Research

Naomi’s research centers on literacy and language pedagogy with emphasis in the following areas:

  • Children’s and Adolescent Literature

  • Content and Disciplinary Literacy

  • Educating English Language Learners

  • Selection and Classification of Texts for Instruction

  • Vocabulary Instruction

  • Teacher Education


Nelson, K. M., & Watkins, N. M. (in press). An examination of secondary English teachers’ vocabulary instructional practices and the impact on them from professional development. Reading Improvement.


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Watkins, N. M., & Ostenson, J. (2015). Navigating the text selection gauntlet: Exploring factors that influence English teachers’ choices. English Education, 47(3). 245- 275.

This article details the results of a survey project that seeks to understand the factors that influence teachers’ decisions about instructional texts in the English classroom. The survey, delivered to 339 teachers in a western state where the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been adopted, asked teachers to identify influential factors in these decisions, to discuss challenges they face in selecting texts, and to speculate about the possible influence of the CCSS on these decisions. The results indicate that teachers attempt to make careful decisions about texts, weighing curricular factors as well as student needs and interests. However, teachers make these decisions in complicated contexts where resources are tight and practices such as whole-class novel study make these decisions difficult to make well.


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Watkins, N. M., & Liang, L. A. (2014). The literature of literature anthologies: An examination of text types. Middle Grades Research Journal, 9(2), 57-72.

While the contents of K–6 basal readers have been recently examined (Dewitz, Leahy, Jones, Sullivan, 2010; Moss, 2008; Moss & Newton, 2002), the contents of secondary school literature anthologies have been vastly ignored in the last 2 decades. Given the Common Core State Standards’ division of literary and informational text across content area classes in secondary classrooms, it is important to begin understanding the types of texts that appear in these classrooms. To begin this process, this study examined the contents of Grades 6–8 California-adopted 2010 literature anthologies using the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) framework classifications for informational (exposition, argument/persuasion, and procedural text) and literary text (fiction, poetry, drama, and literary nonfiction). This study showed that while these literature anthologies contain more nonfiction that their predecessors, these textbooks should only be one path to improving students’ literacy skills.


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Lindahl, K. M., & Watkins, N. M. (2015). Creating a culture of language awareness through professional development. TESOL Journal, 6(4), 777-789.

A toolkit approach to professional development is frequently used to assist teachers of English language learners (ELLs), wherein teachers are provided a grab bag of activities and strategies to implement in their classrooms. However, today’s heightened language demands call for teachers to develop teacher language awareness (TLA), a language lens that teachers use as a filter for text and material selection, instructional planning, and responsive teaching. Deeper professional development experiences are required to help teachers develop knowledge and expertise in the three domains of TLA: the user domain, the analyst domain, and the teacher domain. This article provides justification for TLA development, explanations of each TLA domain, plus concrete professional development ideas that can be implemented at a school, institution, or district level.


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Watkins, N. M., & Liang, L. A. (2014). Exploring the inconsistent labels and definitions of text used in informational reading and writing. Reading Psychology, 35(5), 1- 17.

This article discusses the various labels and definitions given for texts used for informational reading and writing and the confusion caused by the inconsistency of terms. An EBSCO search on articles published from 2006 to 2011 in the three largest literacy-related professional organizations’ journals produced a total of 59 articles. Nonfiction was the most frequent label used; the term “informational text” had the greatest number of definitions and disparity in use. The authors discuss the implications of these disparities in labels and definitions for both researchers and teachers.


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Lindahl, K. M., & Watkins, N. M. (2014). What’s on “LO” the menu?: Supporting academic language objectives for content-area teachers. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas. 87(5), 197-203.

To effectively serve culturally and linguistically diverse students in public schools, many pedagogical models call for the integration of content and language instruction. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) also present increased attention to how language is conceptualized for all students. One technique to heighten both teacher and student focus on academic language is via the use of language objectives in tandem with content objectives. In this article, the authors offer a language objective (LO) menu from which teachers can identify the language demands of their lessons, recognize student needs relative to those demands, and select appropriate instructional strategies to meet language objectives. Sample language demands, objectives, and strategies are provided for elementary, middle, and high school academic language development.


Liang, L. A., Watkins, N. M., & Day, D. (2013). Selecting quality nonfiction in the Common Core era. Reading Today, 31(2), 25-27.

Understanding the tenets of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for the English Language Arts has become an essential part of K–12 teacher education. Educators are diligently trying to understand the intent of the individual standards and determine how to align district and classroom curriculum accordingly. Underlying the standards are important decisions about the narrative and expository texts educators use with students. Consequently, the importance of using outstanding children’s literature for daily teaching has now become paramount. The focus on finding complex text to use with students has resulted in concentrated searches for challenging and quality texts that are relatable and engaging for children and teen readers.

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Liang, L. A., Watkins, N. M., & Williams, V. S. (2013). A step towards global awareness: An examination of the primary grades USBBY outstanding international books. Journal of Children’s Literature, 39(1), 16-24.

This article describes results from an examination of common characteristics in the award-winning USBBY Outstanding International Books for Grades K–2 from 2006 to 2012.


WATKINS, N. M., & LINDAHL, K. M. (2010). TARGETING CONTENT AREA LITERACY INSTRUCTION TO MEET THE NEEDS OF ADOLESCENT ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS. MIDDLE SCHOOL JOURNAL, 41(3), 23-32.

This article provides description of targeted instruction and reasons why all educators should target content area reading instruction for ELLs. Furthermore, it highlights the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) model, which is one way content area teachers can successfully target reading instruction.

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Dole, J. A., Liang, L. A., Watkins, N. M., & Wiggins, C. M. (2006). The state of reading professionals in the United States. The Reading Teacher, 60(2), 194-199.

Given the wide variability of current understandings about reading professionals, we asked the question “What is the state of reading professionals in the United States today?” More specifically, we wanted to find out (a) the different job titles used for reading professionals across the states, (b) the requirements for becoming a reading professional, and (c) the typical roles and duties of these reading professionals.