Monday, April 30, 2012

Professional Writing 3

Chapter 14 of Teaching English, How To…. By Raymond Stopper (Xlibris, 2004).

Question: How did publishing my first article help me learn to write?

 Answer: One particular experience in publishing professionally helped me to formulate a method for revising that I recommend to my students. This particular experience was also quite funny, or at least it seems so now. It didn’t then.

 The Topic of My First Article: How to Read Professional Journals Quickly and Efficiently
The topic of my first published article was how to find time in a busy schedule to read professional journals. Professional journals are a most valuable source of useful ideas and teaching techniques. They shed light on important issues in teaching. However, as a teacher, I had little time for such reading, so I experimented and found a method that helped me gain the most from the limited time I could allow for reading professional materials. I learned early that much of the information in many professional articles was not worth my time, so I developed a method that helped me find quickly the main points of each article and just enough of the supporting details to answer my questions.

The Method I
First, I read the title, sub-title, the first paragraph and the last paragraph of the article. Usually, this brief minute or two of reading was enough to tell me whether the article was worth reading in more detail. If this brief exposure was enough information, I jotted a brief summary at the beginning of the article to help me remember its essential ideas and moved on to the next article.

The Method II
However, if I wanted to know more, or if I had questions to which I wanted answers, then I would read the first sentence of each intermediate paragraph between the first and last paragraphs. Reading the first sentence of each paragraph did not take long. It often gave me the details that I needed to answer my questions. If that information was enough, I summarized the article and moved on to the next article. Rarely did I read the entire article.

Summary of My Method
This technique helped me to sift through and identify the interesting ideas in lengthy articles quickly and efficiently. It enabled me to skim over lengthy explanations for which I had no time. In a short period of time, I found the main ideas and answered my questions about the details. This method worked for me. I was able to read through journals while waiting in doctors’ offices, during free periods, and for 15 minutes each night before going to bed, gathering valuable ideas about teaching.

My Method Applied in Workshops
I shared this technique with my teachers at the beginning of workshops. To gather background information on the topic of the workshop, they would read articles in professional journals dealing with that topic. They liked the technique. They almost always found articles they wanted to share and even articles that they asked to have copied so they could take them home. As a result, I decided to write an article on the technique and to submit to The Reading Teacher, a journal for reading specialists and elementary teachers.

Next Blog: What not to do when asking others what they think about your writing.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Professional Writing 2

Chapter 14 of Teaching English, How To…. By Raymond Stopper (Xlibris, 2004).

Question: why should teachers of writing also write?

Answer: I think that anyone who teaches writing should also write. At the very least, completing the students’ assignments can help the teacher anticipate difficulties with the assignment. On the other hand, I read recently the comments of a teacher who said he does not have time to write because he teaches. That alone occupies “48 hours a day.” I share this teacher’s feelings of being overwhelmed by too much to do when one teaches. But I still think any teacher of writing must also write in order to establish a feeling of shared learning with the students. And writing for publication has been a learning experience for this teacher of writing, who remains very humble when trying to teach others to write.

Next Blog: How did publishing my first article help me learn how to write?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Professional Writing I

Chapter 14 of Teaching English, How To…. By Raymond Stopper (Xlibris, 2004).

Question: What can teachers of writing learn from trying to publish professionally?

Answer: Writing professionally will teach teachers of writing that they are still learning to write. In this chapter, I suggest how to begin writing for professional journals.

I think teachers of writing should attempt to publish professionally.

From my first experience in submitting an article for publication. I learned humility. I learned what it feels like to be rejected. I gained a better understanding of the writing process. I developed empathy for my writing students. I became a sufferer along with my students in learning how to write. From publishing professionally, I learned that learning to write is a lifelong process, that every time I write, the situation is different and I learn to write all over again.

In attempting to write for publication, I learned that asking others to review my work can have a damaging effect on my ego and that I must insist on asking my reviewer not to make judgments on the quality of the writing, but to identify ideas that are not clear, advice that I have passed on to my students. Nonjudgmental responses have been most helpful to me in revising my articles for publication.

My second attempt at publishing professionally demonstrated to me the strange twists that the writing process can take.

Finally, I offer suggestions on how to begin publishing professionally.

Next Blog: Why Should Teachers of Writing Also Write?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Writing for Publication

Question: How can one learn how to write for publication successfully?

