Friday, June 29, 2012

Teacher In-service


Question: How do teachers react to in-service programs?

Answer: “Found that teacher attitudes were more positive after in-service training, that teachers’ linguistic knowledge was increased, and that students perceived teachers as more positive after in-service training.” DE Thompson. 1973. P. 408.

Comment: Of course, this annotation does not reveal the topic of the in-service program. Good to know that, whatever the topic, the program was perceived in a positive way by the students. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English: January 1, 1974 to June 30, 1974.” Daniel J Dieterich. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 396-422.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Studying Literature


Question: Is listening to literature while reading it superior to simply listening to its being read or simply read?

Answer: “Compared three methods: listening to a tape recording of a literary work while following the reading in the text; listening only; reading only. All three study methods generally appeared to be equally effective.” RR Gribbon. 1973. P. 406.

Comment: In what way effective? Not enough information. Comparing the three methods is, however, an interesting idea. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English: January 1, 1974 to June 30, 1974.” Daniel J Dieterich. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 396-422.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

American Indians in Literature


Question: How are American Indians depicted in adolescent literature since 1930?

Answer: “A study of the American Indian in adolescent literature since 1930 revealed that the novels for the most part continued the traditional dual and contradictory image of the Indian as the dirty savage and the glorified, noble native.” A Troy. 1973. P. 406.

Comment: And today, 2012? RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English: January 1, 1974 to June 30, 1974.” Daniel J Dieterich. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 396-422.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Women in Literature


Question: How are women depicted in literature?

Answer: “Of the 171 selections analyzed, only 24had female authors; most stories depicted women in the traditional roles of housewife and mother; females shown as fully developed characters were either pre-menstrual or post-menopausal; women shown as professionals were teachers—‘old maids’ and heartless people.” G Hurst. 1973. P. 404.

Comment: Would the same be true today (2012)? How about in the media? RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English: January 1, 1974 to June 30, 1974.” Daniel J Dieterich. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 396-422.

Monday, June 25, 2012



Question:  Is there much interest in teaching spelling today? (1974)?

Answer: “From this study it can be inferred that educators have lost interest and neglected the study and teaching of Spelling. There seems to little utilization of the knowledge acquired through years of experience and research.”  BL Criscoe. 1974. P. 398.

Comment: Is the same true in 2012? Misspellings hurt academically and socially. With spell-checks on the computer, it’s too easy to ignore spelling. We can predict misspellings. RayS.

Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English: January 1, 1974 to June 30, 1974.” Daniel J Dieterich. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 396-422.

Friday, June 22, 2012



Question: Are students influenced by a three-week course in dialectology?

Answer: “Found that students’ attitudes toward and knowledge about dialects did change as the result of teaching a three-week unit in dialectology.” EW Gratz.  1974. P. 397.

Comment: Worth noting. Two types of dialects: regional and social. The latter is considered subordinate to Standard English.

“The term dialect (from the Greek word dialektos, Διάλεκτος) is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class. The other usage refers to a language socially subordinate to a regional or national standard language, A dialect is distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation (phonology, including prosody).” Wikipedia.


Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English: January 1, 1974 to June 30, 1974.” Daniel J Dieterich. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 396-422.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Black Dialect and Reading

Question: Does children’s black dialect interfere with the students’ learning to read?

 Answer/Quote: “Black children as a group are not learning to read as well as their white counterparts…. A mismatch between their language and the language of the materials used in school to teach reading….. this study is concerned with the grammatical mismatch only, not the phonological mismatch. It follows from this line of reasoning that reducing or eliminating this mismatch will reduce a reading interference and result in improved reading performance…. [Solutions:] Eliminate Black Dialect and replace it with Standard English to the use of reading materials written in dialect.” Pp. 339-340.

Quote: “Future research should turn to the analysis of the instructional process in the classroom and the complicated interaction between Black Dialect speaking children and teaching procedures, teachers’ attitudes, and the materials used for teaching reading.” P. 357.

Comment: In effect, this research rules out the mismatch between standard grammar and Black-dialect speaking children as interfering with learning to read. It suggests that the process of teaching reading is the problem, from teachers’ methods, attitudes and use of materials. One problem eliminated. A whole new set of instructional problems revealed. RayS.

Title: “Black English Syntax and Reading Interference.” HD Simons and KR Johnson. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 339-358.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Question: If students with remedial needs are grouped together, will they succeed in remediating their needed skills?

Answer/Quote: “If students are grouped for a remedial experiment, their sense of themselves may be so negative that the experiment is bound to fail before it starts.” Reviewed by W.R.P.

Comment: An interesting observation. If they are self-perceived as failures, they are bound to fail because they expect to fail. Never thought of this before. RayS.

Title: “An Exploration of Deep structure Recovery and Reading Comprehension Skills.” Roy C. O’Donnell and FJ King. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 327-3338.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reading and Writing

Question: What relationships underlie both reading and writing?

