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The Literacy Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction

ISBN: 978-1-118-28816-0
256 pages
November 2012, Jossey-Bass
The Literacy Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction (1118288165) cover image


Proven methods for teaching reading comprehension to all students

The Literacy Cookbook is filled with classroom-tested techniques for teaching reading comprehension to even the most hard-to-reach students. The book offers a review of approaches that are targeted for teaching reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. The book also includes information on how to connect reading, writing, and test prep.

  • Contains accessible and easy-to-adopt recipes for strengthening comprehension, reading, writing, and oral fluency.
  • Terrific resources are ready for download on the companion website.
  • The materials in this book are aligned with the English Language Arts Common Core Standards

The website includes an ELA Common Core Tracking Sheet, a handy resource when writing or evaluating curriculum.

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Table of Contents

About the Author vii

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xv

Introduction 1

PART ONE Basic Ingredients

ONE Comprehension 7

What Is Comprehension, and Why Is It Important? 7

My Theory of Comprehension 7

Why Background Knowledge Is So Important 11

Key Critical Reading Skill 1: Paraphrasing 13

How Can You Teach Students How to Paraphrase? 14

Key Critical Reading Skill 2: Inference 22

Key Critical Reading Skill 3: Vocabulary in Context (and Vocabulary Instruction) 28

Key Critical Reading Skill 4: Inferring Main Idea or Argument (AKA Summarizing) 37

TLC Download Zone for Comprehension Process 43

TWO Reading 45

Decoding + Fluency and Comprehension = Reading 45

Nonfiction Versus Everything Else 47

Different Types of Readers 50

Independent and Guided Reading 52

Introduction to Reading Strategically 54

Before-Reading Strategies 54

During-Reading Strategies 59

Textbook Reading: How to Make Life Less Painful for Everyone Involved 70

How to Use the Teachers’ Manual 72

The Truth About Textbook ‘‘Reading’’ Tests 74

After-Reading Strategies 74

Reading Workshop: Something to Consider 78

TLC Download Zone for Reading 79

THREE Writing 81

ReadWell toWriteWell 81

WhyWeWrite (and Read) 82

Punchy Insights, or How to Avoid Writing Like a Robot 84

A Simple Recipe forWriting Instruction 86

What Students StruggleWith the Most When They Write 88

Thesis Brainstorming and Organizing 92

Teaching with Mentor Texts 95

Writing Workshop 101 98

Motivational Grammar 102

Rubrics and How to Spend Less Time Grading 105

TLC Download Zone forWriting 112

FOUR Speaking and Listening 115

Why Oral Fluency Matters 115

How to Train Students to Listen and Speak Effectively 117

More Thoughts on Effective Speaking 121

Class Discussion Logistics 123

Socratic Seminars Made Easy 125

Book Talk Projects 136

TLC Downloads for Speaking and Listening 142

PART TWO Entrées

FIVE Tasty Persuasive Writing 145

The Concept of Persuasion 145

How to Prepare Students for PersuasiveWriting Tasks 146

SIX Reading, Writing, and Test Prep ‘‘Stew’’ 149

An Argument for Stew 149

Connecting Key Critical Reading Skills to Test Prep Instruction 150

Test Prep Tips 155

Connecting Writing to Reading Through Genre Study 159

Open-Ended Responses 161

SEVEN The Document-Based Question Approach 165

What Are DBQs, and Why Should Everyone Use Them? 165

Designing DBQs Across the Curriculum 166

EIGHT Research Paper Guide 169

Reading and the Research Paper 169

How to Avoid RPT (Research Paper Torture) 170

Two Sample Research Paper Assignments 171

Research Paper Teachers’ Guide 177

NINE Teaching with Novels 191

Novels in English Language Arts: Literary Response PaperWriting Guide 191

Using Novels in History, Social Studies, and Science 202


TEN Recommended Reading 207

On Reading and Vocabulary 207

On Writing 208

On Curriculum and Instruction 209

On HowWe Think About Teaching, Learning, and Change 209

ELEVEN Appendix 211

Notes 219

Index 231

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Author Information

Sarah Tantillo is a literacy consultant who has taught high school English and Humanities in both suburban and urban public schools including the high-performing North Star Academy Charter School of Newark. She also founded and directed the New Jersey Charter School Resource Center and the New Jersey Charter Public Schools Association. Visit Sarah at www.literacycookbook.com.

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Press Release

November 27, 2012
The Literacy Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction

“All educators teach reading and writing, whether they realize it or not, and more broadly, the most important job of our schools is to instill in student’s outstanding literacy skills.  Sarah Tantillo’s The Literacy Cookbook is an essential resource to help you achieve excellence in this critical area of teaching.”—Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion, Teach Like a Champion Field Guide, and Practice Perfect”



San Francisco, CA - Literacy is the cornerstone to any child’s education because if students are not literate, then they cannot succeed in other content areas such as math, science, and history.  According to the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), findings demonstrate that American students are falling behind their counterparts internationally. 

That’s why literacy expert Sarah Tantillo’s new book, THE LITERACY COOKBOOK (November, Jossey-Bass), is a must read for all educators.  Aligned with Common Core Standards, the book includes dozens of practical tools and directions, or recipes, on how to teach reading, writing, speaking, and listening to even the most hard-to-reach students. The recipes in this book, including a companion website, give students an edge on their path to college.

“Part of our job as teachers (and parents) is to help children fall in love with books, and cultivating strong literacy in children is one of the key components of cultivating that love – as nobody loves to struggle,” says author Sarah Tantillo.  “I wrote The Literacy Cookbook so that those who give the gift of literacy can help children easily become book lovers for life while, of course, meeting state standards.” 

THE LITERACY COOKBOOK gives detailed guidance on how to help students succeed at fundamental tasks such as persuasive writing and test preparation along with exploring the comprehension process by outlining four key reading skills.   Additionally, the book:

  • Identifies the characteristics of different types of readers
  • Explains the methods to use when teaching students to read strategically
  • Contains accessible and easy-to-adopt recipes for strengthening comprehension, reading, writing, and oral fluency
  • Offers terrific resources which are ready for download on the companion website

THE LITERACY COOKBOOK is a must-read for all those in education.  To learn more go to www.literacycookbook.com and or contact Samantha Rubenstein at srubenstei@wiley.com.

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