Answer: Review of a book entitled Writing for Successful Publication by Kenneth T. Henson. 1991. National Education Service and ERIC/RCS].

Quote: “Very early in their careers, American and Canadian university professors aspiring to promotion and tenure find out that achievement of these goals relates directly to the ability to publish. Those of us who survive in this ‘publish or perish’ world painfully learn through trial and error many of the techniques Kenneth Henson explains in Writing for Successful Publication.”

Quote: “The next few chapters discuss style, organization and the use of journals, libraries and surveys to create publishable articles. I read Chapter 7 twice, which enumerated the most common errors writers make while preparing material for journals. Reading this chapter was like looking in a mirror—he pointed out most of the errors I have made during the past in writing for publication.  Errors he called attention to included avoiding clichés, jargon, passive voice, and complex paragraphs.”

Quote: “There are several articles on my computer now that I thought were ready for publication. But, since reading this book, I think I had better go back and rewrite them, looking for any wordiness, jargon, and clichés. I want to make certain my titles are real ‘attention-getters’ (is that a cliché?) and heed the other suggestions Henson made, such as having a colleague critique the articles before submitting them to journals. …. My computer and I will be working late tonight! Thank you, Dr. Henson, for pointing me to the error of my ways (another cliché?) and giving writers a tool to become more productive.”

Comment: Chapter 14 of my book, Teaching English, How To…. (Xlibris 2004) is entitled “Professional Writing.” In it, I describe what I learned about publishing from my first article. In the next several blogs, I will reprint this chapter. RayS.

From a book review by Fay F. Bowen, Professor of Education, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois. Journal of Reading (April 1992), 606-607.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Critical Thinking

Question: What’s a first question a teacher interested in critical thinking must ask?

Answer/Quote: “Evaluating Critical Thinking [Stephen P. Norris and Robert H. Ennis. 1989. Midwest Publications] is based on the premise that educators interested in the development of critical thinking must themselves be thoughtful practitioners. Each teacher, for example, must first ask the question ‘What is critical thinking?’ before he or she can evaluate students’ thought processes.” P. 605.

Comment: Good question. I’m afraid I’m guilty of not asking it during my career as an educator. RayS.

From a book review by Ann Murray, Learning Society Inc., Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Journal of Reading (April 1992), 605.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Student Self-Perception of Learning Ability

Question: What are some questions that will help students define themselves as learners?

> “What are your perceptions of yourself as a learner? Describe your strengths and weaknesses.”

> “What are other people’s (parents, friends, teachers) perceptions of you as a student?”

>. “In the past, how have you performed as a students? Think back through preschool, elementary, high school, and previous college experiences.”

> “Were there any substantive changes in your pattern of academic performance through the years? When and to what do you attribute these changes?”

> “In what subjects do you typically perform best and worst? Why do you think this is so?”

>. “What interests you most about school settings and the process of learning? What interests you least?”

> “What is your normal method for reading and studying? Where do you think there is room for improvement?”

> “How do you handle boredom in class? Whose responsibility is it to make the class interesting? Why?”

> “Is there a significant person who has helped shape your attitude or interest in learning? If so, who and how?”

> “When you think of school and learning, how do you feel? Use specific adjectives if they come to mind.”

Comment: Some of these questions could produce significant insights into the learner’s personality and habits and attitudes toward learning. I wish I had been asked to complete such questions when I was a learner. I might have found some productive changes in my methods of reading, writing and study. RayS.

Title: “Using Writing to Explore Academic Self-Perceptions.” HA Spires. Journal of Reading (April 1992), 582-583.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Basic Comprehension Strategies

Question: What is required for teachers to learn a new comprehension strategy?

Answer/Quote: “During the first year of…program operation, we learned that it is unrealistic to expect teachers to master many comprehensive instructional strategies and be able to use them in even a routine manner in the classroom. We found ourselves agreeing with Joyce and Showers, who state that training teachers to master even a relatively simple instructional strategy will probably take as much as 20 to 30 hours of studying the theory and research literature, at least 15 to 20 times observing the strategy being modeled using different types of learners and various content material and 10 to 15 times practicing the strategy with peers or small groups of students while being guided or coached (Joyce and Showers, 1982).”

