Friday, December 23, 2011

Errors in Writing

Question: What can we do about common errors in writing, the ones we see time and time again?

Answer: Isolate them. If it’s a run-on sentence, isolate it and let the students play with it. If it’s a comma splice, isolate it and let students play with it. If it’s a sentence fragment, isolate it and let the students play with it—and learn how to correct it in several different ways.

Comment: And if it’s a problem with parallel structure, isolate it and let students play with it. If it’s a problem in active/passive voice, isolate it and let students play with it. If it’s a problem with a dangling modifier, isolate it and let the students play with it—sort of like sentence combining. RayS.

Title: “Amplify Errors to Minimize Them.” MS Stewart. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (March 2009), 291-193.

Note: Taking a week or so off. Will rejoin you on Monday, January 2, 2012, with more “oldies but goodies,” ideas in the teaching of English from past journal articles. RayS.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Editors' Pet Peeves

Question: What do editors dislike about articles submitted to their journals?

Quote: “ ... outlines about a half dozen of her frustrations as an editor, ranging from manuscripts that display an unfamiliarity with the journal to poorly proofread documents.” But the item that caught my attention was her fifth point: ‘My own pet peeve is writers who submit manuscripts that fail to cite articles previously published in the [editor’s] journal on the topic.’ ” p. 233,

Comment: FYI. RayS.

Title: “My Pet Fave.” Jeff Sommers, Ed. Teaching English in the Two-Year College.(March 2009), 233.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thinking About Learning

Question: How can students reflect on what they have learned?

Answer/Quote: “Thomas V. Chan of River Elm Elementary School in Winnipeg, Canada, improves his 6th grade students’ retention of new material with what he calls Lessonthink. Each of his students has a notebook set aside for Lessonthink. Each Lessonthink begins on a fresh page with the date of the pertinent lesson in the top right corner. A Lessonthink always pertains to the lesson immediately preceding it and consists of a think and writing exercise.”

“Following a lesson, students are asked to think about what they just experienced and to write 3 short paragraphs on What did I learn?..... What did I not understand?.... and How do I feel about the lesson?..... “ p. 125.

Title: “Children Think about What They Learned.” From “Teaching Children to Think,” by Thomas V. Chan, Manitoba Teacher, December 1985, pp. 4-5. Reading Teacher (October 1987), 125.

Comment: You might not provide this opportunity to think about what has been learned with every lesson, but for significant lessons, it could be well worth while. RayS.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Story Structure

Question: What is the structure of most stories?

Answer/Quote: “Most children’s stories have certain key elements in common: (1): major characters, (2) a setting (including both place and time, if time is important to the story), (3) a problem (most stories represent characters’ attempts to solve problems), (4), the main characters’ goal (usually to alleviate the problem), (5) attempts to achieve the goal (usually the story’s major events), and (6), a resolution (usually achieving the goal and solving the problem).”

Quote: “Identifying a story’s key elements and using them as a guide to asking comprehension questions about the story accomplishes four good things:…helps children develop a general framework for stories…. …gives them practice in identifying the main idea of a story, since the problem and its solution are usually the main idea…. Helps children focus on and remember a story’s sequence of events…. helps in identifying cause and effect. Events do not happen in random order, but one leads to or causes the next.” P. 113, 114.

Comment: Key to this framework is the problem. Identify the problem and you identify the main idea of the story. I don’t remember much emphasis on the problem in discussing stories in my teachers’ classes. They seemed to concentrate on the characters, setting and plot. I never thought of the plot as the problem. For what it’s worth. RayS.

Title: “Map a Story’s Framework.” EF Searls. Reading Teacher (October 1987), 113-116.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Writing and Wordless Books

Question: What’s another good exercise to help young students learn the structure of stories?

Answer: Have students turn wordless picture books in to written narratives.

 Title: “Wordless Books and Writing.” Christine Porter. Reading Teacher (October 1987), 113.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Story Frames

Question: How can story frames help young children learn the structure of stories and therefore improve comprehension?

Answer: Examples of story frames:
 Title: ________

In this story the problem starts when _____

After that ______

Next _____

Then _____

The problem is finally solved when _____

The story ends when _____

Title: ________

The problem in this story was ______

This was a problem because ______

The problem is finally solved when _____

In the end, _____

Title: _____

In this story a _____ had a problem. His problem was _____

This was a problem because ______

Then one day a _____ had a good idea. She _____

This solved the problem because ______. In the end, _____.

