Into Reading follows a balanced literacy approach, including explicit and systematic foundational literacy instruction, as well as a Reading and Writing Workshop model. The ultimate goal of a balanced literacy program is to give students many different instructional opportunities that will cumulatively help them develop the skills needed for independent reading and writing and at the same time build a true love of reading (Calkins, 2000; Fountas & Pinnell, 2016; Taylor, 2011). In general terms, these opportunities include working in small groups with the teacher, minilessons tailored to the needs of the group, reading and writing independently, and working in pairs or small groups, often in centers. Students transition from activity to activity during the literacy block. Groupings are flexible and mostly determined by data teachers have collected through formal and informal means, but sometimes students are grouped by interests.

Guided reading is one approach to small-group differentiation that supports students’ developing reading proficiency (Fountas & Pinnell, 2016). This small-group model allows teachers to focus on specific skills that individual students need support with, ultimately accelerating their progress. Given assessment results, teachers bring together students whose levels are close enough that they will benefit from being taught together and from engaging in discussion with each other. They read independently at about the same level and can handle texts that are appropriately challenging. Their teachers support their reading in a way that enables them to use effective strategies to make sense of what they are reading. Guided reading groups are a perfect opportunity for teachers to introduce and have students practice close reading skills (Beers & Probst, 2013).

The best manifestations of a balanced literacy approach can be found in what is often called a “reader’s and writer’s” workshop approach (Calkins, 2000). The flow of reading and writing workshops allows students to master a wide range of literacy skills. The workshop begins with teachers modeling a narrow set of reading and writing skills for students and then relating the new skills to those that have been previously learned. Next, students practice their new skills—reading in groups, in pairs, or by themselves or writing on their own. The next step is sharing with others; for example, when students have been writing, they can critique and help each other as they undertake the revising and editing processes. When students have been reading, the sharing portion of the workshop can help students move beyond surface learning to develop deeper thinking and perhaps even to transfer what they have read to other situations (Calkins, Hohne, & Robb, 2014; Fisher, Frey, & Hattie, 2016).

The reader’s and writer’s workshop approach has tremendous potential as a model for introducing informational texts and content-area lessons. In the minilesson portion at the start of the workshop, the teacher can introduce content-specific terminology and teach the discipline-specific literacy skills students need to apply (Donovan & Smolkin, 2011). For example, when introducing a science lesson with reading and writing components, teachers might teach students terminology to discuss “cause and effect” and show them how to use graphic organizers specifically designed to help them draft their written products. As students share their initial drafts, they clarify the specialized language, refine their thinking, and increase their science understanding.

As students’ literacy skills develop and as they begin to read and write more extensively in the content areas, the nature of the work during these teacher-student and student-student interactions changes, but the “balance” of activities remains very much the same. There are several detailed descriptions of the progression of instruction across the elementary grades that can be used as guides (Fountas & Pinnell, 2016; Taylor, 2011).

Workshop Instructional Model

Explicit Modeling in Whole-Group Instruction Following a workshop approach, teachers introduce skills via anchor charts and the shared reading of a common text during the teacher-led whole-group instruction.

Guided Practice in Small Groups Mastery of skills is reinforced through teacher-led small groups with multiple options to differentiate instruction each day, allowing teachers to target instruction to students’ needs, setting students on a trajectory of growth.

Independent and Collaborative Application Application of knowledge and skills is demonstrated through independent and collaborative reading experiences as students apply their learning through a variety of authentic literacy activities.

Reading Workshop Model The Reading Workshop strand provides a shift from whole-class instruction to small-group instruction. A quick whole-class minilesson on a comprehension skill or strategy is followed by small-group and independent application time, during which students practice skills collaboratively and on their own.

Writing Workshop Model In the Writing Strand, students learn the writing process—across all modes and forms—through an explicit step-by-step approach to a Writing Workshop. Students take a piece of writing through the entire writing process over the course of three weeks, with authentic trade books used as mentor texts for writing. This writing workshop approach provides daily practice and support with explicit instruction in narrative, information, and opinion/argument writing. The program provides teachers with point-of-use support for implementing effective reading and writing workshops.

Blended Learning

Changes in Instructional Models Because of Technology
Since 1999, when the International Reading Association Position Paper was published, there has a been a big change in the quality and ubiquity of classrooms that are blended learning environments. In the narrowest sense, this means that while some students work with the teacher in small groups, as a whole classroom, or independently, others work on a computer, tablet, or laptop. Creating a blended learning environment, especially for the literacy block in elementary schools, provides teachers and students with far greater flexibility and personalization than could ever be achieved in a more traditional setting. It is easy to see how blended learning is compatible with a balanced literacy approach and fits easily into a reader’s and writer’s workshop model.

There are several sound and evidence-based reasons why this is true (Bailey et al., 2015; Beers & Probst, 2013; Hasselbring, 2012). For some, introducing blended learning may seem “disruptive” of the traditional intensely interpersonal environment of elementary schools (Horn & Staker, 2014). However, in practice this is far from the case, especially when teachers fully understand the possibilities blended learning creates for their teaching practice (Anderson & Skrzypchak, 2011).

Digital and Multimedia Environment
Technology is adaptive and can constantly assess students as they learn and modify their instruction and practice to maximize their growth and proficiency. In a similar fashion, technology provides teachers with data about student learning in real time, without their having to administer a frequent formative assessment. Such data can help teachers make the right instructional decisions, including identifying students who need additional help, providing challenge to others, or making the right grouping decisions. In most cases, working on a tablet, laptop, or computer can be very motivating to students, and this is especially important when repetitive practice is needed to ensure students master reading skills and strategies.

Digital programs can be used beyond simply reinforcing discrete skill instruction. These digital environments enhance comprehension practice by allowing students to highlight text, make marginal notes, and gain the pronunciation and meaning of unfamiliar words, thereby providing in-the-moment support when students need it and reinforcing the usefulness of such strategies. Being able to take advantage of these aids gives students a sense of ownership over their reading processes and encourages them to use such “fix-up” and support strategies in all their reading.

As has been emphasized elsewhere, teachers must remember that each student is unique—and these unique differences not only bring joy to teaching but also bring challenges as teachers try to meet the diverse needs of everyone in their care. These differences mean that teachers must be flexible as they plan their reading instruction, working with students in different groupings, giving students different opportunities to practice skills and to challenge themselves, encouraging students to interact with each other, and insisting that students read and write independently. In essence, they “balance” many different instructional routines into a model that works for them and for their students.

How Into Reading Delivers

Lesson Design
Students build knowledge and skills through three-week-long modules. Program architecture supports the teacher in delivering and differentiating instruction. Each module focuses on a high-interest topic connected to cross-disciplinary standards through culturally and ethnically diverse text sets. In addition, Daily Lesson instruction in foundational skills, vocabulary, reading, and writing gives teachers a clear path through whole-class and small-group instruction.

Differentiated Instruction and Personalized Learning

Students differ in many ways—their developmental levels; intellectually and social-emotionally; their preferences for working in groups or independently; the extent and nature of their background knowledge and experiences; their language backgrounds; and, of course, their interests. Variability is simply the norm. There is no mythical average child, and all students do not learn in the same way (Cantor, Osher, Berg, Stever, & Rose, 2018). Indeed, unlocking the potential of each child by respecting differences and offering accommodations, while maintaining high expectations, is a core value of education today.

What the Science of Learning and Development Tells Us

Increasingly, educators are becoming aware of the neuroscience factors that influence students’ learning trajectories and are emphasizing the importance of classroom environments that acknowledge these differences and allow students to help shape their own learning. Approaches that allow for students’ individual biology, experiences, background knowledge, and relationships to converge in dynamic ways optimize the likelihood that all students will learn. For this convergence to be effective, students must be supported as they actively engage with new concepts, build new knowledge, and augment their existing knowledge. This process will take different amounts of time for each student, but the social nature of elementary classrooms—the collaborative interaction of students—supports all learners (Melnick, Cook-Harvey, & Darling-Hammond, 2017). Through these experiences, students will understand the relevance of what they are learning, specifically how reading can be a valuable part of their lives.

There is clear evidence that internal factors—like sense of belonging in school or resilience—will be strongest when students perceive themselves to be respected and valued (Bornstein & Leventhal, 2015). Strong teacher-student and student-student relationships support this kind of learning (Cantor et al., 2018). Teachers need to promote supportive, responsive relationships with and among students by modeling and insisting upon appropriate social behaviors. Effective teachers do more than teach knowledge and skills: they are mentors and guides, ensuring that students receive feedback that encourages them to persevere in their learning (Melnick, Cook-Harvey, & Darling-Hammond, 2017). When learning experiences invite students to be active participants, they gain skills in producing and working with knowledge to create something useful, new, and sometimes even unique. Effective teachers act as mentors in this process: helping students set tasks, watching and guiding their efforts, and offering feedback on their hard work.

Differences in Backgrounds
Students will differ in what they have experienced prior to school entry and what they experience outside school, and these factors contribute to their learning, no matter how positive their classroom environment may be (Sheppard, 2017). Factors such as hearing, vision, and overall physical health all play a role in how well students learn. The extent to which students’ homes have been full of books and other print materials plays an important part in their readiness for reading instruction and in their attitudes toward reading but does not predispose them to failure. The language spoken at home and students’ native language affect how they learn to read. Students’ sense of their own safety and security in their homes and neighborhoods also contribute. Teachers need to be alert to the physical and emotional signs that students have experienced adversity in their environments, which can derail even the most enthusiastic learner.

Today’s Diverse Classrooms
Even in the most welcoming and supportive classrooms, students will likely differ widely, and teachers need to be prepared to differentiate to meet their needs (Opitz & Ford, 2008).

Today’s classrooms are diverse, with some students reading above grade level, others at grade level, English learners (ELs), students with disabilities (SWDs), and students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia. These students may pose challenges to teachers, but teachers have a responsibility to teach all students, including those who may be striving readers. An International Literacy Association (ILA) Leadership Brief (International Literacy Association, 2017) expresses how teachers may feel about teaching these diverse classes:

Effective classrooms provide all students with a mirror in which they can see themselves. The books, topics, and issues they encounter foster insights into their own personal and cultural experiences...Students also need a window to understand the perspectives of others, especially those whose experiences differ from their own...Schools must also provide a doorway for students to enter new realms of possibility. (p. 2)

These metaphors speak to great classrooms for all students: diversity in books that are available, open and accepting attitudes toward all students, and high expectations that are not shaped by students’ personal characteristics (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013). Unfortunately, some teachers struggle to find strategies for meeting the needs of the diverse groups of students right in their elementary classroom.

How Into Reading Delivers

Matching Students to Instruction, Pacing, and Grouping
HMH Into Reading is designed to provide individual, needs-based instruction, with lessons aligned to the challenges and opportunities of the curriculum. Teachers form student groups, which are flexible and dynamic, reflecting the changing needs of the groups based on individual needs and interests. Instruction is flexibly paced to optimize individual growth, with an emphasis on using assessment and observation to inform each student’s path (move back, stay on course, accelerate). In addition, instruction is designed to support students across the curriculum. For example, the program connects the day’s foundational skill focus and applies it to the context of a decodable selection, and teachers can use lessons from whole-group instruction to reinforce foundational skill lessons in small groups.

Small-group instruction and differentiation are at the heart of the Into Reading instructional approach.

