Sunday, July 31, 2011

Topics for the Month of July 2011


The July 1 topic is at the bottom of the list; the topic for July 29 is at the top of the list.
Learning Logs

Types of Learners

Types of Writing

Errors and Fluency in Writing

Content Area Writing

History of Writing Instruction

Beginning Reading

Narrative and Expository Writing

Black English and Errors in Writing

Story Writers and Story Re-tellers

Invented Spelling

Basic Writers and Revision

Textbook Comprehensibility


Everyday Literacy: Instant Messaging

Using a Corpus of Language Samples

Elementary School Graduate Course in Curriculum

Students' Reading Habits


Types of Summaries

Topics for English Archives Research, June 2011

Annotated Research: Reading Comprehension

Friday, July 29, 2011

Learning Logs

Annotated Research

Question: What are the values of learning logs?

Answer: “Logs were perceived by students and faculty as contributing to learning by preserving information, generating discussion, stimulating subsequent writing, and developing cognitive skills.” RL Chamberlin. 1988. P. 427.

Comment: In learning logs, students respond in writing to what they are learning, including questions about what they have not understood. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” Russel K Durst and James D Marshall, eds. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1989), 424-442.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Types of Learners

Annotated Research

Question: What are some types of learners?

Answer: “Found four distinct learner types: idealists, realists, inquirers and stoics.” AP Amore. 1988. P. 426.

Comment: The four nouns describing learners are a place to begin, I guess. Might be good for discussion about the characteristics of each type of learner and add additional types. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” Russel K Durst and James D Marshall, eds. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1989), 424-442.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Types of Writing

Annotated Research

Question: What are the most frequent types of writing in the community college?

Answer: “Found that 79 percent of the writing collected was transactional (expository) and 21 percent was expressive (personal narrative).” DJ Herzog. 1989. P. 426.

Comment: Of course, parts of expository writing often include personal narratives as supporting material, and often published narratives (fiction) include explanatory materials. The novels of James Michener are filled with information about history, geography, professions, etc. One gains almost as much information from contemporary novels as from textbooks. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” Russel K Durst and James D Marshall, eds. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1989), 424-442.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Errors and Fluency in Writing

Annotated Research.

Question: Does fear of making mistakes constrain fluency in writing?

Answer: “Fear of risking error constrained fluency, and was fueled by error consciousness and linguistic hypochondria.” JA Aston. 1988. P. 424.

Comment: I don’t know what “linguistic hypochondria” is. But in the early stages of writing, brainstorming and drafting, I always counseled not to worry about mistakes. Time to be concerned about mistakes is when revising and editing. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” Russel K Durst and James D Marshall, eds. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1989), 424-442.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Content Area Writing


Question: What do we know about writing in the content areas?

Answer: “…current research shows that most content-area teachers require little extended writing but instead rely on form responses and short answers where material is already structured by teacher or text; that extended student writing is generally informative (summary and analysis) rather than personal or imaginative; that the audience is overwhelmingly the teacher-as-examiner.” P. 400.

Comment: I keep looking for accurate descriptions of content-area writing assignments. I wouldn’t expect content-area writing assignments to be “personal or imaginative.” On the other hand, I would expect the audience to be “teacher-as-examiner.” But I would also expect the format of many writing assignments to be in the form of “reports” of various kinds. I’ll keep looking—at least at the college level.

The use of model formats is rampant in business. I remember teaching a class in which an employee of Vanguard, an investment company, showed me the various formats for a variety of situations, requiring only the insertion of numbers and pre-selected key words into the formats, thus avoiding the need to write. A good thing, too. His actual writing was horrendous. RayS.

Title: “The Cooperation Movement: Language Across the Curriculum and Mass Education, 1900-1930.” David R. Russell. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1989), 399-423.

Friday, July 22, 2011

History of Writing Instruction

Question: Did you know this?

Answer: “The cooperation movement (c. 1900-1930) was the first in a series of twentieth century attempts to broaden responsibility for language instruction by involving faculty across the curriculum, the most recent of which is the current writing-across-the-curriculum movement. Cooperation in language instruction was another of the wide-spread urban educational reforms of the Progressive Era (c. 1900-1920).”

“Though the cooperation movement finally had little effect on writing instruction in the 1930s and beyond, it raised central issues of curricular organization and language pedagogy to which later reformers returned.” P. 399.

Specialization vs. Cooperation
“In a nation which cherishes ideals of unity and equal opportunity, it is easy to forget that specialization is not a temporary aberration, to be corrected with some new program or pedagogy that will remove or negate differences; it is the fundamental organizing principle of modern education and, behind that, of modern knowledge and life. Every curricular reform of writing instruction in secondary or higher education must sooner or later come to terms with differentiation and the attitudes it fosters.” P. 421.

