Dan Willingham’s latest over at Britannica Blog (“What Makes a Good Fourth-Grade Reader? Knowledge.”) highlights a new study showing that integrating material from other subjects in reading instruction boosts comprehension. Ten-year olds in Hong Kong rose to 2nd among 44 nations on the 2006 PIRLS international reading test. Researchers looked at dozens of variables, Willingham notes, ”to determine which instructional factors were associated with student reading achievement.” They found the most important factor in reading achievement was the frequency with which the teacher used materials from other subjects in reading instruction.
“The results are impressive in their clarity, and important because they dovetail so well with theories of reading comprehension, described here. Once students can decode, background knowledge is crucial to reading comprehension. Ensuring that students have wide-ranging knowledge of the world ideally begins at birth, through a rich home environment. Schools must do everything possible to support and expand that knowledge base, and integrating material from other subjects into the reading curriculum is an important step in the right direction.
Willingham has said it before, but too few people get it: Teaching content IS teaching reading:
Willingham is en fuego this week. USA Today catches up with Dan’s latest book, Why Don’t Students Like School? If you follow the Core Knowledge Blog, the interview by Greg Toppo plays like a Dan Willingham greatest hits album– our brains are not designed for thinking, good teachers find the sweet spot of mental challenge, “learning styles” are hooey–but it’s heartening to see Dan’s wisdom get the full national treatment, where it will be an epiphany to countless parents and more than a few teachers, too.
Richard Whitmire highlights the USA Today piece and get the headline just right: “If you don’t know Daniel Willingham, you should.”