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Building Adolescent Literacy in Today's English Classrooms

By Randy Bomer

To prepare students to participate in tomorrow’s world, Randy shows how to assess adolescents and their literacy needs, plan differentiated instruction, manage the classroom, support motivated reading and writing, and help adolescents become invested in a literate life.

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Full Description

“Today’s English classroom should not look like the English classes of the 1940s or even the 1980s. Students now engage in dozens of literacy activities that were unavailable just a generation ago.&rdquo

Randy Bomer

Deciding what to teach in English class is more complicated—and more important—than ever. In Building Adolescent Literacy in Today’s English Classrooms, Randy Bomer summons his experiences as President of NCTE, Director of a National Writing Project site, a university professor, Co-director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, and consultant in schools nationwide, to provide an approach to teaching English that works for today’s adolescents.

Building Adolescent Literacy in Today’s English Classrooms is built on a foundation of research into best practices and infused with the importance of young people learning to interact with others’ texts and to produce their own across many genres and media. Bomer tackles not only reading, writing, and assessment, but also crucial contemporary topics such as choice, ethnic diversity and multilingualism, attention management, technology, and struggling learners.

To help prepare students to participate in a globalized, digital world, Building Adolescent Literacy in Today’s English Classrooms provides a framework for making key instructional decisions, including how to:

  • understand adolescents and their literacy needs through effective assessment
  • use assessment to plan instruction that addresses whole-class and individual needs
  • manage the classroom with predictable, flexible structures that support students’ interests rather than suppress them
  • give students opportunities to be motivated, critical, passionate readers and writers
  • help adolescents become invested in a literate life with a meaningful curriculum whose aim is to empower them to connect with the world.

“We have to help students become involved and invested in literate tasks that are significant to them,” writes Randy Bomer, “not because they were born to love reading and writing but because of the ways literate activity connects to other things in life that matter to them.” Building Adolescent Literacy in Today’s English Classrooms shows how with vignettes from diverse classrooms, examples of real-life lessons, and a passion for teaching adolescents that will inspire and support preservice teachers across their entire careers.

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)


I. Fixing Attention: The Spotlight in the Classroom

  1. English: What to Teach
  2. The First Assessment: Appreciating Existing Literacies
  3. Teaching Reading and Writing Lives

II. Reading Outside the Skin: Making Thinking Visible

  1. Environments for Building Readers
  2. Reading for Understanding: Building and Inhabiting the World of the Text
  3. Thinking Further About Texts: Teaching Toward Interpretive Reading
  4. Teaching Thinking Devices
  5. Teaching Students to Have Great Conversations
  6. Writing That Supports Readers’ Meaning Making

III. To Make: Teaching Writing as the Design of Meaning and Relationship

  1. Writing as a Tool for Thinking: Launching and Managing Writers’ Notebooks
  2. What Is There to Teach About Writing to Think?
  3. Teaching Effective Writing by Pointing Students Toward Their Audiences
  4. Empirical Inquiry into Qualities of Good Writing

IV. Extensions and Contractions: Curriculum in Today’s English Classrooms

  1. Teaching for Participation in Digital Culture
  2. Making More of Grammar: Language Study the Way Linguists Do It
  3. Working Toward Tests Without Insulting Students’ Intelligence
  4. Planning a Year

Appendix: Likely Genres and Possible Goals Within Them



"For the value of the book's central arguments, for all its practical advice, for its strong advocacy to promote lifelong readers and writers, and for its commitment to raising thoughtful democratic citizens, this book is an outstanding resource for teachers and teacher educators that I will return to repeatedly for pedagogical wisdom."

Ted Kesler, Queens College, City University of New York
Reviewed in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (September 2012)