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Developing Conceptual Knowledge through Oral and Written Language

Perspectives and Practices, PreK-12

Edited by Melanie R. Kuhn and Mariam Jean Dreher
Foreword by Elfrieda H. Hiebert

HardcoverPaperbacke-bookprint + e-book
April 6, 2020
ISBN 9781462542628
Price: $56.00
238 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
April 6, 2020
ISBN 9781462542611
Price: $37.00
238 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
March 12, 2020
ePub and PDF ?
Price: $37.00
238 Pages
print + e-book
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Price: $74.00 $40.70
238 Pages
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The development of students’ conceptual understanding of the world is vital to their academic success at all grade levels (preschool through high school) and across content areas. This professional resource and course text presents expert perspectives on building conceptual knowledge and vocabulary through reading, writing, and classroom discussion. Topics include the importance of word study and informational texts in early literacy, discussion practices that boost comprehension, the use of multimodal and appropriately complex texts, engaging digital literacies, and discipline-specific writing. Ways to strengthen English learners’ conceptual skills are highlighted. Each chapter describes current research, explains how to plan and scaffold instruction, distills Implications for Professional Learning, and offers Questions for Discussion.

“By addressing how students acquire concepts related to language and reasoning, this book provides teachers with a range of ideas important to literacy development across grades and contexts. Each chapter presents a cohesive framework for considering multiple aspects of language, both oral and written. The volume supplies a needed perspective on the complex array of skills and knowledge that must develop in concert across time and experience to support school success. It will be a valuable text for courses focused on early reading/literacy development and instruction, and an excellent supplemental text for graduate courses on content-area/disciplinary literacies.”

—Carol A. Donovan, PhD, Director, Belser–Parton Literacy Center, University of Alabama

“This volume shows how educators can help students use language in all its forms to prepare them to engage effectively in the world of knowledge. It presents strategies for developing students' language and literacy skills in ways that build both conceptual understanding and the abilities to think critically and communicate competently. Readers will benefit from a breadth of accessible practices for supporting students across grades and throughout their school learning experiences. Importantly, the book is designed to help bridge the gap between research and practice. The key takeaways for teachers and the discussion questions make the text especially useful for preservice teacher training and professional learning.”

—Alison K. Billman, PhD, Director of Early Elementary Curriculum, Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley

“This book is an excellent resource for classroom teachers, literacy leaders, and teacher educators. The contributors present a holistic view of language and literacy development, reminding us that language and literacy are essential tools for constructing meaning and for exploring the world around us. The central topic of conceptual knowledge development is extremely timely and relevant. Every chapter is written with the clear goal of using current research to suggest implications for classroom practice. The book is full of concrete examples and recommendations, making it a terrific text for use in a teacher study group or professional learning community. It would also serve well as a core text for graduate-level education courses.”

—Juliet L. Halladay, PhD, Department of Education, University of Vermont

Table of Contents

Foreword, Elfrieda H. Hiebert

1. Introduction, Melanie R. Kuhn

2. Developing Vocabulary Skills While Developing Conceptual Knowledge: Strategies from the PAVEd for Success Kindergarten and Prekindergarten Program, Claire E. Hamilton & Paula J. Schwanenflugel

3. “I Don’t Just Want to Read, I Want to Learn Something”: Best Practices for Using Informational Texts to Build Young Children’s Conceptual Knowledge, Mariam Jean Dreher & Sharon B. Kletzien

4. What Does Discussion Add to Reading for Conceptual Learning?, Pei-Yu Marian Pan, Brian W. Miller, & Richard C. Anderson sample

5. Using Multimodal Text Sets to Support Conceptual Understandings, Jeanne Swafford

6. Developing Conceptual Knowledge in the Content Areas: Overlooked Features of Texts That Influence Complexity, Heidi Anne E. Mesmer

7. Teaching and Learning in a Digital World: Digital Literacies for Disciplinary Learning, Jill Castek & Michael Manderino

8. Teaching to Write and Writing to Learn: Conceptual Development through Discipline-Specific Writing, Estanislado S. Barrera IV & Kim Skinner

9. Addressing Complexities of Science Texts to Facilitate English Language Learners’ Conceptual Development, Marco A. Bravo, Saúl I. Maldonado, & Jorge L. Solís

10. Amplifying Diverse Voices with Read-Alouds in Elementary, Middle, and High School Classrooms: Connecting Concepts to Practice, Catherine Lammert, Stacia L. Long, & Jo Worthy

11. What’s Involved in Preparing Students for Workplace Writing Success?: Linking Conceptual and Practical Knowledge, Maria Grant, Diane Lapp, & Thomas DeVere Wolsey


About the Editors

Melanie R. Kuhn, PhD, isProfessor and Jean Adamson Stanley Faculty Chair in Literacy at the Purdue University College of Education. In addition to reading fluency, her research interests include literacy instruction for struggling readers, and comprehension and vocabulary development. Formerly on the faculties of the Boston University School of Education and the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, Dr. Kuhn began her teaching career in the Boston public schools and worked as an instructor at an international school in England. She served as a member of the Literacy Research Panel for the International Literacy Association. Dr. Kuhn has published several books and numerous journal articles and book chapters.

Mariam Jean Dreher, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park. Previously she was an elementary classroom teacher and Title I specialist. Her research interests include ways to integrate informational text into literacy instruction to enhance students’ comprehension, vocabulary, and motivation. Dr. Dreher has published numerous articles and books and has served on many editorial advisory boards, receiving the Outstanding Reviewer Award from the Journal of Literacy Research. She is a consultant to National Geographic Children’s Books on a series of information books for young children. Dr. Dreher is a recipient of a Fulbright Senior Specialist Grant and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Oulu, Finland.


Richard C. Anderson, EdD, Department of Educational Psychology (Emeritus), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois

Estanislado S. Barrera IV, PhD, School of Education, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Marco A. Bravo, PhD, Department of Education, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California

Jill Castek, PhD, Department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

Mariam Jean Dreher, PhD, Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland

Maria Grant, EdD, Department of Secondary Education, California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, California

Claire E. Hamilton, PhD, Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts

Sharon B. Kletzien, PhD, Literacy Department (Emerita), West Chester University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, Pennsylvania

Melanie R. Kuhn, PhD, College of Education, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

Catherine Lammert, PhD, Department of Teaching and Learning, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

Diane Lapp, EdD, Department of Teacher Education, San Diego State University, San Diego, California

Stacia L. Long, PhD candidate, Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Saúl I. Maldonado, PhD, Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education, San Diego State University, San Diego, California

Michael Manderino, PhD, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Leyden High School District 212, Franklin Park, Illinois, and College of Education, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois

Heidi Anne E. Mesmer, PhD, School of Education, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

Brian W. Miller, PhD, Department of Elementary Education, Towson University, Towson, Maryland

Pei- Yu Marian Pan, MA, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois

Paula J. Schwanenflugel, PhD, Department of Educational Psychology (Emerita), University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Kim Skinner, PhD, School of Education, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Jorge L. Solís, PhD, Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies, The University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas

Jeanne Swafford, PhD, Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, Literacy, and Special Education, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina

Thomas DeVere Wolsey, EdD, Graduate School of Education, The American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt

Jo Worthy, PhD, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas


Teacher educators and graduate students; teachers, literacy specialists, and other educators working with children ages 4–17 (grades PreK–12).

Course Use

May serve as a primary or supplemental text in such courses as Language Development and Literacy, Critical Issues in Language and Literacy, Literacy Methods, and Literacy Leadership.