Teacher-Led Daily Options for Small-Group Differentiation
Teacher-led small-group instruction advances students’ abilities with texts that engage and challenge readers at their independent level. It meets the needs of all learners, including English learners, students who struggle, or students who need a challenge. The focus of Into Reading small-group instruction is to target students and their unique needs in small groups to maximize student growth and improve learning outcomes for all students. Resources for differentiation include Rigby® Leveled Readers, Take and Teach lessons (accompanying each leveled reader), and Foundational Skills and Word Study Studio.

Guided Reading Lessons
Teachers focus on providing lessons and books for students at their just-right instructional reading level using high-quality Rigby leveled texts delivered in a library format. The focus of the guided reading lessons is on needs-based instruction through a text-centered plan, with an emphasis on text evidence and making meaning during reading.

Lesson Planning to Meet Students’ Needs

Effective teachers need to guard against thinking that differing background experiences, home languages, or other factors will automatically equate to reading difficulties, but they also need to be willing to accept the challenge of differentiating their instruction to meet all students’ needs and to be sure to create a classroom that is warm and welcoming and honors the identity of all students (Hougen & Smartt, 2012; Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013). For example, a first-grade teacher will not automatically assume that all students have had experiences holding a book and reading from left to right or participating in story time. Teachers at all levels should not assume that telling students to “activate background knowledge” will be equally effective with all students for the simple reason that background knowledge and experiences differ widely. 

As stated in the section on instructional models, teachers need to plan their literacy blocks flexibly, in part to accommodate these differences and in part to give students multiple learning experiences so they become more flexible as learners. This requires differentiation, and appropriate differentiation depends on meaningful and actionable data. Teachers have many sources for data, including periodic formative assessments and students’ use of technology that produces a log of their performance and usage patterns. But teachers should also consider the interaction between the students, the texts they will be experiencing, the activities they will be asked to complete, and—always—their interests.

The context of the classroom is also an important consideration, one that merits close attention. Teachers need to be reflective about their classroom management skills, the availability of resources, and the extent to which students understand the routines required for a balanced literacy approach. If these classroom elements are found lacking, teachers can take steps to improve them, such as acquiring new resources, seeking help from colleagues or coaches or reputable online communities of practice, or availing themselves of professional learning opportunities. Reflecting on what has worked and what seems not to be working is a first step toward being more effective. Teachers can think of this as a process of “self-coaching,” which is discussed more in the section on professional development.

How Into Reading Delivers

Digital Lesson Planning and Teacher’s Edition
An intuitive digital lesson-planning tool supports teachers in adapting and customizing specific lessons and daily routines and in finding activities and resources for differentiation to meet the particular needs of an individual, small group, or class. Further, a digital teacher’s edition makes it easy for teachers to find targeted support and differentiation, as well as modify instruction/questions and add their own resources. Robust note-taking capability supports teachers in personalizing their teacher’s edition and recording reflections about what worked and what to modify for next year.

Differentiated Instruction for Accelerated Learners and English Learners

There are many ways teachers can differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of all their students and to keep them all engaged. The process begins with making the classroom welcoming for all—with print and digital reading materials appropriate for a full range of abilities, not just books “at grade level” or within an expected Lexile® range. Resources should be in multiple genres; present cross-disciplinary, culturally diverse perspectives; and be written at different reading levels. Books in print form and online are great, but so, too, are current school magazines and newspapers because they often offer students new perspectives on current events or updates on their favorite celebrities or sports teams. Materials like these may be just the thing to motivate an otherwise reluctant reader. Classrooms with such resources communicate the expectation that everyone will read and demonstrate that teachers recognize the range of reading abilities and interests in the class.

When teachers understand that students in their class bring a wide range of reading abilities and experiences, they can differentiate their instruction by thinking “outside the box” of their specific grade level (Hougen & Smartt, 2012). Front-loading activities such as building knowledge and teaching vocabulary directly using strategies such as a Know-Want to Know-Learn charts—these are not just good instruction, they also contribute to the differentiation that helps all students learn (Opitz & Ford, 2008). So, too, modeling, scaffolding, and providing clearly explained examples of fluent reading and writing (so-called “worked examples”) make expected literacy performance concrete for students (Pashler et al., 2007). Providing a wrap-up at the end of a lesson is another strong instructional practice that benefits both students and teachers: students can clarify what they may not have fully learned, and teachers can identify where they may need to differentiate when presenting the same skills or content (Opitz & Ford, 2008). In between the beginning and ending of every lesson, teachers scaffold their instruction with modeling, explanations, questions, and guidance. Scaffolding also occurs through the provision of books at a range of levels that allows all students to participate in learning (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013) and the use of graphic organizers and other aids to help students keep track of their thinking and ideas.

Accelerated Learners
Students whose reading skills are above grade level have not necessarily been identified as “gifted” but certainly are ready for accelerated reading experiences such as more challenging reading materials, opportunities to read to students in lower grades, leadership roles in group research projects, and other activities that will keep them engaged. But teachers need to remember several things about accelerated readers. First, their advanced abilities may not cut across all content areas; for example, they may need the same sort of scaffolded instruction in math as the least well-performing of their classmates or may be very reluctant writers (Hougen & Smartt, 2012). Second, teachers need to be sure that students’ “advanced” beginning reading skills continue to progress in all areas, especially comprehension.

An important study of fourth-grade students who had fallen just “below the bar” for passing their state’s Grade 4 reading tests provides a cautionary tale (Buly & Valencia, 2002; Valencia & Buly, 2004). The researchers found distinct patterns among the fourth graders they studied. For example, some comprehended extremely well, answered advanced questions, and discussed articulately what they read, but they read so slowly that they didn’t finish the timed test. Equally, some seemingly advanced readers had strong decoding skills but needed direct instruction and opportunities to move from surface to deep understanding and to transfer (Fisher, Frey, & Hattie, 2016). In a nutshell, teachers need to differentiate instruction for advanced readers in a careful and sensitive way so they can keep growing as readers.

English Learners
There are several models for teaching students for whom English is not their first language, some of which immerse them in instruction in their home language before transferring them to a class where most students speak English. When a school’s model is to include English learners (ELs) in classes with native speakers, teachers have many ways to differentiate their instruction, most of which are strong, evidence-based strategies for reading and language arts instruction. Building background knowledge is essential, especially since doing so honors and respects the knowledge base that ELs bring with them (Gutiérrez, Morales, & Martinez, 2009; Pashler et al., 2007; Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013). Recent research by Julie Washington indicates that speakers of non-standard English can also benefit academically from bilingual education programs that explicitly teach grammar (Brennan, 2018). Providing deliberate vocabulary instruction to build students’ knowledge of key, discipline-specific words like “theme,” “character,” “sentence,” or “parts of speech” is essential; students who have been in school previously may be very familiar with these common words in their own language and with their meaning. For ELs, having the English term for familiar concepts builds their confidence and sense of themselves as real classroom participants. Whatever the approach, it is important to recognize the value of students’ first language and the benefits of being bilingual or multilingual speakers.

How Into Reading Delivers

Skill and Strategy Lessons
Skill and strategy lessons support students at their independent reading level to reinforce targeted reading skills and strategies. These lessons meet the needs of all learners, including students who struggle or may need a challenge.

English Language Development Lessons
These lessons facilitate students’ effective expression at each level of English language proficiency through teacher-led small groups. Students practice and apply language functions across the four language domains and through collaborative problem solving. Each day of instruction focuses on a domain—listening, speaking, reading, writing—and collaborative problem solving. Delivered through a Tabletop Minilesson, instruction can be delivered daily or used flexibly and less frequently depending on the needs of the students.

Differentiated Instruction for Students with Disabilities and with Dyslexia

Students with Disabilities and with Dyslexia
Students with disabilities (SWD) and with dyslexia most likely have an individualized education program (IEP) or a 504 plan that a specialist has developed for each student. Classroom teachers and the specialist work together to ensure that the plan is followed and that students are making progress. These students may also receive extra, specialized help, either as a “push in” to the classroom or as a “pull out” program.

For their time in the regular classroom, the IEP may suggest more small-group work, which should be easy to accomplish during the literacy block. But teachers need to be prepared for the behavioral manifestations of students’ disabilities and dyslexia because “learning to read can go wrong for any number of reasons” (Wolf, 2007, p. 193). Students may experience difficulties with the sequences of sounds in words and some speech sounds, scrambling common words and making up new words, poor spelling and handwriting, lack of reading stamina, and difficulty with memorization tasks (Wolf, 2007). Together, these behaviors can lead to poor comprehension, especially of longer and more complex texts, and difficulty expressing themselves in writing. Giving students extra practice, extra time, and easier books on relevant topics are all strategies teachers can use to ensure that students have opportunities to learn and to participate in classroom life (Hougen & Smartt, 2012).

Teachers also need to be patient with these students because the process of becoming fluent can be a long one. Often students understand more than they can produce orally or in writing, but shyness, frustration, or reluctance to try out emerging skills in the full classroom setting may be misinterpreted. For many of these students, initial challenges in school expand as poor reading skills lead to difficulty in other content areas (Master, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2017). Even if students have mastered fundamental elements of reading, they encounter increasingly difficult texts and are asked to read deeply and critically (McNamara, Jacovina, & Allen, 2016). On the positive side, student-to-student conversations are often vibrant, lively, and valuable for all students. In fact, the natural pairing of students for collaborative activities like research projects or even establishing “book buddies” can hasten the learning process by creating a safe environment for ELs to try out their new language and for ELs, SWDs, and students with dyslexia to practice their literacy skills and feel themselves part of the flow of classroom activities.

Interventions as Differentiation
The discussion so far has been on interactions in the regular classroom, the environment referred to as “Tier 1” in the Response to Intervention (RtI) approach to meeting the needs of striving readers (Gersten et al., 2008). Frequent, reliable assessment of students’ reading achievement is essential and has proven to be a crucial first step in the early diagnosis of reading disabilities, including dyslexia. The assessment cycle should start with a screening test at the beginning of the year to determine students’ levels and identify areas that need additional support, perhaps through regular Tier 1 instruction or through more intense interventions. The cycle continues with frequent formative assessments to determine all students’ progress. Data from these assessments enable teachers to provide the highest quality, targeted Tier 1 instruction, but throughout the year, some students may be identified as needing extra help through Tier 2 or even Tier 3 interventions. In some situations, students leave their regular classrooms to receive these interventions, which sometimes results in their missing key Tier 1 instruction and diminishes their opportunities to participate fully in the “community of learners” that high-quality elementary classrooms should be. Tier 1 reading curricula with embedded opportunities to provide students with targeted extra help and focused small-group activities enable teachers to differentiate instruction for the range of students in their classrooms. Providing this kind of diverse, personalized instruction, along with a literacy- and language-rich environment, has the real potential to minimize the need for “pull out” interventions for many students (Gersten et al., 2008).

How Into Reading Delivers

Foundational Skills Lessons
These lessons allow teachers to be responsive and to target students who may need additional support in foundational skills. Students practice and apply these skills in context by reading decodable texts in the Start Right Reader. Make Minutes Count activities provide additional practice with phonics, spelling, and high-frequency words that can occur at the beginning or end of a small-group lesson, depending on students’ needs.