Comment: It’s not going to be easy to overcome the desire for specialization.

This article is a lesson in the history of teaching English. Another “Been there, done that.” I think professional journals would do well, when publishing articles on the latest ideas, to begin by suggesting ideas related to the topic that have been tried before. Would give readers the context of the history of the idea. Would help readers separate what is new about the idea this time from what has already been tried—not necessarily unsuccessfully. Of course, authors are supposed to do that when they review articles related to the topic in the beginning of the article, but those references are usually relatively recent. I’m talking about historical perspective. I admit I did not know about the cooperation movement of 1900 to 1920. RayS.

Title: “The Cooperation Movement: Language Across the Curriculum and Mass Education, 1900-1930.” David R. Russell. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1989), 399-423.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beginning Reading

Question: Does “primerese” (i.e., controlled) writing in basal series cause problems for children learning to read?

Answer/Quote: “By the time they begin learning to read in school, children know a great deal about the forms and functions of language. This article describes some of the mismatches that can occur between child knowledge and the language of controlled ‘primerese’ texts used to teach reading.”

“The results … indicate that the controls and distinctive features of primerese text are counterproductive.”

“The question we address in this study is what happens when linguistically knowledgeable children encounter the kind of unnatural ‘primerese’ language typically used in basal texts for beginning readers. p. 380.

“The unnatural features of primerese may have negative consequences that go well beyond the kinds of miscues reported here. They may cause children to approach reading in a way that entails more attention to print and less to meaning.” P. 396.

Comment: I have not read recent editions of basal readers. It is my understanding that they have adopted many of the features of whole language, including real children’s literature. Does real children’s literature cause problems in mismatches between children’s knowledge of language and the non-controlled language of real literature? RayS.

Title: “Child Knowledge and Primerese Text: Mismatches and Miscues.” HD Simons and P Ammon. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1989), 380-398.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Narrative and Expository Writing

Question: How do students differentiate between narrative and expository writing?

Answer: “This study examines fifth and sixth grade students’ metacognitive knowledge about the processes of writing narrative and expository texts.”

Examples of students’ comments:
“In their interviews, students addressed differences between narrative and expository text writing. A major difference cited by most students was the creative, imaginary aspect of story writing in contrast to the factual, informative nature of report writing.

“For example, Ridgely….in his post-treatment interview, “If it is a fiction story, you don’t have to research it. In a report, you have to do research so you get everything right.”

Roy ” ’Because a story, you get all the information that you want. But a report you’ve got to get information that is true. A story you can write anything you want.’ Roy’s sense of the difference is that stories give the author complete and absolute freedom. In contrast, two students…focused more specifically on the different text structure features of expository writing (e.g., questions answered and keywords) versus narrative writing (e.g., characters)….”

Comment: From time to time my readers might find it interesting to ask students what the differences are between narrative and expository writing. With the word “story” applying to almost everything that is written, they could be confused about the differences between the two forms.

Not to mention the fact that narratives are often included in expository writing and expository information in narrative writing. RayS.

Title: “Students’ Metacognitive Knowledge about Writing.” TE Raphael, CS Englert, BW Kirschner. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1989), 343-379.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Black English and Errors in Writing


Question: What effect does Black English have on errors in writing standard English?

Answer/Quote: “Errors diminished in proportion to the tendency of students to select grammatical features that are shared by Black American English and Standard American English in formal communicative situations.” 326.

Comment: Well, I think this means that to the extent that Black English and Standard English share the same characteristics errors diminished. Sounds like a no-brainer. But where do the two types of English intersect?

Which raises the question about the effects of oral English on written English. What errors in standard written English are the result of habits in spoken English? What errors in standard written English are not the result of habits in spoken English? And then there are habits in spoken English that are not really “errors” as such—needless repetition, for example. Hmmmm. RayS.

Title: “Black American English Style Shifting and Writing Errors.” DH Morrow. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1988), 326-340.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Story Writers and Story Re-tellers

Question: What is the relationship between the story read aloud and the re-tellers of the story?

Answer: The quality of the story is reflected in the story re-teller’s language. The quality of the original story does make a difference.

Comment: I think this finding has interesting implications in terms of developing the student re-teller’s language. RayS.

Title: “Children, Stories and Narrative Transformations.” DD Hade. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1988), 310-325.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Invented Spelling

Question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of invented spelling vs. traditional spelling on reading and writing?

Comment: The researcher has set up an either/or situation. “Findings indicated that, using invented spelling, more children were able to write on their own in the early months. Their productions were significantly longer over all and contained significantly more spelling errors than those by children using traditional spelling.” The researcher concludes that invented spelling negatively affects learning to read.

