Monday, November 30, 2009

Topic: Factors Contributing to Learning to Read.

10-second review: “Cultural background, home environment, intelligence, experience, sensory equipment, physical condition. level of aspiration, instructional material and teaching procedures.” p. 285.

Title: “Using Psycholinguistic Knowledge to Improve Secondary Reading.” NA Mavrogenes. Journal of Reading (January 1975), 280-286. Publication has since been replaced by the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy by the International Reading Association (IRA).

Quote: “But in the final analysis it is the teacher who makes the difference…. He must understand the learner, the nature of reading and the procedures for teaching and apply that knowledge; he can fill in gaps in background, environment and experience…and can inspire and motivate.” p. 285.

Comment: And the method that should be primarily used to involve all these factors is the directed reading assignment: build background knowledge about the topic; pre-teach unfamiliar vocabulary; survey the chapter—title, sub-title, first paragraph, first sentence of each intermediate paragraph, final summarizing paragraph—establish purpose by the students’ raising questions about what they are about to read, read to answer the questions, discuss the answers to the questions and the students then apply what they have learned from reading the chapter. RayS.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Topic: Writing Five Lines

10-second review: Assign a topic and students write five lines—no more, no fewer—on the topic. Possible Topics: Patience, hollow, bananas, etc.

Title: “Five Lines.” JE Marine, Jr. Great Ideas from Learning [Magazine], Vol. 3, 1976, p. 9.

Here’s my example:

I lose my patience with commercials on TV. They usually occur right at the

moment that the Eagles are about to get the ball while losing by a touchdown

or a field goal. My biggest frustration is that I don’t understand the

commercials. A smiling woman flits by the camera and my patience is tested

because I can’t figure out what is being advertised. It’s a health care system!

Comment: Why do it? Part of the practice needed for quick response to given topics in standardized writing tests. RayS.

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Topic: Creative Writing Redux.

10-second review: Students take old topics and re-do them in different ways.

Title: “Creative Writings Revisited.” RH Weston. Great Ideas from Learning [Magazine], vol. 3, 1976. p. 7.

Summary: Go back to things that the students have already written and suggest ways to give the topics a new look:

Write the story so that the sequence of events is reversed; make it funny; write it as a telephone conversation; write it very formally; write it very informally; write in as few words as you can; write it for a particular person.

Comment: In this day of high-stakes testing, we probably do not have time for having a little fun with writing. Too bad. RayS.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Topic: Critical Thinking

10-second review: Students respond critically to current events.

Title: “Current Events Reaction Sheets.” R. Curwin and Geri Curwin. Great Ideas from Learning [Magazine], vol. 2, 1975, p. 19 – 20.

Summary: Teacher types and reproduces an editorial in a newspaper or magazine.

Students underline everything in the article that they agree with.

They circle anything they disagree with.

They rewrite the parts they disagree with to reflect their opinions.

Students compare and discuss these responses.

Comment: A good technique for responding to controversial issues. Preparation for debate? RayS.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Topic: Student Journals in Learning Math

10-second review: Students became more conscious of their learning processes when they kept a journal in mathematics.

Title: The Effects of Process Journal Writing on Learning in Mathematics: A Study of Metacognitive Processes. PW Human. Dissertation Abstracts International, 53, 3796-A. (University Microfilms No. 93-06, 920).

Summary: 14 students over 8 weeks. Demonstrated metacognitive awareness of their learning, and of mathematical processes, recognized their learning difficulties, and applied learning strategies. The metacognitive awareness of low ability students increased more than did that of the average or high groups.

Comment: I’m not a big fan of students keeping journals of personal experience for the purpose of gaining fluency in writing. Too personal. I’m an English teacher, not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I am a big fan of students’ keeping journals in subjects in which they record difficulties they are experiencing in learning the subject, descriptions of processes of learning and questions for the teacher. If the teachers regularly review these journals, they will understand more clearly how effectively they are teaching. RayS.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Topic: Peer Evaluation.

10-second review: Adults do not perceive peer evaluation as a way to improve writing skills. They prefer to maintain control over their own writing.

Title: The Self-perceived Impact of Peer Evaluation on the Writing of Adult Learners. LA Cross. Dissertation Abstracts International, 54, 1193-A. (University Microfilms No. 93-12, 639, 1993.

Comment: Many students, young and old, in my experience, do not see the value of peer evaluation because, as they express it, it’s ignorance sharing ignorance. They also resent someone else’s dictating how they should write.

I prefer “peer review.” My students tell me that the following steps have been useful in improving their writing.

