Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Rewards for Reading

Question: What type of reward for reading will motivate students to continue to read?

Answer/Quote: “A child who is intrinsically motivated undertakes the task for very different reasons than the child who is extrinsically motivated…. Teachers aim to facilitate a lifetime love of reading among students, so it is clear that fostering intrinsic motivation to read is most likely the goal educators strive for in the long-term.” P. 6.

“Gambrell (1996) proposed a reward-proximity hypothesis to investigate how the type of reward and its proximity to the desired behavior (i.e., reading) might influence the intrinsic motivation of students. For example, can prizes such as books, more positively influence students’ intrinsic motivation to read as opposed to rewards such as food, toys, or stickers?” p. 6-7.

“Research on the reward proximity hypothesis suggests that the type of reward condition may influence the type of motivation cultivated among children. In a study with third grade students, Marinak and Gambrell (2008), found that students given a book reward, or even no reward at all, were more likely to engage in subsequent reading than students who received tokens such as Pez dispensers, friendship bracelets and the like for their efforts….” 7.

Comment: Interesting. I’ve always felt that the love for reading comes from the love of ideas, that ideas are the main enjoyment and motivation for reading. RayS.

Title: “Rewards for Student Reading: A Good Idea or Not?” K Hildens and J Jones. Reading Today (October/November 2011), 6-7.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kindles in the Classroom

Question: Why bring Amazon’s Kindles into the classroom for struggling readers?

Answer/Quote: “I brought a Kindle into school one day, and shortly had a group of boys surrounding me, wanting to take a look. I am now purchasing six Kindles for the classroom. I think it will be really good for struggling readers in particular—you can change the size of the text, you have a built in dictionary, and you can offer them lower leveled books with no stigma—nobody sees the cover.” P. 3. Angie C. Miller, Middle School Language Arts Teacher at Holderness Central School in Holderness, New Hampshire.

Comment: I never thought of that. RayS.

Title: “President’s Message: Celebrating Teachers.” Reading Today (October/November 2011), 2-3.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Teaching English as a Second Language

Question: How can a teacher with several students whose first language is Spanish help them to recognize English words?

Answer: Cognates. “The Spanish and English languages share more than 20,000 cognates, most of which derive from Latin. Spanish-English cognates are words that are spelled similarly or identically in both Spanish and English and have the same or nearly the same meanings in both languages. The following: pairs of words are examples of Spanish-English cognates: naciĆ³n/nation, realmente/really, and seguro/secure. These cognates can be found at all levels of word frequency in English.” P. 161.

Quote: “Cognate instruction benefits all levels of ELs [English Learners] and all elementary school students. Even in classes where the majority of students are native English speakers, students not only derive much from lessons on cognates but also express an interest in learning more about them and about learning Spanish.”  P, 164,

Comment: Excellent idea. Grab that high school or college Spanish I textbook you put away and start looking for Spanish cognates for English. RayS.

Title: “Identifying Spanish-English Cognates to Scaffold Instruction for Latino ELs.” JA Montelongo, et al. Reading Teacher (October 2011), 161-164.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Evaluating Web Sites by Elementary Students

Question: How can elementary students learn to evaluate Web sites used in research?

The WWWDOT Framework:

> Who wrote this and what credentials do they have?

 > Why was it written?

> When was it written?

> Does it help meet my needs?

> Organization of the site?

> To-Do list for the future. “The to-do list can include additional websites and other texts to read, and it can also include activities that do not involve further reading, such as asking a librarian a question, sharing what they learned with a family member….”

Quote: “Even our youngest students have unprecedented access to information. Although in large measure this should be viewed as a  positive development, the unfiltered nature of information on the Internet creates a new urgency for teaching students to critically evaluate sources of information.  The WWWDOT framework provides…[an] approach to enhancing students’ awareness of the need to and skill in critically evaluating websites as sources of information. This kind of instruction is essential to helping students make wise use of the riches of our Information Age.” P. 158.

Comment: Good series of ideas to begin checking the legitimacy of Web sites. Might use the same framework in evaluating other sources of information as well. RayS.

Title: “The WWWDOT Approach To Improving Students’ Critical Evaluation of Web Sites.” S Zhang, et al. Reading Teacher (October 2011), 150-158.