Title: _____

A little boy made a _____ out of a box.

First, he ______

Next, he _____

Then, he _____

Finally, he _____

In the end, he ______

 Title: “Using Story Frames to Develop Reading Comprehension in a 1st Grade Classroom.” JT Cudd and LL Roberts. Reading Teacher (October 1987), 74-70.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Question: How should handwriting be taught?

Answer/Quote: “Although there is a school of thought in the U.K. which advocates cursive writing from the beginning, there is no doubt that the great majority of teachers teach print first and then, with students of about 7 or 8 years, progress to cursive writing.”

Quote: “I align myself with those who prefer the two stage policy for the [following] reasons….Print is more legible and corresponds and relates to print in books.” P. 28.

Comment: Should handwriting be taught at all today in the era of keyboards and voice-activated software?

 First, legibility is important I would like to have a penny for every time I have victimized myself by my own illegible handwriting. The amount of time I have spent going back to sources because I can’t read my own handwriting infuriates me. Wasted energy and time.

Second: Writing tests and tests with open-ended questions that do not use computers require handwriting—legible handwriting.

Third: voice activation, like Dictaphones, will never replace excellent writing in standard English. Too much like informal English with repetition, poor word choice, verbosity, etc.

Fourth, if you can’t write legibly in cursive, use print. You can write as quickly in print as you can in cursive. The key is legibility. RayS.

Title: “Handwriting in the United Kingdom.” Peter Smith. Reading Teacher (October 1987), 27-31.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Unit on Storytelling for Young Children

Question: How can teachers initiate a story-telling project with young children?

Answer/Quote: “The week began when a local story-teller visited the school and spent half-hour periods with different grades. In addition to entertaining the children with her stories, the story teller gave tips on how to tell stories (enjoy your story, use facial expressions, use props, use movement, and be able to improvise).” P. 250. 

“During the next several days, reading classes were transformed into storytelling workshops. To find stories they wanted to tell, the children had several options: look through familiar and unfamiliar books for stories, write original tales, or practice known favorite stories, such as family legends or folktales. After the students had chosen their stories, they spent time practicing their storytelling techniques….” 250.

Comment: Sounds like a worthwhile project. RayS.

Title: “Children as Storytellers.” SA West. Reading Teacher (November 1987), 249-250.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Short Vowels

Question: What are some key words for remembering short vowels?

Answer: Short a: “Half an apple.” “I served red ‘Jell-o’ “ for short e.  “An inch of licorice.” For short i.  “Lollipop” for short o. And nuts or bubble gum for short u.

Comment: Could be helpful for remembering the short vowels. RayS.

Title: “Eat That Apple for the Short a Sound.” B Snyder. Reading Teacher (November 1987), 249.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Alternative to the Spelling Test

Question: How can teachers make spelling tests more interesting?

Answer: Teachers use sentences containing a spelling word, a spelling word in each sentence. The sentences make up a story.

Comment: Could be a lot of fun for the teacher, and a challenge to the teacher too. RayS.

Title: “Spelling Out Stories.” DV Listoe. Reading Teacher (November 1987), 241.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Story Frames

Question: How help young students re-construct a story they have read?

Answer/Quote: “The story frame is a skeletal outline of the test…. The skeleton contains just enough information to improve the child’s recall of the story.” 239.

 Quote: “The story frame…is not designed to test memory of text. Rather, its aim is to help readers construct a coherent understanding of a text. One of the difficulties that some readers face is not being able to organize the information they took in from reading the text; they may remember only isolated segments. This framing technique helps them to construct a coherent representation of the text.” 241.

Example of a story frame of Where the Wild Things Are.

Max gets himself into trouble when he…..

His mother….

That night in Max’s room….

So Max sailed away to …..

And met….

Max tamed them and they made him….

But Max became lonely and wanted….

So he left the Land of the Wild Things and when he reached home….

 Comment: This is a good start to help students organize the re-telling of a story. What would be the next step? [And I would suggest that not “some” but many readers, including many adults can not re-tell stories or events effectively.] RayS.

