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Visible Learning for Literacy, Grades K-12

Visible Learning for Literacy, Grades K-12
Implementing the Practices That Work Best to Accelerate Student Learning

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March 2016 | 216 pages | Corwin

“Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design” — Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, & John Hattie

What if someone slipped you a piece of paper listing the literacy practices that ensure students demonstrate more than a year’s worth of learning for a year spent in school? Would you keep the paper or throw it away?

We think you’d keep it. And that’s precisely why acclaimed educators Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie wrote Visible Learning for Literacy. They know teachers will want to apply Hattie’s head-turning synthesis of more than 15 years of research involving millions of students, which he used to identify the instructional routines that have the biggest impact on student learning.  

These practices are “visible” for teachers and students to see, because their purpose has been made clear, they are implemented at the right moment in a student’s learning, and their effect is tangible.  Yes, the “aha” moments made visible by design. 

With their trademark clarity and command of the research, and dozens of classroom scenarios to make it all replicable, these authors apply Hattie’s research, and show you:

  • How to use the right approach at the right time, so that you can more intentionally design classroom experiences that hit the surface, deep, and transfer phases of learning, and more expertly see when a student is ready to dive from surface to deep.
  • Which routines are most effective at specific phases of learning, including word sorts, concept mapping, close reading, annotating, discussion, formative assessment, feedback, collaborative learning, reciprocal teaching, and many more. 
  • Why the 8 mind frames for teachers apply so well to curriculum planning and can inspire you to be a change agent in students’ lives—and part of a faculty that embraces the idea that visible teaching is a continual evaluation of one’s impact on student’s learning. 

“Teachers, it’s time we embrace the evidence, update our classrooms, and impact student learning in wildly positive ways,” say Doug,  Nancy, and John. So let’s see Visible Learning for Literacy for what it is: the book that renews our teaching and reminds us of our influence, just in time. 

List of Videos
Chapter 1. Laying the Groundwork for Visible Learning for Literacy
The Evidence Base

Effect Sizes

Noticing What Works
Learning From What Works, Not Limited to Literacy
Teacher Credibility

Teacher–Student Relationships

Teacher Expectations

General Literacy Learning Practices
1. Challenge

2. Self-Efficacy

3. Learning Intentions With Success Criteria

Chapter 2. Surface Literacy Learning
Why Surface Literacy Learning Is Essential
Acquisition and Consolidation
Acquisition of Literacy Learning Made Visible
Leveraging Prior Knowledge
Phonics Instruction and Direct Instruction in Context
Vocabulary Instruction

Word Cards

Modeling Word Solving

Word and Concept Sorts

Wide Reading

Reading Comprehension Instruction in Context

Annotating Text


Consolidation of Literacy Learning Made Visible
Rehearsal and Memorization Through Spaced Practice
Repeated Reading

Receiving Feedback

Collaborative Learning With Peers
Chapter 3. Deep Literacy Learning
Moving From Surface to Deep
Deep Acquisition and Deep Consolidation
Deep Acquisition of Literacy Learning Made Visible
Concept Mapping

Discussion and Questioning

Close Reading

Deep Consolidation of Literacy Learning Made Visible
Metacognitive Strategies

Reciprocal Teaching

Feedback to the Learner

Chapter 4. Teaching Literacy for Transfer
Moving From Deep Learning to Transfer
Types of Transfer: Near and Far
The Paths for Transfer: Low-Road Hugging and High-Road Bridging
Setting the Conditions for Transfer of Learning
Teaching Students to Organize Conceptual Knowledge
Students Identify Analogies

Peer Tutoring

Reading Across Documents

Problem-Solving Teaching

Teaching Students to Transform Conceptual Knowledge
Socratic Seminar

Extended Writing

Time to Investigate and Produce

Chapter 5. Determining Impact, Responding When the Impact Is Insufficient, and Knowing What Does Not Work
Determining Impact


Responding When There Is Insufficient Impact
Response to Intervention

Quality Core Instruction

Progress Monitoring

Supplemental and Intensive Interventions

Learning From What Doesn’t Work
Grade-Level Retention

Ability Grouping

Matching Learning Styles With Instruction

Test Prep


Appendix: Effect Sizes


It was a great textbook with new concepts about literacy education with a focus on deeper and transfer learning.

Professor Gaoyin Qian
Counseling/Leadership/Literacy/Special Education, Lehman College
May 28, 2021

Focussing on the primary education years, this book focusses on how to make best use of visible learning strategies to teach literacy skills. A very useful and nicely organised book that will be valuable for teachers who are keen to develop their practice in this area.

Dr Louise Campbell
Moray House School of Education, Edinburgh University
June 18, 2018

Quite possibly the best book in our methods course. One student, a returning teacher, said he wished he had this book earlier in his teaching career. Often it is difficult for teachers to turn research into action because the practical application is missing. In this book, the practical application is tied closely to the research, which makes this a powerful tool for teachers.

Dr Ted Murcray
School Of Education, California Baptist University
February 20, 2018

A great summary of the data and how it relates to literacy. Will be recommended to our students.

Miss Linda Lapere
School of Education, Social Work &, Dundee University
October 19, 2016

Students using this book as a basis for reference, discussion, and documentation have found it to be invaluable. I concur.

Tom Lueschow
School Of Education, Viterbo University
January 31, 2017

I'm not sure I am going to adopt this as my main/required text for this course, but may recommend it as an optional supplemental text. I love the primer on effect sizes and am motivated to go back and read the 2 previous books by these authors on Visible Learning.

Dr Kelly Kathleen Metz
Speech Hearing Sciences Dept, Univ Of Southern Mississippi
September 14, 2016

Like the research basis of text. Considering for grad literacy course with heavy research emphasis.

Dr James N. Nichols
School Of Education, Nyack College-Rockland
June 1, 2016

Douglas Fisher

Douglas Fisher is professor and chair of educational leadership at San Diego State University and a leader at Health Sciences High and Middle College. Previously, Doug was an early intervention teacher and elementary school educator.  He is a credentialed teacher and leader in California.  In 2022, he was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame by the Literacy Research Association. He has published widely on literacy, quality instruction, and assessment, as well as books such as Welcome to Teaching, PLC+, Teaching Students to Drive their Learning, and Student Assessment: Better Evidence, Better Decisions, Better Learning. More About Author

Nancy Frey

Nancy Frey is professor of educational leadership at San Diego State University and a leader at Health Sciences High and Middle College. Previously, Nancy was a teacher, academic coach, and central office resource coordinator in Florida.  She is a credentialed special educator, reading specialist, and administrator in California.  She is a member of the International Literacy Association’s Literacy Research Panel. She has published widely on literacy, quality instruction, and assessment, as well as books such as The Artificial Intelligences Playbook, How Scaffolding Works, How Teams Work, and The Vocabulary Playbook. More About Author

John Hattie

John Hattie, PhD, is an award-winning education researcher and best-selling author with nearly thirty years of experience examining what works best in student learning and achievement. His research, better known as Visible Learning, is a culmination of nearly thirty years synthesizing more than 2,100 meta-analyses comprising more than one hundred thousand studies involving over 300 million students around the world. He has presented and keynoted in over three hundred international conferences and has received numerous recognitions for his... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781506332352
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