Friday, September 30, 2011

Text and Illustrations

Question: What are the values of multi-modal composition in literature?


Quote: “The collaboration of the poet Myra Cohn Livingston and the artist Leonard Everett Fisher has resulted in true treasures, among them the poem cycles Sky Songs (1984), Sea Songs (1986), and Earth Songs (1986). These volumes of serious poetry have been enhanced by Fisher’s illustrations which suggest rather than impose on the poet’s intentions. Such a collaboration provokes readers to use their imaginations to realize meanings in depth.” P. 462.

 Quote: “Teachers will find that these illustrated song cycles are treasures that will heighten young people’s appreciation of the natural world and will also show them the power that a collaboration of different modes of expression can have in creating meaning.” P. 464.

Title: “Extending the Message: Collaboration of Livingston, the Poet, and Fisher, the Painter.” JM Harms and LJ Lettow. Journal of Reading (March 1991), pp. 462-464.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Question: What is the best method for developing vocabulary skills?

Answer: The author suggests that no one textbook does the complete job. Suggests using lessons from multiple texts and from the Internet.

Quote: Effective use of context—arguably the predominant means of vocabulary development for most of our students and termed one of ‘the most valuable kinds of knowledge on can have’…is a skill that deserves every possible effort toward this goal.” Pp. 480-481.

Title: “Improving Materials for Teaching Context Skills.” CD Slawson. Journal of Reading (March 1991), 456-461.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interpreting Character in Children's Fiction

Question: How can young students develop an understanding of characters in children’s fiction?

. Facts about my character

. What I know about my character’s actions

. What I know about my character’s conversation

. What I know about my character’s thoughts

Comment: A fairly simple, but sophisticated analysis of literary characters. RayS.

Title: “Getting to Know Story Characters: A strategy for Young and At-risk Readers.” JC Richards and JP Gipe. Reading Teacher (September 1993), 78-79.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Criteria for Group Projects

Question How can students evaluate the results of group projects?

Answer: FINE

. Facts—information that  the students could build on in order to form ideas and concepts.

. Interesting

. Neat—important for overall appeal and ease in gaining knowledge

 . Effort—in small group situations, one student has the potential for letting the whole group down.

And if group projects don’t measure up? NOT—“Not Our Thing.”

Comment: Memorable criteria—with some clarification. RayS.

Title: “FINE.” Susan Spear. Reading Teacher (September 1993), 77-78.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Question: What were the six goals that started all this confusion in education,  such as ignoring students’ accountability, high-stakes standardized tests, closing of “failed” public  schools, rating teachers as incompetent for their students’ failure in standardized tests of reading and math regardless of negative social conditions, charter schools, school choice in which dissatisfied parents and  students are accepted in private schools, on-line schools as substitutes for public schools, etc.?

Answer: They came from a meeting in 1989, in which the President [Bush] and governors produced six national goals that would provide direction toward excellence for education in America.

1. All children in America will start school ready to learn.

 2. The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90%.

3. American students will leave Grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter, including English, mathematics, science, history and geography; students will use their minds well so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our modern economy.

4. American students will be the first in the world in science and mathematics achievement.

5. Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skill necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

6. Every school in America will be free of drugs and violence….
(U. S. Department of Education, 1991).

Comment: Interesting goals. How far have we succeeded in implementing them in the 21st century? RayS.

Title: “Clearing the Confusion: A Closer Look at National Goals and Standards.” J Flood and D Lapp. The Reading Teacher (September 1993), 58-61.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Captioned TV and Reading

Question: How can captioned video help 4th-grade problem readers develop comprehension and vocabulary?

Answer/Quote: “The addition of captions to television is a technological breakthrough that can enhance vocabulary and comprehension skills for many below-average readers. Its motivational qualities make it appealing to students who have been difficult to reach with traditional materials….. Not only does it capture their attention but its multisensory presentation of information decreases the difficulty of learning new words….. the combination of the video action with spoken dialogue and printed words is a powerful tool in learning to read.” P. 42.

Steps to Take: Preview the video. Keep the video segment short (less than 5 minutes). Locate related texts. Find “books and magazines that focus on the concepts introduced in the video segment.”

Title: “Captioned Video and Vocabulary Learning: An Innovative Practice in Literacy Instruction.” PS Koskinen, et al. The Reading Teacher (September 1993), 36-43.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reading Areas in Public Places

Question: How can we promote reading?

Answer/Quote: “The Reading Committee of the International Publishers Association has recommended that people interested in promoting reading try setting up ‘Reading Areas’ in public places, such as airports, railway stations, town halls, museums, hospitals, restaurants, supermarkets, fairs, music academies, cultural centers, universities, schools, etc.

“The basics for a Readers Area would be a space with chairs, tables, and adequate lighting, perhaps to one side of major foot traffic, to which people could bring their own reading material. Each area should be clearly designated by a prominent sign.”