According to student needs, teachers can use the online Foundational Skills and Word Study Studio, an intervention resource which provides explicit, sequential, and systematic instruction and practice in the critical areas of print concepts, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, phonics, word recognition, and fluency.

Reading: Key Elements

Most young children show interest in reading long before they actually can read. Many “play read” as they turn the pages and tell the story of familiar and even unfamiliar books. It’s an exciting time for them and for teachers who can play a powerful role in supporting and extending this interest.

Foundational Reading Skills

Experiences at home or at preschool help build young learners’ interests in books and also introduce many necessary skills and principles, such as how to handle a book and turn pages, scan print from left to right, and make use of pictures in gaining meaning from children’s literature. But not all students come from “literacy rich” homes with lots of books and lots of interesting conversations, and not all students attend high-quality preschools (Adams, 1990; McKeown, Beck, & Sandora, 2012; Puranik et al., 2018). This reality means that early grade teachers must be extremely knowledgeable about the foundational skills and concepts students need to acquire in this early stage of learning, and they must have a wide and flexible range of strategies they can use to ensure that all students acquire the needed foundation.

As young pre-readers move steadily toward reading the words on the page (or screen), they first learn to recognize and manipulate the individual segments of sound (or phonemes) in words they hear and speak; they can hear differences in words such as c-a-t and h-a-t or d-o-g and f-o-g. This awareness is an essential precursor to reading, and listening to and using language helps most students gain this awareness prior to entering school (Brady, Braze, & Fowler, 2011; Quinn, Spencer, & Wagner, 2016). Rhyming games and clapping exercises in school reinforce this foundational awareness of the phonemes in words and prepare students for the next step: linking sounds they hear in words to the letters of the alphabet. At this point, pre-readers are on their way to understanding the alphabetic principle: the sounds we hear and say correspond to the letters we use to read and write (Adams, 1990). For some students, the transition from this understanding of how oral language functions to applying the same principles in understanding print requires patient, consistent teacher support.

Once students know a few consonant and vowel sounds and their corresponding letters, they can start to sound out and blend them into words in isolation and in context. In this process, they must use their recognition of letter shapes, understand the order of letters in words, access the sounds of these letters, and put together the meanings of the words (and often illustrations) to create a basic understanding of the words on the page or screen (Adams, 1990; Cunningham & Allington, 2011).

Some students in this stage of literacy development will begin to experiment with so-called “invented spelling” to begin to express themselves in writing. These early efforts may include primarily consonants, but gradually, students’ spelling moves toward more traditional formats. These early efforts at writing provide teachers a clear picture of how students are putting the letters and sounds together; savvy teachers can use students’ work diagnostically to determine if more direct instruction is needed (Cunningham & Allington, 2011; Ehri, 2014).

Understanding how words are spelled allows for more efficient and proficient writing and reading. To read and write words appropriately and fluently and to appreciate fully how words work in context, instruction must balance authentic reading and writing with purposeful word study. In word study and spelling instruction, students examine the sounds of letters, word structure, and meaning. Students are taught the processes and strategies to understand the words they read and write. This knowledge, in turn, is applied to new words students encounter in reading (Templeton, 1998).

Given the scope of this paper, not all foundational skills have been fully addressed, but it is important to note that students need explicit and systematic instruction in foundational skills, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Print referencing
  • Phonemic awareness with an emphasis on phoneme manipulation
  • Phonics and decoding
  • Spelling and encoding

Explicit and systematic instruction in these fundamental elements of reading helps students develop the understandings they need, but researchers caution that this instruction should be in a “low intensity” environment where teachers model and scaffold, rather than drill, and where they provide feedback that helps support students’ emerging literacy skills (Al Otiba & Fuchs, 2006; Fisher et al., 2016; Foorman et al., 2016; Shanahan et al., 2010). Such an environment is essential for early learners and for all students.

How Into Reading Delivers

Foundational Skills Development and Word Study
The HMH Into Reading program builds and reinforces students’ foundational reading skills through explicit and systematic instruction of sounds, letters, and words. Direct instruction in vocabulary strategies and structural analysis supports students’ independent word acquisition. Daily instruction follows a gradual release instructional model—I Do, We Do, You Do format—across the full range of the following foundational literacy skills:

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Spelling
  • Word Study
  • Fluency

The program connects the day’s foundational skill focus and applies it to the context of a decodable selection. Instructional resources designed to support foundational skills are provided through Start Right Readers, Instructional Card Kit, Tabletop Minilessons, and optional iRead® software.

Language and Vocabulary Development

Oral Language Development
Learning to hear phonemes in words should provide a bridge from children’s speech to literacy; indeed, oral language is the foundation for learning to read and write. Teachers can encourage students to engage in conversations, storytelling, and other activities that encourage students to express themselves orally and to talk to others. Encouraging students to tell stories gives teachers the opportunity to engage students in conversation, use student-directed speech, and enhance their oral language skills. Classroom routines like “morning message” provide times for students to talk, and story time should lead to discussions that encourage retellings, expressions of opinions, and other opportunities for students to talk. For these interactions to be most effective, teachers need to keep them focused on the goal of enhancing students’ oral language capabilities (Bianco et al., 2010; Pence & Justice, 2012). Although teachers are modeling standard grammar, correct sentence structure, precise and rich vocabulary, and other conventions of speech, the interactions should not be stiff, didactic, or full of corrections. To use the term from above, interactions should be “low intensity,” with students feeling comfortable asking for clarification and repetition. Teachers can restate what students say and expand on their ideas, again as a way of modeling oral language. Students should not feel pressured to speak, but neither should they be criticized for expressing themselves.

Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
Oral language is indeed an essential element for reading and writing success, but students also need to learn what is often called academic language (Baker et al., 2014; Foorman et al., 2015; Foorman et al., 2016; Nagy & Townsend, 2012; Shanahan et al., 2010). Common ways to define academic language are to say that it’s “the language of school” or “talking like a book.” Closely related to academic language is academic vocabulary, the technical and discipline-specific terms that can cause confusion. This will be discussed as part of the next section on vocabulary development.

The breadth and depth of students’ vocabulary differ widely at school entry. Over 20 years ago, reports of a landmark 2½-year-long study of preschoolers from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds showed huge differences in their rates of vocabulary development and in the number of words and relative sophistication of the oral language they heard in their environments (Hart & Risley, 1995). The researchers wrote, “By age 3, some children were as far above the average in vocabulary resources as other children were below” (Hart & Risley, 1995, p. 234).

The term “vocabulary resources” is an important one to consider. The term refers to more than words and their definitions; it also refers to one’s ability to understand language in different ways and to use language well. Students need to become flexible word users—able to understand and use rich, full vocabulary to describe, explain, ask, critique, make requests, show emotions, and do myriad of other things. They need to be able to understand connotative and denotative meanings; idioms, metaphors, synonyms and antonyms; and the meanings of words that are implied by body language, tone of voice, and other means (Biemiller, 2012).

As students move through elementary school, they must enrich their oral speaking, listening, reading, and writing vocabularies. As Biemiller (2012) points out, “From grade 3 on, the main limiting factor [to academic achievement] for the majority of children is vocabulary, not reading mechanics (decoding print into words)” (p. 34). Teachers play two roles in this: providing direct instruction (NICHD, 2000) and ensuring that the classroom environment is full of language, rich with words, and inclusive of opportunities to learn and use new vocabulary.

Effective direct instruction in vocabulary should include explicitly teaching some vocabulary (for example, as a pre-reading activity) and teaching specific vocabulary-learning strategies, including use of print and digital dictionaries and online thesauri (Graves, 2000). Strategies include learning words for comparing and contrasting, classifying, and creating metaphors and analogies—and so much more. To complement direct instruction, teachers also need to fill their classrooms with activities that develop “word consciousness” and the sorts of language play that encourages students to challenge themselves and others to learn new words and to think deeply about language (Blachowicz & Fisher, 2014; Graves, 2000; McKeown et al., 2012).

Academic Vocabulary
Cumulatively, some vocabulary instruction prepares students for what has been called “surface literacy learning,” but students also need instruction to move beyond this level (Fisher et al., 2016; Hattie, 2012). Here’s where academic vocabulary can play a part. As teachers provide instruction in reading and in content areas, they model academic language skills and directly teach the academic vocabulary that is common across all subject areas and related to each content area (Foorman et al., 2016). These skills help all students, regardless of background and language status, acquire the “language of instruction” and the grammatical and textual structures and words that are common in books and in school discourse. Inferential language skills allow students to discuss topics beyond their immediate context, for example, events or processes in an informational book. Narrative language skills are those needed to talk about the events, themes, and ideas found in narratives. Teachers can embed vocabulary and language instruction into all their practices, from the daily message time to read alouds to content area instruction (Apthorp, Randel, Cherasaro, Clark, McKeown, & Beck, 2012; Baker et al., 2013; Fisher et al., 2016; Justice et al., 2005).

How Into Reading Delivers

Support Vocabulary and Language Development
Learning flows through language. As students engage in academic discussion, construct meaning from texts, and put their own ideas into writing, they embrace the power of using language to communicate effectively.

Daily vocabulary lessons touch on all aspects of vocabulary acquisition, in and out of the context of reading. Students also learn Power Words, which are drawn from the literature, through a consistent, routine approach for acquiring new words. In addition to receiving direct instruction about specific words, students also learn to uncover the meanings of words on their own. Through Generative Vocabulary lessons, one or more of the week’s Power Words serves as a springboard to learning other words with a morphological or semantic relationship. A focus Vocabulary Strategy in each module gives students a growing list of tools to unlock meaning when they encounter unknown words in their reading.

Fluency and Comprehension

An important ability underlying surface literacy learning and contributing to deeper literacy learning is fluency (Denton et al., 2013). For many teachers, fluency means primarily the ability to read orally, at a natural pace and with expression; but this definition, while accurate, is limited. Fluency is so much more and is intricately linked to reading comprehension because strong readers demonstrate silent reading fluency as they recognize words and their meaning automatically and can attend primarily to making sense out of what they read (NICHD, 2000). Students may not read quickly; they may have to go back to reread sections or to look up the meanings of some words. Students’ ability to read longer text and increase their time reading and rereading passages demonstrate their reading stamina, that is, perseverance and flexible application of the strategies needed to comprehend what the author is communicating (Trainin, Hiebert, & Wilson, 2015).

Comprehension and Deep Learning
Students move beyond “surface” to “deep” literacy learning when teachers encourage them to plan, investigate, and elaborate as they read for comprehension (Fisher et al., 2016). One prerequisite for this move to deeper comprehension should start early, with even young students reading connected text at the right level of challenge every day (Foorman et al., 2016; Shanahan et al., 2010). Teachers encourage this move as they model increasingly sophisticated comprehension and metacognitive strategies and provide students with tools like concept or word maps or self-questioning. By engaging students in deep reading (Fisher & Frey, 2012) and in lively discussions and questioning, teachers can meet their goal of helping students learn to assimilate new knowledge from what they’ve read and even expand and modify what they already know. This process may result in some “Aha!” moments as students experience themselves grow as readers and thinkers because of what they have read (Fisher et al., 2016).