Title: “Story Frames—Story Cloze.” Trevor H. Cairney. Reading Teacher (November 1987), pp. 239-241.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Organization of Expository Prose

Question: How can teachers of elementary school children help them to understand the structure of expository prose?

Answer: Put expository articles from children’s magazines on poster board, Cut the articles apart, paragraph by paragraph, then have the children put them in order and discuss their reasons for doing so.

Comment: It’s never too young to learn how to write exposition. RayS.

Title: “Cut Apart Prose.” C Porter. Reading Teacher (November 1987), 229.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Writing to Learn

Question: What are the implications of writing to learn for content area teachers, as in social studies?

Answer/Quote: “The emphasis of writing to learn is on learning content, not the writing skills themselves…. Teachers need not dwell on the technical or mechanical problems of writing; if they do not interfere with clarity of meaning, ignore them. Students’ writing skills are likely to improve with this added practice.” P. 216.

“The Guided Writing Procedure (GWP) described by Smith and Bean…is one simple method for integrating writing into learning social studies and other content areas. This 2 step paragraph writing activity facilitates the ‘synthesis and retention of content area material.’ During the first step, initiated as a pre-reading exercise, students discuss what they already know…about a unit topic, then write 2 paragraphs using information from class brainstorming. In the second step, students revise their drafts after having read the assigned passages, then discuss both good and poor examples of the revised versions.” 216-217,

Comment: I think this rationale for NOT correcting every error is a good one. The emphasis is on learning the content, not on the mechanics of writing. If content teachers are bothered by not correcting every mistake, simply keep in mind the most prominent mistakes and do mini-lessons on them. RayS.

Title: “Writing to Learn in the Social Studies.” HT Holbrook. Reading Teacher (November 1987), 216-218.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Research Credibility

Question: Can teachers trust research findings used to support practices?

Answer/Quote: “The research on effective teaching practices has singled out and emphasized particular techniques as being effective means of improving test results. The boosterism surrounding direct instructional methods such as teaching the whole class at one time, teacher directed activities, and continual monitoring of student work, presses teachers toward these practices. What the literature has done is to certify direct instruction as the single best way of teaching. But uncritical cheerleading for this brand of teaching stamps whole group instruction, lecturing, recitation, and seatwork as effective, going far beyond what the research findings promise or even suggest.” 

Comment: I think the best reason to use research findings in multiple studies that suggest similar findings. For example, the use of audience in producing effective writing is supported in frequent studies and the idea of considering audience in writing provides confidence in using the practice. RayS.

Title: “Unanticipated Consequences of Applying Research to Practice.” From Larry Cuban, Harvard Educational Review, 1984, 54:2, 1488-149. Reading Teacher (November 1987), 205.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Every Word Has a Vowel

Question: How help students to realize the every word has a vowel?

Answer: Children are asked to make words without vowels from the 26 letters of the alphabet. They can’t. Teacher writes a short sentence on the board: “Th- c-t -s f-t.”Students name the vowels that are missing. Finally, students copy a page from their reader and black out the vowels. Then the other students try to supply the needed vowels.

Comment: Sounds like a simple step in learning to read, yet important. RayS.

Title: “Where There’s a Word, There’s a Vowel.” JJ DeGenaro. Reading Teacher (December 1987), 377.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Question: How introduce the DRTA (Directed Reading Thinking Activity), one of the best approaches to foster active purposeful reading?

Answer/Quote: “The DRTA is a three-step process. Teacher selects a portion of the text: (1) Predict—the teacher elicits predictions prior to reading; (2) read—the students read a predetermined portion of the story, and (3) prove—the students prove or disprove their predictions based on what they have just read.” 372.

Comment: Choose a portion of text. Read the title, subtitle, and first sentence—the topic sentence—of  the text and have children predict what will be said in the text. Finally, the students decide whether their prediction was accurate.

Predicting the ideas covered in the text becomes a habit for students, leading to SQ—survey and question when they become older and they predict the contents of chapters and articles. Survey means reading the title, subtitle, first paragraph, first sentence of each intermediate paragraph and last paragraph. Now students predict what the article or chapter will say and they read to determine if their predictions are accurate. RayS.

Title: “Add SQ to the DRTA—Write.” T Smyers. Reading Teacher (December 1987), 372-374.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

First Graders Write in Journals

Question: Will first-graders write in journals, choose their own topics and enjoy writing?

