Download featured IES Practice Guide

This event, sponsored by REL West in partnership with the California Comprehensive Center, was the morning keynote session for Day Two of Secondary Literacy Summit IX, an annual conference that brings together middle and high school teachers; state, district, and school administrators; school literacy teams; and others interested in furthering adolescent literacy in California.

The summit, which provides a formalized, ongoing statewide collaborative for disseminating relevant research, resources, and tools for improving adolescent literacy achievement, is sponsored by the California Comprehensive Center at WestEd, Association of California School Administrators, California Teachers Association, California Department of Education, and Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.

For more information, please contact:

Patricia Crotti


Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices

December 03, 2009

California Secondary Literacy Summit IX

Hilton Costa Mesa/Orange County
3050 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, California

Goals of the Event

  • Develop further understanding of current research on improving adolescent literacy achievement, and the resources available on the Doing What Works (DWW) website.
  • Deepen understanding of how to recognize and apply good evidence to make research-based policy and practice decisions.
  • Provide an opportunity for participants to discuss and apply research findings and DWW resources to their work.

Part of a U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES) initiative to bring evidence to practice, the event was designed to deepen participants’ understanding of how to recognize and apply good research evidence to improving adolescent literacy achievement. It featured Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices, one in a series of research-based practice guides published by IES, as well as related resources from its Doing What Works website.


Two presentations provided participants with information about IES-sponsored research and resources targeted to improving adolescent literacy achievement.

Joseph Torgeson, formerly the Morcom Professor of Psychology and Education at Florida State University, director emeritus of the Florida Center for Reading Research, and panelist for the featured practice guide, organized his remarks around three big ideas that provide the context for the five recommended practices:

  • We will not make significant overall improvements in adolescent literacy outcomes unless content area teachers fully embrace their role in this effort. 
  • We must take the problem of motivation and engagement in content area classes and all reading classes very seriously.  We must engage student motivation more broadly if literacy levels are going to increase significantly. 
  • Because most samples of adolescent struggling readers will include students with a wide range of reading difficulties, middle and high schools, for the time being, should have the capacity to provide interventions focused across a full range of reading difficulties, from decoding, to vocabulary, to reading and thinking strategies.

Torgeson then discussed the five research-based practices recommended in Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices:

  • Provide explicit vocabulary instruction.
  • Provide direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction.
  • Provide opportunities for extended discussion of text meaning and interpretation.
  • Increase student motivation and engagement in literacy learning.
  • Make available intensive and individualized interventions for struggling readers that can be provided by trained specialists.

Torgeson concluded his presentation by making a case for the importance of differentiating instruction for students by sharing a quote: When there is great diversity among students in their literacy skills and their ability to acquire new skills, little variation in teaching will result in great variation in student learning.

Nikola Filby, associate director of REL West, presented an overview of the structure and content of the Doing What Works website (, which was recently redesigned and updated. Doing What Works provides resources for educators at all levels of the system that support the evidence-based recommendations contained in the What Works Clearinghouse practice guides. Filby walked participants through the Learn, See, Do components of the adolescent literacy section of the website. During lunch, participants had the opportunity to further explore the website at four computer stations.

Interactive Session

Following the presentations, participants engaged in discussions at their tables, responding to key questions regarding the presentations they had seen:

  • We just heard a presentation that clearly outlined five research-based strategies for improving adolescent literacy. In your work, what successful examples of implementing any or all of the five practices have you seen?
  • What kinds of support, resources, and/or training were needed/provided to ensure the successful implementation of the example(s) you described?
  • What have you seen as common roadblocks to implementing the five practices? What are some potential solutions to overcoming such roadblocks?
  • How might your school and/or district utilize the Doing What Works website to introduce or further adolescent literacy efforts?

Following the table discussion, participants were asked to summarize and report on their conversations using the following questions:

  • What are THREE useful take-aways or highlights from today’s presentations that can assist in your work to improve adolescent literacy?
  • What are TWO roadblocks you discussed, and what solutions did you share?
  • What is ONE action you will implement or ONE idea that you will share when you return to your school or district?

The morning concluded with an opportunity for participants to share some of their reflections with the entire audience.

For Windows:

For Mac:

How can we help you?

Do you want to know the latest research or where to turn for information? This free collaborative service from the 10 RELs provides references, referrals, and brief responses to education questions. To ask a question, visit the national portal and select REL West -- or directly.

Search By State