As they comprehend what they read, students are looking for right answers to questions, for specific information, facts and dates; but they also should be looking for evidence to support their ideas, argue their points of view, and learn new perspectives and opinions. Building on this deeper reading can lead to “transfer” literacy learning, as students apply what they know to new and novel situations and often reorganize their conceptual knowledge (Fisher et al., 2016). Teachers can create many opportunities for this kind of learning to occur as part of their reading instruction, but a prerequisite for it to happen is that students have access to interesting, engaging informational and narrative texts that they see as relevant. Among the strategies teachers can use are providing multiple documents on the same topic—a historical document and a fictional account of the same event, a poem and a story about a common theme, and even a print and digital treatment of the same topic. Instructional strategies that engage students in transfer literacy learning are Socratic seminars, staged debates, peer-to-peer discussions and peer tutoring, and extended writing (Fisher et al., 2016).

Beers and Probst (2013) developed the close reading strategy, Notice & Note, that fosters deep learning and cultivates students’ critical reading habits that make students more engaged, analytical, and independent readers. This strategy introduces readers to six signposts that alert readers to significant moments in a work of literature and encourage students to examine the text more closely. These signposts guide students in their thinking to inquire about the text, find evidence to support their interpretations, and reflect on the text’s significance in one’s own life to ultimately become independent readers and writers.

How Into Reading Delivers

Notice & Note
Using the powerful work of Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst (2013), Notice & Note introduces signposts and anchor questions that help readers understand and respond to critical aspects of both fiction and nonfiction texts. These signposts are used to encourage students to read closer and with more rigor. Students are asked to stop, notice, and reflect on significant moments in the text.

Foster Critical Thinking and Deep Analysis of Text
The Teaching Pal offers point-of-use instructional teaching notes for critical thinking and deep analysis of the myBook student texts. The myBook is a student component that provides write-in text interactions such as note-taking, annotating, and responding. Teaching Pal notes encourage students to stop and notice critical elements as they read, helping them gain a deeper understanding of texts.

Building Knowledge Networks
As students read, view, and interact with the texts and media in each module, they build deep topic knowledge about traditional and modern storytellers, the stories they have told, and the lessons that can be learned from those stories.

Genres, Voluminous Reading, and Book Love

The best classroom and school libraries give students access to a wide variety of print and digital texts that include a full range of genres: narratives, including poetry and plays, as well as informational texts that both inform and entertain their readers. Teachers’ choice of books to read aloud is the start of acclimating students to the characteristics and structure of different genres and to the kinds of listening and reading skills needed to fully comprehend and appreciate them. Making many genres available for listening and reading not only helps shape students’ choices but also prepares them for the wide reading they must do to be successful in elementary school and beyond. Some students may develop a preference for one genre or another; some may hunt out fiction and nonfiction on favorite topics. Students differ and should be given choices.

As students read a variety of genres and read voluminously, their vocabularies expand, and their cognitive skills deepen. Not only do students need to be exposed to the key foundational elements of reading through effective explicit instructional strategies, the amount of text students are exposed to has profound positive effects on cognition (Cunningham & Stanovich, 2003). Students do not need to wait to attain levels of proficiency to read extensively; no matter the reading ability, students who read widely and voluminously show gains in vocabulary and cognitive skills.

However, research shows the vast gap in skilled readers and reluctant readers in the number of books read outside of school (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988). These widening numbers in terms of exposure to print contribute to the trajectory of the Matthew Effect on students’ reading ability throughout their school years. As Cunningham and Zibulsky (2014) note, “one of the richest and most robust ways to gain knowledge is by reading. Indeed...research has unequivocally shown that children who read more have greater vocabularies and stores of knowledge, which makes reading easier and more pleasurable, which in turn, makes children more prolific readers” (p. 322). Therefore, it is critical to provide students of all abilities access to books from multiple genres and interest areas, outside of school, in order to help students log as much reading time as possible.

Most importantly, growth in literary taste and appreciation is stimulated by exposure to a wide variety of reading materials (Schoonover, 1938). We aim for students not only to become skilled readers but to become those who love to read. Being surrounded with a plentiful supply of good reading materials at students’ reading levels that match their interests as well as exercising reading stamina to increase the number of books read can help transform students’ literacy experiences from one of dread and simply fulfilling assignments to one that brings joy and genuine satisfaction.

How Into Reading Delivers

Cross-Curricular Knowledge with Multi-Genre Text Sets
Culturally and ethnically diverse text sets of the highest quality have been curated around essential standards-based topics to foster cross-disciplinary content knowledge. Students can build topic-knowledge expertise and reading comprehension skills through high-interest and award-winning texts.

Engaging Text
High-quality, engaging text sets reflect culturally and ethnically diverse content and form the foundation for the delivery of key vocabulary, essential skills, and topic knowledge. Carefully selected award-winning texts and texts by notable authors build general content knowledge, genre knowledge, and complexity across the school year. In addition, text sets are anchored by essential questions designed to engage students in discussion and relevant writing assignments.

Rigby Leveled Library
The Rigby leveled library offers a carefully controlled continuum of leveled texts, spanning a range of levels, genres, and topics. The digital leveled library supports teachers in getting the right leveled texts to each individual student. Powerful search and filter capabilities and just-in-time recommendations save teachers time in finding the right texts. In addition, digital tools for note-taking, highlighting, and audio support students in comprehending and interacting with the text they are reading.


Writing has been described as a skill that demonstrates “thinking on paper” and has a positive reciprocal relationship with reading. Writing should be an essential component of the elementary literacy curriculum at every grade, but in far too many classrooms, writing and its reciprocal benefits for reading development are overlooked, perhaps because it is so rarely assessed on state language arts tests (National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges, 2003).

The Reading and Writing Connection

Despite its importance, writing instruction in elementary schools is an under-researched topic if the standard for “research” is primarily experimental studies. However, there is a long history of classroom-based, usually qualitative, research on how students develop writing skills and how teachers can support this growth. Dyson (1997a; 1997b; 2003; 2013) explored teacher-student and student-student interactions about writing from the point of view of the students who were writing; her ethnographic studies provided great insight into how students learn to compose on their own and from each other in language-rich classrooms. Calkins (1994; 2000; 2011) researched the ways in which reading and writing instruction and student practice can be merged to support literacy achievement and contributed the concept of “readers–writers workshop” to the instructional vernacular. This approach urges teachers to fill their classrooms with books from different genres, as well as discussions about literacy, to encourage students to write regularly and extensively and to “publish” student writing prominently on bulletin boards.

The relationship between reading and writing is powerful, from the early stages of literacy learning (Ehri, 2014; Ehri & Roberts, 2006; Gehsmann & Templeton, 2011/2012) and throughout the elementary grades, when students should be writing in all their content areas (Donovan & Smolkin, 2011). As students read, their vocabularies expand so that their writing can become more expressive; and students’ written work provides teachers insight into their mastery of spelling and language structures. Writing in response to reading supports the development of comprehension skills (Graham & Hebert, 2010) because the writing experience encourages students to think more deeply about what they have read. Writing in response to reading should become a standard practice in all genres and content areas, not just in language arts, so long as students are given adequate time to engage in the writing process. Such writing can easily be seen as writing in support of learning, especially if students are given some choice in how they will express themselves (Calkins & Ehrenworth, 2016). Indeed, the first recommendation from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) practice guide on effective writing instruction is to “provide daily time for students to write” (Graham et al., 2012).

Most writing skills learned for one type of writing readily transfer to writing for other types. This is especially true if teachers emphasize the transfer process as they introduce new writing modes to students, as they make assignments, and as they provide students with feedback on their efforts (Calkins et al., 2014; Carroll & Wilson, 2007; Hattie, 2012).

Teaching the “Mechanics” of Writing
So far, there has been no mention of the “mechanical” aspects of writing, but they are extremely important. The youngest learners may have very poor handwriting, use invented spelling, and ignore grammar rules. However, across the grades, students in classrooms where writing is a daily practice will learn these essentials through a combination of systematic and direct instruction, practice in applying them, and corrective feedback (Gambrell & Chasen, 1991; Graham et al., 2012; Troia & Graham, 2002). As Calkins and Ehrenworth point out:

The writing process is a learned skill. It comes from many hours spent writing a lot. It comes from a mindset that whatever you write, you consider not only what you will write about but also how you will write well. (2016, p. 7)

Additionally, providing professional development on the teaching of writing is essential because far too many teachers lack the knowledge and skills—and probably the confidence—to be effective (McCarthey & Geoghegan, 2016). Calkins and Ehrenworth point out quite directly that “In too many schools, kids need to luck out to get a teacher who teaches writing” (2016, p. 11).

Mentor Text, Genre, and Writer’s Craft
Teachers can use what are often called “mentor texts” to make instruction of the various writing skills and strategies more concrete; these are examples of high-quality writing from all genres that can be studied and discussed for style, word choice, author’s craft, and overall effectiveness (Gil, 2017). Some valuable mentor texts may be examples of student writing; others may be from the routine materials students encounter in their daily reading activities or from other sources.

Additionally, savvy teachers know to ask students to pause a few seconds as they read to study the “craft” with which authors have produced what they write—the choices authors make to create a mood in a poem, the sense of anticipation in a story, or the clear sequence of events laid out in the description of an experiment or a historical event. Studying mentor texts and deciding what “good” writing looks like establishes a common “vision” toward which students can work as teachers release responsibility for writing to their students (Calkins & Ehrenworth, 2016; Graham et al., 2012). Discussion of these “neutral” texts also models ways to give constructive feedback on distinct aspects of written products. Mentor texts reinforce the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing (Carroll & Wilson, 2007).

How Into Reading Delivers

A comprehensive and integrated approach in the context of a balanced literacy classroom ensures that students find their voice and can communicate through effective expression.

Writing Workshop
In the Writing Strand, students learn the writing process across all modes and forms through an explicit, step-by-step approach to a Writing Workshop. The writing workshop model draws upon authentic trade books as the focal text for student writing. Typically, students take a piece of writing through the entire writing process over the course of three weeks.

Joyce Armstrong Carroll, founder of Abydos (formerly the New Jersey Writing Project of Texas), provided her expertise in the area of process writing as the author of the Writing Workshop Teacher’s Guide. Her curriculum has been adapted, aligned, and included in the lessons of HMH Into Reading.

Staying true to the spirit of Joyce Armstrong Carroll’s curriculum:

  • The Writing Workshop model focuses on writing as a process
  • Lessons include practical and point-of-use strategies for students and explicit supports for both teachers and students
  • Student-driven routines are introduced
  • Teacher scripting features real-world teacher talk, including metaphorical discussion
  • Use of focus statements to frame the topic for the teacher writing model and process
  • Use of focal text (mentor text) to frame the topic, form the basis of the writing prompt, and serve as reinforcement of trade book reading available during the reading block
Building a Community of Literacy Learners and Writers

If writing is to take its place as an integral part of students’ days, teachers need to attend to the environment they create. Writing—and wide reading—is best supported when the classroom becomes a literacy community, with attention to an integrated approach to reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Students need to have opportunities to collaborate, to share, to participate in writing conferences with teachers; they need to learn to give and take feedback on ideas, techniques, drafts, and final products and to act on the feedback to improve their work (Calkins et al., 2014; Calkins & Ehrenworth, 2016; Graham et al., 2012).