Answer: “In summary, when given the opportunity, 1st graders can and will write in journals. They enjoy journal writing and gain more confidence in their ability to use written language during the year.” 314.

Children’s topics included “About Me,” family, other people, pets, feelings for people, feelings for things, feelings for toys.

Comment: The key word in this summary of the article is “confidence” in writing. Just as with reading, the more young students write, the more confident they will be with writing. Journal writing helps form the habit of writing. RayS.

Title: “Journals in 1st grade: What Children Write.” M Manning, G Manning and J Hughes. Reading Teacher (December 1987), 311-315.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wagon Wheel Comprehension

Question: How help students organize comprehension of an article or chapter?

Answer/Quote: “I took a wagon wheel, wrote a concept in the hub, made 6 spokes, and put who, what, where, when, why, and how on each spoke. Then I drew another circle at the end of each spoke to contain the relevant data. The child would fill out the circles with the information given. What data each could not fill in would be what the child needed to learn.” P.490.

Comment: Try it yourself first. RayS.

Title: “Wagon Wheels and Writing.” C Feddersen. Reading Teacher (January 1988), 490-491.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Writing Process for Young Children

Question: How can teachers help young children experience the writing process?

Answer/Quote: “Tell children that their first writings are drafts or Sloppy Copies. Then you edit the stories for them, or edit the stories with them, or eventually encourage them to edit their own writings so that all is correct and universally understandable.” P. 489.

“The student writers should then re-write the stories into Glory Stories just the way all authors do.” P. 489.

 Title: “Sloppy Copy to Glory Story.” MD Bergenske. Reading Teacher (January 1988), 489.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jeopardy and Comprehensionh

Question: How can young students improve their comprehension?

Answer: Give students the answer and have them formulate the question.

Title: “What’s the Question to That Answer?” LR Gauthier. Reading Teacher (January 1988), 487-488.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Writing and Show and Tell

Question: How can a teacher add writing to Show-and-Tell?

Answer: “Many kindergarten and primary classrooms include a sharing period during the school day. By adding a written text, teachers can easily use sharing sessions to involve print awareness….” P. 486.

“The only material needs are paper 6” x 9” or larger and a magic marker. After each student shares an experience, discovery or treasure, the teacher writes a sentence or two that summarizes her/his topic.” P. 487.

 “Reread the text as a group and make sure that the student who has shared can read it independently.” P. 487.

Title: “Show and Tell, Write and Read.” BM Britt. Reading Teacher (January 1988), 486-487.

NOTE: Taking a four-day Thanksgiving Holiday. RayS.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Question: Want to make fluency training more interesting?

Answer: “We wanted to give our 1st and 2nd graders opportunity to practice reading aloud so that they could develop fluency and comprehension, but the usual methods weren’t working too well. Round robin reading, for example, is painfully slow and needlessly stressful. And while repeated readings of the same story are claimed to be effective, when we tried having the children do repeated readings of the basal stories, they showed a distinct lack of motivation.” P. 485.

“Readers’ Theatre whereby a favorite story, like Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Weber, is turned into a script. Since the children act with just their voices, this seemed a logical way to expand on the excitement of the play format without the hassle of costumes, props and scenery.” P. 485.

“When the children after sufficient practice, presented their Readers’ Theatre to their classmates, they were met with an overwhelming positive response.” P. 485.

Title: “Grades 1 and 2 Love Readers’ Theatre.” S Bennett and K Beatty. Reading Teacher (January 1988), 485.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reading, Writing and Ideas

Question: What are children doing when they read and write?

Answer/Quote: “One cannot separate learning to read from learning to write. Children must understand that they do not read reading, but that they read ideas. Children should know that writers begin with ideas, express those ideas with language, and share them in print. The reader begins with the print, discovers the writer’s language, and then understands the writer’s ideas through the reader’s background of experience. Children need to understand that because they are writing ideas when they compose, they are also reading ideas when they read.” P. 456.

Comment: I think this passage suggests the true nature of reading and writing and says it eloquently. The source of both reading and writing is ideas. RayS.