“Therefore, we chose only two basic comprehension strategies that had a strong research and theoretical base, Russell Stauffer’s Directed Reading-Thinking Strategy or DR-TA (Stauffer. 1960) and Donna Ogle’s Know-Want to Know-Learn strategy or K-W-L (Ogle 1986).”  P. 506.

Comment: The article does not really explain these two strategies. Stauffer’s DR-TA includes surveying the textbook chapter by reading the title and sub-titles, reading the first and last paragraphs, and reading the first sentence of each intermediate paragraph, discussing what has been learned and then raising questions about what the readers want to know.

The K-W-L method has the students completing three columns on a sheet of paper: What the student knows already about the topic, wants to know about the topic, and, after reading, what has been learned about the topic.

Although the sequence of learning the strategy is thorough, teachers are not dumb. They will undoubtedly learn to use the strategies at different speeds and with different needs with regard to practice. RayS.

Title: “CCD: A Model Comprehension Program for Changing Thinking and Instruction.” JE George, P Moley and DS Ogle. Journal of Reading (April 1992), 564-570.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Facilitating Change in Teaching

Question: How can principals, supervisors change teachers’ methods?

 Answer/Quote: “… curriculum coordinators, principals,  and supervisors should consider developing a library of model lessons on videotape for viewing.”

“Establishment of a Professional Library. Professional books, research reports, methods texts, monographs, journals and other informational materials in the area of literacy should be available for staff to examine.” P. 561.

Comment: Videotaping model lessons sounds easy. Just turn on the videotape camera in the classroom. Right? Wrong. These lessons need to be planned both by the teacher involved and by the videotaper. Nothing is more uninteresting than simply turning on the camera in a classroom, except, perhaps for talking heads. Commentary also needs to be recorded, either after-the fact or during the recording. Viewing the tapes also needs to be planned, for. Discussion needs to follow the viewing, together with re-viewable scenarios. RayS.

Title: “Facilitating Change in School Literacy: From State Initiatives to District Implementation.” WA Henk and JC Moore. Journal of Reading (April 1992), 558-562.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

English as a Second Language

Question: Why are newspapers sometimes difficult to read for immigrants whose native language is not English?

Answer/Quote: “For recent immigrants to a country or for readers with limited education, making sense of newspaper stories can often be arduous. Journalists often assume a bank of knowledge and experience that is absent among many readers. Lack of prior knowledge about cultural conventions and events as well as absence of concepts, some of which are most often learned in conventional school curriculums, make reading the news quite difficult for those with limited formal education, even when their decoding skills are well developed.” P. 557.

 “…suggests that adult learners become familiarized with strategies for compensating for an incomplete or incorrect knowledge base. One such strategy might be asking for help. ‘It is vital to assure students that it is permissible not to know, and that in such instances it is desirable to ask.” P, 557.

 Comment: FYI. RayS.

Title: “Beyond JR: Research from Elsewhere. Filling in the Gaps: Prior Knowledge and the Comprehension of News Articles.” Jeanne Shay Schumm. From O. Grebelsky (1990). “What’s New in the News?” Comprehension of the News among Adults with Limited Formal Education,” Jerusalem, Israel: The Martin Buber Institute for Adult Education of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.” Journal of Reading (April  1992), 557.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Teaching Students How to Write

Question: What are two methods for teaching students how to write?

Answer/Quote: “Nystrand (1990) suggests another way to support students’ development as writers, that is, by heightening their awareness of the experiences of other writers. We can do this by sharing with them experiences of practicing writers and by modeling for them our own composing processes.” P. 553.

Comment: Put quotes by writers about how they write on the classroom bulletin board. Many books exist about writers and how they write, The Paris Review Interviews, for example. Here are some quotes from writers about writing:

“I don’t think writer’s block is anything more than a loss of confidence.” William Maxwell in Plimpton, ed., The Writer’s Chapbook.

“Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

“Clutter is the disease of American writing…. A society strangling on unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

“Our national tendency is to inflate and thereby sound important.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

“Unity is the anchor of good writing.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

“Short paragraphs put air around what you write and make it look inviting, whereas one long chunk of type can discourage the reader from even starting to read.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

“One thing I found out early in the game was that there was no way I could simply walk up to that room after breakfast, think of something to write about and then just spit it out in four or five hours…. …had to settle on an idea a week or so in advance and let it stew for a while.” Browning, Notes from Turtle Creek.

