About MAX Teaching

MAX Teaching: Literacy Skills for the 21st Century

Welcome to MAX Teaching with Reading and Writing®, a staff-development opportunity for schools interested in improving reading, writing, and learning skills of all students from the first grade through the thirteenth.

What does MAX stand for?

MAX is an acronym that stands for the three steps of the teaching framework: Motivation, Acquisition, and EXtension. Any teacher can use MAX Teaching to help students learn their subject matter more efficiently and more thoroughly thus improving the literacy skills of all students. The essential goal of teachers who use the MAX Teaching framework is to level the playing field by raising the bar for all students in a classroom environment while engaging all students in active learning from textbooks and other forms of textual matter.

Each class begins with activities designed to motivate students to become engaged in the learning of content in which they might otherwise not be interested. This is accomplished through the systematic use of both individual and cooperative activities that help the teacher:

  • Assess prior knowledge about the topic to be studied 
  • Help students connect to and see the relevance of subject matter
  • Provide for increased conceptual understanding for all students 
  • Iintroduce and model a literacy-related skill that the students will use to analyze text and gather information for development of new understandings
  • Help students establish purposes for actively analyzing the text 

After the purpose for learning is established, the teacher facilitates guided practice in the learning skill introduced in the Motivation stage of the lesson. In the Acquisition phase of the lesson, each student: 

  • Silently reads to interpret and gather information in writing for later discussion 
  • Actively probes text for acquisition of new content 
  • Works toward acquisition of expertise in the practiced literacy skill 

The final phase of the lesson framework involves EXtension beyond the text through various activities that might include debate, discussion, writing, reorganizing, or otherwise manipulating the ideas that were confronted in the reading. 

  • Students meet in small groups and as a whole class to construct meaning from the text. 
  • The teacher acts as a facilitator for the higher order thinking that will allow students to perform synthesis of information with what they already knew before the lesson, analysis of new ideas, application-level thinking as to how what they have learned might work in the real world or under other circumstances, or even evaluation of the authors' underlying intent. 
  • It is through such higher order thinking that students develop more complete understandings about new content and develop the skills and abilities to perform these tasks on their own as independent life-long learners.  


The principles underlying the MAX Teaching framework are well researched over many years. The essential components of the use of cooperative learning throughout the first and last phases of the lesson, and the systematic introduction of skills in which students are given guided practice in the use of language as a tool for thinking combine to help all students learn how to become effective at learning and thinking. In addition, the MAX Teaching framework provides a way for upper grade teachers to help compensate for the lack of language skills development that too many children exhibit. 

How frequently should teachers use MAX?

All effective teachers use some form of the three steps of MAX. At the beginning of class, most teachers use some form of an "anticipatory set" to get students thinking about the subject matter. The new information is often then "presented" in some format such as lecture, video, teacher-led discussion, etc. The presentation of new information is usually followed by some form of check such as a worksheet or quiz. Thus, the paradigm shift in using MAX as a framework of instruction is easy for most teachers since, with MAX, they now become facilitators of active learning on the part of the students through the use of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking in the middle and final phases of class. The teacher acts as a "master learner" among "apprentice learners" in a classroom wherein the focus is on acquisition of knowledge and skills through guided practice in using literacy skills to process new subject matter. 

Using literacy skills to process new understandings can easily become the central focus of a classroom and can be used as a way to learn any new information. The variety of tested strategies available to teachers is enormous. Researched and proven strategies abound. Thus, practicing literacy skills to learn should not be a once-a-week or once-a-month activity. It can become the routine of a classroom in which students are daily engaged in making personal meaning from text and discussion.

WHO should teach this way?

Recent research has demonstrated that students can improve their reading levels by two or more years over a six-month time period when exposed to learning through these strategies (Schoenbach, et al., 2001). Which teachers would not want to teach this way? 

Teachers who use the MAX teaching framework do not need to be reading specialists. Academic and vocational teachers from the elementary grades through high school only need to recognize that by using the concrete tools of text and student writing, along with teacher modeling and cooperative learning, they can help their students routinely achieve higher order thinking about their subject matter. Any teacher can use these techniques. 

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