Comment: Sounds like a good idea to me. In order to avoid criticism, I think Readers Area should have an apostrophe: Readers’ Area.” RayS.

Title: “Set Up ‘Readers Areas’ in Your City.” Open to Suggestion. Journal of Reading (December 1990), 303.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Question: How can students help themselves to remember a vocabulary word?

Answer: Draw an image that illustrates the meaning of the word.

Comment: I think that is a great idea. I’m going to try it myself. RayS.

Title: “Effective Definitions for Word Learning.” E Bannon, et al. Journal of Reading (December 1990), 301-303.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Journals and ESL (English as a Second Language) Students

Question: How can ESL students practice their writing?

Answer: “The…students express themselves quite freely in journals, once they have realized that they will not be penalized for technical errors.”

Give them a topic or allow them to choose their own topics. “The finest journals result when I use the readings and class discussions…to which the students can relate and react.”

Title: “Using Student Journals in the Workplace ESL Classroom.” D Sole. Journal of Reading (December 1990), 301.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Word Banks and ESL

Question: What are some purposes for word banks with ESL (English as a Second Language) students?

Answer/Quote: “A word bank, in the traditional sense, is a list of words that has been accumulated to build sight vocabulary…. Because it uses the student’s own vocabulary, a word bank can become an endless resource for building vocabulary, practicing spelling….”

Sample Word Bank on the Topic of Gardening.
Plant, weeds, tree, tomato plant, dig, hole, shovel, rake, lawnmower, weeds, air blower, sweep, hose, fertilize, seeds, corn, clippers, pruner, carrot, onion, tulips, lettuce, hoe, chives, rocks, grass, sod, rototiller, axe, renting, buying, dump, tool shed, plastic bags, equipment, goggles.

 Comment: Cluster related words in the word bank: “clippers,” “pruner,””axe,””tool shed.”. A good technique for developing vocabulary. A good technique for teaching how to brainstorm. See how many words related to the topic can be produced by the class. Find the spelling trouble spots in the words. Break down multi-syllable words: “fer- ti-lize,” “let-tuce.” What are “chives”? Students keep copies of their word banks to help them remember the words they have learned. RayS.

Title: “Word Banks for Adult Literacy.” LAustin-Anglea. Journal of Reading (December 1990), p. 300-301.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mimetic Documents

Question: What are some aids to reading sometimes overlooked?

Answer: Labeled diagrams.

Comment: The article is replete with examples of labeled diagrams, including the parts of a mosquito. The point is that such labeled diagrams provide the precise words for naming the parts an animal, plant, or object. An often overlooked vocabulary lesson. RayS.

Title: “Mimetic Documents: Diagrams. PB Mosenthal. Journal of Reading (December 1990), 290-294.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Literary Discussions

Question: How are literary discussions usually organized in classrooms?

Answer/Quote: “Students often play a limited role in the interpretive process as it unfolds in classroom literature discussions. As one ninth-grade student said: ‘There is usually a class theme. Everyone gets the same idea. They read the story and then the teacher will tell them what she interpreted and the class will say ‘Oh yea, that’s right.’ “

Comment: Two thoughts on class discussion of literary works: Begin with the students’ questions about what they do not understand. The teacher stays out of the discussion. Let the students try to answer the questions themselves. Use the book’s questions only if the students don’t raise the questions first. Use the teacher’s questions only if the students don’t ask the question first. Add professional literary criticism after students’ have drawn their own conclusions.

In response to the problem that students do not read short stories outside of class, try this: Have the students read a sentence a page or column in class, record what they have learned through key words on the board; students ask questions about what they need to know. Again, use key words on the board to record questions.

Next, the students read a paragraph a page or column in class; teacher records what they have now learned through key words on the board and the students raise questions about what they don’t know, which are also recorded through key words.

Have students help to organize the key word questions according to questions of fact , questions of interpretation and questions of literary criticism. Students read to answer the questions. Add additional questions after the students have finished reading.  and then they discuss their answers. RayS.

Title: “A Point, Counterpoint Response Strategy for Complex Short Stories. T. Rogers. Journal of Reading (December 1990), 278-282.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An Anecdote

Question: What does it mean?

The Anecdote: One day a colleague who taught history in a freshman program designed for college students who were also taking a developmental reading course came to me and said: ‘All of the students in my Social Science Freshman Workshop signed a petition stating that I was prejudiced against Italians because during the lesson I said that Greeks were taking over the pizzerias in New York City. Apparently, one of the students had written the statement on top of a blank sheet of paper and had circulated it during the lesson without my knowing it. After everyone had signed the sheet, someone passed it to me. I read it and asked the students why they had decided to sign the petition. Many of them said, ‘Petition? What petition?’ I held up the signed sheet and read it. Those who had expressed the most surprise at the word petition revealed that they signed it because they thought it was the attendance sheet!’ “

Comment: Well, what does it mean? RayS.