Answer/Quote: “If fluency and control of syntactic complexity are the key language competencies underlying reading achievement, then building these two competencies may well improve reading performance. Since language is learned more readily in oral form rather than written form, the development of fluency and control of syntactic complexity in oral language would seem to be a first step. Logically, fluency would seem to come first, first orally and then in written form. Control over complex syntactic devices would then build on fluent expression….” P. 325.

Comment: In 2012, reading fluency is considered one of the basic steps in reading comprehension. That makes this study of control of syntactic complexity in fluent reading a major influence in writing as well. I find this study exciting. RayS.

Title: “An Investigation of the Relationships Between Children’s Performance in Written Language and Their Reading Ability.” P Evanechko, L Ollila and R Armstrong. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 315-326.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Dysfunctional Student Writer

Question: What are the characteristics of students who are dysfunctional writers?

Answer/Quote: “Clarence found it easy to begin to write out of his own experience, yet revealed that he had difficulty with other kinds of writing. Are pre-writing and planning affected by the writer’s conception of audience and by the level of abstraction of the writing task? Clarence appeared to have little conception of writing for an audience. What conception of audience do most student writers have? Clarence does, in general, very little planning or thinking about his writing. Is this a common condition among school age writers? His writing activity is terse and hurried, a chore to be done with as quickly as possible. Is this behavior also common? Is Clarence’s lack of interest, and the little importance he attaches to writing, felt among many student writers? Is the dysfunctional writing instruction he has experienced to blame? How more effectively can language, especially written language, be made relevant, personal experience for students like Clarence?” p. 314.

Comment: I think there are many “Clarences” out there with regard to writing. If I’m right, the author is asking some very interesting questions about our instruction in writing. RayS.

Title: “A Case Study of a Twelfth-Grade Writer.” Terry Mischel. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 303-314.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Paragraphs and Topic Sentences

Question: Where do contemporary professional writers place topic sentences in paragraphs?

Answer: The author of this study discovered that contemporary professional writers do not always place topic sentences in the beginning of paragraphs. Still, wherever they are placed, he asserts, they need to be clearly expressed.

Quote: “This sample of contemporary professional writing did not support the claims of textbook writers about the frequency and location of topic sentences in professional writing…. Moreover, it does not all mean that composition teachers should stop showing their students how to develop paragraphs from clear topic sentences. Far from it. In my opinion, often the writing in the 25 essays would have been clearer and more comfortable to read if the paragraphs had presented more explicit topic sentences.” P. 301.

Comment: In fact, if the paragraphs are extended because of size and reader comfort, the paragraphs might not even have  topic sentences. But the original paragraph does have a clear topic sentence. The author of this study says that professional writers do not always place topic sentences in the beginning, but they still benefit, wherever they are placed, from clear expression.

On the value of topic sentences: my nephew, a PhD engineering student, carefully constructed his dissertation with clear topic sentences. When it came time for his defense, he found that by simply reading his topic sentences, he was completely prepared for the questions of the examiners. RayS.

Title: “The Frequency and Placement of Topic Sentences in Expository Prose.” Richard Braddock. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 287-302.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Teachers' Professional Reading

Question: How can teachers of other grade levels become interested in the professional articles published about other grade levels?

Answer/Quote: “It is significant that of the 386 secondary school teachers, many of whom doubtless feel that their instructional problems can be laid at the door of their elementary school colleagues, only five subscribe to Elementary English. The fact that two-thirds of them are unfamiliar with that periodical should suggest to the editors of NCTE journals that they should publicize one another’s periodicals as assiduously as they advertise publishers’ commercial products.” P. 127.

Comment: There are a variety of ways in which this cross-pollination of ideas might be done. I don’t see such publicity being carried out now in my professional reading of journals (June 2012). Could the topics of contemporary articles be part of the problem? Too much social concern and not enough classroom concern? RayS.

Title: “Letter to the Editor” : Isidore Levine. Research in the Teaching of English (Spring 1972), 126-128.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Teacher Evaluation

Question: What is one tool, not used very often, for teacher evaluation?

Answer/Quote: “Since the teacher has such an important influence in the classroom, he must be willing to examine his own teaching behavior. At the same time he must be a part of an environment which fosters this desire for self-analysis, and he must be made cognizant of appropriate tools with which to make this self-appraisal.” P. 85.

Comment: This is an old article, so please excuse the sexist language. The article shows how teacher self-reflection as part of teacher observation and evaluation has been around quite a while. I think teacher self-reflection is an important part of improving instruction. I regret not doing it as an active teacher. I think I might have been a much better teacher if I had. RayS.

Title: “Teacher Observation Systems: Some Implications for English Education.” John H. Bushman. Research in the Teaching of English (Spring 1972), 69-85.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Adapting to Audience in Writing

Question: Does assigning an audience result in better writing?

Answer/Quote: “When the assigned reader and English teachers rated the essays for persuasiveness, assigning an audience had a limited effect on the assigned reader’s scores and no significant effect on the teachers’ scores. However, analysis of questionnaire and interview data indicated that assigning an audience increased students’ interest, effort, and use of audience-based strategies.” P. 77.