NOTE: Taking four-day vacation for Thanksgiving Holiday. RayS.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reading Stress

Question: How can the teacher tell that students are stressed while reading?


Text is Too Difficult
> Students are off task, nervous, or engaged in inappropriate behaviors.

> Students read haltingly. Their reading may include excessive repetitions or self-corrections or require extensive teacher support.

> The lesson takes more than 15-20 minutes because the teacher has to instruct extensively.

Comment: Solution? The authors suggest shifting the level of the text that is too difficult to a text that is at the students’ reading level. I suggest the directed reading approach: build background information on the topic, pre-teach unfamiliar vocabulary, survey the text by reading the title and discussing it, the first paragraph, the first sentence of each intermediate paragraph and the last paragraph and provide students with a purpose for reading (possibly a question to answer). RayS.

Title: “Toolbox: Handy Helpers for Guided Reading.” J Burkins and M Croft, Preventing Misguided Reading. Reading Teacher (October 2011), 147-149.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vocabulary in the Elementary Grades

Question: What is the key to learning ten, sometimes 20 new words at a clip?

Answer: Study vocabulary through Latin and Greek roots and affixes. Quotes: “The next quantum leap in vocabulary growth…will come when the systematic study of Latin-Greek derivations is embedded into vocabulary programs for the elementary…grades.” P. 135. “A Growing body of academic research is beginning to demonstrate the power and potential of a Latin-Greek approach to vocabulary instruction.” P. 138.

Quote: “Think of the enormous advantage we can give students when they learn that one root can help them unlock the meaning to 5, 10, 20 or more English words! Moreover, it is likely that a fair number of those words are the academic words so essential to students’ learning in the various content areas. The systematic, ongoing and consistent integration of Latin and Greek roots into vocabulary instruction offers awesome potential for enhancing students’ academic growth.” P. 140.

Comment: The best vocabulary book on the market for adults is Norman Lewis’s Word Power Made Easy. Look it up on and you’ll see the glowing reviews of ordinary people who have used it. Lewis bases his program on the Latin and Greek roots and on the notion that words are ideas. Try it yourself and see how many new words you will learn based on Latin and Greek roots. For common Latin and Greek roots for elementary school, check the list in this article. RayS.

Title: “The Latin-Greek Connection.” TV Rasinski, et al. Reading Teacher (October 2011), 133-141.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rating Fluency in Reading

Question: What are the categories for fluency in reading, low and high?

Answer/Quote: Expression and volume; phrasing; smoothness; pace.

Expression and Volume: Reads with little expression or enthusiasm in words as if simply to get them out. Little sense of trying to make text sound like natural language. Tends to read in a quiet voice.

Phrasing: Monotonic with little sense of phrase boundaries, frequent word-by[word reading.

Smoothness: Frequent extended pauses, hesitations, false starts; sound-ours, repetitions, and/or multiple attempts.

Pace: Slow and laborious.

Expression and Volume: Reads with good expression and enthusiasm throughout the text. Sounds like natural language. The reader is able to vary expression and volume to match his/her interpretation of the passage.

Phrasing: Generally well phrased, mostly in clause and sentence units, with adequate attention to expression.

Smoothness: Generally smooth reading with some breaks, but word and structure difficulties are resolved quickly, usually through self-correction.

Pace: Consistently conversational.

Comment: We’ve come a long way from reading aloud with no sense of meaning to reading aloud with full comprehension as measured by expression and volume, phrasing, smoothness and pace. RayS.

Title: “Putting the Fun Back Into Fluency Instruction.” MA Cahill and AE Gregory Reading Teacher (October 2011), 127-131.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting Started on the School Year

Question: What is some good advice for the new teacher?

> “Wall displays are most effective when students and teachers coproduce these. Consequently, classroom wall spaces need not be filled on the first day of school.” P. 98. [Comment: The best displays are of student work. RayS.]

> “When children enter the classroom, they should have a series of tasks that are to be accomplished immediately.” P. 100.[Comment: When I was teaching in high school, I would have one of two activities right at the beginning, a spelling test or a 10-minute essay on a topic of their choice. RayS.]

> “Understanding where your students are now and where they need t be at the end of the year is very important.” P. 101.

> “When planning daily instruction, remember to plan emergency time fillers to help reinforce skills that are part of the scope and sequence of skills.” P. 106.