Title: “When the Principal Asks: ‘Why Are Your Kids Singing During Reading Time?’ ” Bill Harp. Reading Teacher (January 1988), 454-456.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Reading Pictures

Question: What can young children reveal about their readiness for school from “reading” and interpreting pictures?

Answer/Quote: “Among the various learning skills that first graders bring with them into the classroom, the ability to interpret or ‘read a picture’ has been suggested as an indicator of school readiness. … Indeed, according to Monroe (1951, p. 75) ‘a child’s verbal interpretation of a picture gives the teacher the opportunity to observe several aspects of language in a single, very simple, informal test.’ Additionally, Porter (1968) recommends that teachers provide varied opportunities for reading and interpreting pictures in order to prepare children for the necessary visualizations required in reading.” P. 3.

Comment: Interesting idea. RayS.

Title: “Ability to ‘Read a Picture’ in Disadvantaged First Grade Children.” NC Aliotti. Reading Teacher (October 1970), 3-6.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Literature: Why?

Question: Why read literature?

Answer/Quote: “It [literature] demands that we examine our own philosophies of life and recognize that for every belief we hold, a multitude of other beliefs exist, some parallel to our own but many others contradictory. What more valuable knowledge could we wish to impart to our students?” p. 35.

Comment: We read literature to examine our own philosophies of life. RayS.

Title: “Long Live the Queen: Literature and Life Philosophy.” KS Roggenkamp. English Journal (December 1994), 33-35.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Literature. Why?

Question: Who needs literature?

 Answer/Quote: “Unlike the glib, materialistic, quick-solution vision of life offered on much TV, literature portrays lives that have complicated problems and tough choices.” P. 19.

Quote: “A skill at formal literary analysis may be useful for a few college courses, but it is not a highly marketable skill, nor a cornerstone of workplace competence, nor something most folks need as they walk around in their adult lives.” P. 20.

Quote: “We need literature to learn to get along. Literature and life converge in the field of human relationships. What characterizes quality literature—refusal to stereotype or generalize, fidelity to the whole complicated truth in all its breadth and subtlety, energy and inventiveness, eloquence, paying careful attention, discomfort at pat answers, and a generosity and sympathy with others—also characterizes thoughtful life.” P. 21.

Comment: I think we need to ask ourselves this question about the value of literature. Take the time to think about it. It’s an important question. RayS.

Title: “Why Literature Matters.” T Gillespie. English Journal (December 1994), 16-21.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finding Information

Question: How can you find information when you don’t know where to look?

> “Ask those who know where the information is located.”

 > “Use brainstorming—generate categories that might be related to the information you need, and search under these categories.”

> “Use brute force—skim and scan the whole area where the information might be located.” P. 418.

Comment: Ever face that situation? RayS. 

 Title: “Generate Strategies: Coping Without Cues or Clues.” PB Mosenthal and IS Kirsch. Journal of Reading (February 1993), 416-419.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Building Background in Literature

Question: How is literature usually taught and how might it be more effectively taught?

Answer/Quote: “The current reading model…gives nearly half of apportioned lesson time for activities before the reading, whereas previously English teachers first assigned a reading and then used many follow-up activities such as discussion, group work, papers, and tests. This current model is based on the theory that…background familiarity is the most important factor of good comprehension. The teacher facilitates better understanding when the student is able to connect the known (prior knowledge) with the unknown (new ideas) found in a text.” P. 402.

As examples, the authors propose two columns before reading Catcher in the Rye: The first is headed, “List Phony Things Kids Say and Do” and the second, “List Phony things Adults Say and Do.” For The Glass Menagerie, the two columns are headed “Dependence” and “Independence” with the discussion centered on “What do parents do to cause or encourage…?” And “What are the effects on the child of…?”

Comment: I think the authors’ model is interesting, spending considerable time becoming familiar with the issue in the piece of literature before reading. Another way of doing the same thing is to have the students read for ten minutes near the beginning of the play or novel, for ten minutes half way through the play or novel, for ten minutes three-fourth through the play or novel and for 10 minutes near the end of the play or novel, review what they have learned and raise questions to which they want answers. RayS.

Title: “Building Background for English Lit Class.” L Peterson and J Pignotti. Journal of Reading (February 1993), 402-403.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Question: How can students “discover” how to punctuate?