To test unity: Student writers fold a paper width-wise. On one side the writers summarize the main idea of their papers. The partners read the writers’ papers and, on the other side, write their perceptions of the main idea. If partners’ and writers’ versions of the main idea are close, then the papers are probably unified.

To test for clarity: Partners read the writers’ papers silently. Whenever the partners are confused about an idea in the writers’ papers, the partners put a question mark in the margin next to the idea that is confusing. Partners explain whey they are confused. The writers decide whether to clarify the idea by making it more complete or by clarifying the expression.

To test for smoothness: To combat those pesky “Awks,” the writers read their papers aloud. If they stumble (or go back and re-read) when reading aloud, they underline the place in which they stumbled or re-read. The partners also read the writers’ papers aloud and underline the places in which they stumbled or re-read. The writers decide if the underlined stumbles need to be expressed more smoothly.

Spelling: Even if the copy has been written on the word processor, the writers should read from the last word to the first word. Reading from first word to the last word causes the reader to read for ideas and not for the details of the words. Reading from last word to first word focuses on each word’s spelling. It’s tedious, but it works.

That’s what I mean by “Peer Review,” not “peer evaluation.” RayS.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Topic: Writing and Audience.

10-second review: Students in the group that received instruction in adapting writing to audience significantly improved in writing achievement; students in the comparison group, receiving no instruction about audience, did not.

Title: The Effect of Audience Adaptation Activities on Writing Apprehension, Writing Achievement, and Awareness of Audience. D. Walker. Dissertation Abstracts International, 54-115-A. (University Microfilms No. 12-35, 089), 1993.

Comments: I have to admit that I did not, as a teacher of writing, emphasize audience as I should have. I can accept that emphasizing audience and methods of adapting to it in writing will increase writing achievement. RayS.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Topic: Portfolios.

10-second review: 32 second-grade students using portfolios identified both cognitive and affective changes in their work, recognized both strengths and weaknesses in their reading and writing and progressed from broad goals to focused goals for their work.

Title: The Impact of Portfolios on Second-Grade Students’ Self-Assessment of their Literacy Development. BJ Hillyer. Dissertation Abstracts International, 54, 446A. (University Microfilms No. 93-16, 246). 1993.

Comment: Of course the teacher is going to need to help students review their work. I think portfolios, consisting of students’ work in reading and writing, are valuable for self-assessment of their learning. They should be part of grading. Like it or not, parents understand letter or numerical grades. RayS.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Topic: Teachers' Reading of Professional Journals.

10-second review: Surveyed 913 K-12 teachers. These teachers say they do not have tome to read educational journals. Don’t believe such reading contributes to their classroom practice.

Title: Professional Reading Habits of Public School Elementary and Secondary Language Arts Teachers in Northwest Iowa. CH Hughes. Dissertation Abstracts International, 54, 1216 (University Microfilms No. 93-22, 972), 1993.

Comment: There is an awful lot of wasted verbiage and redundancy in articles in educational professional journals and if teachers try to read them from cover to cover, they will have wasted a great deal of valuable time.

I learned to sift through the articles quickly to find promising ideas. I begin by reading the first and last paragraphs in the article. The first paragraph should, and almost always does, introduce the main idea of the article and the last paragraph summarizes it. Usually, I don’t need to learn more about that main idea. If the idea is interesting, I simply briefly summarize it and keep it for later reflection on what the idea means to me and my teaching. Reading the first and last paragraphs takes just a few minutes.

If the first and last paragraphs do not arouse my interest, I go on to the next article.

If the first and last paragraphs raise questions about the details of the idea, I read the first sentence of each intermediate paragraph until my questions are answered. Then, I briefly summarize the article and keep it for later reflection on what the ideas mean to me and my teaching. Again, reading the first sentence of each paragraph in the article takes only a few short minutes.

Don’t ignore the step of reflecting on the idea, thinking about what the idea means to you and your teaching. That is a most important step. Otherwise, the idea remains an isolated. inert piece of information.

I almost never read the entire article, although, on occasion, the idea is so compelling that I want to read the whole thing. RayS.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Topic: Models of Prose Forms

10-second review: The use of prose models of writing is an effective method of teaching writing.

Title: “Prose Modeling and Metacognition: The effect of Modeling on Developing a Metacognitive Stance Toward Writing.” Elizabeth A. Stolarek. Research in the Teaching of English (May 1994), 154-174. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Definition: “Metacognition” means simply thinking about thinking,” thinking about what you are doing when you are learning something.

Quote: Models show students how to organize a type of writing with which they are not familiar. “Those who support modeling assert that style can be improved through the modification of classical imitation exercises….; that models acquaint students with complicated structural conventions and patterns they have not previously used in their writing….” p. 154.

