Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Overlooked Resource in Teacher In-service

Question: What can school districts do to provide helpful inservice to improve teaching?

Answer/Quote: “Observing other teachers teach is generally agreed to be one way of improving instructional technique. In most schools, however, very little opportunity for direct observation can be provided because of crowded schedules and lack of tine. The use of videotape equipment can multiply opportunities to observe a number of teachers using a wide variety of techniques in diverse situations. It also offers the advantage of allowing teachers to observe and criticize their own teaching. The equipment needed is simple and available in most school systems today, and the planning involved is no more detailed or complicated than in everyday good teaching,” p. 26.

Quote: “Videotape equipment is widely available in schools and is here to stay. The Burlington experience indicated that it can be an extremely valuable aid in helping teachers watch teachers teach, in improving inservice programs, and in supplementing the public information program of the school district.” P. 27.

Comment: Bill Gates has given millions to improving teaching, and watching other teachers teach via recordings has proved to be one of his most successful techniques for improving teaching. Done within schools, it may not be as simple as this article suggests. First, the teachers have to agree to being recorded as they teach. Someone has to do the video recording. Someone has to take the time to edit the tape for some purpose. I like the idea of using this material to promote the public relations on behalf of teachers. In my experience, videotaping of teachers teaching is not used as part of a program for public relations on behalf of teachers. RayS.

 Title: “Reading Inservice Via Videotape.” Dianne R. Burgy. The Reading Teacher (October 19974), 26-27.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Drug Therapy and Children

Note: This article was published in March of 1971. Has anything changed, other than the increased use of drugs with children (2012)?

Quote: “Last July on the floor of the House of Representatives a member expressed his deep concern over the use of behavior modification drugs with children described as ‘hyperactive.’ (Newsweek, 1970). The immediate stimulus for this protest was a newspaper report that drug stimulants such as amphetamines were being administered to 2,000 to 6,000 public school children in Omaha.”

Quote: “Amphetamines and dextro-amphetamines are widely used as stimulants or antidepressants by adults. However, over thirty years ago, Bradley (1937) reported the paradoxical finding  that Benzedrine, an amphetamine, tended to calm hyperactive distractible children, rather than stimulate them as it did adults.”

Quote: “Since that time an extensive body of literature has been produced dealing with psychopharmacological research with children. Much of this research has been carried out with children reported as having learning difficulties and behavior problems which impede their progress in school or disrupt their life at home.” 561.

Quote: “While the few better-controlled studies suggest that some drugs may be useful in reducing anxiety and improving attention and concentration for some children with certain types of learning and behavior disorders, the evidence is certainly not yet conclusive. As pointed out above, many questions remain unanswered. Given the present state of knowledge, comprehensive programs involving parents and teachers, combined with appropriate psychotherapy and remedial education, would seem to be in the best interests of these children.” P. 563.

Comment: I remember reading in a book entitled Selling Sickness, the authors made it clear that medications are appropriate for some few people, but not for many and should not be prescribed indiscriminately, for example, with high blood pressure. The authors’ conclusion was that the pharmacological companies are “selling sickness,” increasing the number of patients to increase profits.” The same is probably true for children. The first choice for children with problems of hyperactivity and autism, should not be drugs. RayS.

Title: “Research: Drug Therapy and Learning in Children.” J Wesley Schneyer. The Reading Teacher (March 1971), 561/563.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Black Dialect and Learning to Read

Note: In the 1970s, the problem of black dialect and learning to read standard English language was suggested as the most important reason that African-American children in urban areas failed to learn to read. Here’s the rationale:

Quote: “Alarming numbers of urban Black children have trouble learning to read. Attention has focused on the Black child’s dialect since his language development may make it difficult for him to learn to read with standard materials.” P. 581.

Examples of Black Dialect:
> Third person singular verbs (My sister wonder).

>Presence of copula (He in the way).

> Place of auxiliary verb in wh-questions (Why she won’t come?).

> Possessives (Linda hat).

>Double negative (I don’t got no).

> Verb agreements (He run home).

>. Preposition drops (He go the store).

Comment: I don’t think the problem of Black English in learning to read was ever definitively settled. I think it’s still an issue, but a forgotten one. RayS.

