Thursday, February 25, 2010

Topic: Learning Principles

One-minute review: Motivated learners learn more readily. Reward is better than punishment. Intrinsic motivation is better than extrinsic. Failure is tolerated if there is a backlog of success. Set realistic goals. Active participation is better than passive. Repetitive practice is needed for overlearning skills. Know what is good performance. Transfer is more successful if relationships are discovered by the person himself. Spaced recalls for retaining knowledge.

“Learning Principles and the Reading Process.” Psychology in Teaching Reading Smith and Dechant.. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1961.

Comment: These principles are a reminder of what I already know, but I need to think of their implications again and again. RayS.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Topic: Reading Defined

10-second review: “Reading is the perception of graphic symbols. It is the process of relating graphic symbols to the reader’s fund of experience.” p. 44.

Title: Psychology in Teaching Reading. HP Smith and EJ Dechant. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc. 1961.

Summary/Quote: “The symbol without the perceiving individual is meaningless. It is his biological inheritance and his present physical status, his learnings and his immediate environment, his culture and his needs that make a word meaningful.” p. 44.

“We know that perception always involves an interpretation. This is so because words can only ‘stand for’ experiences; they are substitutes that must be integrated in terms of the perceivers’ experiences. Rarely do words communicate perfectly.” p. 44.

Comment: Clearly defines reading as an interaction between the author’s words and the reader’s experiences and, because those experiences differ from individual to individual, differences in interpretation occur. RayS.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Topic: Levels and Skills of Comprehension.

10-second review: Ruddell’s (1974) levels of comprehension: factual, interpretive, applicative. Skills of comprehension: events recalled; sequence of events; facts recalled; details recalled.

Title: “Reading to Children: A Communicative Process.” JL Gren and JO Harker in Reader Meets Author/Bridging the Gap.” Ed. JA Langer and MT Smith-Burke. IRA. 1982. pp. 196-221.

Comment: The “applicative” level of comprehension means applying the information read in some way. This step, in my experience, is usually ignored after students have completed factual recall and interpretation. Skills of comprehension involve recall and are divided into events and facts and details. Probably a useful way to define comprehension. RayS.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Topic: Comprehension Lesson

10-second review: Five steps in developing comprehension using an article or book.

Title: “Extending Concepts Through Language Activities.” MT Smith-Burke in Reader Meets Author/Bridging the Gap.” Ed. JA Langer and MT Smith-Burke. IRA. 1982, pp. 163-179.

Summary: Establish purpose for reading. Silent reading for the purpose. Writing out what has been learned. Discussing what has been learned. Comparing original response with the last response and write the final interpretation. Author defines comprehension as “…resides not in the page nor in the reader but in the encounter between the two.” (Shaughnessy, 1977).

Comment: The difference in comprehension between the initial and later responses will result from the discussion. Discussion alters comprehension. RayS.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Topic: Teachers and Censorship

10-second review: Some points of view about dealing with censorship: “Ken Donelson lists several responsibilities teachers who select reading materials must accept. These include implementing a formal policy for handling any attempted censorship, preparing a rationale and defense for any work to be taught in any class by any teacher, communicating to the public and to students what is going on in the classroom and why, and recognizing that the censor may sometimes have a legitimate complaint.” p. 502.

Title: ERIC/RCS: “Censorship and Selection.” T Olsen. Journal of Reading (March 1974), 502-503. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Comment: I think this advice needs a good deal of thought. In my experience, few would disagree with a formal procedure for dealing with censorship. On the other hand, few, if any, teachers prepare a rationale for selecting materials to teach. Teachers rarely communicate what they are teaching—and especially why. And most teachers with whom I have worked think there is no good reason for censorship at all or ever.

Of all of these responsibilities, it is my strong opinion that teachers need to prepare rationales for any materials that might be objectionable. The NCTE recommends the following steps in a rationale: a brief summary of the book. Brief description of the controversial parts of the book. Appropriate grade and maturity level of the students who will be reading the book. A detailed plot summary. Value of the book to the students who read it. Literary qualities of the book. Objectives in using the book. Teaching methods to be used in reading the book. Assignments to be completed by the students while reading the book. Possible objections to the book. Critics’ and educators’ opinions about the values of reading the book. RayS.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Topic: English Language Learners (ELLs) and Cognitive Ability

10-second review: Do not equate difficulties in learning English with cognitive ability.

Title: “Mexican American Bilingualism and English Language Development.” Ricardo L. Garcia. Journal of Reading (March 1974), 467-473. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Quote: “Despite the spirit of the times and a desire to alleviate racial and ethnic tensions, the misconception still persists among teachers of Chicanos that a Spanish home language is a handicap for school success and that Chicanos with a Spanish home language are bound to experience academic failure in school, a self-fulfilling prophecy that has relegated an inordinate number of Chicano students to classes for the educably mentally retarded because many teachers have tended to equate English linguistic ability with cognitive ability.” p. 467.

Comment: A basic principle when working with children whose native language is not English: Do not confuse problems with language and intelligence. RayS.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Topic: Poetry.

10-second review: Why don’t students like poetry?

Title: “Writing Communal Poetry.” AV Manzo and DC Martin. Journal of Reading (May 1974), 638-643.

Summary: Students don’t like poetry because the language of poetry is “foreign.” Students lack knowledge of allusions. They have little knowledge of poems or the process of writing poetry. The students write a group poem to help them understand the process.

Comment: Of course, reading interesting poems aloud with the students following at their seats will help. But the process of writing poems is also interesting. I used a cinquain as a model for how to write a poem.

