Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Marginal Glosses and Comprehension

Question: What are glosses?

Note: Comments in the margin on what is being read. RayS.

Answer/Quote: “The strategy involves writing marginal glosses either directly on the pages to be read or on separate sheets of paper. These can be inserted behind the pages being read, so that the glosses are close to the targeted text. Glosses are further keyed to specific text passages by arrows or brackets that direct the reader’s attention from the glosses to the text and vice versa.” P. 4.

Comment: I have written in the margins of my books often. I discovered that rephrasing the main point of the underlined text and noting the meanings of unfamiliar vocabulary are the most effective uses of glosses. I have found that, for me, interpretations are boring and often irrelevant when re-reading at a later date. That’s been my experience with glosses. I have also had trouble reading my handwriting, so I must take care to write legibly. RayS.

Title: “The Effect of Marginal Glosses on Reading Comprehension and Retention.” RA Stewart and TL Cross. Journal of Reading (September 1991), 4-12.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Response to Literature

Question: How help students to interpret literature?

Answer: Students fold a sheet of paper in half. The first column is labeled “In the Text.” The Second column is labeled “In My Head.” “I direct students to quote five portions of text in the left-hand column (‘In  the Text’) during reading. Readers may choose a quotation because it raises questions, reminds them of a prior experience, seems important to interpret, or elicits an opinion, perhaps about the writing style…. Under ‘In My Head’ directly opposite each quote, students record personal responses.” P. 58.

Comment: Interesting. First, it causes students to pick significant quotes from the text. Next, it causes students to reflect, react to the quotes. Having students search for interesting quotes in literature is an excellent idea. The quotes could help support the student’s interpretation during discussion. They can help to find the theme of the literary selection. I like the idea. RayS.

 Title: “Two-Column Response to Literature.” Hilda E. Ollmann. Journal of Reading (September 1992), 58-59

Monday, February 27, 2012

Teaching the Test

Question: How can teachers help students to learn how to take multiple-choice tests?

Answer/Quote: “The multiple choice format, central to most standardized reading tests and reading textbooks, remains a mixed blessing. “

Quote: “I choose a passage and questions from a reading test….and give students the following directions: (1) Indicate the correct answer and justify your choice. (2) Explain why any one of the remaining alternatives is wrong.” P. 56.

Comment: Interesting exercise. Students could gain good insight into the makings of multiple-choice tests. RayS.

 Title: “A Thinking Twist on the Multiple Choice Question.” Gary Kay. Journal of Reading (September 1992), 56-57.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Critical Thinking and Perspective

Question: How does perspective influence accounts of events?

Answer/Quote; “Much of the information that we receive about the world is filtered through the perceptions of others.. We live by secondhand accounts of events, of products, and, ultimately, of truth.” P. 48.

For the author, the beginning of critical thinking occurs when the students compare two or more accounts of events, etc., and spot discrepancies in these accounts: “…the real thinking begins when students perceive a discrepancy between two accounts of the same event.” P. 49.

Comment: Interesting point of view. But where does a study of the discrepancies go from there? The opening quote is something to think about. RayS.

Title: “Perspective and Experience: Developing Critical Reading Abilities.” Grant Cioffi. Journal of Reading (September 1992), 48-52,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Roles of Teachers and Technology in the Classroom

Question: What is the role of technology in the classroom?

Answer/Quote: “Professional ethics demand that teachers (rather than machines) make decisions. The role of the technology should be to support professional decision making, not to supplant it. Unfortunately, the problem of appropriate use cannot be solved in the straightforward manner system-specific problems usually can. The key to the solution isn’t technological, it’s pedagogical. Teachers need to be trained in the use of this technology and its limits.” P. 46.

 Comment: I wonder how many teachers agree with this statement. The most interesting comment for me was in the words “limits of technology.” What are the limits of technology? RayS.

Title: “Computer-assisted Diagnosis in Reading; An Expert Systems Approach.” John E. McEneaney. Journal of Reading (September 1992), 36-47.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Working with Learning Disabled Students

Question: What are two contrasting approaches to working with learning disabled students?