> “Join a professional literacy organization such as the International Reading Association [or the National Council of Teachers of English] and get involved.”

And, finally:
“Lastly, read. Read books outside of education, books that address issues in medicine, business,, and the world. Get to know what is going on nationally and glob ally. Read for fun. Have a book that you read to escape. And last, carry books with you wherever you go. Be a model of someone who loves to read and reads. And remember when talking with students to be sure to regularly talk up and talk about books….”

Comment: Take it from me, a wizened old fogey who survived 30 years as an English teacher and supervisor, this advice is good advice. RayS.

Title: “Organizing Literacy Classrooms for Effective Instruction.” DR Reutzel and S Clark. Reading Teacher (October 2011), 96-109.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thinking Visually

Question: How can you help students think visually?

Answer: Have them summarize an entire novel by drawing a picture [or a diagram]. The author, Jim Burke, summarizes Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, by drawing a circle with a large black dot outside the circle. That illustration becomes the focus of a discussion about the novel, its dot outside and how it summarizes the novel. Interesting image.

Comment: I think the dot outside the circle as a summary for Crime and Punishment is an interesting technique for helping students visualize and summarize a novel. Adds another technique to methods for critical thinking. RayS.

Title: “the Shape of Ideas.” Spark. Jim Burke. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2011), 155.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reading Critically

Question: What are some questions that can help students read critically?

> What is the topic?

> What is the writer’s purpose?

> What was not said about the topic? Why? What are the consequences?

> Whose interests are served by the text?

> What are other ways of writing about the topic?

Title: “Reading ‘Further and Beyond the Text’: Student Perspective of Critical Literacy in EFL [English as a Foreign Language] Reading and Writing.” J Huang. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2011), 145-154.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Writing Is Obsolete

Question: On the topic of “What’s Hot and Not Hot?” the following statement about writing is included as “Not Hot.” What do my readers think of the following statement?

Quote: “Surprisingly, writing is also on the coldest list. One literacy leader commented that perhaps the day is coming when writing will be obsolete. Voice recognition software will transform the composing process.” P. 20.

Comment: Back to the era of the Dictaphone. Dictated writing is like talking. It lacks the precision of word choice, the conciseness of Standard English at its best. It will be as imprecise as conversation, with needless repetition of words like “it,” “thing,” “get,” “there,” and the lack of clear reference for the demonstrative pronouns, “this,” “that,” “these” and “those,” and other characteristics like poor parallel structure, dangling modifiers, use of the passive as opposed to the active voice. The use of voice recognition software will lead to verbosity and lack of precision in writing. RayS.

Title: “Taking Our Pulse In a Time of Uncertainty: Results of the 2012 What’s Hot, What’s Not Literacy Survey.” Jack Cassidy and Doulas J Loveless. Reading Today (October/November 2011), 16-21.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Multi-modal Composition

Comment: Here is the text that set me off: “Of course, this will only feel legitimate if the conversations previously described begin to challenge the traditional hegemony of print-only texts in classrooms.” P. 143.

And the particular phrase that set me off was: “…challenge the traditional hegemony of print-only texts in the classroom.” The article tried to show the “transformative” power of adding sound and pictures to poetry, multi-modal composition.

The NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) is off and running on building another castle in the air. This time it’s “multi-modal composition.” They try “multi-modal” composition in their journals by adding pictures to the texts of articles. Those pictures add not one single idea to the text. They’re useless.

Communication is based on ideas. Ideas are best communicated by words. Words are best communicated in speech (impermanent) and writing (permanent). Pictures illustrate, support the ideas in the text. I’m all about ideas and the “hegemony of print-only texts in the classroom.” Words come first, even in the movies and on TV. Sometimes the pictures contribute productively, sometimes they don’t. The ideas are conveyed in the text. That’s the first and primary thesis of English teaching. RayS.

Title: “Class-room Re-mix: Patterns of Pedagogy in a Techno-Literacies Poetry Unit.” M Callahan and J M King. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2011), 134-144.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Adult Book Club Practices

Note: This topic promised some interesting ideas for book discussions in the classroom. Unfortunately, the language of the article was opaque, often cloaking ideas in verbiage that can only be described as “edu-speak.” I am beginning to find that otherwise promising ideas are killed by the educational jargon of the writers. The title of the article was simple and straightforward, the article, not so. RayS.

