Thursday, May 31, 2012

Audience Analysis

Question: Is audience analysis a simple matter for writers?

Answer/Quote: “At an afternoon meeting of a professional writing group for K-12 teachers in our local area, a group of teachers sat around a table sharing ideas and partial drafts of articles for publication. Responding to a call for manuscripts, they worked to develop drafts of articles that described promising slices of their classroom practice or examined problematic teaching situations they had encountered. The teachers around the table differed in terms of degrees held, years of experience in teaching, prior experience with writing, and familiarity with professional journals, yet they described some shared challenges in developing heir articles.

Quote: “They wondered aloud whether they had ‘enough’ evidence, referring to the anecdotes and artifacts from their classrooms that they were analyzing in the drafts. Some worried that they needed more citations or even statistics from some large-scale study in order to make the observations they wished to make. They talked about the appropriate register for addressing the readers of a journal, wondering if it should be like speaking to colleagues in a faculty meeting or writing to a professor in a graduate course. They sometimes wondered whether they might ‘get in trouble’ with their building and district administrators if they expressed criticisms of curricula in place in their school or, more subtly, if they described teaching approaches that differed from the district curriculum guide.” Pp. 390-391.

Comment: Pretty good example of how audience analysis can be very complex. RayS.

Title: “Audience and Authority in the Professional Writing of Teacher-Authors.” AE Whitney, C Dawson, K Anderson, SK, EO Rios, N Olcese, and M Ridgeman. Research in the Teaching of English (May 2012), 390-419.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Audience and Writing

Question: When should college students pay attention to audience for their writing?

Answer/Quote: “Results indicated that attending to audience can be effective for improving the overall quality of students’ writing. Results suggested, however, that attending to audience is less effective as a drafting strategy than it is as a revising strategy.” P. 75.

Quoting James Moffett: “If anybody is going to do anything about the teaching of writing, the first priority is going to have to be the rekindling of the sense of audience. Until that’s done, nothing else is going to happen.” P. 75.

Quote: “The results of the present study suggest that much of our audience awareness pedagogy may not give students the best advice as to when to attend to audience.” P. 83.

Comment: This study suggests that the best time to consider audience is in the revision stage of writing. Since a number of studies seem to suggest the same time for considering audience, during revision, I would suggest it to my students. RayS.

Title: “The Effects of Audience Awareness on Drafting and Revising.” DH Roen and RJ Willey. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1988), 75-88.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Writing in the Disciplines

Question: How do writers in specific disciplines adapt to the writing requirements of that discipline?

Answer: This is an initial study of the problem of adapting to the writing requirements of specific disciplines. The student in question was a PhD candidate in rhetoric. He was a teacher of writing, but he was so overwhelmed by the writing requirements of his discipline that he made fundamental mistakes in coherence and point of view (writing in the first person, for example).He also found that strictures were waived in certain types of writing. They were not the same for all types of writing in the field.

Comment: I bring up this article because helping students adjust to the unfamiliar writing requirements of disciplines is important to helping students recognize the realities of achieving successful writing in a new field. I look forward to more studies of adapting to the unfamiliar writing requirements of disciplines beyond English. This study also sheds light on the limitations of writing instruction in undergraduate English classes. RayS.

Title: “Conventions, Conversations, and the Writer: Case Study of a Student in a Rhetoric Ph.D. Program.” C Berkenkotter,  TN Huckin, and J Ackerman. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1988), 9-44.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Writing Assessment

Question: What are some of the problems with writing assessment?

Answer/Quote: “Another common complaint about large-scale assessments is that they do not provide students with enough time. Again, the effects of this on performance is an empirical issue, but is often framed rather simplistically. All current assessments are really evaluations of student performance given a particular set of constraints,
“Performance is judged relative to other students operating within the same constraints…. There simply are no absolute standards of comparison, so that the issue of more or less time leading to ‘better’ writing is somewhat misleading. What is important—and unclear—is whether such constraints systematically bias the results for or against one or another group of students. Do students from process-oriented classrooms, for example, do less well relative to their peers when asked to compose spontaneously than they would if given the same topic to think about a day in advance?

“Or do students from one or another minority culture perform better, relative to their peers, if everyone is given the opportunity to discuss a writing topic before beginning to write? Such differences, and the biases that they imply in current testing formats are certainly plausible, but they have received little systematic attention from language researchers.”

Comment: Some ideas to think about. RayS.

Title: “Musings… Writing Assessment,” Arthur N Applebee. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1988), 6-9.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dialogue Joournals

Question: What are dialogue journals in writing instruction?