Answer: Teacher removes all punctuation from a passage. Distributes the passage. Students listen as the teacher reads the passage aloud, inserting punctuation when it is needed because of pauses. They then compare their punctuation of the passage with the passage and its original punctuation. It’s not a question of right or wrong. The students discuss the punctuation they have inserted, compare it to the original and discuss the reasons for the original punctuation.

Comment: An interesting idea that could put some interest into the issue of punctuation. RayS.

Title: “A Strategy to Increase Punctuation Awareness.” LR Gauthier. Journal of Reading (February 1993), 401-402.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reading History

Question: How should one read history?

Answer/Quote: “To encourage meaningful interpretation, we must raise the key questions of the historian—the questions that ask young people to delve into the temporal and spatial relationships intrinsic in any discussion of past events and lives, to hypothesize about cause and effect, to generalize about the ultimate meaning of events, to compare and contrast and to cross-examine evidence. When teachers model the ways of knowing history and raise the key questions of history, students learn to raise similar questions as they read. They learn what is important in reading history.” P. 370. 

Comment: My memories of reading history in high school were to slog from beginning to the end of the chapter through every word, every sentence, every paragraph, drowsing all the way, without any purpose for reading whatever, other than to answer the questions at the end of the chapter which were a recitation of facts. The result? I hated history. Reading history as the historian reads it sounds like a pretty good purpose to me. Having the teacher model how to read history as the historian reads it sounds like pretty good teaching to me. RayS.

 Title: “On Knowing and Reading History.” DG Hennings. Journal of Reading (February 1993), 362-371.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Graphical Literacy

Question: What is graphical literacy?

Answer/Quote: “One skill consistently cited across all content areas and grade levels is the ability to read and interpret graphic displays. This is graphical literacy, defined as the ability to interpret charts, maps, graphs and other pictorial presentations used to supplement the prose in textbook, nonfiction, trade books, and newspapers.” P. 350.

Question: What are some questions about graphical literacy?
Answer/Quote: “Several important questions need to be addressed concerning graphical literacy: What are the types and functions of the graphic displays found in textbooks? Do graphic displays facilitate learning? How well do students read graphic displays? What can the classroom teacher do to help student read graphic displays?” 350.

Question: What should teachers do to assure that students gain information from charts, maps, graphs and other pictorial presentations used to supplement the prose in textbook, nonfiction, trade books, and newspapers?

Answer/Quote: “Nearly all content area textbooks contain graphic displays. Researchers suggest that graphic aids can facilitate comprehension; however, many students are not proficient at reading and interpreting these displays for a variety of reasons. Therefore, it is important that content area teachers draw student’s attention to the graphic displays found in the textbook and teach them how to read these displays. Graphic displays should not be overlooked because if used effectively and interpreted correctly, they can significantly improve comprehension, retention, and enjoyment of the material.” P. 354.

Comment: Routinely, I ignore charts, maps, graphs and other pictorial presentations. My impression is that they are much too detailed and take too much time to understand. I am wrong. If I could do over my years as a teacher, I would make sure that students take the time to read and understand charts, maps and graphs. RayS.

Title: “Reading Graphic Displays: What Teachers Should Know.” CS Gillespie. Journal of Reading (February 1993), 350-354.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Whole-School Reading List

Question: What is an alternative to a high school reading list?

Answer: A whole-school reading list comprising books recommended by every teacher in the high school.

 Comment: I think it’s a great idea. RayS.

Title: “Whole-School Supplemental Reading Program.” MG Gauthier and EL Smith. Journal of Reading (October 1993), 135-137.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Question: Why should students revise their writing?

Answer/Quote: “Revise? Of course. But revise to a purpose. I have learned to enjoy revising, sometimes even more than writing the original draft, but I still don’t revise because I enjoy doing it. (My journals, written for my eyes only, are never revised.) I revise in order to communicate more effectively with editors, reviewers, the librarians and classroom teachers who will share my books, the young readers whom I want to enjoy them. I revise in short, because revising serves a purpose that is important to me. Given such a purpose, perhaps your student will do the same.” Pp. 134-135.

Comment: I recall a comment by James Thurber when asked why he worked on revision so much. He said that he revised in order to make his writing seem effortless. That’s about as good a purpose as I can think of. RayS.