The purpose of invented spelling is NOT to forget traditional spelling, but to fix the invented spelling when editing. NOT invented spelling OR traditional spelling, but BOTH invented spelling to utilize the child’s extensive oral vocabulary AND editing to restore the traditional spelling. RayS.

Title: “Invented Versus Traditional Spelling in First-Graders’ Writing: Effects on Learning to Spell and Read.” LK Clarke. Research in the Teaching of English (October1988), 281-309.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Basic Writers and Revision

Question: Would allowing basic writers to take home their essays to revise result in much improved writing?

Answer: Yes. Revising takes time and when basic writers were able to take the essays home (42 students), they were able to take the time to make substantial revisions that improved their writing significantly.

Comment: I know what you are thinking. Someone else helped them when they revised at home. The fact that a majority of students made substantial improvements would seem to belie that charge. I think giving poor writers time to revise is worth trying. A follow-up analysis of changes made might help in assuring that the revisions were made by the writers themselves. RayS.

Title: “Text Revisions by Basic Writers From Impromptu to First Draft to Take-Home Revision.” SA Bernhardt. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1988), 266-280.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Textbook Comprehensibility


Question: Can textbooks be revised in order to help students recall what they read?

Answer: Two linguists, two college writing instructors and two Time-Life editors revised the textbook passages. No doubt about which revisions were most memorable to students—the Time-Life editors—by a large margin—“…a very large and statistically reliable improvement.”

Quote: “To summarize, the two attempts to change only structure failed to have any effect; the two attempts to change some content but to change it only for the purpose of making the passages more coherent produced substantial improvement; and the two attempts to attend to style as well as content—attempts directed at enlivening the passages, giving them more verve, making them less impersonal, and providing more human drama—produced by far the strongest effects.” P. 256.

Comment: Who can doubt that Time-Life editors know how to make the contents of those magazines interesting. Textbook writers take note! RayS.

Title: “Some Characteristics of Memorable Expository Writing: Effects of Revisions by Writers with Different Backgrounds.” MF Graves, et al. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1988), pp. 242-265.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Question: How long does it take to publish a research article in Research in the Teaching of English?

Answer/Quote: “How long does the process take? This is made up of 3 components: time for reviews to be completed, time for revisions, and time for the printing and publication process itself. In most cases, authors can expect the review results two to three months after we receive a manuscript, together with suggestions for revisions. Time for revisions is of course in the authors’ hands; since becoming editors, we have seen revised manuscripts returned to us in less than a week, and others that have lingered for more than 3 years. Time for publication of accepted manuscripts varies from 4 to 8 months, depending upon where in the quarterly publication cycle we happen to be.” P. 241.

Comment: Sounds as if publication takes at least a year by the time that peer reviews are returned, revisions are made and publication arranged. These are not easy articles to read and reflect on. And, of course, the content is not exactly earth-shaking. As someone once said, with research in education, you take the long view of things, the accumulation of the research over time in order to arrive at some possibly reliable and valid results. That’s the way it is and probably the way it should be. We have enough fads in education, without adding to them by overreacting to research findings. RayS.

Title: “Musings…On Publishing in RTE.” Arthur N. Abblebee, co-editor. Research in the Teaching of English (October 19988), 239-241.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Everyday Literacy: Instant Messaging


Question: What can be learned from a study of a corpus of instant messages?

Answer/Quote: “We began this article with a discussion of everyday literacies, the kinds of reading and writing practices that take place beyond the sanctioned walls of classrooms and halls of academe. Our project illustrates that a close, fine-grained look at language features provides one window into everyday literacy in its historical moment. The understanding that emerged for us was one of young people who have a true mastery of written language: the IM [instant messaging] transcripts we studied were funny, clever, innovative, sometimes moving, and almost always delightful. We believe this picture emerged partly because of our inductive approach—to the best of our abilities, we let the language of participants speak to us and speak it did. Our study has revealed that literacy—at once innovative and playful, systematic and purposeful—is alive and well on the Internet and in the lives of the young people who use it.

“H.L. Mencken (1963) viewed slang as ‘a kind of linguistic exuberance, an excess of word-making energy’ (p.702). Mencken’s description of slang (as small part of IM) in some ways captures the spirit of IM writing as a whole. In a world where digital, multimodal communication is increasingly the standard practice, these users of IM are using the somewhat limited resources of the 68 typographic symbols on the computer keyboard to communicate visually, verbally, and bodily. The ‘linguistic exuberance’ resulting from the creative adaptation of technological resources to an expansive understanding of textual features offers to say much to writing researchers and teachers interested in the evolution of written discourse.” P. 399.

