Friday, December 11, 2009


This blog will resume on January 4, 2010. It consists of ideas taken from recent publications in English education. RayS.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Topic: Protecting Your Ideas

10-second review: Patents, trademarks and copyright.

Title: “How to Protect Your Brilliant Idea.” Colleen Debaise. Wall street Journal (December 1, 2009), Internet.


Patents. Most expensive and most valuable. Innovative products or business methods. Monopoly for twenty years. Need patent attorney. $2,000 to $10,000.

Trademarks. Word, symbol, logo or image, scent, sound or color. Filing fee is $375 by paper; $275 to $325 electronically.

Copyright. Original works like poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architectural designs. $45 fee by paper or $35 through the U.S. Copyright’s Online System.

Adapted from an upcoming book, The Wall Street Journal Complete Small Business Guidebook (Three Rivers Press, Dec. 29, 2009).

Comment: You’ll need much more information about these three protection programs. Check the Internet. RayS.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Topic: Literature and Students' Questions.

10-second review: Student-generated questions about the interpretation and appreciation of short stories were more effective than teacher-generated questions.

Title: “Self-questioning in the Literature Classroom: Effects on Students’ interpretation and appreciation of Short Stories.” T Janssen, M. Braaksma and M Couzijn. Educational Studies in Language and Literature. 2009.

Comment: My method for helping students generate questions when reading short stories is as follows:

They read one sentence per column or page. They tell what they have learned and suggest questions to which they want answers.

They read one paragraph per column or page, tell what they have learned and suggest questions to which they want answers.

Teacher records what they have learned and questions with key words.

They read to answer the questions. RayS.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Topic: Urban Youth Culture in Teacher Education Classes.

10-second review: “Highlights that using urban youth culture as a ‘fund of knowledge’ in teacher education may improve teaching practices and learning outcomes for urban youth of color.”

Title: “Representin’: Drawing from Hip-Hop and Urban Youth Culture to Inform Teacher Education.” Education and Urban Society, 41 (4), 489-515, 2009.

Comment: Giving pre-service teachers background information about black urban culture should be useful to teachers who encounter it. Background information about youth culture in general should be useful for teachers who have little contact with it other than in the classroom. RayS.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Topic: Online Feedback on Writing vs. Paper-Based Feedback

10-second review: The study involves foreign students trying to learn English. First-year college students who received feedback on their errors in writing when using an online annotator versus those who received paper-based feedback. Finds that students receiving online feedback performed significantly better on recognizing errors than students receiving paper-based feedback.

Title: “Using Online Annotations to Support Error Correction and Corrective Feedback.” SW Yeh and JJ Lo. Computers and Education, 52 (4), 832-842, 2009.

Comment: In this brief summary, nothing is said about the nature of the contents of the online annotations.

However, I picked out this piece of research for another reason. Some people feel that simply using the computer motivates students in a way that they are not motivated by traditional paper/pencil practices. This study seems to support that contention. Simply using a computer motivates. RayS.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Topic: Teaching College Composition

10-second review: What’s wrong with college writing classrooms is that the readings which are supposed to provide models of how to write take center stage and are not used to teach writing but to expound on literature.

Title: “Opinion: Composition Studies Saves the World!” Patricia Bizzell. College English (November 2009), 174-187. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary/Quote. “ ‘…the clearest example’ of what’s desperately wrong in the academy, [is that]… in writing classrooms… ‘more often than not the anthologies of provocative readings take center stage and the actual teaching of writing is shunted to the sidelines.’ ” Quoting Stanley Fish on page 174 of this article, taken from his new book.

Comment: The writer of this article takes issue with this statement. I do not.

Way, way back in 1952, I took my only college writing course and in it I learned nothing about how to write. My classmates and I were given an anthology of writings meant to be used as models for writing and we spent the entire class time listening to the instructor expound on the items in the anthology as literature As a writing class, it was a complete waste of time. I thought that six decades later (2009), we had learned something about teaching writing. If Stanley Fish is correct, we have not.

Closely allied to this problem in teaching writing at the college level is one in which the teacher expounds a cause like Feminism or some other do-goodism. Disagree with the instructor and you will be penalized. I know of at least one case in which a friend of mine failed a composition because the instructor disagreed with my friend’s ideas and he stated clearly that that disagreement was his reason for failing my friend.

For heaven’s sake, in a writing course, teach students how to write! And instructors have no business forcing their ideas on the students. If there is not a statement of ethics opposing this practice in the writing classroom, there should be.. RayS.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Topic: The Relevance of Abraham Lincoln.

10-second review: 2009 is the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Why study Lincoln in a literature course? Six scholars and teachers suggest reasons.

Title: “Reflections on Lincoln and English Studies.” Douglas Wilson; Steven Mailloux; Nan Johnson; John Stauffer; Tony Wolk; and John Schilb. College English (November 2009), 160-173. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Quotes in response to the question, “Why study Lincoln today in English?”

“…a major contributor to the flowering of art and expression that became known as the American Renaissance.”

“…those in our discipline who privilege the study of literature and those who do the same with rhetoric.”

“…engaging students in the study of great words.”

“The story of Douglass and Lincoln’s literacy dramatizes the power of language of self-making. It also offers a salutary counterpoint to prevailing theories of education, which emphasize breadth over depth, movies and Internet-surfing over sustained reading, and a sampling of subjects and books instead of total immersion in a few works of great merit.”

“…immersing English students in a vital period of this country’s history….”

Lincoln’s prowess with words makes him relevant to our discipline.”

: I’m inclined to explore Lincoln’s rhetoric. RayS.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Topic: Either/Or Issues

10-second review: “Is the purpose of a composition course to help students fit into society or to convince them to change it?”

Title: “Composing in a Global-Local Context: Careers, Mobility, Skills.” M Lu and B Horner. College English (November 2009), 113-133. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Comment: Another of those annoying either/or issues that English teachers like to argue about in the pages of their professional journals. Remember the process/product issue in writing and the whole language/basal issue in teaching students to read? The answer to the latter questions was “both.” And the answer to this issue is “both.” For me, the solution to controversial issues in English education is to explore whether both sides of the issue can contribute to the language growth of students.

Are there issues in life that cannot be solved by joining both sides of the issue? Certainly abortion seems to be one. But issues in English education, even if one side of the issue or the other takes on the vehemence of a moral crusade, still involve education, not morality. There is a difference.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Topic: Interview Killers.

10-second review: In today’s (2009) terrible job market, avoid behaviors that will kill your chances for the job.

Title: “Avoid These Interview Killers.” Diana Middleton. Wall Street Journal (November 16, 2009), Internet.

Summary: The basics. Don’t arrive late for the interview and don’t trash your previous employers. Other slip-ups: Don’t become too familiar with the interviewer. Don’t dress provocatively. Turn off the cell phone during an interview. Don’t ask about vacation or working from home too early in the interview and don’t ask about salary unless the interviewer brings it up first. Don’t use clichés like “dream job” or “thinking outside the box.” With the latter, do it rather than say it. Enter the interview with something in your hand like a notebook or your résumé to avoid looking awkward. Typos on your résumé will probably mean instant rejection. And the thank-you after the interview should be a simple e-mail or brief statement on a card. No balloons, etc.