One Approach: “Dan (a pseudonym) had been diagnosed as learning disabled and been in an oral program throughout his middle-school years. In the oral program, he had been provided with textbook audiotapes and a paraprofessional teacher. The ‘para’ read his assignments to him and transcribed his oral responses. The same procedure was followed for tests and exams. The para read the questions and transcribed his answers. When we looked at the situation, we thought possibly the school system had created a form of ‘learned helplessness’ for Dan.” P. 4.

Alternative Approach: “…a remedial program that incorporated (a) a multisensory approach to teaching word identification, spelling and cursive writing letter formation, (b) fluency training, and (c) summary writing, using the same material that was being studied in the regular classroom….” P. 8.

Quote: “In working with Dan, the resource specialist…made her own thought processes for studying textual material explicit, thereby helping Dan accomplish what would otherwise be too difficult for him without paraprofessional support. In this way, Dan learned to function independently. With renewed faith in his own ability, he was able to remain in the mainstream.” P. 8.

 Comment: I don’t know whether I should add something that I tried with learning disabled writers, but I will. I had the student write for ten minutes a day, corrected everything : sentence structure, organization, spelling, grammar, etc. Then the student re-wrote and studied my corrections. As part of the regular class, he was taught how to construct a composition from brainstorming to thesis, to first draft, to the introductory paragraph, to revision and editing. By the end of the semester, he was able to construct a reasonably well organized and reasonably correct composition. RayS.

Title: “Enhancing the Performance of a High School Student Labeled Learning Disabled.” BL Zakaluk and M Klassen. Journal of Reading (September 1992), 4-9.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reading Professional Materials

Question: “I’m a school librarian. We get a good number of professional books and journals, but the faculty won’t read them. I put up notices and posters, write quips for the faculty bulletin, mark articles as pertinent for certain grades and areas, yet the response is very poor. What else can I do?”

Answer: “I can offer only a few additional thoughts. (1) Are the materials easily accessible? Can teachers take them home? (2) Can you get a few teachers to write summaries for the faculty bulletin?....Why not boldly ask teachers why they’re not reading materials. Maybe they’ll tell you.”

Comment: Explain to the teachers how I (RayS.) read professional journals. I read the title, sub-title, the first paragraph and the last paragraph of the article. If I know enough about the main idea of the article and have no questions about its details, I jot a brief summary as a record of the idea. If I have some questions about the details of the article’s ideas, I read the first sentence of each paragraph between the first and last paragraph. Then I write the brief summary. RARELY do I ever read the entire article. If I do, it’s because I WANT to. These techniques will give teachers the essential ideas of the articles in professional journals. I try to find time to reflect on the ideas of the article as I do in my “Comments” in this blog. I answer  the question, “What does this idea mean to me?”RayS.

Title: “Q & A.” John J. Pikulski. The Reading Teacher (May 1984), 924.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Question: How accurate are readability formulas?

Answer: “There are easy ways to get a readability estimate. [Italics are in the original document.] …. If you don’t have a computer available, use Edward Fry’s graph. It requires little more than counting the numbers of sentences and syllables in some text samples…. But don’t forget that all graphs and formulae are imperfect in determining how easy or difficult a passage or book may be. Factors such as student interest and background in a topic, how clear the author’s writing style is, how fully the author explains the topic, and whether graphic aids are included, etc., are not measured. Formulae are only rough estimates of difficulty.” Pp. 923-924.

 Fry readability formula

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
See the Internet for a copy of the graph.

The Fry readability formula (or Fry readability graph) is a readability metric for English texts, developed by Edward Fry.

The grade reading level (or reading difficulty level) is calculated by the average number of sentences (y-axis) and syllables (x-axis) per hundred words. These averages are plotted onto a specific graph; the intersection of the average number of sentences and the average number of syllables determines the reading level of the content.

The formula and graph are often used to provide a common standard by which the readability of documents can be measured. It is sometimes used for regulatory purposes, such as in healthcare, to ensure publications have a level of readability that is understandable and accessible by a wider portion of the population.