Title: “Black Dialect Reading Tests in the Urban Elementary School.” Carol H. Hockman. The Reading Teacher (March 1973), 581-582+.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Learning to Read

Question: How do many children feel about learning to read in school?

 Answer/Quote: “Reading as an activity apart from the story to be enjoyed or content to be learned is rather sterile and meaningless. Used to the excitement of television [and video games, cell phone conversations, the Internet, etc.] … and the emotion-filled traumas of their own lives, many children find the materials facing them in many basal readers relatively dull. They are materials to be read solely for the act of reading. Because of this fact, many students develop negative attitudes about reading. It’s something that they have to do, like eating vegetables, rather than something they want to do.” P. 564.

Comment: I only knew Morton Botel at a distance, mostly through his articles in professional journals. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania and was one of the most brilliant educators with whom I was ever associated. He was a gad fly. He once wrote an article about how reading teachers performed the most brilliant diagnoses on students’ reading problems, but still wound up using SRA as the solution to every student’s problem in reading. In this quote, he has identified reading for the purpose of learning to read as dull, a negative activity that produces negative attitudes toward reading. RayS.

Title: “Diagnose the Reading Program Before You Diagnose the Child.” M Botel and A Granowsky. The Reading Teacher (March 1973), 563-564+. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What do you think?

Quote: “Some educators look at reading failure as the child’s failure.” P. 563.

Comment: That is a loaded question. What do my readers think? RayS.

Title: “Diagnose the Reading Program Before You Diagnose the Child.” M Botel and A Granowsky. The Reading Teacher (March 1973), 563.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Question: Why do so many discussions about problems in education end in impasse?

Answer/Quote: “The latest public argument in which I have been involved ended like many other discussions in and about education: impasse. Instead of dialogue, we produced something like simultaneous monologues. Each side developed a separate and legitimate thrust in the noise of the situation, but the opposing points never met each other. We talked past each other, rather than to each other.” P. 548.

Quote: “Probably we should have stopped the dialogue long enough to define those different basic assumptions. In fact, it now seems most counterproductive even to have begun discussion without an open, mutual recognition of the basic assumptions from which every participant planned to operate.” P. 540.

Quote: “Unfortunately, it is not only possible but typical in education to carry on ‘dialogues’ without once checking basic assumptions, then to stand flabbergasted when ‘agreements’ are so readily ‘broken’—always by the ‘the other guy.’” P. 540.

Comment: How do two people determine their assumptions before beginning discussions? RayS.

Title: “Editorial: Earth, Air and Argument.” Lloyd W. Kline, Editor. The Reading Teacher (March 1973), 5488-549.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reading and Noise

Question: How does noise in the background of the classroom affect reading?

Answer: Increases errors in reading significantly. Tested reading with quiet background and with noise in the background.

Comment: Assuming oral reading. Something to think about. RayS.

Title: “Auditory Discrimination and Classroom Noise.” LW Nober. The Reading Teacher (December 1973), 288-291.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Language Experience

Question: What is a basic reading/writing experience for kindergarten classrooms?

Answer/Quote: “Experiences with reading and writing have always been a part of some pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms. For many years, the Language Experience Approach (LEA), described by Allen (1974) and Stauffer (1980), led the way in helping teachers design developmentally appropriate literacy experiences for young children. A hallmark of the language experience approach is the dictation process. Through dictation children learn that what they experience and think about may be verbalized, what they say can be written down, and what has been written can be read by others or by themselves.” P. 422.

Comment: With language experience, the teacher with groups of students, or individually, has the students decide on a title which is recorded on chart paper and then dictate what they know or think about the topic, which is also recorded. The teacher then reads the recorded ideas as a model and the students as a group read the recorded ideas. A variety of other activities can be used with the recorded material, including vocabulary. The language experience approach can also be used with older students and with students whose native language is not English. RayS.

Title: “The Daily Journal: Using Language Experience Strategies in an Emergent Literacy Curriculum.” DS Strickland and LM Morrow. The Reading Teacher (February 1990), 422-423.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paraphrasing and Comprehension

Question: How can teaching young students to paraphrase help them to comprehend?