Answer/Quote: “One of the goals of dialogue journals—interactive written communication between a teacher and students—is the students learn to communicate effectively in writing.”

Quote: “Dialogue journal writing, written interaction between teachers and students gives students the opportunity to write about topics of their choice, to focus primarily on the meaning of what they write rather than on its form, and to write to an audience who is known and who responds to their ideas rather than evaluating what they have said or how they have said it.” P. 310.

Comment: The authors found that the teacher’s filling the dialogue with questions, in effect, shut the students down. RayS.

 Quote: “The findings of this study of written interaction—that the teacher’s writing was not dominated by questions but characterized by contributions…--suggest that the success of the dialogue journal interaction lies precisely in the teacher’s participation as an active partner in a meaningful, shared communication.” P330.

Title: “The Effect of Teacher Strategies on Students’ Interactive Writing: The Case of Dialogue Journals.” JK Peyton and M Seyoum. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1989), 310-334.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Question: When is the best time to consider audience information, before the first draft or before the final draft?

Answer: “Findings indicate that both groups of writers tended to defer audience considerations until the revision stage.”

Comment: However, some writers used the information both before the beginning draft and before the final draft. I think I would have students replicate the use of audience information  before the first draft and before the final draft and see which works best for them. In general, I think I would recommend use of the information in the revision stage of writing. Next question: how do good writers adapt their writing to the audience? RayS.

Title: “Audience and Information.” Bennett A. Raforth. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1989), 273-290.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Teaching Irony in Literature

Question: Which is more effective in teaching a literary skill, like irony, direct instruction or a method in which students develop their own methods of interpreting irony?

Answer: Both methods were statistically superior to no method at all. “(1) a direct method…which attempts to give students conscious control of the interpretive strategies experienced readers use to understand irony [or] (2) a tacit method, which seeks to have students develop their own strategies through extended practice with the genre.” P. 254.

Comment: Both methods worked. The key, of course, is to teach the skill, directly or indirectly, the latter being the “discovery” approach. The latter would probably take more time. But both worked. RayS.

Title: “Teaching the Interpretation of Irony in Poetry.” Michael W Smith. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1989), 254-272.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Audience and Persuasion


Question: Can students who are given information about the audience’s knowledge of a topic apply that knowledge of the audience to persuasive writing?

Answer: “…students given ample information about the audience relative to the topic had more consciously produced arguments, adaptations, and appeals, had a higher level of audience adaptation, and were considered more persuasive by their readers.” P. 247.

Comment: Students can apply audience information about a topic to their persuasive writing. RayS.

Title: “Audience Analysis and Persuasive Writing at the College Level.” Kathleen Black. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1089), 231-253.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Literacy Outside of School


Question: What can be learned by literacy educators from observing students’ use of literacy outside of school?

Answer/Quote: “Also, in India, Ethiopia and Uganda, as we have seen, there are examples of adult literacy educators going out into the streets and marketplaces to find out what the learners whom they will encounter in educational contexts are actually doing with literacy in their everyday lives so the educators can build on this while developing  the new literacy practices that the learners will need.” P. 226.

Comment: Makes sense. Knowing students’ literacy practices outside of school can help teachers connect formal literacy needs with what the students already use in their daily literacy practices. Knowing how to connect the two is another issue. RayS.

Title: “Society Reschooling.” BV Street. Reading Research Quarterly (April/May/June 2012), 216-227.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Vocabulary Acquisition


Question: How can incidental contact with words expand vocabulary?

 Answer/Quote: “Overall, our participants were at an advantage in terms of processing time and retrieval accuracy for novel words when they could combine the…morphemic [roots, prefixes and suffixes] and contextual cues that were available during incidental word learning. Our findings indicate that skilled readers derive more precise meanings as a result of pooling sources [morphemic and contextual] of information, which ultimately leads to long-term gains in vocabulary knowledge.” P. 187.

Comment: I interpret this finding to mean that direct teaching of roots and context clues should provide, while reading, even from incidental experience with new words, growth in vocabulary. RayS.

Title: “Combining Contextual and Morphemic Cues Is Beneficial During Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition ; Semantic Transparency in Novel Compound Word Processing.” SM Brusnighan and JR Folk. Reading Research Quarterly (April, May and June 2012), 172-190.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Writing to Learn

Question: How does writing contribute to mastering course material?

Answer: “Students paraphrased course material in their own words, used their own language resources to connect new and existing knowledge, and used writing to discover and shape meaning.” LM Hirsch. 1986. P. 440 .

