Tuesday, July 31, 2007

College English. July 2007.

Some ideas of interest to RayS. from College English, July 2007, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Scale of the value of each idea to RayS.

* Not much interest
** Some interest. I'll think about it.
*** Great interest.

What do we know about ghostwriting?
The author of this article on ghostwriting begins wih an anecdote concerning Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who, in 2003, criticized his colleagues for having their campaign biographies ghostwritten while he, Kucinich, had written his own. Kucinich concluded by asking, "Who's the President?" when the President's words are not his.

A mildly interesting article about the degree to which politicians, celebrities, institutions and even immigrants use the practice of ghostwriting. The author discusses methods of ghostwriting and ethical concerns and gives other details about the practice. A useful and up-to-date description of a practice that exists throughout America. D Brant. CE (Jul. 07), 549-571. **

What is the attitude of students in the Bible Belt toward writing?
Author taught five years in the Bible Belt and soon learned that her student writers had one goal--not to discuss, but to convert--their readers to their view of Christianity. The teacher was concerned because these students did not learn to adapt their writing to readers who disagreed with them. S. Carter. CE (Jul. 07), 572-595. **

What is the focus of today's college admission essays?
College admission essays have been encouraged to be relaxed and confessional. A Vidali. CE (Jul. 07), 615. **

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

English Journal. July 2007.

Some ideas on teaching English from the English Journal, 2007, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Theme is urban education.

Scale of the value of each idea to me, RayS.
*Not much interest.
**Some interest. I'll think about it.
***Very much interested. I'd try it.

Teaching. What can we learn from reflecting on our teaching?
"I began to smile in class. Instead of asking what was wrong with the students, I began reflecting on what was weak in my practice." A Mazur. EJ (Jul. 07), 15. (**) [If I were still teaching, I would probably keep a journal in which I would reflect on my teaching. RayS.]

Technique. How respond to literature?
Students completed research studies on the theme ("outcasts") of The Scarlet Letter while reading the novel. They researched the theme directly as a concept and experience, not as it is reflected in the novel. S Whitaker. EJ (Jul. 07), p. 16-18. (**)

Attitudes. What attitudes will be helpful to urban teachers?
Urban teachers must be optimistic always, resilient, forgiving of past mistakes. K Marquez-Zenkov and JA Harmon. EJ (Jul. 07), 29. (**) [It's good to be reminded. RayS. ]

Technique. What is one technique for gaining the confidence of students?
Teacher agrees to let students teach him rap and they agree to learn Chaucer and then decide how the two are related. TL Lynch. EJ (Jul. 07), 43-49. (***) [Would take some serious planning, but sounds intriguing. RayS. ]

Technique. How approach the teaching of Shakespeare?
Introduce the film of Shakespeare's play and compare with the text of Shakespeare's play; then students direct and create their own films of Shakespeare's scenes. J Bucolo. EJ (Jul. 07), 50-55. (**)

Technique. How can checklists be used in teaching?
'We need to teach so well that students no longer need help with what we have taught. Well-designed, operational checklists are an effective tool to help us do that." "Did you remember to...?" "Checklists are tangible reminders of how to approach a particular task...can internalize new processes in reading and writing...." Put the checklists around the room, reminding students how to complete reading and writing processes and assignments successfully. KD Rowlands. EJ (Jul. 07), 62. (***) [Why didn't I think of that? RayS. ]

Grading. What is your philosophy of grading?
Some questions about grading: 1. Grades should/should not reflect behavior, effort, citizenship or time management; 2. The role of final grades is/is not to teach students responsibility; 3. Teachers should/should not adjust students' grades based on cognitive ability, giftedness, work habits, or second language background; 4. A final grade is/is not an accurate reflection of achievement; 5. Students should/should not repeatedly revise a project or essay until they meet the high standards of excellence set for it. No right or wrong answers to these questions. Purpose of the questions is to help teachers think about the issue of grades and what they mean. R VanDerWeighe. EJ (Jul. 07), p. 74. (***) [Made me think about my own grading principles. RayS.]

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Language Arts. July 2007.

Some ideas from Language Arts. July 2007. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), focused on elementary education.

How use technology in education effectively?
Using technology in the same way books and paper are used is not using technology. L Crafton, et al. LA (Jul. 07), 517.

How write historical fiction?
Don Brown on writing historical fiction: it wasn't the research that did it. The story had to be entirely invented. D. Brown. LA (Jul. 07), 551.