“So many people have talked out to me books they would otherwise have written; once you have talked, the act of communication has been made.” Angus Wilson. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

“I have collected enough rejection slips for my short stories to paper four or five good-sized rooms. Ann Petry. Hull, ed., The Writer’s Book.

“It is…important not to let the vigilant censor within freeze everything…that sudden stoppage due to the lack of the right word.” Jacques Barzun. Hull, ed., The Writer’s Book.

“Dictated sentences tend to be pompous sloppy and redundant.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

“The reader is a person with an attention span of about twenty seconds…assailed on every side by forces for his time by newspapers and magazines, by television and radio and stereo, by his wife and children and pets, by his house and yard and all the gadgets that he has bought to keep them spruce, and by that most potent of competitors, sleep. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

“You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.” Hemingway. Plimpton, ed., The Writer’s Chapbook.

“Spencer…defined writing style as that which requires the least effort of understanding.” Will Duran. The Story of Philosophy. Herbert Spencer.

Another valuable source for quotes about writing is the magazine The Writer. RayS.

Title: “Changing Perspectives in Writing Instruction.” N. Farnan, D Lapp, and J Flood. Journal of Reading (April 1992),550-556.

Friday, April 13, 2012


Question: How is change managed in schools?

Answer/Quote: “Traditionally efforts to infuse change into the schools have begun as top-down mandates from administrators with little buy-in from teachers. University professors have reinforced this model of change by acting as ‘gurus from afar.’ They typically present theoretical information or quick fixes in one-shot inservices, seldom staying around long enough to support implementation or facilitate collaboration.” P. 536.

 Comment: In my experience, this describes accurately my experience as a teacher and change in schools. RayS.

Title: “Viewing Innovations Through the Efficacy-based Change Model: A Whole Language Application.” MM Ohlhausen, MJ Meyerson and T Sexton. Journal of Reading (April 1992), 536-541.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Writing Practice

Question: How can teachers help students develop the writing habit, recognize common grammatical problems and understand formal English?

Ten-Minuute Essays and Common Grammar Problems
I had five classes a day when I was teaching high school English. For three weeks, I had students write for ten minutes at the beginning of class on a topic of their own choosing that I called “ten-minute essays.” This ten-minute essay was just for one class for three weeks. At night I took the first class’s ten minute essays home and corrected—meaning truly corrected: if the spelling was wrong, I corrected it by writing the correct spelling for the word. If the sentence was a run-on, I rewrote the sentence so that the sentence was complete. If the student used poor parallel structure, I made the sentence parallel, etc.

 The next day, students read over my corrections and, outside of class, they rewrote my corrected ten-minute essays. The reward was one point of extra credit for the quarter. Then, for the next three weeks I moved on to the second class and so on until every class had had the experience of writing for ten minutes a day for three weeks and I had the opportunity to write in the corrections for basic grammar problems. The value? Formation of the writing habit, correction of predictable grammar problems.

Ten-Minute Essays and Demonstrating Formal English
During the next set of three-week ten-minute essays, I corrected the writing to include formal, standard English, so that students understood what I meant by formal English. No use of “there” to begin sentences, no needless repetition of words, eliminating “get” and all its forms, providing clear references for the demonstrative pronouns, use of the active voice, etc.

Ten-minute Journals
During the time that the students were not involved in corrected ten-minute essays, I had students write in a journal for ten minutes at the beginning of class. The topics were up to them. I collected samples of the 10-minute journal essays periodically, simply read them, and noted the kinds of problems in writing that they were demonstrating for mini-lessons. Again, the value was developing the writing habit.

Comment: It’s always helpful to have students begin the class with an activity like the ten-minute essay. RayS.

Suggested by “What Sixth Graders Learn from the Journal of Bobby G.” GS Bernabei. English Journal (September 1992) 78-80.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Literature Discussion with Full Participation IV

Question: What is one way for the English teacher to organize a discussion of literary works?

Summary of How to Organize Literary Discussions for Full Participation
Based on my experience in working with students, I had to make several modifications to the Great Books discussion technique. I introduced the students to the literary work in an attempt to motivate them to read it, and the students, not the discussion leaders, posed questions about what they did not understand.

Raising questions about poems and previewing short stories and novels to raise questions in class virtually assured that all students had been exposed to the literary work. Since many of the students participated in raising the questions, they also become involved in the discussion

The activities that lead to full participation in literary discussions are students’ speculating about the puzzling meaning of poems, short stories and novels and by my asking the questions, ‘What do you know?’ and ‘What don’t you understand?’