 Answer/Quote: “Paraphrasing is different from retelling as well. In retelling, readers are invited to use the words of the author in explaining  a passage. In fact, as we work with readers in the reading center, we are interested in whether they use the phrasing and wording of the original text in retelling. In paraphrasing, however, we encourage readers to use their own words and phrasing to ‘translate’ the material to their own way of saying it. Readers may be able to retell without ever actually engaging the content of the  passage: they must engage the content if they are paraphrasing.” P. 73.

Quote: “With careful instruction and modeling, focusing on what the strategy is, how to do it, when it is useful and why it is important, children can learn to monitor their comprehension and take steps to correct it, if needed.” P. 77.

Comment: Teaching students to paraphrase makes a great deal of sense. When they paraphrase they demonstrate their comprehension. I like this idea. And it has many applications in reading and writing as the student progresses through the grades. RayS.

Title: “Paraphrasing: An Effective Comprehension Strategy.” Sharon B. Kletzien. The Reading Teacher (September 2009), 73-77.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0

Question: What are the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 tools for learning?

 Answer/Quote: “Whereas Web 1.0 tools allow only website owners (not users) to collaborate or manipulate the information or text displayed, Web 2.0 tools enable  users to create, edit, manipulate, and collaborate online. As Hedberg and Brudvik (2008) explained, ‘the social software supported in Web 2.0 enables consumers to become producers. Learners can contribute to the resources and not just consume them’ (p. 140).” P. 40.

Quote: “Thus, unlike Web 1.0 tools, Web 2.0 tools ‘belong’ to the collective, or to all collaborators. Some examples of Web 2.0 tools used in classrooms include blogs, digital storytelling (e.g. VoiceThread.com), and wikis (e.g., pbwiki and wikispaces). P. 40.

Comment: I’m learning this as well as my readers. Don’t understand it all that well, but hope to as I read more about it. The whole concept of “wikis” is not yet in my vocabulary. And I did not know that blogs (which I use regularly) are Web 2.0 tools. I guess they are. RayS.

Title: “Becoming Critical Consumers and Producers of Text: Teaching Literacy with Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.” LJ Handsfield, et al. The Reading Teacher (September 2009). 40-50.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Good Teaching

Question: What are the characteristics of good teaching?

Answer/Quote: “If it is true that learning is best facilitated through active involvement and by thinking about and discussing what is being learned, then this constructivist approach should apply to teachers as much as to any other group of learners….” P. 14.

Comment: Okay, we already know this. But how does one make learning active? Begin literary discussions with students’ questions about the literary work. Begin lessons with intriguing questions. Even the most mundane topics can activate students with real questions to which students want real answers: Why is the comma important in clear written expression? What are the most frequent uses of commas? Which uses of the comma can be relegated to a list of models?

And then, when the lesson is completed, spend fifteen minutes in writing, reflecting on what happened and possibilities for changes in the lesson. The “basics” in good teaching. RayS.

Title: “Fulfilling the Promise of Literacy Coaches in Urban Schools: What Does It Take to Make an Impact?” Barbara Steckel. The Reading Teacher (September 2009), 14-23.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fluency: A Review of Methods

Question: How help student improve fluency in reading?

Answer/Quote: “Research and scholarly literature support several specific methods to promote fluency in reading…. Among these are modeling fluent reading for students, assisted reading and repeated readings. Modeling fluent reading involves listening to a text read fluently by another. Although modeling fluent reading does not involve the student actually reading, it does provide the student with a clear model of what fluent oral reading sounds like. Assisted reading involves a reader reading a text while simultaneously listening to a fluent rendering of the same text. Repeated readings involve the reading of one text until a level of fluency is achieved in the reading.” P. 4.

Comment: FYI. RayS.

Title: “Implementing Readers Theatre as an Approach to Classroom Fluency Instruction.” Chase Young, Timothy Rasinski. The Reading Teacher (September 2009), 4-13.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Question: How define fluency in reading?