Question: What can we learn from practices in adult book clubs that might be used in literary discussions in the classroom?

> Avoid monopolizing the selection of books for discussion by having a clearly stated procedure.

 > Participants should use their experience in interpreting the text.

> Participant should extend conversations by building on others’ responses.

Title: “Practices of Productive Adult Book Clubs.” R Beach and S Yussen. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2011), 121-131.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Truth about Homework

Question: How do you usually assign homework?

Answer/Quote: “Teachers in secondary schools routinely assign homework to students for the purpose of practice. If it were really practice of familiar concepts, this might work to strengthen students’ level of understanding. Unfortunately, in too many classroom, homework is assigned on concepts that are not yet understood. In many instances, as the MetLife survey on homework demonstrated, secondary teachers’ ‘very often or often’ assigned homework because they ran out of time in class (Markow, Kim & Liebman, 2007, p. 30).” P. 71. 

And how do students respond to the homework they are assigned?
Completers, who take the work home and get it all done and done correctly.

Slackers, who, for whatever reason, do not complete the homework.

Bewildered, who give the homework a try and do most of it incorrectly.

Cheaters, who copy the homework of a peer in an effort to please the teacher and not fall behind in class. P. 71.

Quote: “As was shown in each of the examples we have shared, the teachers did not assign homework as an afterthought, but instead as a well-integrated dimension of their instruction. It was the independent practice that occurred only after the students were well prepared, and it was also an integral dimension of what was to follow in class.” P. 74.

Comment: You can prevent downtime at the end of class by having students start the homework assignment, giving students time to ask questions about the assignment. RayS.

Title: “Homework in Secondary Classrooms: Making It Relevant and Respectful.” D Fisher, et al. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (September 2011), 71-74.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reading Process

Question: What is the nature of the reading process?

Answer/Quote: “Reading comprehension habits are the split-second thoughts that kick in constantly to help a proficient reader actively construct meaning. They make up the majority of the thinking processes we use during reading, even though we seldom notice them. For example, a good reader seldom stops and thinks, ‘I need to relate this to my background knowledge,’ ‘This would be a good time to predict,’ ‘A quick summary right now will help me comprehend better,’ or ‘At this point I should visualize.’ Rather, a good reader does these things in the blink of an eye without, in a sense, even thinking.” P. 67.

Comment: But they need to be taught. RayS.

Title: “Toolbox: Reading Comprehension Habits for Every Classroom.” Jeff Zwiere. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (September 2011), 67-69.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trying Strategies in Journal Articles

Question: How should you attempt to try strategies with your students that you borrow from articles in journals?

1. Evaluate: “Determine which literacy strategy will best help your students to learn the concept(s) you are presenting.”

2. “Try it: Sometimes you have to modify the strategy to fit what you are teaching.”

3. “Assess: Determine how well the strategy worked…. Obtain student feedback on the strategy.”

4. “Revise. Make changes to the strategy if necessary. Try the revised strategy again with different material.”

Comment: What works with the teacher in the article, might not work for your students. A good rule of thumb is to try it on yourself first. RayS.

Title: “Collaborating to Cross the Mathematics-Literacy Divide: An Annotated Bibliography of Literacy Strategies for Mathematics Classrooms.” ES Friedland, et al. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (September 2011), 57-66.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Math and Literacy (2)

Question: What are some techniques used in math classes that encourage literacy?

“Shares strategies for reading and writing in mathematics instead of just reading and writing about mathematics. The strategies emphasize moving fluently among multiple representations, analyzing mathematical texts,  and evaluating mathematical reasoning. Strategies such as student discussion of the implications of changing words in a theorem or definitions support deep conceptual learning.”  MJ Bosse and J Falconer. (2008). School Science and Mathematics, 8-19.