Following students’ discussion of what they do not understand, teacher and text book questions might be introduced, and, if available, literary criticism can be read to compare students’ and professional critics’ interpretation.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Literature Discussions with Full Participation III

Question: How can you be sure that students read the assigned work?

How to Make Sure the Students Read the Literary Work
In my classes, no matter how the literature program is organized, when discussion of a literary work is called for, the students pose questions about what they do not understand and these questions are the focus of the discussion. Poems are usually short enough—and puzzling enough—that no preview is needed to generate questions. With short stories and novels, students’ previews lead to students’ question and students’ involvement in the discussion.

How to Preview Short Stories
The students read one paragraph a page or column. When they finish reading one paragraph a page or a column, they will have plenty of questions. First, I ask them what they have learned from their one-paragraph-per-page or column preview and then I ask them what they want to know, their questions. I record the questions on the board by using key words. I re-organize the questions according to questions of fact, interpretation and judgment. And now the students read to answer the questions.

How to Preview Novels
The students read for ten minutes somewhere in the beginning of the novel, summarize what they have read and raise questions to which they want answers. Since they have read different pages near the beginning, their summaries will be somewhat different. I put key words for the questions on the board.

Next, they read in the middle of the novel, starting on different pages near the middle. Again, they read for ten minutes, summarize and raise questions. I add key words to the questions already asked.

This time, they read three-fourths through the novel for ten minutes, summarize and raise questions.

Finally, they read near the end, but not the end, summarize and again raise questions. I arrange the questions in the following manner: questions of fact, interpretation and judgment.

The students gain a knowledge of the author’s style. Oddly, sampling as they have, they do not have a clear understanding of the plot. In fact, they raise more questions than answers as a result of the sampling. Try it. It works.

Next Blog: Starting Literary Discussions with Students’ Questions

Friday, April 6, 2012

Literature Discussions with Full Participation II

Question: What is the Great Books Method of ‘Shared Inquiry’?

The Great Books Foundation’s ‘Shared Inquiry’
I encountered the model for good literary discussions when I took the Great Books training course. It changed forever the way I organized discussions. The key to good discussions, according to Great Books, was the requirement that the group leaders, in formulating the questions, could ask only questions about which they themselves had some element of doubt as to the answer. The Great Books Foundation calls its discussion technique ‘Shared Inquiry,’ because everyone, even the leaders, shares in the discussion.

However, the Great Books program requires discussion leaders, not the students, to formulate the questions and insists that the literary work should have no introduction, that the students should just begin to read without any preparation. I disagreed with both restrictions. Therefore, I have used their technique with some modification, and it worked for me.

Next Blog: Making Sure that Students Read the Assigned Work.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Literature Discussions with Full Participation I

Question: What is one way for the English teacher to organize a discussion of literary works?

Summary: In my classroom, discussions of literature begin with the question, ‘What do we know?’ followed by the question, ‘What don’t we understand?’ Students raise questions about the meaning of what they have read. I focus the discussions on what the students do not understand. Discussions organized in this way invite full participation.

A Discussion That Wasn’t
One scene in the movie Peggy Sue Got Married shows an English teacher sitting behind his desk engaging in a ‘discussion’ with a single student who disagrees with the teacher’s point of view about Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. While the student and teacher continue to disagree with each other, all the other students look completely bored or are idly doodling. Finally, the bell rings and the teacher says, ‘We’ll continue this discussion tomorrow. And, oh, yes, don’t forget to begin reading The Great Gatsby. Enjoy.’ The latter is called out to the backs of the departing students.

Too many of the literary discussions in my memory were like the one in Peggy Sue Got Married—the ones in which I participated or in which I didn’t participate as a student, the ones I directed as a teacher and the ones I observed as language arts supervisor.

In contrast, I have learned that a good literary discussion, a discussion involving many members of the class, begins with students’ questions about what they do not understand—not the teacher’s and not the textbook’s.

Next Blog: The Great Books technique for discussing literary works.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Literature Discussions

Question: What happens when students initiate the questions and carry out the discussions of literary works?

> “Literature can be understood in different ways.”

> “It is valuable to hear what others think and to consider various possibilities before reading a final determination of what the piece says to you. Understandings are not complete when the reading is finished.”

