Reading, writing, researching, and problem solving are skills students need to be successful in school, career, and life.

Throughout the month of September, WestEd is highlighting ideas, research, and solutions designed to support the teaching and learning of literacy skills for all students.

In this post, we introduce the work of three language and literacy initiatives – Reading Apprenticeship, Quality Teaching for English Learners, and Leading with Learning – and offer a variety of tools and resources to inform your practice.

An Evidence-Based Instructional Framework

In 2014, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) in North Carolina identified student literacy achievement as a keystone to district-wide improvement and embarked on a multi-year, phased plan to implement the Reading Apprenticeship model.

Developed more than 20 years ago as part of WestEd’s Strategic Literacy Initiative, Reading Apprenticeship is not a curriculum, but an instructional model that integrates four dimensions of learning — social, personal, cognitive and knowledge-building — and ties them all together with metacognitive conversation.

Students and teachers learn text-based inquiry and collaboration routines which help create safe classroom environments and establish cultures of positive learning.

CMS’s commitment to literacy, along with other important initiatives, helped to raise the district’s high school graduation rates by nearly 20%.

Read the full story of how they did it.

High Expectations, Rigorous Instruction

WestEd’s Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL) collaborated with Stanford University’s Understanding Language initiative to create a unit of study informed by the premise that students rise to the challenge of rigorous subject matter if:

  • The content sparks their interest
  • They receive appropriate support
  • Academic content and academic English language skills are taught in tandem, as a single, integrated process

However, QTEL Director Aída Walqui says, in order to master this instructional approach and design effective lessons and curricula, teachers need to make dramatic shifts in their beliefs and practices.

The development of the study unit is described in Helping English Learners Rise to the Challenge of Complex Texts:

[The unit designers] chose texts ranging from television commercials to Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and pivotal speeches from the Civil Rights Movement, and provided tools — such as Aristotle’s explanation of how argumentation can appeal to the ethical (ethos), emotional (pathos), and logical (logos) reasoning of readers and listeners — that can help students evaluate the texts’ arguments and claims. The goal of the unit is to build students’ knowledge of historical and current events while supporting their growing independence in listening to, speaking, reading, and writing English for academic purposes. 

Download the Persuasion Across Time and Space study unit and check out Aída Walqui’s most recent book, Amplify the Curriculum: Designing Quality Learning Opportunities for English Learners.

Creating Equity Through Literacy

In Scaffolding Writing Through the Teaching and Learning Cycle, Pamela Spycher, Director of WestEd’s Leading with Learning writes:

By helping students develop and hone their writing skills in a number of different genres and disciplines, educators give students the tools to succeed in school and to become informed and engaged citizens. As students become more confident in their ability to communicate their ideas, they can participate in civil discourse about important topics that they have learned about through analytical reading, careful listening, extended discussions, writing, and above all, deep thinking.

WestEd Professional Learning Opportunities

Reading Apprenticeship for Middle School, High School, and College

Quality Teaching for English Learners Professional Development for Teachers and Education Leaders

Reading to Learn: A PreK-12 Schoolwide Approach to Supporting Literacy Development and Academic Achievement

Literacy Webinars

Social-Emotional Learning and Literacy in Science

Leading for Literacy: A New Resource for Teacher Leaders and Coaches

Content Literacy in History-Social Science

View additional archived webinars.

Tools and Resources

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy

California State University Expository Reading and Writing Course

Discussion Builders Posters

Secondary Literacy Partnership

Understanding Language: Language, Literacy, and Learning in the Content Areas

Stay tuned for more discussion about literacy in our E-Bulletin and on social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.