Title: “Increasing Student Awareness of the Importance of Reading.” RK Ortiz. Journal of Reading (February 1991), 401-402.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reading Response

Question: How do students respond to what they read?

Answer: Sets up a research study with the class. Students read  a poem and then they respond in writing to what they had read. The teacher classifies the responses into “text-based responses” and “reader-based responses.”

“Text-based responses” included the way the poem sounded, theme, questions about the title, evaluation (“good,” “humorous,” “cute,” etc.) identification of the narrator. “Reader-based responses,” were personal, about memories and experiences related to the ideas in the poem.

Comment: For what purpose? Perhaps to illustrate the differences between the New Critics’ approach to interpreting literature and Rosenblatt’s reader-based involvement in interpreting a piece of literature. In my mind, both approaches help to interpret a piece of literature. RayS.

 Title: “Turning Teenagers into Reader Response Researchers.” S Kane. Journal of Reading (February 1991), 399-401.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Anticipation Guides

Question: What is the purpose of anticipation guides?

 Answer/Quotes: “ ‘How much can a marlin weight?’ I ask.

"A marlin? Seventh grade pencils scratch busily. Hands go up. ‘Ten pounds?’ ‘Two pounds?’ Students begin to grin. ‘A hundred pounds!’ The grins get wider. ‘Six ounces!’ A chortle ripples across the classroom.”

“I smile but do not give the answer. We try another question on the Anticipation Guide. ‘How long is a marlin’s spear?’ A marlin has a spear? Some students guess correctly; most do not.”

“Now, I have for you an encyclopedia article on the marlin. Read to find the correct answers to our questions.’ The students pounce on the article and are immediately absorbed in reading.”

Comment: An Anticipation Guide suggests intriguing questions that the students will read to answer. A way of providing purpose for reading. RayS.

Title: “Integrating Content Area Skills with Fiction Favorites.” HE Ollmann. Journal of Reading (February 1991), 3998-399.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Textbook Reading Assignments

Question: Does this finding apply to you?

Reality: “Teachers use reading as a major source of learning by assigning textbooks, articles and library research, yet some students manage to get by in their courses reading little or nothing beyond their assignments, if that. Some instructors, frustrated in their efforts to get students to read, may resort to telling them what they need to know. Rieck (1977) has found teachers who inadvertently sabotage reading:

Out loud, these teachers are saying: ‘I require reading in the course. All students are to read the assignments. Students are to read X number of pages from the textbook.’ However, their non-verbal attitude said to the students: ‘You really don’t have to read the assignments because you aren’t tested on them and probably won’t have to discuss them. You should read X number of pages but there is no real reason to do so. Reading really isn’t important. Outside reading is of little value in this class. ‘ (p. 647).”

 Comment: I have been guilty of telling students, unintentionally, that all they need to know without reading the required assignments I will tell them. And I have experienced teachers at the college level who have done the same. Mea Culpa.

How to combat this tendency? Prepare students for the assignment. Give them a purpose for reading, a question to answer. Demonstrate how to survey chapters (title, sub-title, first paragraph, first sentence of middle paragraphs, last paragraph) and have them find their own purposes by raising their own questions to answer from reading the chapter. RayS.

Title: “Turtles, Blue-Footed Boobies, and a Community of Readers.” SR Clark. Journal of Reading (February 1991), pp. 380-383.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reading and Writing

Question: What are the latest theories on reading and writing instruction?

Answer/Quote: “…reading and writing should be seen as complex, interactive processes, not as an accumulation of discrete skills. Students should push up against whole texts and not be limited to abridged selections or short paragraphs [in assessment]. They should be encouraged to take risks, construct their own meaning, and learn to integrate prior knowledge with the demands of the reading/writing task.” P. 354.

Title: “Alternative  Integrated Reading/Writing Assessment and Curriculum Design.” Journal of Reading (February 1991), 354-359.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Question: What are some techniques to help students improve their reading comprehension?

SQ3R (Robinson, 1961): “A study strategy in which readers survey a text before reading and devise questions to answer, generally using the heading to guide question writing. They read to find answers to their questions; after reading, readers recite their answers. Finally, they review by going over their answers and rereading where necessary. The emphasis Is on using questions to guide study reading.”

DR-TA (Stauffer, 1969): “A comprehensions strategy in which readers speculate on what will occur in a text (e.g., what the topic is, what content a selection will cover, what a story is about, what will happen in a story). While reading, readers stop to check on predictions and predict what will happen next. The emphasis is on predictions.”

K-W-L (Ogle, 1986): A study strategy in which readers think about what they already know about the topic of a selection and predict categories of information they expect to learn from reading it, and also decide what they want to learn. After reading, they think about what they have learned. In this scheme, K stands for what I know; W for what I want to learn, and L for what I have learned.”

