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What Content-Area Teachers Should Know About Adolescent Literacy
The goal of this report is to help address middle and high school classroom teachers’, administrators’, and parents’ immediate need for basic information about how to build adolescents’ reading and writing skills. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the U.S. Department of Education, and other organizations currently sponsor long-term research studies that ultimately will add to our knowledge of adolescent literacy. In the meantime, however, the need for information to use in the classroom must be met. This report summarizes some of the current literature on adolescent literacy research and practice. It is not a research synthesis or a literature review; such an effort is well beyond the scope of this document. Rather the report suggests some methods of building adolescent reading and writing skills in the classroom. To the extent possible, recommendations are evidence-based. There is little published literature on the effectiveness of instructional approaches or programs for adolescents, and the results from some new effectiveness research, now in press, were not available during the development of this report. With the limited research base available, research on other groups such as younger readers, dyslexic readers, and adult beginning readers have informed the recommendations made in this document. Extrapolating from this research does not negate the need or import of research investigating the effectiveness of instructional approaches or programs for adolescent, but rather provides useful guidance that can inform what instructors do today. This report is a revision of the 2006 Preview Copy What Content-Area Teachers Should Know About Adolescent Literacy. There has been some new work in adolescent literacy published since the Preview Copy was released and these important publications have been included in the Additional References section. An interagency working group, composed of representatives from the National Institute for Literacy, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Adult and Vocational Education, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, oversaw the development of the summary. The working group used The National Reading Panel report (NRP)  as background material to guide the organization of topics and shape the topic area search terms. The basic areas of reading (phonological processes, that is, the sound system, morphology, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension) form the core of the summary, with adjustments to accommodate differences in the middle and high school population addressed. The NRP report dealt i predominantly with elementary grade readers. The report adds findings from the literature on topics relevant to adolescent readers, such as writing, morphological skills and motivation for reading. The report also includes a section on reading assessment and monitoring, even though little literature is available specifically on assessment and monitoring of adolescent readers. However, teachers need to assess and monitor their middle and high school students to determine whether or not a practice is effective for students in their specific classrooms. Two major sources informed the working groups’ development of a search process for source documents for this paper: Cooper’s (1998) Synthesizing Research: A Guide for Literature Review ; and Creswell’s (2003) Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches . To identify relevant literature, the National Library of Education conducted searches based on the search terms “adolescent literacy,” “adolescent readers,” “reading in the content areas,” and “comprehension strategies for high school” using the ISI Web of Science, Education Abstracts, and EBSCO Academic Search Premier databases. Searches were also conducted on PSYCH INFO and ERIC electronic databases using the topic area search terms. Based on these searches the adolescent literacy interagency working group selected a list of suggested source documents. To the greatest degree possible, sources were selected that used scientifically-based research methods. Scientifically-based research involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to education activities and programs . The sources summarized in the report are included in the reference section. Additional peer-reviewed publications, summary books, and book chapters (some in press), provided background information and are noted by an asterisk.* It is important to note that a few key documents have been published since the preview edition of this document and allow for a more thorough understanding of the academic research on adolescent literacy. These documents are listed in the resource section of this report.