“Provides a graphic organizer that guides students through a modified version of Polya’s problem-solving process but still allows them to solve a problem in their own way. Its layout requires students to think, plan, and break the solution process into steps of their own choosing before computing. The graphic organizer can be used for any type of problem with no more than a three-step solution. Discusses how to introduce the graphic organizer by using a think aloud, multiple student answers, and analysis of incorrect answers.” S Braselton and B Decker (1994). The Reading Teacher, 276-281,

“Describes how to apply several reading strategies to mathematics instruction. A knowledge rating chart indicates prior knowledge of vocabulary and whether or not the student can apply it in mathematics. ‘Word Problem Roulette’ is a cooperative problem-solving strategy in which students solve a problem verbally and then write the solution in a round-robin style. A sample three-level math problem guide helps with problem analysis, but restricts students to solution methods using the computations or formulas provided in level three. ‘Possible Problems’ requires higher level thinking as students create a math problem using all of the words, symbols, or numerals in a list. Applicable to any math content and to any level.” SJ Davis and R Gerber. (2004). Journal of Reading, 55-57.

“Discusses three types of journal prompts for first-year algebra students: content, process, and affective. The content prompts push students to articulate mathematical relationships and to create personal yet precise definitions. One powerful prompt asks students to write about how their understanding about a mathematical concept has developed or changed. While some suggested process prompts focus on study habits, others have students reflect on their own problem-solving approaches.” BJ Dougherty. (1996). The Mathematics Teacher, 556-560.

Comment: There are many more examples of annotated articles relating mathematics to literacy development in this article.  The authors of this article urge the preparation of annotations for articles related to content in math, science, English, etc. and then publish them in their journals. An interesting idea. RayS.

Title: “Collaborating to Cross the Mathematics-Literacy Divide: An Annotated Bibliography of Literacy Strategies for Mathematics Classrooms.” ES Friedland, et al. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (September 2011), 57-66.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Math and Literacy (1)

Question: What are some techniques used in math classes that encourage literacy?

“Discusses how to use informal language and nonmathematical word meanings to help students make connections to mathematical vocabulary.” TL Adams. (2003). The Reading Teacher. 786-795,

“Presents fifth-grade math journals that feature solutions to student-created real-life math problems. The process of creating a problem….” LR Albert and J Anots. (2000). Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 526-531.

“Survey, question, reread, question, compute, question and other comprehension/study strategies help students meaningfully read mathematics textbooks with their unique structure and text features.” ML Barton, et. al. (2002), Educational Leadership, 24-28.

“…writing prompts for journals in the middle school mathematics classroom. Prompts for writing about prior mathematics content are useful for identifying lingering misconceptions and connected content knowledge. Prompts related to current mathematics content encourage identifying and generalizing patterns, posing and evaluating conjectures, and creating and evaluating mathematical arguments.” JA Baxter, et al. (2002). Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School,52-56.  

Comment: To be continued. The authors of this article urge the preparation of annotations for articles related to content in math, science, English, etc. and then publish them in their journals. An interesting idea. RayS.

Title: “Collaborating to Cross the Mathematics-Literacy Divide: An Annotated Bibliography of Literacy Strategies for Mathematics Classrooms.” ES Friedland, et al. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (September 2011), 57-66.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Teaching Poetry

Question: Why don’t English teachers like to teach poetry?

Answer: They feel inadequate for teaching poetry. Here are their preconceptions:

(1) Poetry is boring.

(2) Poetry is for the elite.

(3) Poetry is inaccessible.

(4) Poetry is a frill.

 (5) Children’s poetry writing is too difficult to evaluate.

(6) Analysis is at the heart of understanding poetry.

(7) Poetry is a solitary art.

Comment: The cure for this malaise is to teach your own personal, favorite poems. RayS.

Title: “ ‘Wiki-Ed Poetry’: Transforming Pre-service Teachers’ Preconceptions about Poetry and Poetry Teaching.” J Hughes and S Dymoke. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (September 2011), 46-56.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Personal Literacy Assessment

Question: How can teachers engage students in reflecting on their approaches to literacy?

(1) What are your earliest memories associated with learning to read?

(2) What are your earliest memories associated with learning to write?

(3) How do you currently approach reading/writing tasks?

(4) How do you feel about yourself as a reader?

(5) How do you feel about yourself as a writer?

(6) How do you use language in different settings?

 Comment: Question #6 requires some explanation. It refers to the various dialects that we use in certain social and academic settings, with the social setting usually involving repetition, “Y’know,” frequent use of “there,” “it,” “get,” “getting,” “thing,” etc. and academic language using Standard English. RayS.

Title: “Understanding Resistance: Pre-service Teachers’ Discourse Models of Struggling Readers and School Literacy Tasks.” M Lesley. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (September 2011), 25-34.