Purpose and Process of Writing
Writing in response to reading must be accompanied by different kinds of writing, as students learn to write for multiple purposes (Graham et al., 2012) and write about familiar topics and ones they care about (Calkins & Ehrenworth, 2016). Writing well about what is “familiar” does not happen automatically; several meta-analyses have documented the evidence that direct instruction of the writing process as used for a variety of different purposes and in a variety of genres is a highly effective approach to helping students become strong writers (Graham et al., 2012; Graham & Sandmel, 2011). Through this instruction, students learn to plan and then draft their writing, share their ideas with others, and evaluate what they write. These steps lead students to revise, edit, and finally produce a final product to publish within or beyond their classroom community.

Sharing one’s writing in draft and final form is an important part of the writing process, in part because sharing helps develop collaboration and community through giving and receiving feedback and ideas (Graham et al., 2012). Several classroom situations encourage collaboration and community development, including teachers actually writing with their students, teachers conducting writing conferences for individualized instruction, paired writing, and a formal program to publish students’ writing (Tracy, Reid, & Graham, 2009; Graham et al., 2012; Yarrow & Topping, 2001). Collaboration on writing has been found to be motivating and is especially effective when teachers have helped students develop a clear set of guidelines for evaluating their own and others’ writing and when they have also established expectations for substantive and polite give-and-take among students (Calkins et al., 2014; Calkins & Ehrenworth, 2016; Graham et al., 2012).

Rubrics and Peer Feedback
Teachers need to track students’ writing development with the same care they routinely afford to students’ reading and to give students tools to monitor their own growth (Calkins et al., 2014; Gehsmann & Templeton, 2011/2012). Checklists can be invaluable as students engage in various stages of the writing process, and clearly stated rubrics help students evaluate their drafts and finished products. For example, a checklist can remind students to check technical issues like verb tenses, pronoun references, or punctuation or more sophisticated elements of writing such as logic, sequence of ideas, or inclusion of details to support a perspective (Hotchkiss & Hougen, 2012). Rubrics provide detailed descriptors of the characteristics of pieces of writing at various levels of proficiency; they can help students evaluate their own and others’ writing, as well as how their teachers will grade their written work (Brookhart & Nitko, 2008; Calkins et al., 2014).

Writing as a Mode of Learning
Rather than writing being the end goal, Carroll and Wilson (2007) note that writing is a mode to further learning and a gateway for higher-order thinking:

Words embedded in a context...carry unique meaning within that discipline. Students partake of that meaning as they read. Then, when they write, they extend their understanding. As students write responses, they become authors of meaning about or because of the words that have been shared. This appropriation of meaning and shared ownership is called writing to learn. (Carroll & Wilson, 2007, p.326)

Daily habits of writing reinforce the importance of writing to learn, and practicing writing for many purposes across multiple disciplines fosters an integration of knowledge and deep thinking.

Technology and Students’ Writing
The integration of technology into our daily lives, and into today’s classrooms, has influenced the way writing is taught and practiced. Features like spelling and grammar checks, thesauri, ways to emphasize text, and graphic organizers for structuring different pieces of writing can support all students, both confident writers and those who struggle to master these essentials (Graham et al., 2012; Kervin & Mantei, 2016). Calkins & Ehrenworth (2016) emphasize that the new forms of communication enabled by technology—word processing and also tweets, emails, and social media—make learning to express oneself effectively more important than ever, and there has been some research on the ways in which technology supports or inhibits writing development (e.g., see the College Board, National Writing Project, & Phi Delta Kappa International, 2010).

How Into Reading Delivers

The myBook is a student resource, aligned to the Into Reading modules. The write-in myBook provides numerous writing opportunities connected to each module in the program, allowing students to take notes, annotate, respond, and ultimately take ownership of their learning. Students use the myBook to take notes, annotate, and respond to the text. In addition, myBook wrap-up activities at the end of the module provide the opportunity for students to synthesize what they’ve  learned through writing and discussions and to express their new insight through writing.

Writing opportunities are further enhanced in the Into Reading digital offering, via the interactive myBook for annotating text and writing about reading.

Writer’s Notebook
The Writer’s Notebook directly supports the act of writing by allowing students to set and evaluate personal goals, interact with writing models, use a variety of prewriting strategies, and confer with peers. Further, an interactive writer’s notebook supports students in writing across the modules by guiding them through the writing process with interactive planning/graphic organizers, checklists, and more.

Speaking and Listening

While teaching speaking and listening skills may seem to be an additional layer on top of the heavy responsibilities teachers have for teaching language arts and other content areas, it is essential that students learn these skills. These skills will be essential as they progress to middle school and high school and beyond, and the best way for them to learn them is within the context of the vibrant, oral give-and-take of high-quality classrooms (Fisher, Frey, & Rothenberg, 2008; Frey et al., 2013; Palmer, 2014). Additionally, many state standards have been including these two sets of skills more prominently—a hopeful sign because attending to them can make huge contributions to students’ overall academic performance (Palmer, 2011; 2014).

The Value of Instruction in Speaking and Listening

Almost every teacher of young students tries to teach the difference between “indoor” and “outdoor” voices. In many ways, this is a good metaphor for thinking about teaching speaking and listening throughout the elementary grades—so long as the terms become “academic” and “conversational” or “formal” and “informal.” 

It is essential to stress that the goal of instruction in speaking is to expand students’ range of speech patterns so that the conventions of effective speaking in different contexts become almost second nature to them. They learn to talk in class discussions and research presentations, just as they learn to ask for explanations about topics and skills they don’t understand. When individual students speak more effectively, their fellow students are much more likely to be engaged and interested in what the speaker has to say (Palmer, 2014).

Kinsella (2015) advises teachers to talk to their students about different “registers,” although teachers may not use this term that is common in texts on rhetoric. This means that they will be teaching their students to speak and listen with comprehension to academic or formal language, without giving up on their vernacular conversational modes of speaking. She reminds teachers that students do know about this—they most likely speak to their grandparents or the principal in ways that are highly different from how they talk to peers, and they probably listen to these grownups more carefully than to friends on the playground. Spoken and written language in an academic register is marked by more technical and precise word choices, sentence styles, and grammar and is produced for various formal situations.

Students also benefit from guidance on how to interact productively in pairs or small groups. Efforts to have students collaborate—perhaps on a research project or in conducting science experiments—easily derail if students do not understand the give-and-take of speaking and listening or the subtle cues of body language in group situations where they work toward a common goal (Frey, Fisher, & Nelson, 2013; Hattie & Yates, 2014; Palmer, 2011).

Teachers can help their students understand the important differences between academic and conversational language by modeling academic language themselves—and stopping as necessary to paraphrase, restate, and explain so that students begin to sense an “inside-the-classroom” way of speaking. In this way, they are teaching students about speaking and listening within the authentic context of routine instructional interactions (Calkins et al., 2012). They can also give students supporting checklists or rubrics, similar to those that students can use to evaluate their writing efforts. Such supporting devices help students develop a common set of expectations for speaking and listening, as well as a common way of thinking and talking about these skills in an academic setting.

Teachers have a responsibility to help their students learn how to listen, as well as speak, in school and other formal settings. Students need to learn to listen in different contexts as their teachers, peers, and others speak. “Learning to listen” may seem like an unimportant educational goal, but there are specific strategies that students need to learn. Teachers model some of these as they read to their students, especially if they read a wide range of books. Students listen for main ideas, as well as themes, inferences, nuances, and unfamiliar vocabulary whose meaning can be determined through context clues.

Although most students seem to know intuitively how to listen while their teacher reads an engaging story to them, they may not know how to listen attentively in other formal settings. Teachers can provide them with guidelines about being polite and quiet. However, embedding direct instruction on speaking and instruction seems to be less important than teaching academic language or reading and writing conventions such as using context clues to figure out the meanings of unfamiliar terms or attending to logical connectors (such as “because of this...”), claims and counter-claims (such as “on the other hand...”), or the general logical flow of what a speaker is saying.

How Into Reading Delivers

Building knowledge and language pages have a focus on classroom discussion, especially around module topics and the Get Curious videos. The Reading Strand workshop model has a “wrap up and share” component at the end of each lesson where students have an opportunity to reflect and orally express their thinking with other students. The myBook includes “turn and talk” prompts, whereby students can apply their listening skills as they learn how to take turns speaking and listening. In addition, teachers facilitate students’ exploration and discussion of an “essential question” during each module. Students engage in lively discussion about literature, drawing upon their own experiences, making connections to their lives as well as to the various texts they are reading in order to form opinions and insights related to the essential question.

Numerous occasions for partner work are found especially in the lower elementary grades. The materials in these grades offer dialogic reading prompts via Bookstix. In Grades 3 and higher, students have a communication strand, and sentence frames support discussion.

Social-Emotional Learning

Many students learn to read without significant effort; experiences at home and preschool contribute to their learning to love books, and they enter kindergarten ready for the challenge of becoming fully literate themselves. They know they can do this! For other students, mastering reading skills and strategies poses many challenges. Researchers have shown that the absence of books and rich language in children’s preschool lives can be detrimental because they lack the vocabulary and the “word knowledge” they need to thrive in kindergarten (Hart & Risley, 1995; Wolf, 2007). As instruction becomes more and more advanced and assigned texts more difficult, they may decide that the cognitive energy needed to learn to read well and the embarrassment of mistakes are not worth their effort.

Teachers also need to attend to students’ social and emotional needs, including feelings students have about themselves as learners (Farrington et al., 2012). They also need to attend to the climate in the classrooms that teachers and students share (Kraft, Marinell, & Yee, 2016; Quay, 2017; Quay & Romero, 2015; Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013).

Differentiating instruction is one way to meet the needs of striving readers, but that provides only an academic approach; creating a welcoming classroom is a core principle of sound instruction. But as teachers know, students differ in their understanding of desired classroom behaviors.

Learning Mindset

Growth Mindset
One of the most significant factors that can influence students’ success as readers is their mindset (Dweck, 2006). Mindset refers to one’s personal theory of intelligence; that is, how students (or anyone in fact) think about themselves as learners and doers.

Students with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is unchangeable; they view challenging situations, such as reading a difficult passage, as “tests” of their intelligence and that the effort it would take to make sense of the passage proves that they are just not good at reading (Blackwell, Trzeniewski, & Dweck, 2007). Motivation and engagement, two factors that contribute enormously to students’ progress as readers, gradually decrease as tasks become increasingly difficult. Students’ belief that reading has an intrinsic value in their lives also begins to wane (Guthrie & Klauda, 2016).

Students with a growth mindset believe that they can be successful with hard work and that the effort they put in has value for them (Dockterman & Blackwell, 2014). Students find themselves motivated to take on challenges and look at mistakes as opportunities to grow (Dweck, 2006; Quay & Romero, 2015).

Although not the only factor, classroom environment contributes to students’ mindset. Young students’ first classroom experiences are often ones of building relationships—with their teacher and peers—and classroom interactions continue to shape students’ attitudes toward themselves and their ability to learn (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004). Wolf (2007) cites work by Biemiller (1970), who studied students’ process of learning to read. Biemiller found that students who ultimately become the most successful readers “never get arrested in any of the early steps, but move quickly through them” (Wolf, 2007, p.119).

As school work becomes more challenging, teachers’ support, modeling, encouragement, and feedback build and reinforce students’ growth mindset. These teacher behaviors also establish a classroom tone that sets clear expectations that all students are learners, mistakes are a part of the learning process, and students’ efforts and hard work are valued above all other behaviors. Teachers show they respect and care equally about the students who struggle to learn and the best readers in the class, and teachers model and require only positive, accepting, interactive tone for all classroom communications. As Mindset Scholars Network's summary of recent experimental research stresses, students need to know that their teachers’ expectation and goals are for them to succeed (Mindset Scholars Network, 2015).

