Monday, November 30, 2009

Topic: Literacy Leaders

10-second review: What is a literacy leader? people who believe that reading is a joyful activity that enriches lives. They continue to grow in their own reading.

Title: “Teachers as Literacy Leaders.” JD Turner, et al. Reading Teacher (November 2009), 254-256. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Quote: “Literacy leaders seek to challenge their students to think deeply about what they read, for the depth of their thinking is the pathway to intellectual growth.”

Comment: Reading is thinking. Teachers must use reading to stimulate their own thought. And they must convey that same spirit to their students. It is not enough to read. You have to think and reflect on what you read. Unless teachers can convey that spirit to their students, students will never love reading. Reading is ideas. Reflecting and thinking about those ideas will keep students reading. RayS.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Topic: Mathematics Vocabulary.

10-second review: Many words in mathematics have a general meaning, but also a math-specific meaning. Teachers need to focus on the meaning in math of these words. Examples of such words follow.

Title: “Designing Vocabulary Instruction in Mathematics.” Me Pierce and LM Fontaine. Reading Teacher (November 2009), 239-243. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Examples of words with general meanings and more specific meanings in math: key, pattern, rule, another way, area, shade, true, belongs, foot/feet, kind, match, model, order, problem, result, ruler, table.

The complete article provides a chart with the general meaning and the math-specific meaning of each of these words.

Comment: Don’t assume students know how to apply these words in math. RayS.

Note: Blog will resume on Monday, November 30, 2009.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Topic: Vocabulary.

10-second review: A technique for teaching vocabulary.

Title: “Using Lemony Snicket to Bring Smiles to Your Vocabulary Lessons.” LM Arter and AP Nilsen. Reading Teacher (November 2009), 235-238. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary/Quote: “Rather than restricting the study of vocabulary to 20 minutes on Mondays (when you pass out the list) and 20 minutes on Fridays (when you give the quiz), stop whatever you are doing and give a vocabulary mini-lesson whenever an interesting word comes up.” p. 238.

Summary/Quote: “Extend such lessons by teaching the word and its relatives, because the meanings of related words will reinforce students’ learning and memories.” p. 238.

Comment: Example: ego, egotist, egotistical, egoist, egomaniac, egomaniacal, alter ego, etc. Teaching the word’s relatives is a good idea. So is pre-teaching unfamiliar vocabulary before the students read and having the students collect 3 x 5 index cards with the word and its pronunciation (if needed) on one side and a brief one-, two-, or three-word meaning on the other side. The briefer the meaning, the more easily students will remember the meaning of the word. Frequent review of these cards is important. RayS.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Topic: Unusual Orthographic Features of Writing.

10-second review: Point out to students how authors use unusual orthographic features to convey meaning.

Title: “ ‘We-e-el-l’ or ‘We’ll’: Children Negotiating Orthographic Features of A Letter to Amy.” P Arya, P Wilson, P Martens. Reading Teacher (November 2009), 224-233. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary/Quote: “This study shows that orthographic features of text, including spelling, line breaks, fonts, and so forth, influence readers’ comprehending but…not necessarily comprehension.”

Comment: The authors make the point that we do a lot of things—gestures, etc.—when we speak to convey feelings but we are limited in conveying the same feelings in writing. Such orthographic tricks certainly contribute to comprehension. RayS.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Topic: Parent, Child and Reflections on Learning to Read.

10-second review: Parent discusses her experiences in reading with her child who is having difficulty in reading.

Title: “Parents and Children and Reflecting Together: The possibilities of Family Retrospective Miscue Analysis.” B Kabuto. Reading Teacher (November 2009), 212-221. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary: The mother remembers when she discovered that she did not have to read every single word in order to understand what she was reading. Yet she was expecting her child to read every word. The mother then began to realize that every miscue is not destructive of comprehension. An example of what can happen when parents reflect on how they learned to read, giving insight into what to expect when the child reads.

Comment: Another reason for not insisting on slavish word-by-word reading. but, most valuable for me is parents’ reflecting on how they learned to read and thus beginning to understand how learning to read looks to their children. RayS.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Topic: Read-alouds and Vocabulary

10-second review: Prepare for reading aloud in order to increase students’ vocabulary.

Title: “Vocabulary Development During Read-Alouds: Primary Practices.” K J Kindle. Reading Teacher (November 2009), 202-211. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary: Pick out the words in the story that are likely to be unfamiliar to students and crucial to the meaning of the story. Decide how to deal with these words when you encounter them as you read. Some strategies: questioning, providing a definition, providing a synonym, providing examples, clarifying or correcting students’ responses, extending a student-generated definition, labeling (connecting the word with a picture in the book).

Comment: Makes sense to prepare for reading aloud by selecting the important unfamiliar words from the story and deciding how best to deal with them when you encounter them. RayS.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Topic: Good Teachers

10-second review: Lorenza Lara is the Secondary Literacy Coordinator for the Denver (Colorado) Public Schools, with 16 high schools and 16 middle schools. She suggests one characteristic of a good teacher.

Title: “Literacy Instruction for Adolescent English Learners: An Interview with Lorenza Lara.” David W. Moore. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2009), 173-175.