What is wrong with bilingual education?
"Several states, including California, Massachusetts and Arizona, have sought to dismantle bilingual education. Such xenophobic policies try to force a one-size-fits-all pedagogy and curriculum on all students, regardless of cultural/ linguistic/ immigrant background." L Elk and E Garza. LA (Jul. 07), 561.

Tributes to Donald Murray:

Why should teachers exchange cultures with their students?
"Near the end of his career, Donald Murray offered to exchange cultural events with his students. He would pick out a cultural event for his students (Beaux Art Trio). They would pick out a cultural event for him [REM concert]--he remembers clouds of marijuana smoke. Thomas Newkirk concludes: "I'm not sure what effect it had on his students, but I suspect that his willingness to be open to their culture made them more ready to be open to his." T Newkirk. LA (Jul. 07), 547.

What did Donald Murray mean by the "writing process"?
"Don [Murray], Tom Newkirk and I [Donald H. Graves] began writing about the process of writing in the late 1970s. We proposed that in the beginning of any piece of writing, it is best to relax, don't edit too quickly, and then push through drafts to get to the other side." DH Graves. LA (Jul. 07), 562.

What can we learn about teaching writing and learning to write from Donald Murray?
"He [Donald Murray] treated us as peers. After all, as his column attests, he was still a student of writing himself--and learning about himself--right to the end." R Winslow. Wall Street Journal. LA (Jul. 07), 563.

English Education. July 2007.

Some ideas from English Education, July 2007, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

What is the theme of this issue of English Education?
This issue of English Education is devoted to articles on using narrative or stories in educational research. D Schaafsma and R Vinz. EngEd (Jul. 07), 277-281.

What are the traditional dimensions of scholarly research to be included also in research involving narratives and stories?
Review of relevant literature and discussion of methodology. D Schaafsma, et al. EngEd (Jul. 07), 282.

What are some questions about using narratives or stories in educational research?
"How much narrating versus theorizing? How much showing versus telling? How much authorial presence versus straight reporting? .... What allows a story to be accepted as research? What...gives it credibility?" S Perl, et al. EngEd (Jul. 07), 306.

What are some conclusions to be drawn from these articles on using narratives or stories in educational research?
The use of narratives and stories in educational research leads to problems in interpretation, but keeps the conversation going. E Gordon, et al. EngEd (Jul. 07), 350.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Reading Research Quarterly. July/August/September 2007

Some ideas from Reading Research Quarterly (RRQ) for July/August/September 2007.

How has research changed from the 1990s to the 2000s?
From an emphasis on quantitative results to qualitative results. M Dressman. RRQ (Jul/Aug/Sept, 07), 332.

How did schools in impoverished areas of South Africa become successful?
They were safe, orderly and positive learning environments, guided by strong leaders, staffed by excellent teachers who had a shared sense of competence, pride and purpose. There were high levels of school and community involvement. Some issues were class size, the quality of replacement teachers, the future of their graduates and writing instruction. M Sailors, et al. RRQ (Jul/Aug/Sept, 07), p. 365.

What is the relationship between the author of a text and environment in which it is made?
Complex. J Rowsell & K Pahl. RRQ (Jul/Aug/Sept 07), 402.

Note: One of the reasons that research in education is not very helpful is the language in which it is reported. A good example is the following article in this issue of RRQ: "Sedimented identities in Texts: Instances of Practice." What does "sedimented identities" mean? According to the authors: "We suggest that children's identities can be instantiated within texts, a concept we call sedimented identities in texts." (J Rowsell and K Pahl, p. 388.)

Ever heard of a movement called "plain English"? Maybe the ideas in this issue of RRQ mean something to you. They mean very little to me. I don't know how many trees lost their lives to produce this issue, but I don't think it was a worthwhile sacrifice.

I'm changing the format of my reports from recent professional journals in English education to Q & A. Hope they are more readable. I find lots of good ideas in these journals. I define an "idea" as something to think about, meditate on, reflect on, raise questions about, infer from, try to apply. They are "starters." They start people to thinking. Normally, I don't comment on the ideas I report because Somewhere I read that ideas last; comments are quickly forgotten. Any comments I make will come at the end of my report where you do not have to read them. RayS.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

College Composition and Communication. June 2007.

The following ideas have been selected from the NCTE journal College Composition and Communication, June 2007.

What is the future of "English Zero" or noncredit freshman English for students whose writing skills are substandard for college level work? DH Holdstein. CCC (Jun. 07), p. 550. [The editor is asking the question in preparation for an article in the journal.]

