Friday, October 29, 2010

Topic: Teaching Comprehension

10-second review: What do teachers actually do in teaching comprehension?

Title: “Identifying Instructional Moves During Guided Learning.” N Frey and D Fisher. Reading Teacher (October 2010), 84-95.

Quote: “The findings from this study suggest that teachers intentionally and consciously apply scaffolds [supports RayS.] for students to learn. The teachers in this study were fairly systematic, yet not scripted, in their approach to small-group guided instruction. They consistently led with questions to check for understanding and then prompted and cued students when errors and misconceptions arose. When the prompts and cues failed to resolve an error, teachers moved to direct explanations and modeling. Whereas prompts and cues were observed regularly during guided instruction, direct explanations were not observed as often. In only about 20% of the exchanges did teachers resort to direct explanations and modeling to ensure student understanding.”

Comment: “Modeling” refers to the teachers’ telling how they resolved the problem in comprehension. RayS.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Topic: A View of African-American Boys

10-second review: An author who writes about African-American Boys (You Don’t Even Know Me: Stories and Poems about Boys 2010) tells how she views them.

Quote:  Sharon G. Flake: “So often we think we know young men, especially African American males. ‘They don’t read,’ we say. ‘They misbehave,’ we whisper. ‘They drop out early and cause society a host of ills.’ Often, before they even show up to class or walk into a store, we think we know who they are and what they are capable of doing and becoming. As an author, I get to say, ‘Open your eyes and see what is often unseen by so many of us, regardless of our ethnicity.’ When I open my eyes and see you for who you truly are, I see myself differently, and I allow you to see me more fully as well. It becomes a win-win for everyone, I think.”

Title: “Interview with Sharon G. Flake” by Najat Omer. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2010), 152-153.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Topic: Critical Literacy

10-second review: Argues for going beyond basic reading and math skills to an emphasis on critical literacy.

Comment: Here is an example of critical literacy: What’s wrong with the following assumption from the U.S. Department of Education’s (2010) A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and secondary Education Act: “And the countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.” P. 146.

To what “crisis” in education is the Act referring? “The United States has slipped in the world rankings to 11 out of 32 developed nations in college completion rates for individuals ages 25-34.” Is that all there is? Bill Gates was a college drop-out and he out-competed the rest of the world. It’s not the quantity, but the quality of individuals which creates competition.

I know I am oversimplifying, but I have given at least one critical response to the assumption that because college completion rates are lower than ten other developed countries we are behind in education. It’s the freedom to compete that sets the United States apart from the rest of the world, not attendance at college. RayS.

Title: “Critical Literacy, Educational Investment, and the Blueprint for Reform: An Analysis of the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” Ernest Morelli. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2010), 146-149.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Topic: Ghetto Schools

10-second review: Review of a movie “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” which implies that charter schools are the saviors of urban education.

Title: “School Spirit: ‘Waiting for Superman’” D Denby. The New Yorker (October 11, 2010), 122-123.

Quote: “ ‘Waiting for ‘Superman’ ’ a hot-under-the-collar documentary about the failings of the American school system.” [Make that urban American school systems. RayS.]

Quote: “Despite receiving public funds (as well as much private support), charter schools can hire non-union teachers and adopt their own curriculum and standards. They tend to be small and to include smaller percentages of special-needs students.”

Quote:”But the emotions of the moment may distract us from asking certain obvious questions, such as: Who says that charter schools will save these children—and, by implication, all children?”

Quote: “Summing up her [Michelle Rhee, chancellor of schools in Washington, DC, since 2007] feelings in the movie, she lays out a simple charge, which the movie fully supports: the current system works for the school bureaucracies and the teachers but not for the children.”

Quote: “But what does work for children? Despite the success of the schools in the film, charter schools, judged as a whole, don’t perform better than district schools, and they often perform worse.”

