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Literacy Strategies for Grades 4–12

by Karen Tankersley

Table of Contents

An ASCD Study Guide for Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12: Reinforcing the Threads of Reading

This ASCD Study Guide is designed to enhance your understanding of Literacy Strategies for Grades 4–12: Reinforcing the Threads of Reading, an ASCD book published in June 2005. Written by Karen Tankersley, this book explores classroom reading strategies that are effective with English-speaking students in grades 4–12 and with English language learners of all ages. The questions that follow are designed to enhance your understanding of the book and to help you make connections between the text and your personal and professional situations and experiences.

You might use this guide as you read each chapter and begin to reflect on the information. You might also want to use the questions to stimulate conversations with colleagues in a study group format. Whether you use it alone or with colleagues, the questions should be seen as a starting point. The research and recommendations will surely stimulate many additional issues and questions unique to your own schools and districts.


  1. What does the “Matthew Effect” mean, and how does it affect your school or district?
  2. When is the best time to begin “intervention” for students who are falling behind, and what might your school do to ensure that students begin and remain on target?
  3. How have the new No Child Left Behind laws changed the way your school operates? What new pressures do you face that you have not had to deal with in the past? Which changes have been challenging and which have been helpful?
  4. Given that society has changed, what changes should occur in your school or district to help better prepare students for their future?
  5. How does your state compare with others regarding National Assessment of Educational Progress reading performance expectations, and what implications does this have for instruction? How does your district perform on state standards compared to other districts with similar demographics?
  6. How can teachers identify where students are “stuck” in their reading performance?
  7. Is it realistic to expect all content teachers to learn how to enhance student reading and writing performance even though they have not directly been trained to do this?

Chapter 1

  1. What is significant about the new research on dyslexia?
  2. How are struggling readers different from good readers? What implications do these differences have for classroom teaching?
  3. What are some good ideas for motivating the students we have today? What appeals to them and how can we make the most of their interests and strengths?
  4. Vygotsky reminds us that learning should be a “social” activity. How can you build more social interaction and interdependence in your classroom?
  5. How might you incorporate student choice and a greater variety of materials and text levels into your students' classroom work?
  6. Select and discuss two strategies that you could incorporate into your content area.
  7. Discuss any role that reading aloud has in your classroom. Find and share at least one piece of text that you could use as a read-aloud for your students.
  8. Assess the amount of higher-order questioning that goes on in your classroom. Is it adequate? If not, how can you increase the level of questioning and thought in your classroom?
  9. Have you ever tried literature groups with your students? If so, how did it go? If not, how might you approach introducing a book study group into your classroom?
  10. What kind of scaffolding would help take your students from where they are to where they need to go? How can you strategically help students reach higher levels of performance? Cite at least two strategies that might help you accomplish this goal.

Chapter 2

  1. Discuss the idea that “fluency is not a stage.” When have you been a less-than-fluent reader yourself? What strategies did you use to get through the difficult material?
  2. In what ways do you provide modeling and feedback to your students?
  3. Consider at least two strategies that you could use with students to provide modeling or feedback.
  4. To improve reading, students have to read more. How might you increase the amount of time that students actually spend reading in your classroom or school?
  5. Where do most of your students fall on the fluency rubric? What strategies are you using to ensure fluency development?

Chapter 3

  1. Discuss the link between background and vocabulary knowledge. How can you help strengthen vocabulary skills in your classroom?
  2. What might be done in your classroom or school to minimize the vocabulary gap?
  3. Discuss the idea that we understand words in “shades of brightness.” How can you increase the brightness of the words your students need to learn?
  4. List at least four new ways to help students build their vocabulary in your classroom or school.
  5. What role does background knowledge play in learning? How can we strengthen the connections that students bring to the learning process?
  6. How might vocabulary logs or journals help your students to increase their knowledge of words?

Chapter 4

  1. Discuss the idea that comprehension is the “essence” of reading.
  2. How can you help students connect their background knowledge to new learning in your classroom or school?
  3. Discuss the difference between “telling” students to read something and “teaching” them how to read the text. What strategies might help your students maximize their ability to learn the concepts of your content area?
  4. What is the role of metacognition in reading? In what ways can you model thinking aloud so that the thinking process becomes clearer to your students?
  5. What is the purpose of prereading activities, and what are at least two prereading strategies that would improve learning for your students?
  6. Discuss ways of improving your students' comprehension while reading. Name at least two strategies that might work in your classroom or school.
  7. What after-reading strategies might be helpful for students in your classroom or school?
  8. What active learning strategies might be interesting to your students?

Chapter 5

  1. Give an example of a reading activity that fits your content area for each of the following levels of thinking: evaluation, synthesis, analysis, and interpretation.
  2. Examine the student activities in your lesson plans for one or two weeks. Determine how many lessons you have planned for which students must produce work at one of the higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy. How might you increase the levels of thinking required of students in your classroom or school?
  3. Take a look at samples of your state tests. What is the level of thinking required of students? Do your daily lessons require students to think at the same level or even higher?
  4. What are the seven essential comprehension skills? How are you ensuring that students are exposed to all seven skills on a regular basis?
  5. Examine some children's books on content material that you teach. How can you incorporate a children's book on a key topic into your lesson plans?
  6. Name at least two higher-order strategies that might be useful in your classroom or school.


  1. After reading this book, what are five key understandings about reading that you now have?
  2. How might you improve the reading performance of your students with the concepts or ideas presented in this book?
  3. Which strategies have you tried in your own classroom? Share with others how each strategy has worked with your students.
  4. Which strategies have worked well? Which have you modified? What other ideas have you thought of as a result of reading this book?

Literacy Strategies for Grades 4–12: Reinforcing the Threads of Reading was written by Karen Tankersley. This 202-page, 6″ × 9″ book (Stock #104428; ISBN 1-4166-0154-6) is available from ASCD for $20.95 (ASCD member) or $26.95 (nonmember). Copyright 2005 by ASCD. To order a copy, call ASCD at 1-800-933-2723 (in Virginia 1-703-578-9600) and press 2 for the Service Center. Or buy the book from ASCD's Online Store.


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