Quote: “This would suggest that instruction in which modeling works best would be characterized by a clear conception on the part of the instructor of what, exactly, is to be modeled, along with the presentation of a model which clearly exemplifies the characteristics which are to be modeled.” p. 173.

Comment: There are two types of modeling. In teaching writing, one type of modeling involves the use of prose examples and the other involves the instructor’s modeling a behavior as in demonstrating how to construct a thesis sentence. Both are important parts of writing instruction.

For example: I always give students a model of a completed expository composition with an introduction, thesis, middle paragraphs begun by topic sentences and a concluding summary paragraph. I also demonstrate with them how to brainstorm, how to write a thesis sentence, how to write a draft, including how to construct an introduction as the last step before revising and editing. RayS.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Topic: Mentoring Students in Revision Via Telecommunications.

10-second review: Using telecommunications in this cross-age mentoring by graduate/undergraduate students with high school students worked because even though each had different schedules they were able to communicate when convenient. One problem was that the mentors did not know which comments were most productive in helping the high school students improve their writing.

Title: “Responding to Ninth-Grade students Via Telecommunications: College Mentor Strategies and Development Over Time.” A H Dunn, et al. Research in the Teaching of English (May 1994), 117-153. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: College students inserted comments within the composition and at the end.

Comment: Teachers really need to ask students whether their comments on writing are helpful. Rays.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Topic: Remedial Reading.

10-second review: 17 fourth graders served as actors, characters and critics.

Title: “Learning to Act/Acting to Learn: Children as Actors, Critics and Characters in Classroom Theatre.” SA Wolf. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1994), 7 – 44. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Quote: “The children began with a warm-up to prepare both voice and body, followed by mental preparation…to practice the necessary skills of an actor’s trade…script interpretation, rehearsal, performance and follow-up critique.”

Summary: Students moved from a “perception of drama as a free-for-all to a greater understanding of…theatrical interpretation.”

Comment: The focus was on meaning, thus, beyond phonics and word-calling. They read, interpreted, acted and critiqued the performance. Reminds me of the recommendations by the Folger Shakespeare Library that scenes from Shakespeare’s plays be acted in order to help students appreciate Shakespeare’s language (English Journal, September 2009). RayS.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Topic: Research Manuscripts

10-second review: Practically speaking, manuscripts of 50 to 60pages are not as focused as they should be and readers will not read long manuscripts. Suggest 35 typewritten pages. Articles in journals are the best method for conveying research, better than informal talks, e-mail or even formal presentations.

Title: “From the Editor.” Sandra Stotsky. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1994), 5-6. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Topic: Some Thoughts on Knowledge and Meaning.

10-second review: Knowledge and meaning are socially constructed, historical, partial, multiple and political. If this doesn’t make sense, don’t quit. Keep reading.

Title: “The Paradigm Misfit Blues.” JW Solsken. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1993), 316-324. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: Knowledge and meaning….

…are socially constructed interpretations and practice, i.e., used in social practices.

…historical…located and embedded in the moment as it emerges from the moments that preceded it.

…partial, i.e., incomplete and never “completable.”

…multiple, i.e., differ across groups and situations and within them—inherently unstable.

…political, i.e., biased toward particular interests.

Comment; What are the practical consequences of this view of knowledge and meaning? Knowledge is used, is influenced by the past, is never complete, is interpreted differently by different people and interpreted by people with special interests.

I guess all of this applies to ideas in education, especially the fads in educational thought and practice. It’s comforting to know that “this too shall pass.” RayS.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Topic: Changes in Teaching Writing

10-second review: From emphasis on the product to the process or how the germ of an idea is developed into the finished product to recursiveness in the writing process.

Title: “Competing Paradigms for Research and Evaluation in the Teaching of English.” Richard L. Larson. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1993). pp. 283-304. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: The article deals, actually, with alternative approaches to research, but part of the article discusses the changes in the teaching of writing from emphasis on the writing product to the writing process and recursiveness in the writing process and I thought these ideas would be useful. RayS.

Quote: Maxine Hairston on the changes in teaching writing: “…some changes she saw occurring in the teaching of writing and in research on that teaching. She asserted that the teaching of writing had undergone [a]…shift, from an emphasis on the achievement of the final text to an emphasis on the complex route by which the final text came into being—on how writers compose (i.e., their composing process).” p. 283.

Quote: “…though the research on composing did highlight what came to be called the recursiveness of writing. (The term refers to the fact that writers can engage in any act of composing—finding ideas, thinking about ways of organizing them, imagining ways of expressing them—at any time during their writing and often perform these acts many times while writing.)” pp. 283-284.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Topic: Writing Across Disciplines

10-second review: A single college course is not going to teach students all they need to know to write in all situations, particularly in all disciplines.