Comment: Excellent techniques for improving students’ comprehension. RayS.

Title: “Essential Reading: Targeting, Tracking, and Thinking about Main Ideas.” DG Hennings. Journal of Reading (February 1991), 346-353.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Teen-Age Reading, or Lack of It

Question: How can we increase the amount of students’ voluntary reading?

Quote: “An excerpt from an old Journal of Reading article sums up a real concern for many of today’s middle and secondary school teachers. The article begins: ‘One of the more disconcerting problems facing teachers is not their students’ inability to read but students’ general lack of interest, indifference, or sheer rejection of reading. These pupils are asking, ‘Why read at all?’ “ (Gentile & McMillan, 1977, p. 649).

The author goes on to provide a survey for teachers about their practices involving voluntary reading. Only a few of these survey items struck me as interesting and I am listing them below.

. Do you provide a wide collection of books in the classroom that range from easy to difficult?

 . Do you conduct private conferences with students about their self-selected reading?

. Do you provide students with an efficient record system for keeping a personal account of self-selected reading? [Do you provide reading response logs? RayS.]

. Are your students given an opportunity for creative reporting on favorite books?

. Do you invite resource persons to your classroom to discuss literature?

. Do your students share their reading through varied media?

. Do you read aloud to students regularly?

. Do you use book talks regularly?

. Do you study adolescents’ books and reviews of adolescents’ books regularly?

 .Do  you discuss with students the parts of a book…?

. Do you have organized parental involvement in the literature program?

. Do you help select books for the school library and do you have a voice in determining library policy?

Comment: And one question that the author did not include: Do you, the teacher, read books?

No question about it. People are spending less time reading books. It’s self-evident. This article was written in 1991 and the uses of people’s time are increasingly taken up with Tweets and other social media, electronic games, cable, Fios, and satellite TV, the Internet, etc. On the plus side we now have E-books. Are students reading E-books?

I think a whole host of ideas needs to be brought to bear on students’ increasing failure to read books on their own, including how to read a book or article efficiently. If students do not feel trapped in reading books, can learn to read parts of books, can learn to abandon particular books when the books lose their interest or, at least, learn how to skim and scan in order to find the essential ideas of the books, students will be more likely to read them. RayS.

 Title: “Getting Adolescents to Read.” L M Clary. Journal of Reading (February 1991), 340-346.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reading Science Textbooks

Question: How should one read a science textbook?

Answer/Quote: “The procedure for reading a science text is…the same as [scientists] used when they were first learning science: read slowly and more than once with pencil and paper in hand, chewing over each new idea. Ideally a chapter should be read at least three times: before a topic is covered in a class, while it’s being covered, and after it has been covered.” Pp. 331-332.

Comment: Even with the science text, I think students should use the survey/question approach first, before reading everything. The survey is reading the title, sub-titles, the first sentence of each paragraph and the last paragraph, noting charts and graphs, and then raising questions about what needs to be learned from the chapter.

I understand reading the chapter at least two times, before the topic is covered in class and after class, but I have some difficulty understanding how one can read the chapter during the lecture, unless the instructor makes reference to the chapter. And I also agree with reading with pencil and paper in hand. RayS.

Title: “Reading Science.” JV Mallow. Journal of Reading (February 1991), 324-338.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Question: Why do we read novels?

Answer/Quote: “The ways all of us interact and get through life are illustrated in stories. Adolescents are preoccupied with themselves and their relationships with others. They are ready to study human nature as shown in novels.” P. 523.

Comment: Do we ever address the question of why we read novels when we assign them in class? Or do we just assume that students understand the reasons for reading novels? Try asking your classes, “Why do we read noels?” What’s the point? RayS.

Title: Review of Novel Strategies for Young Adults.  Donita Covey. 1992. Englewood CO., Teachers Ideas Press. Reviewed by JA Williams and DW Sandmann. Journal of Reading (March 1994), 522-523.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Using Textbooks

Question: How do teacher use textbooks in their classes [not just in English, but in all disciplines]?

Here is the survey:

. How are your text materials selected?

. How do you typically use your textbook?

. What things keep you from the most effective use of your textbooks?

. What do you like about your textbook?

. What do you dislike about your textbook?

Quote: “This survey did not find much evidence of reading strategy instruction occurring in the secondary classroom, and overall it appeared that text reading is not heavily promoted in the U.S. content area classrooms regardless of teacher experience level.” P. 470.

 Comment: At the very least students should be taught SQ3R—especially the survey, question part. The survey provides background information on the topic and the questions provide the purposes for reading. RayS.

Title: “Teachers’ Views of Textbooks and Text Reading Instruction: Experience Matters.” D Menke and B Davey. Journal of Reading (March 1994), 464-470.