Learning to Read

Lessons from Exemplary First-Grade Classrooms

Michael Pressley, Richard L. Allington, Ruth Wharton-McDonald, Cathy Collins Block, and Lesley Mandel Morrow

April 2, 2001
ISBN 9781572306493
Price: $34.00
242 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"

An important goal in every first-grade classroom is to get children reading—but how? This book examines current research on first-grade literacy instruction, and shows how it translates into what good teachers really do in the classroom. The authors, premier early literacy scholars and educators, describe several studies of effective beginning reading instruction conducted across the country. They then take readers directly into the classrooms of five highly successful teachers, exploring the reading, writing, and classroom management techniques these practitioners use to boost student engagement and achievement. The book provides readers with a vivid picture of the complexities of successful teaching. In particular, it demonstrates ways that teachers can blend elements of both holistic and skills approaches to provide rich and enjoyable learning environments for young readers.

“A unique contribution to the field, and a real treat to read. I will use this book as a reference for lecture material as well as for assigned readings for graduate students. It is extremely valuable to take educators into the classrooms of these exemplary teachers.”

—Diane H. Tracey, EdD, Kean University

“Reading this book, I found myself reviewing my years of teaching first grade and wondering how much better my teaching could have been if I had had this information. The authors do a good job of summarizing their findings in a fair and objective manner and recounting some wonderful individual stories. We learn best from actual examples from the classroom rather than theory alone—there is nothing like real life to add credibility. As I work with schools doing inservice training, this book would be the one I would recommend for all K-12 teachers.”

—Brenda Sabey, PhD, Dixie State College

“A clear, engaging book offering a nice mix of research and practice. I found myself jotting notes with ideas the authors generated, as well as rereading many passages to savor, reconsider, and connect to my own classroom. I particularly enjoyed the case studies and the concluding reflections, which provide powerful food for thought. I would love to share this book with other teachers, particularly the new teachers that I mentor. I believe it will motivate, enthuse, and provide a basis for daily practice.”

—Pat Clark, MS, First Grade Teacher, Alden Terrace School, Elmont UFSD, New York

Table of Contents

I. First Grade: History and Contemporary Practice

1. A Brief History of First-Grade Reading Instruction

2. Surveying Nominated-Effective First-Grade Teachers about Their Instruction

3. The Nature of First-Grade Instruction That Promotes Literacy Achievement

4. Teaching Writing in the First Grade: Instruction, Scaffolds, and Expectations, Ruth Wharton-McDonald

II. The Case Studies

5. Barbara Wiesner, Michael Pressley

6. Andy Schultheis, Ruth Wharton-McDonald

7. Georgia Leyden, Kim Baker, Richard L. Allington, and Greg Brooks

8. Missy Allen, Cathy Collins Block

9. Patricia Loden, Lesley Mandel Morrow and Elizabeth Brown Asbury

III. Thoughts about Teacher Development

10. How I Became an Exemplary Teacher: (Although I'm Really Still Learning Just Like Anyone Else), Jeni Pollack Day

11. Concluding Reflections

About the Authors

Michael Pressley, PhD, was University Distinguished Professor, Director of the Doctoral Program in Teacher Education, and Director of the Literacy Achievement Research Center at Michigan State University.

Richard L. Allington, PhD, is the Irving and Rose Fien Professor of Education at the University of Florida, where he continues the study of exemplary elementary teaching.

Ruth Wharton-McDonald, PhD, is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Wharton-McDonald's research interests focus on the school literacy experiences of young children. She has collaborated with several of the other authors in this book on studies of exemplary teachers and their students. She is currently involved in a study of first graders' perspectives on schooling.

Cathy Collins Block, PhD, is Professor of Education at Texas Christian University. She has directed eight nationally funded research projects related to comprehension instruction, teaching comprehension, teacher education, and professional development.

Lesley Mandel Morrow, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Learning and Teaching, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.


For Primary-grade teachers, reading specialists, curriculum supervisors, and school administrators; literacy educators and students. It also serves as a supplemental text in undergraduate and graduate-level courses.

Course Use

Serves as a supplemental text in undergraduate and graduate-level courses.