Can skills in freshman writing courses in English be applied to other subject areas? It is assumed that first-year college writing courses can teach students writing skills that will cross disciplines in spite of our own research that writing skills in different disciplines are substantively different and that students will not transfer them anyway. D Downs & E Wardle. CCC (Jun. 07), 552-553.

Can teaching writing in English be transferred to other college courses like engineering? "What constitutes clarity or forcefulness for a scholar in English is simply different--in kind, not just degree--from what constitutes these qualities in engineering." D Downs & E Wardle. CCC (Jun. 07), 579.

What should be taught in first-year college writing courses? We need to change the focus in teaching writing in college from teaching writing for college to studying the nature of writing, period. D Downs and E Wardle. CCC (Jun. 07), 553.

In subjects other than English, what is the role of content in writing? We need to challenge the assumption that academic writing is "universal" and that writing can be taught independent of content. D Downs & E Wardle. CCC (Jun. 07), 554.

What should be taught in first-year college writing courses? Suggests that the first-year writing course study writing, the nature of writing, in different situations. In other words, "writing about writing." D Downs & E Wardle. CCC (Jun. 07), 558.

In the first-year writing course, students read about research in writing, especially problems that the students experience first hand. D Downs & E Wardle. CCC (Jun. 07), 560.

Students conduct research on writing as part of the first-year writing course. Examples of questions: Do college freshmen and seniors use rhetorical strategies at all or in similar ways? How useful is Microsoft Word's grammar checker? What makes a classic literary work a "classic"? What makes an effective business plan? What kinds of writing will a social work major encounter in his career? Is writing taught in medical school? Should it be, and if so, how? D Downs and E Wardle. CCC (Jun. 07), 562.

What are some writing projects? Author developed an oral history project--and used other artifacts--to study the history of a local school in Brooklyn, NY. D Mutnick. CCC (Jun. 07), 626-647.

To what extent should college teachers comment on politics in courses unrelated to those issues? "As students to students," the SAF advises, "If you are not taking a course whose subject is the war in Iraq, your professor should not be making statements about the war in class. Or about George Bush, if the class is not on contemporary American Presidents, presidential administrations or some similar subject." M K Powers & C Chaput. CCC (Jun. 07), 663.

When should the subject of politics come up in college writing courses? Topics that would appear to be political in nature must be allowed to be dealt with in a writing course as students struggle with thinking through controversial issues in learning to write. MK Powers & C Chaput. CCC (Jun. 07), 677.

Should teachers read the books they assign to students? "I always assign at least one book that I haven't already read. It helps to keep me interested in what I'm doing." V Villanueva. CCC (Jun. 07), 721.

Monday, July 9, 2007

English Updates. The Writer. August 2007.

Writing..... Character..... Think about your "bench marks," events that were significant in your life. Then think of the benchmarks in the lives of your characters. E Abbe. Wrt (Aug. 07), 6.

Writing..... Reading..... "Lincoln wrote constantly, and he learned to write by reading. Books were scarce during Lincoln's childhood, but when he got his hands on one, he devoured it, copying out passages by hand and memorizing them." C Leddy. Wrt (Aug. 07), 9.

Writing..... Notes..... "As President, Lincoln wrote notes whenever an important thought crossed his mind. He would then place his notes under his trademark stovepipe hat. At day's end, he'd empty his hat and craft those notes into something more substantial, passages he might later use in a speech or letter." C Leddy. Wrt (Aug. 07), 9.

Writing..... Query..... "What are agents looking for in a query letter? All agents want to see well-written queries, and the rules are straightforward. Use perfect grammar and spelling, be brief.... You will be judged on writing expertise, marketing potential..." L Smith. Wrt. (Aug. 07), 8.

Writing..... Query..... "Try to make a personal connection in your opening paragraph to the agent or editor." L Smith. Wrt. (Aug. 07), 8.

Writing..... Dialogue..... "The sleight of hand here is to create dialogue that sounds lifelike without that often meandering tack of real-life conversation. It must achieve two goals at once: to help paint a vivid portrait of the character, and to move the story along." E Goudge. Wrt. (Aug. 07), 13.

Writing..... Vocabulary..... Include a brief glossary in a sidebar if you need to include technical terms in your article. A Plotnik. Wrt (Aug. 07), 15.

Writing..... Advice..... "I'd advise people [who are beginning writers] to consider getting a job where writing is the job." T Perrotta. Wrt. (Aug. 07), 66.

Wrt = The Writer.