To calculate a grade level score:

Randomly select three separate 100 word passages. (Count every word including proper nouns, initializations, and numerals.)
  1. Count the number of sentences in each 100 word sample (estimate to nearest tenth).
  2. Count the number of syllables in each 100 word sample. (Each numeral is a syllable. For example, 2007 is 5 syllables -- two-thou-sand-se-ven -- and one word.)
  3. Plot the average sentence length and the average number of syllables on the graph.
  4. The area in which it falls is the approximate grade
Title: “Q & A.” John J. Pikulski. The Reading Teacher (May 1984), 923-924.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Students' Motivation

Question: How can teachers motivate students to stay on task?

 Answer/Quote: “Basically, motivation for staying on task translates into the concept of caring about what you are doing. This is, indeed, the single most significant prerequisite for all learning.”

“The magic to inspiring student motivation for staying on task lies in the teacher’s commitment to helping students find personal meaning in what they are doing.”

 Comment: A tall order. But at least consider: Why is learning this important to the student? In ways that the students will understand? I’m afraid that I did not often consider “What’s in it for me?” from the students’ point of view. I should have. RayS.

Title: “Motivational Strategies for Staying on Task.” Gail Garber. The Reading Teacher (May 1984), 920.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Teachers' Wait-time

Question: Does teachers’ wait- time before students answer questions affect achievement?

Answer/Quote: “One reflection of teacher expectations is wait- time, the length of time a teacher waits for a child to begin responding to a question. Teacher expectations sometimes lead teachers to behave differently toward different groups of students. For example, teachers tend to give more wait- time to high achievers. This is significant, because giving more wait time has been found actually to produce higher achievement.”

Quote: “During math instruction, American teachers give more wait-time to boys than to girls, according to a recent study published in The Journal of Educational Research (May/June 1983). Done year after  year, this difference in wait-time could have a cumulative effect on boys’ and girls’ math performance, perhaps being one reason girls gradually withdraw from math.”

Quote: “One way to counter this tendency is for teachers to mentally count off the seconds of wait-time, as by silently counting ‘A thousand and one, a thousand and two,….’ And so on. Try it—you may be surprised how few seconds of wait-time you give your students, and to whom you give the most or the least.”

Comment: One of those things you never think of. This research opened my eyes. RayS.

Title: “Wait for an Answer.” The Reading Teacher (May 1984), 908.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Young Children and Writing Difficulty

Question: Why is writing difficult for young children?

Answer: “At the close of his book Writing, Donald Graves said, ‘Children grow as writers because they wrestle with imbalances between their intentions and the problems at hand.’ For those who know the work of Graves, this summarizes his perspective that children have the same desire to write that they do to talk or play. As children encounter problems and overcome them, growth occurs. The obstacles of spelling, motor coordination, grammatical conventions, topical focus, and revision are surmounted as writing matures, according to Graves.” P. 906.

Add to these obstacles, the differences between narrative and opinion (expository) structures of writing. Story Structure:  “This traditional story structure included (1) the initiating event, (2) description of the feelings and characteristics of the characters, (3) a center plot with a hero pursuing a goal, (4) consequences and (5) a resolution.” P. 967.

On the other hand the structure for opinions (exposition) has been summed up by the famous dictum: “Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; and tell them what you told them.”

Comment: Donald Graves may believe that children write as naturally as they talk and play, but there’s a whole lot of stuff that has to be taught before children’s writing matures. As in the preceding article, a good place to begin is with the language experience approach (LEA). RayS.

Title: “Research Views: Expression of Narrative and Opinion.” John T. Guthrie. The Reading Teacher (May 1984), 906-908.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Language Experience Appproach to Reading

Question: How can young students be introduced to reading?

Answer/Quote: “The language experience approach (LEA) to reading instruction receives plaudits both in practice and research literature. It motivates students to want to read and effectively demonstrates the connection between spoken and written language. The use of a student’s own language and background of experiences encourages acquisition of a reading vocabulary as well as comprehension of the printed word. P. 867.

Begin with a stimulus—“anything that will prompt a discussion, such as an object, animal, toy, field trip, holiday, person, special event or picture.”

After discussion, students dictate their story and it is recorded on chart paper by the teacher. The teacher then reads the dictated story, reads it again with the children, then highlights words and phrases and asks children to try to read what is on the chart paper.

Comment: Useful also with students, younger or older, whose native language is not English. RayS.