Quote. Lorenza Lara: “I believe that educators who continually question the effectiveness of what they are doing in the classroom are the ones who eventually become master teachers. They are the ones who continually look for answers to complex questions through investigation and evaluation. They are the educators who see teaching and learning as a lifetime commitment.” p. 175.

Comment; One of my regrets as a retired language arts supervisor was my failing to encourage teachers to engage in action research. RayS.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Topic: Using Literature Circles with Science Textbooks.

10-second review: Students in each group were assigned to one of four roles: Discussion Director. Summarizer. Vocabulary Enricher. Webmaster [The “Web” does not refer to the Internet, but to constructing a graphic organizer].

Title: “Textmasters: Bringing Literature Circles to Textbook Reading Across the Curriculum.” LG Wilfong. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2009), 164 – 171. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Description of roles:

Discussion Director: Develop list of questions about this part of the book.

Summarizer: Prepare brief summary of today’s reading.

Vocabulary Enricher: Look for a few especially important unfamiliar and puzzling words.

Webmaster: Make a graphic organizer of all of today’s information.

Each group prepares a presentation to teach their classmates what they have learned.

Comment: Interesting approach to content area reading. RayS.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Topic: One-on-One Tutoring Using Video Conferencing.

Topic: One-on-One Tutoring Using Video Conferencing.

10-second review: The tutors were pre-service teacher trainees. They focused on fluency training and used Young Adult Literature.

Title: “Delivering One-to-One Tutoring in Literacy Via Videoconferencing.” TT Houge and C Grier. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2009), 154 – 163. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary/Quote: “Findings from this study suggest that one-to-one literacy instruction via videoconferencing technology can be an engaging and effective means to assist adolescents with comprehension while reading with appropriate accuracy and fluency.” p. 161.

Direct and explicit accuracy, fluency, comprehension and spelling instruction. Supervised by a reading specialist. Appropriate training for tutors.

Comment: Note the emphasis on fluency. RayS.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Topic: Books in the Home.

10-second review: Do families have books in the home?

Title: “Critical Literacies and Graphic Novels for English—Language Learners: Teaching, Maus.” CW Chun. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2009), 144 – 150. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Quote: “When asked how many books were in their homes, the overwhelming majority of students responded that their homes had only the school textbooks they were currently using for classes.”

Comment: Do people read in the home anymore? Do people have books in their homes? With wide-screen TVs, video games, cell phones, Ipods, etc. in their homes—and declining newspaper readership—do people read books or even magazines in their homes any more? RayS.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Topic: Planning Family Literacy Programs.

10-second review: In planning programs to involve families in school activities, have your adolescent students help to design the program.

Title: “ ‘When You Do Your Best, There’s Someone to Encourage You’: Adolescents’ Views of Family Literacy.” A M. Wiseman. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2009), 132-142. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Comment: Makes sense. RayS.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Topic: Standard and Nonstandard English.

10-second review: Recommendations for bridging the differences between standard and nonstandard language.

Title: “Code-switching Pedagogies and African-American Student Voices: Acceptance and Resistance.” KD Hill. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2009), 120-131. The secondary school publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary. Among the author’s recommendations:

“Never tell students that home language features are wrong and standard features are right.” p. 130.

“Inform students that everyone speaks nonstandard English…. …compare and contrast varying ways and contexts in which people speak….” p. 130.

Explore “varying ways students express common ideas before emphasizing grammar roles.” p. 130.

Comment: I like the idea of comparing standard and nonstandard expression in the context that both are right in the appropriate situations. RayS.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Topic: Educational Research

10-second review: First, training in research needs to begin at the pre-service level—both producing and reading it. Second, researchers need to do a better job of explaining their research and its implications for instruction so that the majority of teachers can understand and discuss the findings and their implications.

Title: “Critical Research and the Future of Literacy Education.” Ernest Morrell. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2009), 96-104. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Comment: I agree with both recommendations. The second—producing a reader-friendly version of the research—is especially important to the wide readership that is intimidated by the jargon of professional research. Beginning emphasis on research at the earliest possible level of teacher education should broaden the base of research and increase most educators’ knowledge of the technical language of research reports without being intimidated. RayS.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Topic: Classroom as a Community

10-second review: A friend sent me the following:

One day a
teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room
on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.

Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of
their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as
the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate
sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that

On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class
was smiling. 'Really?' she heard whispered. 'I never knew that I meant
anything to anyone!' and, 'I didn't know others liked me so much,' were most
of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they
discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The
exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with
themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Viet
and his teacher attended the funeral of that
special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin
before. He looked so handsome, so mature.

The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a
last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her.
'Were you Mark's math teacher?' he asked. She nodded: 'yes.' Then he said:
'Mark talked about you a lot.'

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates went together to a luncheon.
Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his

'We want to show you something,' his father said, taking a wallet out of his
pocket 'They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might
recognize it.'

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that
had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew
without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all
the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

All of Mark's former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather
sheepishly and said, 'I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my
desk at home.'

Chuck's wife said, 'Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.'