> “Literature is real: the problems and issues discussed in class relate to problems and issues that people experience in real life.”

> “Literature discussions are an arena for sharing and testing ideas without fear of being attacked for having an opinion that differs from those of others.”

> “Thinking deeply about reading and sharing that thinking is an expected part of the class.”

> “Ideas of all class members are valuable.” P. 65.

Quote: “Allowing students the opportunity to develop and discuss their own questions and to dominate the discussion can be very frightening for the teacher. I worried about losing control and about not covering the ‘important’ areas of the curriculum. What I discovered was that the students could be trusted to ask important questions, to address the important issues seriously in the literature, and to listen and learn from one another.” P. 71.

Comment: A chapter in my book, Teaching English, How To…. (Xlibris 2004) describes how and why I initiated discussions based on students’ questions. I will take the next several blogs to share excerpts from that chapter. RayS.

Title: “Literature Discussion: A Classroom Environment for Thinking and Sharing.” Elizabeth Egan Close. English Journal (September 1992), 65-71.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Introducing a Novel

Problem: “The problem is one commonly faced by literature teachers: not only how to introduce a longer work of fiction that students will read in common but also how to engage them in reading.”

One Solution: “Here is what happened when, on impulse, I presented my students directly with the opening line of William Armstrong’s Sounder (1969, New York: Harper). The eighteen students, who had no books in hand, were arranged in a circle, with me seated among them, holding a paperback copy of the book. From it, I read aloud (three times) the first sentence: ‘The tall man stood at the edge of the porch.’ ” [From just this first sentence, here are the students’ questions:

How old is the man?

How tall is he?

Why is he standing on the porch?

Why stand on the edge of the porch?

Why not be sitting, instead of standing?

What is the man’s name?

What is the man’s race?

What does the porch look like?

Is it the front or back porch?

What is the porch attached to—house, trailer, or what?

Whose porch is it?

What is the man wearing?

How long has he been standing?

What is he looking at?

What else is on the porch, like furniture?

How is the man standing—slouched, straight, or what?

What season is it?

What is the time of day?

Is he alone, or are there people with him? P. 62.

The author, having engaged the students with the first line, followed with the rest of the first paragraph and again elicited questions. The students read to answer the questions.

Comment: Good method for motivating students to read. I have another tried-and-true method of previewing a long novel. The students read for ten minutes somewhere in the beginning of the novel, summarize what they have read and raise questions to which they want answers. Since they have read different pages near the beginning, their summaries will be somewhat different. I put key words for the questions on the board.

Next, they read in the middle of the novel, starting on different pages near the middle. Again, they read for ten minutes, summarize and raise questions. I add key words to the questions already asked.

This time, they read three-fourths through the novel for ten minutes, summarize and raise questions.

Finally, they read near the end, but not the end, summarize and again raise questions. I arrange the questions in the following manner: questions of fact, interpretation and judgment.

The students gain a knowledge of the author’s style. Oddly, sampling as they have, they do not have a clear understanding of the plot. In fact, they raise more questions than answers as a result of the sampling. Try it. It works. RayS.

Title: “Student-Made Questions: One Way into a Literary Text.” Barbara Hoetker Ash. English Journal (September 1992), 61-64.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Question: What can we change as teachers?

> “We can change our practice. Start fresh…. Throw out the plans from years past, both the ones that didn’t work and also—especially—the ones that worked beautifully….”

> “We can be conscious of our practice. Writing a teaching journal…has been a wonderful experience for me. It allows me to respond to what I’m wondering about….”

> “We can expose ourselves to difference. That’s what we do when we go to conferences or read professional journals….”

> “We can free ourselves of the obligation always to be right.”

> “We can keep moving and practice keeping quiet. We are so used to the telling mode of instruction that we forget our own advice to writing students: ‘Don’t tell me, show me!’ April [a student] fives related advice in this final comment:

I think the teacher should know about the authors and the basics of the unit, but as far as interpretation goes, that’s a different story. All people interpret things differently and most of the fun of it is learning how others perceive something. Sometimes teaching means listening.  P. 60.

Comment: Some fundamentally sound advice on changing our approach to teaching. These principles of teaching are on my wall. RayS.

Title: “Literature and Teaching: Getting Our Knowledge into Our Bones.” Bill Martin. English Journal (September 1992), 56-60.