Title: “The Language Experience Approach to Reading: Recurring Questions and Their Answers.” B Mallon and R Berglund. The Reading Teacher (May 1984), 867-871.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reading Comprehension: Visualization

Question: How can teaching students to visualize information help improve comprehension?

Answer/Quote: “Consistently cause students to visualize information.” P. 833.

Quote: “As you read aloud to students, have them create images.” P. 834.

Quote: “When students review material or prepare for a quiz, guide them to recall the picture they previously created.” P. 834.

 Quote: “Remember to apply these visualization strategies to expository as well as narrative material.” P. 834.

 Comment: The idea of visualization also applies to spelling. Harry Shefter in Six Minutes a Day to Perfect Spelling,” shows how to “blow up” or enlarge the “trouble spot” in a word that is usually misspelled (“arGUMent) and then adds a silly association to complete the visualization: “Never chew GUM in an arGUMent.” RayS.

Title: “Neurolinguistic Application to the Remediation of Reading Problems.” DG Arnold and B Swaby. The Reading Teacher (May 1984), 831-834.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Reading Comprehension Strategy

Question: What is an effective strategy to help students improve their comprehension?

Answer: Teach them to underline, First, show them how to underline and when.

Comment: I’m an inveterate underliner. Underlining is valuable for a lifetime of reading. RayS.

Title: “Show Me Your Underlinings: A Strategy to Teach Comprehension.” EJ Poostey. The Reading Teacher (May 1984), 528-530.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Fad in Reading Education

Question: Should training in visual-motor processes be a part of reading readiness?

Answer/Quote: “…conclude that the value of perceptual training, especially those programs often used in schools, has not been clearly established. If he concluded that such training lacks solid support, he may begin to question the purchase of attractively packaged materials which some companies offer teachers along with unsubstantiated claims concerning their merits, the practice of providing perceptual-motor training to all school children in the name of readiness training, and the assumption that a lack of perceptual-motor adequacy causes a considerable amount of academic failure.” P. 476.

Comment: One of the values of professional journals is their research into fads of which education has had many. How much money and wasted student time went into the fad of using “attractively packaged” perceptual-motor training materials to prevent reading failure? RayS.

Title: “Visual-Motor Processes: Can We Train them?” D Hammill, L Goodman and JL Wiederholt. The Reading Teacher (February 1974), 469-477.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Question: Is sentence length a valid indicator of difficulty in reading?

Answer/Quote: “Looking at a sentence and getting an intuitive feeling about its difficulty by counting words and analyzing the elements which are included in it may be considered a quick and easy way to assess the linguistic difficulty of the language in the reading materials.” P. 487.

Comment: I’m not sure what the implications are if one judges the sentences in a reading passage to be difficult—other than to tell students to slow down when reading long sentences in order to comprehend them. RayS.

Title: “Is Sentence Length a Valid Measure of Difficulty in Readability Formulas?” SM Glazer. The Reading Teacher (February 1974), 464-468.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reading Mathematics

Question: How does reading in mathematics differ from ordinary reading?

Answer/Quote: “One hears the expression—every teacher is a teacher of reading—many times, yet there are too many who teach reading only for reading’s sake. Once a discipline other than reading is being taught, content frequently takes precedence over reading.” P. 807.

Quote: “Generally, it is a good idea first to read the material in mathematics, as in other subjects, rather rapidly or at a near normal rate, to get the overall picture and the main ideas. Then the material should be read more slowly, carefully, critically and analytically to fill in the details and specifics and to recognize the existent relationships. Some segments of the material may need to be read several times, each time with a different purpose. Children need to learn to look for relevant information, to determine what operations will be needed, to ascertain if all the information is given, or simply to read digits and operation symbols to solve a problem.” P. 805.

Quote: Mathematical material is generally characterized by its conciseness, abstractness and complex relationships. Moulder (1969) maintains, ‘…there are more ideas per line and per page than in other writing. In mathematics every word is critical because understanding the precise meaning of a single word may influence the meaning of an entire passage to such an extent that the reading assignment may be adversely affected.’ ” P. 805.

Quote: “In most subjects the reading material consists of words. In mathematics the learner must read and interpret words, letters, charts and graphs, numerals, formulas, and many different signs and symbols.” P. 806.