Comment: No doubt, the true spirit of communication exists in instant messages. However, that spirit needs to be translated into “academic, standard English.” And that still is the English teacher’s job. I appreciate the research and I appreciate the spirit it reveals in instant messaging, but we still have to help students transform the spirit into standard English, which does not kill the spirit. RayS.

Title: “Young People’s Everyday Literacies: The Language Features of Instant Messaging.” C Haas and P Takayoshi, et al. Research in the Teaching of English (May2011), 378-404.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Using a Corpus of Language Samples

Question: What is a corpus of language data?

Answer/Quote: “A corpus is a collection of linguistic data, spoken and/or written, compiled ;primarily for the purpose of research although, in the past decade, corpora have been used for language learning/teaching, especially foreign/second-language/learning teaching. While most corpus data are composed of natural language, such as real conversations and newspaper articles, some are not, e.g., movie scripts and language produced in tests for assessment purposes. Most corpora today are computerized.” 354-355.

On page 356, the reader is given a corpus of language involving the expression “back on track” from a variety of sources.

Comment: Interesting approach to studying language. In the case of “back on track,” the researcher can note the differences in meaning in using that expression. RayS.

Title: “Making Grammar Instruction More Empowering: An Exploratory Case Study of Corpus Use in the Learning/Teaching of Grammar.” D Liu. Research in the Teaching of English (May 2011), 353-377.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Elemenary School Graduate Course in Curriculum

Annotated Research

Question: What would be the effects of a graduate course in elementary language arts curriculum construction for elementary teachers?

Answer: “Found a positive change in teachers’ perceptions as a result of a graduate course in elementary school language arts curriculum construction.” KM Johns. 1985. P. 215.

Comment: The idea is full of possibilities. Possibly depends on how even-handed would be the approach. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” JD Marshall and RK Durst. Research in the Teaching of English (May 1986), 198-215.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Students' Reading Habits

Annotated Research:

Question: Are students reading less?

Answer: “In a questionnaire of undergraduates, found that students were reading less and were less influenced by reading.” MB Culp. 1985. P. 213.

Comment: OK. Now, what do we do about it? RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” JD Marshall and RK Durst. Research in the Teaching of English (May 1986), 198-215.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Annotated Research

Question: What is the effect of studying the SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review) approach to reading on both reading and writing?

Answer: “Found that students receiving special instruction in SQ3R and in composition improved their reading and writing skills more that students not receiving such instruction.” RH Summerville. 1984. P. 212.

Comment: Of course. Students learning how to use the survey [Title, sub-title, first paragraph, first sentence of intermediate paragraphs, and last paragraph] not only improve comprehension, but they also reinforce the use of the structure in expository writing. A No-brainer. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” JD Marshall and RK Durst. Research in the Teaching of English (May 1986), 198-215.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Types of Summaries

Annotated Research: Summaries

Question: What are some different types of summaries?

Answer: “Examines seven different types of summaries, including [an] abstract, prĂ©cis, minutes, abridging digest, locational digest (?), restructuring digest (?), and review.” OMT Ratteray. Written Communication, 2, 1985, 457-472. P. 209.

Comment: I put in the full bibliographic entry, because I’m sure that, like me, my readers have some questions about at least two of the types listed. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” JD Marshall and RK Durst. Research in the Teaching of English (May 1986), 198-215.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Topics for English Archives Research, June 2011

Topics for English Archives Research, June 2011. To re-read the research, type the topic in the search box at the top of the page. [Put "Annotated Research:" before the topic as that was the original topic.]

 Oral Reading, Listening and Si...

 Comprehension Strategies

 Recall and Comprehension

 Cause of Poor Reading

 Reading Strategies

 Revising and Reading

 Strategy for Bottlenecks in Wr...

 Notes and Writing

 Writing and Audience

 Audience and Writing

 Reading and Writing from Sourc...

 Specific Audiences

 Audience

 Writing Inhibitions

 Success in Writing

 Effects of Writing Process on ...

 Effective Writing Teachers

 Writing Invention Techniques

 Cooperative Writing

 Teachers' Comments on Writing

 Writing about Literature

 Collaborative Writing

Friday, July 1, 2011

Annotated Research: Reading Comprehension.

Question: What technique significantly improved story comprehension of young readers?

Answer: “Found that story comprehension improved significantly when children were asked to retell stories, with guidance.” LM Morrow. 1985. P. 209.

Comment: The “kicker” is, “…with guidance.” RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” JD Marshall and RK Durst. Research in the Teaching of English (May 1986), 198-215.