'I have mine too,' Marilyn said. 'It's in my diary'

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet
and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. 'I carry this with me at
all times,' Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: 'I
think we all saved our lists'

That's when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all
his friends who would never see him again.

The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end
one day. And we don't know when that one day will

Comment: I know of no better method for helping students to become a community in the classroom. I wish I had thought of this activity. RayS.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Topic: Stop Reading Shakespeare

10-second review: Students will understand the play if they act out scenes from the play. Stop emphasizing trivia such as what was the Nurse’s name in Romeo and Juliet.

Title: “Stop Reading Shakespeare!” S Spangler. English Journal (September 2009), 130-132. The secondary school journal of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Comment: Still, in my opinion, I can appreciate Shakespeare’s language better when I read it than when I see videos or theatrical presentations of Shakespeare’s plays. I still remember the field trip we took to see Hamlet. As Hamlet is dying, he gives a lengthy soliloquy. The students roared with laughter as an obviously not-dying actor tried to act as if he were dying while speaking the soliloquy that never seemed to end. However, I can’t deny the usefulness of having the students prepare and act out scenes. RayS.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Topic: ESOL--Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

10-second review: The author summarizes what he has learned after ten years of teaching English to speakers of other languages.

Title: “A Decade of ESOL Experience in about a Thousand Words.” Alex Dailey. English Journal (September 2009), 127-129. The secondary school journal of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).


Experience the experience of being immersed in a language different from your own. You’ll understand how the ESOL student feels in your English classroom.

ESOL students must feel a need to learn English and be accepted in the English language community.

Extracurricular activities are valuable additional exposures to the English language.

Don’t focus on the rules of the language. Focus on meaning.

ESOL students learning the social use of language occurs in one to three years. On the other hand, learning the academic use of English requires up to seven years. ESOL students need to learn academic skills in their native language as well as in English.

ESOL students need to develop literacy skills in the fist language as well as in English. These skills reinforce each other.

Demonstrate to ESOL student their progress.

Recognize that all cultures do not accept the strictures in writing that we do in English—in which we don’t accept run-on sentences and do emphasize the thesis. “Not all cultures want you to get to the point quickly.”

Comment: Worth thinking about. RayS.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Topic: Studying Novels.

10-second review: Cutting in half the time taken to study novels produced greater interest in the novel and better results in the quizzes and the final exam.

Title: “Pick up the Pace! The Benefits of Reading at an Accelerated Pace.” Mike Roberts. English Journal (September 2009), 124 -126.

Summary: Increasing the number of pages read each night, from 20 pates to 40 pages and cutting the number of quizzes in half produced more interested, more involved students with better understanding of the novel.

Comment: Roberts, the author of this article, compared reading at the normal slow pace with the quicker pace and concluded that students achieved more with the quicker pace.

When people tell me that they don’t have time to read books, they usually say that they “just can’t get into it.” They’re looking for books that completely absorb them. I would like to add to Mike Roberts’s idea that students read those 40 pages of the novel with a method for absorbing readers in reading novels: one paragraph a page.

I can almost guarantee that students will soon become absorbed n the novel and they will complete the 40 pages in record time, with little loss of detail because the one-paragraph-a-page approach leads to reading everything. They will complete the 40 pages in record time, almost to the point that they will read beyond the 40 pages. Try it yourself and see the results for you, the teacher. Then try it with your students. RayS.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Topic: One Definition of Action Research

10-second review: Testing the effects of strategies on your own students in your own classrooms

Title: “Teachers Practicing Research.” J Gorlewski. English Journal (September 2009), 123-124. The secondary school journal of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Quote: “…the term research will be concerned with…studying the effects and effectiveness of various strategies, techniques, and approaches on the learning that occurs in our classrooms.” p. 123. [The author notes that this practice is not the same as being a teacher researcher. RayS. ]

Quote: “…thinking like a researcher begins with simple inquiry…. For example, consider the following questions:

How does a particular incentive or consequence affect student participation in class?

Does use of a specific organizer enhance (or stifle) paragraph development?

Does a visual method of vocabulary instruction result in increased comprehension and/or retention?”

Comment: I think I would be inclined to use this type of research with techniques about which I have real questions and maybe doubts. If I know it works, why bother, unless I am going to use the data to write an article? RayS.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Topic: The Experience of Being a Cooperating Teacher.

10-second review: Being a cooperating teacher means learning even more about teaching.

Title: “Teaching Practice: Reflections of a Cooperating Teacher.” Jennifer Ritter. English Journal (September 2009), 114-117. The secondary school journal of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Quote: “Having had much opportunity to do my own reflecting over several months, ultimately, what I have concluded is that the student-cooperating teacher experience is an exercise of balance. Finding the right moments for criticism and for praise, for answers and for questions. Discovering what you already know and what you still need to learn about teaching. Understanding when to guide, provide structure, give options, inspire, and offer choices. When to lead and when to let go. In the end, in the experience of being a cooperating teacher, I was much less a teacher than a student. And I can only hope that my students and student teacher got as much out of the process as I did.”

Comment: I think that quote embodies a pretty good definition of what it means to be a leader. RayS.