Quote: “The other place to get an idea of what effective teachers do is, believe it or not, Hollywood. There is an earnest genre of what might be called teacher-goes-to-the-ghetto films.”

Quote: The unanswered question:  “How can reforms that work some of the time in small schools with engaged kids and committed parents work in an enormous urban school with all kinds of kids?”

Comment: Not stated in the reviewer’s even-handed review of the film is the fact that most urban school districts have “magnet” schools in which the cream of the crop, in IQ, (Masterman, Central High School, etc. of Philadelphia), are siphoned off from the rest of the students leaving the remaining, average and below-average students at the mercy of a society with big problems: drugs, family, special needs, not committed to education, ethnic violence, etc. RayS.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Topic: A Problem with Current Research in Education

10-second review: Research is being published without peer review, and findings are being picked up by the media and published without critical scrutiny.

Title: “Creating State and National Networks for Adolescent Literacy and Coaching: An Interview with Nancy L Shankin.” NL Shankin and DW Moore. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2010), 142-144.

Quote: “I am concerned, too, about the extent to which a growing amount of current research is not peer reviewed before its publication. More research is being funded through research centers, foundations and policy groups where studies are completed and posted to organization websites without rigorous review from others in the profession. Findings are quickly picked up by the media and hold sway with policy makers before they can be scrutinized through a peer-review process.”

Comment: I suspect the same thing is true in the medical profession and other professional fields. RayS.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Topic: Glimpses of Writing in the Twenty-First Century

10-second review: I don’t believe I can write in either of the following situations, but I know enough about how I changed over the years in my writing habits that I can’t be too sure. I’m keeping an open mind.

Title: “Writing for the Instant Messaging and Text Messaging Generation: Using New Literacies to Support Writing Instruction.” SM Sweeney. Journal of Adolescent and adult Literacy (October 2010), 121-130. 

Quote: “Author Amy Tan provides an interesting writing tip, explaining that she listens to movie soundtracks while she writes. Each time she works on a particular chapter, she plays the same music. This helps her become immersed in the writing and quickly regain the mood of the chapter.” P. 125.

Quote: “New technologies such as cloud computing make it easier for individuals to work collaboratively on documents and projects. Cloud computing refers to applications that are addressable through the Internet and reside on a central server (Devaney, 2010). Examples of this type of application include GoogleDocs (, which allows users to create documents that are stored on Google’s server and can be accessed by multiple users. This capability means that a group of students can work collaboratively on a document that may include multimedia such as video, audio, and hyperlinks, in which all revisions are visible, and the finished product has been created by consensus.” P. 129.

Comment: I’m the kind of guy who took five or six years to appreciate Elvis Presley and another five or six years to appreciate the Beatles. How long will it take me to appreciate Rap—and the type of writing process described in this article? RayS.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Topic: ADHD and Reading

10-second review: Four suggestions for encouraging ADHD and Dyslexic children to read.

Title: “Rick Riordan on Four Ways to Get ADHD Kids to Read.” Rick Riordan. Wall Street Journal (October 15, 2010), Internet.

Rick Riordan is a writer. His suggestions for encouraging ADHD and Dyslexic kids to read are as follows:

. Model reading at home: “If the parents are too busy to read, it’s a safe bet the children will feel the same way. Set aside time for family reading each night.” Demonstrate to the children that reading is a valuable part of their daily routine.

. Match your children with the right books. “By the ‘right’ books, I mean the ones that will leave them wanting to read more.”

. Create a productive environment for reading. Few distractions. Reading with music or TV is not a good idea.

. Keep the long view. “Your child will grow up to be a successful person.” ADHD and dyslexia are differences, not disabilities. A number of millionaires are dyslexics.

Riordan concludes with these sentences: “Take it from this dad. It seems like just yesterday my son was hiding under the table to avoid reading. Now, he’s writing books longer than mine!”

Comment: The hardest part will be modeling reading with the family and reading without the distractions of music and TV. RayS.