 Answer/Quote: “With the report of the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000, reading fluency has once again, after a long absence…become a critical goal in the elementary reading curriculum. Most literacy scholars define reading fluency as the ability to read the words in a text with sufficient accuracy, automaticity, and prosody to lead to good comprehension…. Accuracy in word recognition refers to readers’ ability to read the words in a text without error in pronunciation. Automaticity refers to the ability of proficient readers to read the words in a text correctly and effortlessly so that they may use their finite cognitive resources to attend to meaning while reading. Prosody refers to the ability of readers to render a text with appropriate expression and phrasing to reflect the semantic and syntactic content of the passage. Fluent oral reading should simply sound like natural speech.” P. 4.

Comment: FYI. RayS.

Title: “Implementing Readers Theatre as an Approach to Classroom Fluency Instruction.” Chase Young, Timothy Rasinski. The Reading Teacher (September 2009), 4-13.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Basics in Writing

Question: What are the basics in writing?

Answer/Quote: “Yet teachers need to remind themselves that analyzing and explaining the components of successful writing are no substitute for helping students discover a reason to write, nor for acknowledging what motivates their uses of and attitudes toward written language.” P. 260.

 Comment: Purpose. In giving students assignments, it’s easy to forget why students should want to complete the assignment, other than to earn a grade. Helping students to find purposes other than grades is not easy. I write this blog because I want to share ideas with other English teachers. I think professional journals in teaching English have interesting and helpful ideas for solving problems in teaching. Why should students want to complete your assignments? That’s another way of saying, how can you make your writing assignments “authentic.” RayS.

Title: “Individual Goals and Academic Literacy: Integrating Authenticity and Explicitness.” Sarah W. Beck. English Education (April 2009), 259-280.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writing Teachers Write

Question: Teachers of writing should write. But what should they write?

Answer/Quote: “The notion that ‘teachers of writing must also write’ has been pervasive since the 1970s. But what should they write? On this question, the consensus has been less clear. In the National Writing Project (NWP), a professional network focused on the improvement of writing instruction and featuring summer institute in which teachers engage in writing of their own as well as demonstrations of effective teaching practice, tradition has usually favored personal writing, particularly memoir, poetry and fiction.

“This emphasis on personal writing has, at times, left the NWP vulnerable to criticism that the writing occurring in its summer institutes is too self-focused, characterizing the personal or creative writing done by teachers during the summer as insufficiently focused on classroom problems and practice. In fact, professional writing has been part of the writing teachers have engaged in at NWP summer institutes since 1974…but the relative emphasis that NWP summer institutes should place on these two kinds of writing has been a point of friendly contention among those involved in NWP, with some NWP site directors arguing for the importance of personal writing, others requiring that teachers also undertake some professional writing, and still others going so far as to insist that most, if not all, writing at the summer institutes take up professional topics.” P. 235.

Comment: I too have been critical of teachers’ writing in National Writing Project summer institutes. I have categorized in disgust such writing as “gush” writing. I like the idea of teachers writing for professional purposes and dealing with classroom problems. And attempts to publish. RayS.

 Title: “Writer, Teacher, Person: Tensions Between Personal and Professional Writing in a National Writing Project Summer Institute.” Anne Elrod Whitney. English Education (April 2009), 235-258.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Highlight Student Ideas

Question: What is an interesting way of highlighting student ideas in the classroom?

Answer/Quote: “Some of my favorite moments as a high school English teacher occurred whenever a student would say something particularly thoughtful, profound, or uniquely hysterical and the class would joyously insist the statement go up on ‘the wall.’ The wall was simply a collection of student quotes gathered together that hung around my room One of my favorite quotes was taped above the chalkboard, written in large, blue capital letters on white typewriter paper: ‘We’re Smarter Together.’ ” P. 199.

Comment: I think that’s an interesting idea. I can think of some of my favorite student ideas. I wish I had thought of putting them on my classroom walls. One of my all-time favorites was Reba Hodson’s  response to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “To be great is to be misunderstood.” She said that in geometry she had learned that for a definition to be valid it had to be reversible. Take that Mr. Emerson. RayS.

Title: “We’re Smarter Together: Building Professional Social Networks in English Education.” James Cercone. English Education (April 2009), 199-206.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reading Aloud to Young Children

Question: Why read aloud to young children?