Comment: I think this finding summarizes succinctly the contribution that writing makes to learning course material. I wish I had this “outline” of writing to learn as a teacher and supervisor. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reading and Writing in First Grade

Question: How do young children use the basal texts in their own writing?

Answer: “Students tended to use the style, format and sentence structure of [basal] readers as models in their own writing.” BL Eckhoff. 1986. P. 440.

Comment: Back in the early 1980’s, my wife Barbara, a first-grade teacher in the Downingtown, PA School District, began making blank paperback books of folded sheets of 8 1/2” x 11”paper, stapled length-wise.

She created an author’s center in which her first-graders made their own books. The results were remarkable. As this research says, the students used the basal stories’ style, format and sentence structure. They put the text either at the top or bottom of each page and drew pictures to illustrate the text at the opposite end of the page. Those first-grade students have retained their “books” even after graduation, which either they have told her or their parents have told her. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Summarizing and Reading Comprehension

Question: What is the effect of summarizing on reading comprehension?

Answer: “Instruction in summarizing writing…helped college students improve their reading comprehension.” FS Doby. 1986. P. 439.

Comment: Summarizing means thinking about what was read. Now that I think about it, I should have done more with summarizing when I was teaching English. RayS.

 Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Question: Why use invented spelling?

Answer: “Invented spellings were less common than conventional ones, but tended to reflect understandable logical processes.” SJ Wilde. 1986. P. 439.

Comment: When it comes to spelling and writing, don’t become hung up on spelling a word correctly. That interrupts the flow of thought. Save the correct spelling for the editing stage of the writing process. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Question: What could be the unintended effects of simplified syntax to increase readability for students?

Answer: “Found that while many publishers simplify syntax to enhance readability, this practice may result in texts that are unnatural or uncharacteristic of written English.” DL Brown and LD Briggs. 1986. P. 438.

Comment: Students must learn to read complex syntax. They will need to do so as they increase in grade level reading and in texts in content subjects, science, philosophy, literature, etc. Next question: How do you teach students to read complex syntax? Expose them to it. Show them how to “read” punctuation. Emphasize reading for ideas and teach them how to paraphrase complex ideas. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Reading and Prior Knowledge

Question: What is the effect of prior knowledge of a topic in reading?

Answer: “More prior knowledge enhanced [reading] performance….” NM Yochom. 1986. P. 438.

Comment: The more you know about a topic, the better you will comprehend it. Many research studies say the same thing. That makes building topic knowledge before reading important, including a survey of the chapter—title, sub-title, first and last paragraphs and first sentence of intermediate paragraphs. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TV and Vocabulary

Question: Does TV help children expand vocabulary?

Answer: “Found that television helped children learn new words.” ML Rice and L Woodsmall. 1986. P. 437.

Comment: It all hinges on the word “learn.” Since the words are spoken, there is no spelling and no dictionary is available, so the words must be presented in context. I can understand learning new words from comic strips, but I’m dubious about TV. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Annotated Research

Question: How does underlining help in recall of information?

Answer: “Found that underlining helps recall of information from underlined text segments.” J Blanchard and V Mikkelson. 1987. P. 436.

Comment: I’m an inveterate underliner. E-books make underlining easy. May solve the problem  of how to underline when the book is a library book, etc. Of course, the underlining must be selective. Too much underlining doesn’t help. You have to tech how to underline selectively. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Writing to Learn

Annotated Research

Question: what are the effects of writing in learning?

Answer: “Writing enhanced students’ memory of factual information and transfer of learning.” KA Copeland. 1985. P. 435.

Comment: Makes sense. In my experience , writing also enhances thinking. RayS.

 Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Essay vs. Multiple-Choice Writing Tests

Annotated Research

Question: What is the correlation between writing essays and multiple-choice writing tests?

Answer: “Found a strong correlation between scores on multiple-choice and essay exams “[of writing]. FL Galbraith. 1986. P. 434.

Comment: I suggest that the best writing tests combine the two formats, the way the SAT does it. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Persuasive Writing

Annotated Research

Question: What is the major flaw in most students’ persuasive writing?

Answer: “Found that, while most students could express their points of view in persuasive writing, many had difficulty providing evidence for their view points.” AN Applebee, JA Langer and IVS Mullis. 1986. P. 434.

Comment: Useful. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Research Format

Annotated Research

Question: Does most published research begin with abstracts containing major findings?

 Answer: “Though most style guides advocate announcing principal findings in one’s introduction, in actual practice, few writers do so in physics and even fewer in educational psychology.” J Swals and H Najjan. 1987. P. 434.

Comment: That’s not very reader-friendly. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1987), 422-443.