Sense of Belonging
In such classrooms, all students sense that they belong, that their ability and competence can grow, and that they can be successful. In essence, teachers can create a “learning mindset culture,” one that not only provides instruction on skills and content knowledge but also builds strategies for perseverance, resilience, and effort. Steele and Cohn-Vargas (2013) remind teachers that as they seek to promote a sense of belonging for all students, they need to be aware of group dynamics and the formation of cliques, especially those that may be forming between students who are beginning to perceive themselves as struggling learners or “at risk” for failure.

Even if students never hear these actual labels, they may begin to identify themselves as somehow different from peers for whom academics come easily (Learned, 2016), and research has shown that this identification can change the dynamics in a classroom. Some students who mastered the so-called reading “fundamentals” of letter-sound correspondence may begin to falter as their reading tasks become increasingly difficult and they need to read more deeply and critically (McNamara, Jacovina, & Allen, 2016). For many of these students, initial challenges in school expand as low reading skills lead to difficulty in other content areas (Master, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2017).

Learning the Vocabulary of Self-Regulation
Instruction that helps all students develop problem solving, goal setting, and attention skills benefit all students, but perhaps those experiencing challenges will benefit the most. Clearly stated expectations for behavior, constant verbal reminders of these expectations, and posted “classroom rules” all have value in encouraging students to exercise self-regulation and their levels of executive function. What many teachers may not realize is that from the earliest grades, as teachers help students develop these skills, they also have opportunities for systematic vocabulary and strategy instruction (Kieffer & Stahl, 2016). Initial explanations of expectations and subsequent reminders about and corrections for desired behaviors should include clearly understood and actionable behavioral terms that can become part of students’ own vernacular to use as they moderate their behavior.

How Into Reading Delivers

Growth Mindset and Social-Emotional Development
HMH Into Reading incorporates the latest research, strategies, and practices to build a community of resilient, curious learners who persist in the face of challenge. Through a partnership with Mindset Works®, and in collaboration with Dr. David Dockterman of Harvard Graduate School of Education, research-based mindset strategies are integrated into each Module of Into Reading.

In addition, the materials

  • Introduce the learning mindsets: growth mindset, relevance, belonging, and purpose to help students better understand their self-perception and attitudes toward learning.
  • Establish the tenets of growth mindset so that each student understands that he or she has the capacity to learn and grow.
  • Target the research-based stances and skills that are key to student agency, engagement, and academic success, including curiosity, grit, perseverance, seeking challenges, etc.
Family and Community Engagement

For a student to be successful in school, there are numerous critical roles that families and communities play: supporters of learning, encouragers of perseverance and determination, models of educational practices, and advocates of appropriate school environments for their student (Grade Level Reading Campaign, 2017). Into Reading provides teachers with the tools and support they need to provide a school-home-community connection.

Family and Community Engagement for Literacy-Rich Environments

Literacy-Rich Home Environment
Research shows that students are eager for their families to be knowledgeable and active supporters of their education and are more likely to be successful in school if they see their parents playing this vital role (Epstein, 2010). In addition, research shows that early elementary students are more successful in school when they and their families experience supportive relationships with teachers, a correlation that has been found for achievement in general as well as specifically for reading achievement (Hughes & Kwok, 2007). Developing productive relationships between teachers and families seems of particular importance for students who are at risk of academic failure (Hughes & Kwok, 2007; Hunter, 2012).

Having books in the home helps establish a reading culture that continues from generation to generation within families and is independent of education and class. This creates an interest in and desire for books that will promote the skills and knowledge needed to foster both literacy and numeracy, thus leading to lifelong academic advantages (Evans, Kelly, Sikora, & Treiman, 2010). Unfortunately, many students growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods live in “Book Deserts” with extremely limited access to books and appropriate student text (Neuman & Moland, 2016). While not a sufficient solution, schools can help counter text scarcity, and support students and families, by providing as many print-rich resources as possible across genres, reading levels, and interest areas, even if the resources are lent out temporarily.

When students not only have access to books but can share them with reading mentors who love books and reading, they are much more likely to thrive as readers (Bridges, 2014; Heath, 1983). As noted by Adams (1990), family reading in which family members and caregivers interactively read with children is the most important activity families can do with their children to build the knowledge and skills required for skillful reading. Further, “continuing shared reading, even after your child learns to read independently, ensures that she is consistently exposed to rich and unfamiliar vocabulary and can help sustain an interest in the magical world of books, and provides continued motivation for children to master the art of reading” (Cunningham & Zibulsky, 2014, p. 306).

Reading at Home
Children spend up to 75% of their waking hours at home. Even with all the hours in the school day, additional reading time is needed at home to build fluent comprehension skills. Therefore, it is imperative for schools to work with families to capitalize on the educational value of this time throughout the school year and over the summer.

Voluminous reading can have a statistically significant impact on students’ vocabulary development, general knowledge, spelling, verbal fluency, and reading comprehension (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998). Yet, voluminous reading is possible only if students have access to abundant texts and sufficient opportunities to read outside of school hours.

Reading at home is also important over the summer as students spend a large chunk of time at home during these months. When students do not have the opportunity to experience books over the summer months, something called “the summer slide” occurs in which students start school reading several levels behind where they were at the end of the previous year. Reading at home over the summer months is an important way families can support students as they become successful readers (Gac-Artigas, 2016).

How Into Reading Delivers

Family and Community Engagement
Engaging with families and the community is critical to student success in school. Into Reading provides resources to help teachers interact with families throughout the school year.

  • Family letters, available on Ed, inform families about the skills, strategies, and topics students are encountering at school, extending rich dialogue beyond the classroom. Teachers can customize these and then send them home to include parents and caregivers in the learning goals of each module.

  • The write-in format of the consumable myBook gives families a front-row seat to their child’s thinking and progress over time. At the end of the school year students can take home their myBook to share literature, encouraging a strong home-school connection. Further, students can share their work digitally at home, including their myBook notes and responses as well as the digital Rigby Leveled Library texts appropriate to their specific reading level. Students can do shared and independent reading at home to further build their skills and to engage their parents and caregivers in the topics they are discussing and writing about in school.

  • Students in the lower grades (K–2) have decodable readers called Start Right Readers that have printable versions that can be sent home. Students in these grades also receive Mindset Certificates at the end of each module, indicating accomplishments in one of the targeted Learning Mindset skills.

  • Additionally, the Guiding Principles and Strategies (GPS) teacher resource further supports student-home-community connection.
Technology in the Service of Teaching and Learning

Technology has permeated the classrooms and schools within the past decade at a rapid rate, transforming the way students learn, educators teach, and administrators manage resources and interpret data. Increased numbers of tablets and laptops in the hands of students, enhancements made on mobile devices, inclusion of multimedia on websites, and the infusion of social media in students’ daily lives have altered the very nature of reading. Traditional print books are steadily being replaced by eBooks, audiobooks, online news sources, and even voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant services that provide an immediate answer to a spoken question. In these ways, students access text through more modalities than in the past.

The Value of Blended Learning

Blended learning has the potential to bring accessibility, affordability, and customization that might have previously been complicated, expensive, and standardized to educational places. In this way, it can transform learning experiences for students (Staker et al., 2011; Staker & Horne, 2012). As we use technology and digital devices regularly in order to function in our personal and professional lives, it is reasonable to integrate these same resources into educational environments (Anderson & Skrzypchak, 2011).

In a membership survey of teachers from all 50 states, the Association of American Educators found that 92% of teachers report utilizing technology in the classroom, and 68% of teachers “support a blended learning environment where students spend part of their day with a teacher and part of their day working with a computer” (Association of American Educators, 2015).

Well-designed blended learning solutions offer many positive benefits for all students, including for those with disabilities and English learners. Five aspects of technology that can be game changers for students are that it is:

  1. Adaptive
  2. Good at facilitating repetitive practice
  3. Available anytime and anywhere
  4. Effective at gathering and processing data
  5. Motivating (Hasselbring, 2012)

Adaptive technology affords students the opportunity to receive individualized supports, learn at their own pace, and receive corrective feedback in real time (Kamil, 2003). Individually targeted instruction in reading skills can improve reading achievement, both in the targeted skill and in more generalized measures of literacy (Shanahan, 2008; Vaughn & Denton, 2008).

Available Anytime and Anywhere
Providing a fundamental redesign of instructional models, blended learning seeks to accelerate learning by allowing students to access high-quality resources and instructional materials beyond the physical boundaries and time constraints of the traditional classroom. The goal is to develop schools that are more productive for both students and teachers by personalizing instruction and then extending the learning environment beyond the school. In this way, blended learning can ensure that the most appropriate resources and interventions are available for students at the time and place they need them (Bailey et al., 2015).

Effective at Gathering and Processing Data
Many technology-based programs allow teachers to look up the day-to-day progress of students, see which concepts are holding them back, and then use that information to create an individualized learning plan. When a student spends just a small amount of time using the right kind of software, technology-based programs can quickly assess the student’s skill set, organize the data, and deliver customized data to the teacher, parent, or student (Hasselbring, 2010). A recent report (RAND, 2014) found that students in charter schools that had implemented personalized learning programs improved in reading and math over the national average on standardized tests.

The motivating potential of technology is very promising. For almost everyone, especially students caught in a cycle of failure, success is a tremendous motivator. Many technology-based programs are able to process data and point out improvements in even very small increments. Seeing these improvements is incredibly motivating for students who particularly feel they have never experienced success in school (Hasselbring & Bausch, 2005).

Furthermore, a recent report from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) cited three factors that affect the achievement of at-risk students that use educational technology: the interactive nature of the technology, the ability of the technology to encourage students to explore and create rather than repetitively practice skills, and effective interaction between teachers and the technology (Darling-Hammond, Zielezinski, & Goldman, 2014).

How Into Reading Delivers

Ed: Your Friend in Learning
Freeing teachers from designing the complex choreography of providing whole-group and differentiated instruction, reinforcing students’ skills through online practice, finding resources, assessing students’ skills, and interpreting data, Ed: Your Friend in Learning offers a myriad of digital student and teacher support and instructional resources. To inform instruction, learning, and growth, reports in Ed allow teachers to view progress by class, students, assignments, standards, and skill level. This information, available right when needed, allows teachers to adjust instruction to meet the needs of all learners.

Students learn about each module topic and Essential Question by viewing a high-interest Get Curious video. In K–1, Alphafriends® videos playfully bring letters to life by teaching letter names and sounds, phonemic awareness, and syllabic blending with unforgettable alphabet characters. Additional media selections, available on Ed, expose students to multimedia content designed to engage students and support analysis.

myBook, Start Right Readers, and Rigby Leveled Library titles are available as eBooks on Ed. Digital tools promote student ownership of their reading and writing.

  • Read-along highlighting supports students in understanding text and hearing what fluent reading sounds like.
  • Highlighting, note-taking, and interactive graphic organizers work alongside instructional prompts to promote close reading, vocabulary acquisition, and best practices in writing.

iRead Foundational Literacy Software
The program offers personalized levels of support through technology-based instruction using iRead, an evidence-based foundational literacy software designed for students in Grades K–2. This innovative and effective literacy software utilizes adaptive technology to individualize instruction for each student’s unique needs and interests and enhances the learning environment with its highly interactive game-based learning methodology.

