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Tanya Wright - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Tanya Wright

Associate Professor | Michigan State University


Curriculum and instruction in language and literacy during the early childhood and elementary years


Tanya Wright is a former kindergarten teacher whose research and teaching focus on curriculum and instruction in language and literacy during the early childhood and elementary years. Her research examines instructional practices that promote oral language, vocabulary, and knowledge development for young children. Wright is co- author of several books for teachers and parents including, "All About Words: Increasing Vocabulary in the Common Core Classroom PreK-2." Her work has been published in journals such as American Educator, The Elementary School Journal, The Reading Teacher, Reading and Writing, Reading Research Quarterly, Science and Children and the Journal of Literacy Research. Wright’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the CREATE for STEM Institute at MSU.

Industry Expertise (3)

Writing and Editing



Areas of Expertise (6)


Early Language and Literacy

Oral Language


Literacy in Young Children


Education (3)

University of Michigan: Ph.D.

Columbia University: M.A.

Teachers College

Columbia University: B.A.

Journal Articles (3)

Evaluation of Head Start Curricula for Standards-Based Writing Instruction

Early Childhood Education Journal

Hope K Gerde, Lori E Skibbe, Sarah N Douglas, Tanya Wright

2018 Writing is a core school readiness skill, yet preschools typically provide children with limited writing opportunities. To consider how curricular materials guide writing instruction, the five most common Head Start curricula were systematically examined in accordance with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework. Curricula were coded considering the writing objectives they targeted, the teaching strategies proposed to promote early writing, the information provided on how to individualize instruction, and the tools provided to assess children’s development in this area. Analyses indicated that although all curricula included objectives and guidance for writing these programs varied in their focus on orthography, mechanics, and composing. The primary focus was on materials, and guidance for supporting writing typically lacked sufficient specificity to implement the guidance in ways that promote children’s writing development. Across curricula, there was scant information on how to differentiate writing instruction. The curricula themselves provided little in terms of assessment; two curricula did include a supplementary assessment program. Recommendations for enhanced supports for Head Start teachers are provided.

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Supporting disciplinary talk from the start of school: Teaching students to think and talk like scientists

The Reading Teacher

Amelia Wenk Gotwals, Tanya Wright

2017 In this article, the authors first review the research literature to show why supporting talk from the start of school is important for students’ long‐term literacy development. The authors then define and describe disciplinary talk and argue that it is an important entry point into science and disciplinary literacy learning for young students. The authors briefly describe their research project, which found success in improving students’ science talk: SOLID Start (Science, Oral Language, and Literacy Development from the Start of School). The rest of the article describes the SOLID Start instructional strategies for supporting disciplinary talk: the research that supports these strategies, examples of what each strategy looks like in primary‐grade classrooms, and how‐tos for teachers to start using these instructional strategies.

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A content analysis of phonological awareness and phonics in commonly used Head Start curricula

Early Childhood Education Journal

Lori E Skibbe, Hope K Gerde, Chelsea R Samples-Steele, Tanya Wright

2015 Commonly used early childhood curricula were examined to consider the degree to which they support research-based instruction for phonological awareness (PA) and phonics. A content analysis was completed for two types of curricula widely used in Head Start: overarching general curricula and lesson-based curricula, which usually provide more explicit teaching instructions. Both types of curriculum demonstrated the same pattern of findings; while all curricula included some content aligned with standards, programs differed greatly in the number of objectives and instructional strategies included for PA and phonics instruction. Overall, curricula were most likely to address earlier developing PA skills (e.g., rhyming, alliteration) with more limited attention to advanced skills that are closely linked with reading development (e.g., segmenting and blending of phonemes). Phonics instruction was not included often in any of the curricula studied, and opportunities for individualizing instruction were rare, particularly for children with special needs. Results suggest that instructional recommendations for PA and phonics in most of these commonly-used Head Start curricula, even those curricula which typically provide more explicit instruction for teachers, do not align with the instruction provided in effective intervention studies, and therefore may not be powerful enough to influence children’s reading trajectories.

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