Model of a cinquain. Five lines. The first line is one word, the topic. The second line is two words, adjectives. The third line is three lines consisting of verbs. The fourth line is four words, a phrase. The fifth line is one word, a summary. Snake/ Slithery, Slinky/ Squeezes, Strangles, Stabs/ Slides on ground slowly/ “S.”

Students study the model. They vote on a topic. Students as a group brainstorm the topic, each student offering something they are thinking about concerning the topic. They then fill out the cinquain. They revise and edit and produce the group poem.

Then they write their own cinquains, beginning with a topic, brainstorm, and completing their individual cinquains. The results are often exceptionally good. Create a class book of cinquains. RayS.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Topic: Reading Aloud to Young Children.

10-second review: Encourage older children to read aloud to younger children. It will increase their own desire to read.

Title: “Remedial Readers.” Rossman. Journal of Reading (May 1974), 625.

Comment: The teacher should read aloud with expression as a model to the older students. Show students how to prepare for reading aloud by reading the story silently and noting how they are going to change their expression when reading aloud. RayS.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Topic: Assigning Projects

10-second review: If you’re gong to assign a project for students to complete, complete the project yourself and use your results in introducing the assignment.

Title: “An Assignment strategy.” RF Wolfe. Journal of Reading (October 1974), 87.

Comment: Completing assignments yourself and using your results in introducing the assignment has been criticized in the past as intimidating to the students who will realize that they can’t produce the quality of their teacher’s work. Well, there are pluses and minuses. The teacher’s product is a model to help students understand both the process and the product. The teacher learns the pitfalls of doing the project and can help the students anticipate and deal with them. Seeing the completed project says to the students, “I can do this.” On the whole, I think carrying out a project you are going to assign is a positive motivator for the students. RayS.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Topic: Plain English

10-second review: Suggestions for how to write plainly. These suggestions were part of an article on writing for the disadvantaged. The suggestions come from James Olsen, an editor for McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Title: “Teaching Reading and Literature to the Disadvantaged.” S. Bachner. Journal of Reading (October 1974), 50-55.


Keep sentences short, not more than 10-15 words. Avoid qualifications.

Use simple sentence structure: subject, verb, object.

Use present tense verbs.

Avoid to be, was, has, make. Use strong verbs.

Use definite and indefinite articles sparingly. Don’t open sentences with a, or the.

Avoid colons, semicolons and dashes.

Avoid linking words like because and if.

Use the “you” approach.

One idea per paragraph.

Be conversational.

Use similes that the reader knows.

Avoid large numbers and arithmetical symbols. Instead of 25%, say “one in four.”

Keep pronouns and antecedents as close together as possible.

Comment: Worth considering when writing anything that might be complicated for a general audience. Write your message as you normally would, then go back and simplify. RayS.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Topic: Summarizing.

10-second review: Shows students how to summarize with a kind of indirect technique. Students are asked to judge three statements for their accuracy and completeness as summaries.

Title: “Don’t Tell Them To Do It…show Them How.” LR Putnam. Journal of Reading (October 1974), 41-43.

Summary: Students read a lengthy selection from a science or social studies text. Students are then given three summaries and sets of judgments: “Has nothing to do with the text”; “Is related to the Text, but composed of minor details”; “The best expression of the summary.”

After students practice the previous judgments, they are given another set of three criteria: “Contains minor details”; “Summary expressed poorly”; “Summary expressed well.”

Students practice recognizing accuracy and completeness of summaries and then compose their own summaries with these criteria in mind.

Comment: Seems like a good idea. Students have to recognize good summaries and then complete their own. I might use a different set of criteria. RayS.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Topic: Censorship.

10-second review: Education vs. indoctrination. Article written in connection with banning Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye at Morrisonville High School.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, (December 6, 1994), A15.

: There is a big difference between indoctrinating students with an idea and education. Indoctrinating tries to force the student to learn and practice the idea, to make it a part of their behavior. . When the idea is found in a book and discussed, no intent exists to urge the students to make it a part of their behavior but simply to understand the positive and negative effects of the idea. Trying to make students Communists or trying to “sell” Communism to students is indoctrination. Discussing the effects of Communist society in Russia, including its positive and negative effects on the people of the Soviet Union in a study of the history of Russia is what we mean by education. RayS.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Topic: Writing Assignment

10-second review: Have students design their ideal school.

Source: KA Nugent. English Journal (November 2004), 37-42.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Topic: Innovation.

Ten-second review: What are some problems with innovation? “Solutions” to educational problems may inadvertently create as well as solve problems.

Source: RF Robinett. Elementary English (April 1971), 208.

Comment: I’ve had that experience as a K-12 supervisor too. Remember always to plan for evaluation when developing curriculum and anticipate unexpected side-effects. RayS.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Topic: Curriculum Evaluation

Ten-second review: What do innovators in education frequently overlook? “A common criticism leveled at educators is that they innovate but frequently fail to evaluate.”

Source: AV Bailey & G Housekeeper.

Comment: Ouch! One of my biggest failures as a K-12 English supervisor. RayS.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Topic: Evaluation.

Ten-second review: How make evaluation of student achievement more explicit? Suggests keeping brief anecdotal records of each student’s achievement in class. Statements of achievement are concise, in a short sentence.

Source: F Boyd-Batstone. Reading Teacher (November 2004), 230-239.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Topic: Distance Education

10-second review: What are some problems with distance education? Student criticisms of distance learning: Lack of audible communication; delays; time outs; material missed because of technological problems; 2-second-long microphone delays. “One of the chief problems of using ITV to teach writing is the inherent difficulty of adapting a course as interaction-dependent as composition to a technology designed for the lecture format.”

Source: A Blackstock and VN Exton. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (May 2005),