Assessments for Instruction and Differentiation

Teachers know that their students differ in many ways—interests, personalities, and levels of accomplishment. They also know that they can be most effective if they are able to provide instruction that recognizes and accommodates these differences. A comprehensive assessment system of and for instruction helps teachers achieve this goal; such a system consists of three main types of assessments, which serve different purposes throughout the year (Black & William, 1998; Black et al., 2004).

  1. Formative Assessment
  2. Interim Assessment
  3. Summative Assessment
Three Kinds of Assessments

Formative assessments are administered throughout the year, usually by classroom teachers. Their primary purpose is to inform teachers about how their students are progressing, where gaps exist in students’ learning, and how their instruction needs to be adjusted to improve student learning, possibly by slowing down the pace, repeating instruction, or even challenging some students with new and potentially more difficult tasks.

Formative assessments don’t have to be tests per se; they can be activities such as “exit slips,” graphic organizers, or short written paragraphs about what has been read. Even though these may seem informal, teachers can use the data to adjust to their instructional groupings or reteach specific skills to students who seem to need help. In fact, any systematically collected display of learning can give teachers the insight they need to plan instruction.

Interim or benchmark assessments are also administered throughout the year, often by classroom teachers but sometimes by coaches or reading specialists. Like formative assessments, interim assessments measure how well students are progressing toward attainment of specific skills, some as foundational as letter-sound correspondences and others as comprehensive as reading comprehension. They are usually fairly short, sometimes taking only a minute; this is important because interim assessments are usually administered individually.

Interim assessments are standardized and systematic and have been studied to determine their reliability; this means that the data they produce give teachers immediate feedback on how well each student is meeting specific reading standards. Teachers may make instructional decisions based on the data, including seeking additional, diagnostic testing for students who seem to be falling further and further behind and who may need the support of Tier 2 or Tier 3 instruction in a Response to Intervention (RtI) model (Gersten et al., 2008).

The important thing to remember about formative and interim assessments is that they give teachers invaluable information about students’ learning in real time. Decisions about differentiating instruction can be made based on real evidence of students’ achievement and on their needs. In this way, they are assessments in the service of students’ learning. This can become even more so when teachers share results with students so they gain insight into their learning and see themselves as helping to make instructional decisions (Black & William, 1998; 2009). Sharing data with students allows them to see why they are being tested and encourages them to do their best.

Summative assessments, on the other hand, measure what students have learned—over the course of a unit, a term, or the whole year. They show students’ mastery after instruction occurred. Results, especially of state reading tests, may not be available to share with students, but teachers can put the results to use to help them evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching with groups of students they came to know well. Reflecting on summative test results, teachers can ask themselves questions like: What worked that I should do again? What could I have done differently? How can I improve my instructional practice for certain aspects of the curriculum or for certain students? Finding honest answers to these questions and putting the answers to work will improve teachers’ practice (Fisher et al., 2016).

How Into Reading Delivers

Into Reading Assessments
HMH Into Reading features numerous assessments including weekly assessments, module assessments, Leveled Reader quizzes, performance tasks, running records, and teacher observation tools, as well as an interim growth measure, administered three times a year (beginning, middle, and end), and a Guided Reading Benchmark Assessment Kit.

Assessment and Progress Monitoring
Ongoing formative assessment guides daily instruction while performance-based assessments demonstrate student progress toward mastery of module skills and standards.

  • Selections Quizzes: Assess comprehension of the myBook text selections (Grades 1–6).
  • Weekly Assessments: Assess students’ understanding of the key Reading, Writing, and Foundational Skills covered during each week of instruction.
  • Ongoing Formative Assessment Tools: Leveled Readers, Comprehension Quizzes, Running Records, 1:1 Observation Record, Daily Lesson Checks, and Correct & Redirect Opportunities in the Teacher’s Guide.
  • Module Assessment: Measure students’ proficiency in the critical skills covered in this module (foundational skills, generative vocabulary, vocabulary strategies, comprehension/literary analysis, grammar, writing).
  • Performance-Based Assessment: Students synthesize what they have learned from the module’s text set and demonstrate their topic knowledge by completing one of the module’s culminating activities. An optional written Performance Task is also provided at the end of each module in the Teacher’s Guide.
  • Writing Assessment: Throughout the course of the module, students work through the stages of the writing process in Writing Workshop. Students’ writing can be evaluated according to the rubric provided for the module’s writing form in the Teacher Resource Book.
Data-Driven Growth

By measuring the key essential skills, assessment data can help teachers improve student achievement by providing a detailed description of each student’s progress, as well as an aggregate portrait of how a class or grade has progressed. Thoughtful use of formative, interim, and summative data ensures that all students receive instruction that meets these criteria (Pane et al., 2015):

  • Instruction is appropriate for students’ levels of development and needs.
  • Instruction is efficient and seamless.
  • Instruction provides students the time they need to master the skills and strategies that are taught.
  • Instruction is sequenced flexibly, accommodates individual progress, and answers the critical question of “what next?”

Carlson and colleagues (2011) found evidence that, when implemented validly and reliably at scale, data-driven reform efforts can result in substantively and statistically significant improvements in achievement outcomes. For students with disabilities, it is particularly important to use student performance assessment data to monitor progress in order to determine ongoing instructional and interventional needs (National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 2008).

Not only do assessment data inform teachers the knowledge and skills that students have acquired and their level of mastery, but the practice of consistently taking low-stakes performance assessments, coupled with high expectations, and meaningful feedback help all students become assessment-capable learners (Frey, Hattie, & Fisher, 2018).

How Into Reading Delivers

Into Reading is built on the promise of student outcomes. It includes meaningful data insights to help teachers determine daily skills focus for minilessons and small-group needs. Actionable reports drive grouping, reading, and instructional recommendations appropriate for each learner.

Multiple reports display student proficiency and growth, allowing teachers to see the gaps and gains of his or her class—and each individual learner—at any moment throughout the school year, based on activities associated with lessons (or modules) and interim assessments. The interim growth report will provide a Lexile® level and a skill-based proficiency report, allowing teachers and administrators to examine student progress and growth within and across school years. Module and weekly assessments give insights into individual and class standards proficiency.

Grouping recommendations based on data allow teachers to quickly group students and target instruction to meet their needs and maximize learning outcomes. Ed: Your Friend in Learning allows teachers to manage flexible groups for guided reading, skills reinforcement, and language development.

Resource Recommendations
Into Reading program assessments provide ongoing insights into student’s current proficiency level in Foundational Skills, Reading, Language, Writing and Research, and Speaking, Listening, and Viewing. Ed delivers just-in-time instructional supports and just-the-right-level texts to build better readers and writers based on data. Results from program assessments provide teachers with specific skills-based recommendations to target students’ individual learning needs.

Blended Professional Learning and Services

HMH Into Reading features effective approaches to professional learning that support teachers in becoming developers of high-impact learning experiences for their students. Comprehensive blended professional learning solutions are data and evidence driven, mapped to instructional goals, and centered on students—and they build educators’ collective capacity. HMH allows teachers to achieve agency in their professional growth through effective instructional strategies, embedded teacher support, and ongoing blended professional learning relevant to everyday teaching.

Relevant High-Utility Instructional Strategies and Practices for Everyday Teaching

Research increasingly finds that teachers’ professional learning is essential to school reform and a vital link between standards movements and student achievement (Borman & Feger, 2006; Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009; Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001; Gulamhussein, 2013; Sweeney, 2011; Yoon, Duncan, Lee, Scarloss, & Shapley, 2007). According to Wei, Darling-Hammond, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos (2009):

As students are expected to learn more complex and analytical skills in preparation for further education and work in the 21st century, teachers must learn to teach in ways that develop higher order thinking and performance...Efforts to improve student achievement can succeed only by building the capacity of teachers to improve their instructional practice and the capacity of school systems to advance teacher learning. (p. 1)

Current reform efforts across disciplines require significant shifts in teachers’ roles from traditional, rote, fact-based approaches to instruction toward fostering in students a deeper engagement with critical thinking and problem solving. In order for schools to support new standards and instructional practices, effective professional learning programs are necessary. “If school districts want teachers to change instruction, the implementation stage must be included and supported more explicitly in professional development offerings, as this is the critical stage where teachers begin to commit to an instructional approach” (Gulamhussein, 2013, p. 11).

Professional learning should be focused on deepening teachers’ content knowledge and connected to targeted teaching practices (Guskey & Sparks, 2002; Saxe, Gearheart, & Nasir, 2001). Teachers’ professional knowledge and capacities grow throughout their careers as they interact with more and more students, participate in professional learning opportunities, and make use of research-based, educative print and online resources. One way of thinking about this growth is movement from being a novice teacher toward one who demonstrates mastery. Novices depend almost entirely on declarative knowledge—what was learned in their teacher education programs. The process of working toward being a master teacher increases stores of what has been called “expert/adaptive” knowledge and “reflective” knowledge.

Master teachers have the procedural knowledge—the strategies and practices—to deal successfully with a full array of instructional challenges and to then evaluate, analyze, and reflect upon their effectiveness (Snow, Griffin, & Burns, 2005).

Professional learning should enhance teachers’ knowledge of specific pedagogical skills and how to teach specific content to students (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009). Several studies have shown that professional learning that addresses discipline-specific concepts and skills results in better teacher and student outcomes (Gulamhussein, 2013).

Effective professional learning programs are sustained over time and cohesive and intensive in approach (Ball & Cohen, 1999; Garet et al., 2001; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014; Gulamhussein, 2013; Joyce & Showers, 2002; Saxe et al., 2001; Yoon et al., 2007). In addition to their own tendencies to evaluate and analyze their practice, many external factors and experiences contribute to teachers’ growth as professionals. Feedback from principals, colleagues, coaches, parents, and students contribute to individuals’ growth (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).

A review of the results of nine rigorous experimental studies found professional learning programs of greater duration are positively associated with improvements in teacher practice as well as student achievement, specifically showing that a set of programs offering substantial contact hours (30–100 hours total) spread over 6 to 12 months yielded a positive, significant effect on student achievement gains (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009). Joyce and Showers (2002) indicate that, for many teachers, mastery of a new skill requires, on average, 20 separate instances of practice—and more for particularly complex skills. Teachers must then see ample value in professional learning sessions to put professional learning to use in their classrooms and work toward mastery—the very same processes their students engage in when they are learning new and challenging strategies, skills, and concepts. Fortunately, the transfer rate of learning for teachers is much higher when instruction and practice are coupled with coaching.

Conversely, an approach consisting of a single-shot, single-session workshop independent from a cumulative, cohesive context for learning will likely have minimal impact (Ball & Cohen, 1999; Gulamhussein, 2013; Yoon et al., 2007). In a 2002 meta-analysis of research on teacher training, Joyce and Showers found that when professional learning consisted of only theory and discussion of a targeted practice—such as through a workshop session—gains in knowledge and the ability to demonstrate the new skills were modest in the transfer to actual classroom situations; however, demonstration, practice, and feedback—such as through follow-up and coaching—combined with theory and discussion yielded more substantial gains.

How Into Reading Delivers

HMH Into Reading program builds a culture of professional growth with embedded and ongoing blended professional learning that empowers and supports teachers to be developers of high-impact learning experiences that provide all students with opportunities for reading and writing success.