 Answer/Quote: “There can be little doubt that young children benefit from being read to during their early years. Studies in home settings have shown that storybook reading is associated with vocabulary growth, increased awareness of the nature of written language, growth in background knowledge, eagerness to read, learning to read before school, and even success in beginning reading in school…. Perhaps the best testament to the power of storybook reading for primary grade children is a study by Feitelson, Kita, and Goldstein (19986). They showed that reading aloud regularly to first graders caused the children to increase significantly their listening comprehension, active use of language, and decoding skills. Therefore, being read to helps a child build an excellent foundation for continued literacy growth.” P. 362.

Comment: Of course everyone knows that reading aloud to young children establishes a basis for learning to read. But it helps to learn some specific outcomes of reading aloud. RayS.

Title: “Cross-Age Reading: a Strategy for Helping Poor Readers.” LD Labbo and WH Teale. Reading Teacher (February 1990), 362-369.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Point of View in Argument

Question: What is a strategy in argument?

Answer/Quote: “However, schemas devised by cognitive and developmental psychologists include a progression from egocentric, ethnocentric or sociocentric psychology to what Piaget termed ‘reciprocal’ thinking, which enables us to see things form others’ viewpoints when we can in fact learn something useful by doing so. Rhetcomp pedagogy applies this progression in approaches like Rogerian argument and Peter Elbow’s ‘believers and doubters,’ in which students are obliged to identify with their opponents’ viewpoint in spoken or written arguments, prior to critiquing it.” P. 537.

Comment: Identify with the opponent’s point of view before critiquing it. An interesting strategy. RayS.

Title: Review: Stanley Fish’s Tightrope Act.” D Lazere. College English (May 2009), 528-538.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Goal of Higher Education

Question: Is the following statement a goal of higher education?

Statement: “I once heard a university president state, ‘One of the great contributions of higher education is to show people how to deliberate over contentious issues together.’ ” P. 525.

Comment: In my opinion, NO! And the media’s examples do not help. Even the stately Wall Street Journal’s attempts at interviewing put everyone in a situation in which, guests and interviewer rush to get a word in edgewise, resulting in chaotic, unintelligible blabbering at the same time. RayS.

Title: “Texts of Our Institutional Lives: Strategic Speculations on the Question of Value: The Role of Community Publishing in English Studies.” SJ Parks. College English (May 2009), 506-527.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Graduate Experience

Question: How do graduate students perceive courses in their chosen fields?

Answer/Quote: “Yet, most professors begin in covering ground at a dizzying pace, cutting a wide swath through acres of bibliographic titles, layers of history, thickets of scholars’ names, a morass of acronyms, towering terminology, and a tangle of theories.” P. 435.

Comment: Sound familiar? RayS.

Title: “Representations of the Field in Graduate Courses: Using Parody to Question All Positions.” N Mack. College English (May 2009), 435-459.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

MLA Guidelines for Documentation

Question: What are some major change in MLA Guidelines for Documentation in MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (2009)?

Answer: Here is an example—

First, source  must be labeled. Print sources must be labeled as “print.”
Berthoff, Ann. The Making of Meaning: Metaphors and Maxims. Montclair, NJ: Boynton/Cook, 1981. Print.

From the Web: Old Citation:
Brooke, Collin Gifford. “Picking Up the Pieces: Is Comp/Rhet a Coherent Discipline?” Slide-Share, 2007, 21 May
2007 http:www.slideshare.net/cgbrooke/picking-up-the-pieces. [Indent second line.]

From the Web: New Citation:
Brooke, Collin Gifford. “Picking Up the Pieces: Is Comp/Rhet a Coherent Discipline?” Slide/Share, 2007
Web, 21 May 2007. [Indent second line.]

Comment: What a relief. Copying the URL was a pain. Labeling the source is just common sense. RayS.

 Title: “From the Editor.” John Schilb. College English (May 2009), 433-434.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Previewing Assigned Reading

Question: How can students be persuaded to read assigned literary works?

Answer: Students read an assigned work and review it. They answer the question, “What do you find to be especially striking, notable or interesting?” What questions will the reader read to answer? Compile the reviews into a preview that will encourage others to want to read it.

Comment: In other words, compile what amounts to the blurb on a book cover. RayS.

Suggested by: “Seeing Literature through Students’ Eyes: The Text Preview.” L Zuidema. Teaching English in the Two-year College (March 2009), 301-310.