1st Edition

Shifting the Balance, Grades 3-5 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Upper Elementary Classroom

    In this much anticipated follow-up to their groundbreaking book, Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom, authors Jan Burkins and Kari Yates, together with co-author Katie Cunningham, extend the conversation in Shifting the Balance, Grades 3-5: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Upper Elementary Classroom. This new text is built in mind specifically for grades 3-5 teachers around best practices for the intermediate classroom.

    Shifting the Balance, Grades 3-5 introduces six more shifts across individual chapters that:

    • Zoom in on a common (but not-as helpful-as-we-had-hoped) practice to reconsider
    • Untangle a number of “misunderstandings” that have likely contributed to the use of the common practice
    • Propose a more science-aligned shift to the current practice
    • Provide solid scientific research to support the revised practice
    • Offer a collection of high-leverage, easy-to-implement instructional routines to support the shift to more brain-friendly instruction

    The authors offer a refreshing approach that is respectful, accessible, and practical – grounded in an earnest commitment to building a bridge between research and classroom practice. As with the first Shifting the Balance, they aim to keep students at the forefront of reading instruction.

    Introduction: Head Work and Heart Work

    1. Reconsidering How Knowledge Impacts Comprehension

    2. Rethinking the Role of Strategy Instruction in Learning to Comprehend

    3. Recommitting to Vocabulary Instruction

    4. Reclaiming Word-Reading Instruction in the Intermediate Grades

    5. Revisiting Fluency Instruction

    6. Reimagining Independent Practice in the Literacy Classroom


    Dr. Katie Egan Cunningham is committed to supporting teachers in making learning joyful, purposeful, and evidence-based. She is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education at Sacred Heart University where she teaches literacy methods and children’s literature courses. Her other work includes Start with Joy: Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness and Story: Still the Heart of Literacy Learning.

    Dr. Jan Burkins is a full-time writer and literacy consultant dedicated to helping teachers and those who lead them negotiate the competing tensions in our field. Her favorite work is conducting literacy audits with schools and districts. Her other books include Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom (K-2), co-authored with Kari Yates, and Who’s Doing the Work: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More, co-authored with Kim Yaris.

    Kari Yates is an author, speaker, and consultant with a passion for helping busy literacy educators thrive. Her other works include Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom (K-2) co-authored with Jan Burkins, To Know and Nurture a Reader Conferring with Confidence and Joy, co-authored with Christina Nosek, and Simple Starts: Making the Move to a Reader-Centered Classroom.

    “In Shifting the Balance, 3–5, Cunningham, Burkins, and Yates go beyond the science of reading being only phonics. Taking a deeper dive into vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and word identification for upper elementary students, this book helps teachers understand what is needed in their instruction through easy-to-read case scenarios. Thanks to these authors for once again bridging hearts and minds.”

    Donna Hejtmanek Retired Educator and Creator of the Science of Reading-What I Should Have Learned in College Facebook Group

    Shifting the Balance, 3–5 brings the Science of Reading from theory to direct application. This new take on literacy instruction brings forth the hope of long-lasting knowledge and continued growth for students. It is not only a thorough approach but is realistic and best of all, attainable!”

    Clorasteen Wilson, Structured Literacy Instructor, Associate/OGA

    “Teaching reading can sometimes feel like an impossible task. Our classrooms are filled with diverse groups of learners that present all different levels of instructional need. Shifting the Balance, 3–5 gives teachers tools they need to incorporate reading instruction that is purposeful and student-centered. With data driven techniques and lessons, this book will set up any upper elementary school classroom with success.”

    Michaela Durr, New York City Teacher

    "While many of the big conversations about the Science of Reading (SOR) research have focused on the foundational skills in primary grades, upper elementary teachers no longer need to feel left in the dark. With this gem, Cunningham, Burkins, and Yates skillfully supply six scientifically-sound shifts—answering the big questions & providing high-leverage instructional routines, while weaving in all five pillars of reading. No matter where you are on your SOR journey, this sensational book is a must-read for all!"

    Michelle Sullivan of The Colorful Classroom & Elementary Literacy Coach

    “Cunningham, Burkins, and Yates clarify misunderstandings, summarize the research in an accessible way, and provide suggestions for what they call high-leverage routines to help teachers enhance their instruction and support students’ growth as readers. Thoughtful, well-researched, and teacher-friendly, this book is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to explore how to implement effective literacy instruction for readers beyond grade two.”

    Lisa Maucione, Reading Specialist, Dartmouth Public Schools, MA

    “As the field of reading instruction continues to reinvent itself, so many of us elementary educators find ourselves in need of a road map. The authors of this second volume of Shifting the Balance step in, validate our good intentions, and offer to guide us as we reflect on, reconsider, refine and reimagine our practice. I look forward to referencing the ideas and resources in this edition (and online) as I continue striving to equip my students for meaningful reading experiences, now and in the future.”

    Katie McAlister, First Grade Classroom Teacher

    “With all the noise in the world about reading instruction, Cunningham, Burkins, and Yates discuss a practical, research-driven, and student-based way to shift our reading instruction into balance and clarity. They’ve done the hard thinking in order to zoom in on what is necessary to teach intermediate readers to succeed.”

    Jeff Anderson, Lead author of the Patterns of Power series (PreK–12)

    “The science of reading isn’t just for the primary grades! In their clear and readable style, Cunningham, Burkins, and Yates examine the research and show teachers of grades 3–5 exactly how to apply it. With zero judgment and endless encouragement, the authors will inspire teachers to rethink current practices and make research-based decisions to help every student.”

    Anna Geiger, M.Ed., Host of the Triple R Teaching podcast and creator of The Measured Mom website