Title: “Have Students Revise Only Their Best Writing.” Marion Dane Bauer. Journal of Reading (October 1993), 134-135.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Critical Thinking

Question: How can a teacher train students to think critically when they read?

Answer/Quote: “When you’re reading with students, try asking them ‘What is there in what we just read that you feel called upon to doubt?’ ”

“Reading is always Caveat Emptor: Let the buyer beware. No text is free of the bias and errors of the author and young people need to be encouraged repeatedly to recognize that.”

Title: “Teach Young People to ‘Read Against the Grain.’ ” Charles Temple. Journal of Reading (October 1993), 130. Note: For more comments on this topic see Charles Temple’s “What If Beauty Had Been Ugly?” in the February 1993 issue of Language Arts, pp. 89-93.

Comment: You ask a lot of questions in response to what the students have read. One of those questions should be the one suggested by Charles Temple. RayS.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Medical Terminology

Question: Do most patients understand the nature of their medical problems and the nature of their medications in plain English?

Answer/Quote: “Professionals in health care settings often assume that patients are able to read he usual educational brochures, written instructions, consent forms, prescription labels and health questionnaires. However, adult patients with low literacy skills often try to hide their reading deficiencies, so potential problems with patient understanding are not recognized…. The discrepancy between patient reading ability and readability of medical information can be a crucial factor in patient health care, compliance, participation in preventive care, and clinical research.”

Comment: The authors of this article recommend a quick evaluation of a patient’s knowledge of terminology related to the medical field. It’s a problem. Not only do I have a hard time reading my Merck Manual on specific medical conditions, but I—an almost PhD in English education—can’t pronounce the names of my medications or have any complete idea of their purpose in my health care. I do receive long descriptions of the purposes, side-effects, etc. when I purchase the medications, but the length and size of the print are deterrents to my willingness to wade into the contents. These directions are not, generally, in plain English. I’m not sure how to solve the problem. RayS.

Title: “Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM): A Quick Reading Test for Patients.” P W Murphy, et al. Journal of Reading (October 1993), 124-130.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Question: What is one method for learning to summarize?

Answer/Quote: “Implicit within the ability to think on higher levels with text is the ability to summarize main points. Since many basic readers have not had systematic practice with recognizing the top-level structure of a text, they tend to focus on subordinate details to the exclusion of central ideas. Brown and Day’s (1983) rules for summarizing can be used to instruct students explicitly in how to focus on key points. (1) delete trivial and redundant information; (2) provide superordinate terms for lists of items or actions, and (3) select or invent topic sentences.”

Comment: According to this article, the key to summarizing is to identify the main points in the article or chapter. Of course those main points will appear in the title, the sub-titles, the first and last paragraphs and the first sentence of intermediate paragraphs. That is what is meant by the “top-down” structure of [expository] text. RayS.

Title: “Developing a Critical Stance Toward Text Through Reading, Writing and Speaking.” HA Spire, et al. Journal of Reading (October 1993), 114-122.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Reading Instruction in the Past

Question: How was reading taught in the past?

Answer/Quote: “There is an age-old concern that young people in school are not reading for meaning. This concern may stem from earlier teaching practices. As early as 1831, at the Sessional School in Edinburgh, the emphasis in reading instruction was on pronouncing words with accuracy and fluency. Whether the young reader understood what was read was not important. Understanding, it was felt, would come later. In short, the goal of the teacher was to ensure the young reader became a proficient decoder.” P. 86.

Comment: How do you teach understanding what is read? The directed reading assignment (DRA). The more students know about a topic, the more they will comprehend information on the topic. First, find out what the students know about the topic. If not much, build up background information on the topic to be read in the chapter. Pre-teach difficult and unfamiliar vocabulary. That way the students will notice the words when they see them in the text. Survey the chapter. Read the title, sub-titles, the first paragraph, the first sentence of intermediate paragraphs and last paragraph. Set purpose by having the students raise questions from the survey they will read to answer. And, after reading and discussing, apply the information in some way. The quickest way to do that is to use the Internet to explore ideas on the topic.

However, a second concern today is skill in reading aloud, the forgotten reading skill. Students need to learn to read aloud effectively. They can begin by reading their compositions aloud. Practice, Practice, Practice. RayS.

 Title: “Reading But Not Understanding.” Susan Dymock. Journal of Reading (October 1993), 86-91.