Title: Suggested by “Genre and Rhetorical Craft.” Jeanne Fahnestock. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1993), 265-271. A publication of the National Council of the Teachers of English (NCTE).

Comment: I think we need to define clearly for our colleagues in college in other disciplines what exactly we do when we teach the freshman writing course. It makes sense that one course is not going to teach everything students need to know about writing in other disciplines and in the real world. If teachers in other disciplines understood clearly what it is that we teach in Freshman Writing, then the teachers in other disciplines can teach their students what they need to know in order to write successfully in their particular disciplines, usually involving formats. And that will probably not include the fine points of grammar. RayS.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Topic: Why Debate in Writing?

10-second review: “But the issues we discuss informally and in public forums are apt to be presented more clearly and succinctly in writing.”

Title: “From the Editor.” Sandra Stotsky. Research in the Teaching of English (October) 1993), 221.

Comment: One advantage of writing over speaking. RayS.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Topic: Sample Sentence Combining Exercises.

10-second review: Two different types of sentence combining exercises, “cued” and “uncued.”

Title: “The Effects of Sentence Combining on the Reading Comprehension of Fourth grade Students.” PA Wilkinson and D Patty. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1993), 104-125. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Cued Sentence Combining Exercise:

The roller coaster ride starts. (WHENEVER)

Matt closes his eyes. (,)

Matt tries to be brave. (AND).

Target sentence: Whenever the roller coaster ride starts, Matt closes his eyes and tries to be brave.

Uncued Sentence Combining Exercises:

Snoopy looked at the sky.

The sky was bright.

The sky was blue.

It was dotted with clouds.

The clouds were fluffy.

The clouds were white.

They had shapes.

The shades kept changing.

Snoopy looked hard.

He looked long.

He began to see something.

He saw shapes.

He saw funny creatures.

He saw scary creatures.

Comment: Check with the Bing Internet Search engine and you will find 736,000 Web sites under the heading of “sentence combining exercises.” RayS.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Topic: Sample Cloze Exercises.

Topic: Sample Cloze Exercises

10-second review: Two types of cloze exercises: every fifth word deletions and content word deletions.

Title: “The Effects of Sentence Combining on the Reading Comprehension of Fourth grade Students.” PA Wilkinson and D Patty. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1993), 104-125. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Sample cloze sentence #1:

The bee protects its………. by stinging its………. with its poisonous stinger which has hooks on it. As the………. pushes the stinger into the………., the hooks dig into the ………., and when the bee………. away, the tightly holding ………. pull the stinger ………. of the bee.

Sample cloze sentence #2:

The bee protects its family ………. stinging its enemies………. its poisonous stinger ………. has hooks on it. ………. the bee pushes the stinger ………. the skin, the hooks dig ………. the skin, and ………. the bee flies away, the tightly holding hooks ………. stinger out ………. the bee.

Here’s how and why Cloze is used:

What is Cloze Procedure?

Cloze procedure is a technique in which words are deleted from a passage according to a word-count formula or various other criteria. The passage is presented to students, who insert words as they read to complete and construct meaning from the text. This procedure can be used as a diagnostic reading assessment technique.

What is its purpose?

It is used:

  • to identify students' knowledge and understanding of the reading process
  • to determine which cuing systems readers effectively employ to construct meaning from print
  • to assess the extent of students' vocabularies and knowledge of a subject
  • to encourage students to monitor for meaning while reading
  • to encourage students to think critically and analytically about text and content

How do I do it?

To prepare materials for Cloze exercises, any of the following techniques may be used:

  1. Select a self-contained passage of a length appropriate for the grade level of the students being assessed. Use materials easily read by the students.
  2. Leave the first and last sentences and all punctuation intact.
  3. Carefully select the words for omission using a word-count formula, such as every fifth word or other criteria. To assess students' knowledge of the topic or their abilities to use semantic cues, delete content words which carry meaning, such as nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs. To assess students' use of syntactic cues, delete some conjunctions, prepositions and auxiliary words.
  4. When preparing the final draft of the passage, make all blanks of equal length to avoid including visual clues about the lengths of omitted words.
  5. Have the students read the entire passage before they fill in the blanks.
  6. Encourage the students to fill each blank if possible.
  7. Although there should be no time limit for this exercise, the time necessary for completion should be noted.
  8. Suggest that students reread the completed passage.

Taken from

Comment: The examples, from this particular study, are somewhat different from the directions for Cloze taken from this Web site. RayS.