Teacher tips and professional learning references are embedded throughout the Teacher’s Guide so that teachers receive immediate, relevant research-based recommendations from various literacy experts. The Guiding Principles and Strategies (GPS) book supports teachers through the introduction of routines and procedures to support whole group, small group, and independent learning at the beginning, middle, and end of year. The Reading and Foundational Skills strands are in the core Teacher’s Guide for Grades 1 to 6. The teacher’s materials for those strands are integrated on a daily basis. Writing and Grammar for Grades 1 to 6 appear in a separate Writing Workshop Teacher’s Guide that consists of one volume per grade.

Into Reading provides embedded teacher support and high-impact strategies to empower teachers to deliver effective and meaningful instruction to foster student ownership and growth. The program’s embedded and ongoing blended professional learning fosters teachers’ agency, supporting their role as independent designers of quality instruction.

The program’s comprehensive blended professional learning solutions are research based, mapped to a teacher’s goals, centered on his/her students, and designed to build the collective capacity of leaders and teachers.

Offered in-person or online, the Getting Started with Into Reading course provides an overview of the program from both a teacher and student perspective to build understanding and confidence to ensure a strong implementation. A comprehensive Professional Learning Guide complements the Getting Started session and provides additional support throughout the implementation. To support administrators, a Getting Started Leadership webinar is available.

In addition, the Guiding Principles and Strategies (GPS) book guides teachers in building classroom community, supporting social-emotional learning, engaging families as partners, assessing students and differentiating, and teaching using research-based best practices.

To support teachers in deepening their mastery of Into Reading and growing their practice, HMH offers follow-up sessions and coaching. Districts can choose from relevant instructional topics to create a personalized in-person and/or online Follow-Up experience. Coaching is student centered and grounded in data focused on goals targeted to address teachers’ unique needs.

Modeling and Coaching of Instructional Strategies and Practices

Research has documented that educational reforms are not self-implementing or predictable in terms of how they may (or may not) take hold at the classroom level; the vital link necessary for targeted change is local professional learning by teachers (Borman & Feger, 2006).

Instructional coaching entailing the modeling of specific sought-after practices has been shown to help teachers embrace and implement best practices and educational policy (Coburn & Woulfin, 2012; Gulamhussein, 2013; Heineke & Polnick, 2013; Knight, 2011; Taylor & Chanter, 2016; Wei et al., 2009).

Effective modeling of targeted instructional practices is purposeful and deliberate, incorporates academic language, and is based on research (Taylor & Chanter, 2016). Gulamhussein (2013) reports that:

While many forms of active learning help teachers decipher concepts, theories, and research-based practices in teaching, modeling—when an expert demonstrates the new practice—has been shown to be particularly successful in helping teachers understand and apply a concept and remain open to adopting it. (p. 17)

“Like athletes, teachers will put newly learned skills to use—if they are coached” (Joyce & Showers, 1982, p. 5). According to a large-scale survey commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2014), teachers seek more opportunities to be coached in learning new, effective instructional strategies and practices, believing these professional learning efforts are more valuable.

Indeed, teachers’ initial exposure to a concept should engage teachers through varied approaches and active (rather than passive) learning strategies to make sense of a new practice (Garet et al., 2001; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014; Gulamhussein, 2013). Further, an effective professional learning program avoids the generic; instead, it should focus on the targeted content, strategies, and practices (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; 2014; Saxe et al., 2001) and be grounded in the teacher’s grade level or discipline (Gulamhussein, 2013).

Effective professional learning programs provide continued follow-up and support from coaches (Sweeney, 2011). Knight (2011) stresses that once training initiatives are kick-started to raise awareness of targeted teaching practices, follow-up and coaching are essential: “[l]asting change does not occur without focus, support, and systemwide accountability...Support is necessary for transferring talk into action” (p. 10).

Teachers who seek to improve their practice and their students’ achievement can also turn to print, online, and in-person resources to help them continue successfully on their path toward professional mastery; this process represents blended learning, which has the advantage of allowing teachers to control the place, pace, and path of their professional learning. Individually and collaboratively, they engage in a process sometimes called “self-coaching that addresses the common question: ‘The professional development is over, so now what?’” (Wood, Kissel, & Haag, 2014). There are five steps to self-coaching, and they align with high-quality teaching. They include:

  1. Collecting data to help answer one’s questions about instructional improvement. Formative and benchmark data are important, but so too is information about students’ interests, styles of learning, and work habits.
  2. Reflecting on the data as a whole and on the data that results from looking back on each days’ and each week’s instruction
  3. Acting on the reflections, trying things out, and as appropriate, sharing the results of teachers’ actions in a collaborative and mutually-supportive group
  4. Evaluating one’s practice, especially through video self-reflection, for example, asking questions about effectiveness of instruction and students’ receptivity to the instruction
  5. Extending one’s actions, for example, trying out a successful approach to teaching students to understand complex narrative texts to instruction on reading, social studies, or science textbooks or other informational texts

How Into Reading Delivers

HMH provides teachers with personalized support focused on instructional practices, content, and data to ensure continuous improvement over time. HMH coaches build strong relationships with teachers through engaging them in the coaching process; they analyze student data, set student learning targets, learn and apply new skills, and then review and reflect. By incorporating action steps, gathering data, and analyzing evidence and reflecting, coaching can facilitate measurable results (Taylor & Chanter, 2016).

One example of embedded coaching is when teachers utilize the Notice & Note protocol to help students become more discerning readers. Teachers find point-of-use support for teaching, modeling, and applying the strategies from the very experts who developed them.

Consistent with the professional learning method most often requested by teachers, Classroom Videos provide authentic modeling, showing teachers and students putting research-based strategies such as Notice & Note into action and how the routines impact students’ interactions with text.

Through AskHMH™, teachers receive on-demand access to program experts, and they can ask pedagogical questions and request online conferencing to support implementation.

Ongoing Blended Professional Learning

Enabling educational systems to achieve on a wide scale the kind of teaching that has a substantial impact on student learning requires much more intensive and effective professional learning than has traditionally been available. If we want all young people to possess the higher-order thinking skills they need to succeed in the 21st century, we need educators who possess higher-order teaching skills and deep content knowledge. (Gov. James B. Hunt, Jr. in Darling-Hammond et al.’s Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: Status Report, 2009, p. 2)

Focusing on teachers’ inquiry into questions about instruction and on students’ learning deepens teachers’ understanding of student learning and allows the collective capacity of the community to address instructional dilemmas (Webb, Vulliamy, Anneli, Hamalainen, & Polkionen, 2009).

Effective professional learning is embedded and ongoing as part of a wider reform effort, rather than an isolated activity or initiative (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009; Garet et al., 2001). “The duration of professional development must be significant and ongoing to allow time for teachers to learn a new strategy and grapple with the implementation problem” (Gulamhussein, 2013, p. 3).

Effective professional learning programs are supportive of teachers as they navigate the implementation process in order to increase the likelihood of positive changes in practices (Knight, 2011). Teachers must be supported in ways that address the specific goals for learning aligned with corresponding standards and associated challenges to teaching them (Garet et al., 2001; Guskey, 1995; Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi, & Gallagher, 2007). “Simply increasing the amount of time teachers spend in professional development alone, however, is not enough. The time has to be spent wisely, with a significant portion dedicated to supporting teachers during the implementation stage” (Gulamhussein, 2013, p. 15).

Effective training efforts should be developed according to evidence-based strategies for adult learning and communication, including engaging teachers in varied approaches that allow for their active participation (Garet et al., 2001; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014; Gulamhussein, 2013; Guskey, 2002; Taylor & Chanter, 2016). Teachers possessing technical strengths can draw on reserves of procedural knowledge to tailor instruction to their students’ needs. As intellectuals, they are empowered to reflect on theory, research, and their practice to innovate and implement new teaching strategies and approaches. This process of reflection can lead to teachers’ turning to their colleagues for advice and clarification—a process sometimes called “collective sensemaking,” which research has shown can be a powerful motivator for school improvement when implemented in professional learning communities (Coburn, 2005).

Researchers who study professional learning that supports teachers in effectively changing practice remind professional learning developers and providers that teachers’ active involvement may make them feel vulnerable because they are being asked to take the stance of “learner.” As Bryk and colleagues (2015) noted in a study of improvement efforts that included professional learning, positive changes happen in the presence of teachers’ “good will and engagement,” which is often rooted in teachers having choice and autonomy in their own learning. These qualities are essential whether teachers meet for large-group professional learning, attend professional learning communities within their schools, or work on their own to search out experts to guide them through self-study with print or online resources.

How Into Reading Delivers

For immediate guidance at the beginning of teaching with Into Reading (and for ongoing support when teachers need it), interactive online Getting Started Modules provide on-demand professional learning—including videos, tutorials, downloadable resources, and tips and strategies to guide teachers every step of the way.

Offered in-person or online, follow-up coaching provides a deeper dive into key program topics and practices including digital tools and resources, collaborative instruction, close reading strategies, and analysis of data and reports. Follow-up also provides flexibility, allowing choice of delivery mode, as well as relevant instructional topics to create a personalized follow-up experience. Our blended coaching solutions extend teacher and leader instructional capacity with in-person support and online sessions as well as access to HMH’s Coaching Studio.

Blended Professional Learning Solutions
Into Reading builds a culture of professional growth and embedded and ongoing blended professional learning. This model moves beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to include in-person and online consulting, courses, and coaching that are flexible, collaborative, and personalized. Together, we help create meaningful learning experiences for long-term, sustainable growth.

  • Getting Started Courses: Offered in-person or online, the Getting Started with Into Reading course provides an overview of the program from both a teacher and student perspective to build understanding and confidence to ensure a strong implementation. To solidify understanding, the Professional Learning Guide supports the Getting Started course and provides helpful information and strategies for planning instruction and implementing the program.
  • On-Demand Getting Started Modules: Provide on-demand professional learning—including videos, tutorials, downloadable resources, and tips and strategies to support teachers throughout the school year.
  • Classroom Videos: Demonstrate “the how” for implementing a specific strategy or instructional practice from Into Reading. They feature authentic classrooms, teachers, and/or leaders in action and include interviews to provide commentary. Classroom Videos can be used for guided video analysis as part of coaching.
  • Follow-Up: Offered in-person or online, provides a deeper dive into key program topics including digital tools and resources, collaborative instruction, close reading strategies, and analysis of data and reports.
  • Blended Coaching: Personalized in-person and online support to deepen mastery and ensure continuous professional growth. Student-centered and grounded in data, our coaching focuses on specific Into Reading instructional practices and components.
  • Technical Services: Help plan, prepare, implement, and operate Into Reading technology seamlessly within the district ecosystem.

Into Reading—Into the World of Learning
Reading has been described as the gateway to all learning. HMH Into Reading addresses the whole child academically, physically, and socially so that all students have the opportunity to read with understanding.

The program concept for Into Reading underlies the evidence base presented in this research foundations paper. Into Reading clearly puts students at the center of an ecosystem designed to support their literacy and language growth. In addition to the unique and critical role of teachers, Into Reading supports the important contributions of families and school leaders. Indeed, it will take all of us to ensure that all students learn to read effectively and fluently and, just as important, that all students love to read enthusiastically and joyfully.


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