Quote: “The vocabulary in mathematics is often technical and specific. If pupils are to read and study mathematics successfully, teachers must give attention to vocabulary development.” P. 806.

Quote: “At times new vocabulary must be acquired; many times new meanings or more precise mathematical meanings need to be developed for familiar words.” P. 806.

Comment: I’m an English teacher. I’ve known many math teachers and supervisors. I have yet to find a systematic way of reading mathematics to solve problems. I will be looking for such a system as I read my professional journals. Reading mathematics is a time to learn how to read SLOWLY. RayS.

 Title: “Are You Teaching Kids to Read Mathematics?” CC Collier and LA Redmond. The Reading Teacher (May 1974), 804-808.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Problem with Professional Journals and Research

Note: The following is from a letter to the editor concerning “The Topsy-Rurvy World of ‘Sight’ Words,” an article by Patrick Goff, March 1974 in published in RT:

Quote: “I realize that to accurately evaluate Groff’s article one would have to read each of the textbooks and study the research reports cited by him. However difficult and time consuming such practices would be, some procedures to assess the accuracy of articles…should be developed.” 71.

Comment: Today, 2012, with the concern that articles should be “research-based,” much of what is cited as research is questionable. ‘should  findings referred to as “suggest,” “indicate,” or “possibly be considered” count as valid research findings? I agree with Karlin. Some method has to be found to assess the research that underlies many of today’s articles in professional journals. The findings are cited, but how accurate and valid are the research findings? RayS.

Title: “Karlin Quoted Out of Context.” Robert Karlin. The Reading Teacher (October 1974), 70-71.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Reading Instruction

Question: What is reading?

Note: The following letter to the editor was in response to an article entitled, “Challenge to Schools: Reading Is Overemphasized” March 1974, RT.

Quote: “Yes reading is overemphasized… if teachers see reading as a mastery of phonic skills and vocabulary word cards. Teachers need to remember that reading is not simply word recognition but ultimately the recognition of the content of ideas.

“If teachers make the reading of a story in the reader as the end in itself (and don’t we do this by our factual questions to ‘check’ comprehension?), no wonder kids are so often ‘cool’ to reading and so many adults are, to borrow the expression, ‘illiterate literates.’

“If teachers, however, see the reading of a story  (the content of ideas) as a means to further probing, questioning, discussion and debate, reading becomes the means to the end rather than the end itself.”

 Comment: Couldn’t have said it better myself. RayS.

“The ‘Right’ Emphasis.” Richard Johnson. The Reading Teacher (October 1974), 67.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Keeping Up with Professional Journals

Question: How can teachers keep up with professional reading?

Note: The following is a letter to the editor of The Reading Teacher:

Quote: “As an IIRA member, I have received The Reading Teacher for a number of years and consider the caliber of the articles to be excellent. However, it is very difficult for me, an involved reading specialist who is dedicated to her work, to get to read it each month. As far as I know my coworkers have the same trouble and I imagine the majority of members do.”

Comment: Try my system. Read the title and sub-titles of each article and then the first paragraph and last paragraph of the article. Know enough? Have the basic idea? In my experience that information alone tells me the essence of the article. Write a brief summary at the top of the article. If I still have questions, I read a sentence in each column for details. Occasionally I return and read the first sentence of each paragraph. Very rarely, almost never, do I read the entire article. If you read professional journals 15 minutes each day, you will accumulate most of the essential ideas in each article In a relatively short period of time. Note: If you can take the time, reflect in writing on these ideas as I do in this blog with my “Comments.” RayS.

Title: “Cut RT in Half.” Margaret C. Ball. The Reading Teacher (October 1974), 64.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book Markers

Question: How pre-teach vocabulary for stories?

Answer/Quote: “Shorten the task of introducing vocabulary words by making book markers with words from each story or unit in the reader on them. In this way the child sees the word not disassociated from his book on a chalkboard or chart, but in context to what he is reading. It can be used to locate words in context, pages where the word is found, and the page where the child is reading.” P. 56.

Comment: Why didn’t I think of that? RayS.

Title: “Book Markers.” F L Anderson. The Reading Teacher (October 1974), 56.