Quote: “Certainly, we could encourage students to think about an appropriate audience—assigned or unassigned. After all, the results of this study suggest that assigning a real audience may help some students write better. The results also suggest that thinking of someone like the reader and referring to many of the reader’s concerns may help students persuade the assigned reader. However, the results reveal discrepancies between the writers’ intentions and their writing. These discrepancies should remind teachers that instruction is a crucial variable. An assignment cannot teach writers how to persuade a reader, no matter how much they know about the reader and no matter how motivated they are.” P. 99.

Comment: It’s one thing to ask writers to consider audience. It’s another thing to show them how to adapt their writing to the audience. I’ll be looking for articles on how to teach student writers to adapt to audience characteristics. RayS.

Title: “The Effects of Audience Specification on Undergraduates’ Attitudes, Strategies, and Writing.” TM Redd-Boyd and WH Slater. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1989), 77-108.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Most Difficult Type of Writing on Assessments

Question: What types of writing do students find most difficult on writing assessments?

Answer/Quote: “The National Assessment of Educational Progress (1980), in its ten-year study of student achievement in writing reveals that students have much more difficulty with persuasive writing tasks, which involve argument , than with narrative, descriptive, or expository tasks.” P. 62.

 Comment: Of course, I’ll bet that the least taught type of writing is persuasive writing. RayS.

 Title: “Student Argumentative Writing Knowledge and Ability at Three Grade Levels.” TM McCann. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1989), 62-76.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Literature Discussions

Question: How does a literature discussion differ from a critique of the literary work?

Answer/Quote: “The title of this piece (‘Grand Conversations: An Exploration of Meaning Construction in Literature Study Groups’) comes from a remark Jim Higgins made to a group of teachers when he was at Arizona State University as a visiting scholar in the spring of 1985. He was describing how literature is used in American classrooms and he said something like ‘what you most often get are gentle inquisitions, when what you really want are grand conversations.’ Bryant Fillion (1981) echoed this theme with his remark that when he listened to tapes of literature classes—his own as well as others—he was struck by how often they sounded like inquisitions rather than real discussions.” P. 4.

Quote: “The fact that rich discussions occurred even with novice group leaders makes us wonder what sorts of discussions might occur when group leaders are experienced, knowledgeable about literature, and are also willing to become group discussion members who will share their own personal transactions with the text but will not insist that theirs is the only possible one.”

Quote: “If critics and teachers  can become, as Probst (1986) suggests, not authorities on meaning, explicators of text, or sources of answers, but simply other readers with whom to talk, the grand conversations about literature may indeed be possible.” P. 28.

Comment: The key is purpose. If the teacher wants discussion, not direction of interpretation, then this description of discussion fits. There’s a time for that. But also for critical analysis, which will probably lead to teacher direction or inquisition, if you will. RayS.

Title: “Grand Conversations: An Exploration of Meaning Construction in Literature Study Groups.” M Eeds and D Wells. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1989), 4-29.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Interpreting Literature

Question: What are two significantly different methods of interpreting literary texts?

Answer/Quote: “Unlike the New Critics, who emphasized the objectivity of the text, reader-response critics argue that a literary work cannot be understood ap0art from its effects. They contend that a work’s ‘effects, psychological and otherwise, are essential to any accurate description of its meaning, since that meaning has no effective existence outside of its realization in the mind of a reader’ (Tomkins, 1980). From this perspective, meaning is viewed not as a property of the text but as a product of the reader’s activity and the text.” P. 56.

Comment: Both perspectives are useful in interpreting literary works. RayS.

Title: “The Effects of Genre and Tone on Undergraduate Students’ Preferred Patterns of Response to Two Short Stories and Two Poems.” Jane A Zaharias. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1986), 56-68.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Five-Paragraph Theme, Audience and Writing Evaluation

Question: What are the roles of the five-paragraph theme and audience in evaluating writing samples?

Answer/Quote: “Student writers depend on the five-paragraph theme-genre as a safe, formulaic approach to an evaluation situation. Even  so, the results of the present study indicate that sensitivity to audience provides an additional resource, beyond genre competency, upon which proficient writers draw even in writing tasks that are not manifestly persuasive.” P. 19.

Comment: Add yet another use of audience when writing-- evaluation of writing samples. Something to consider. How, as a teacher, would I use this information? The raters are professional teachers. What are the characteristics of professional teachers? That’ll take some class discussion. By the way, the author refers to audience awareness as “social cognition.” I don’t know why. RayS.

Title: “Social Cognitive Ability as a Predictor of the Quality of Expository and Persuasive Writing Among College Freshmen.” DL Rubin and BA Raforth. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1986), 9-21.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Research and Practice

Question: Does research in English have any relevance to classroom practice?

 Answer/Quote: “The field of education has traditionally been concerned with the relationship between research and practice. For the research community, this often emerges as a complaint about the gap between research and practice, or the length of time it takes for research findings to have any effect on schools. For the teaching community, it emerges as a mistrust of the relevance of research to practice, and a conviction that researchers lack an understanding of the complexities of classroom life. Put simply, many scholars and teachers question whether research has any relevance to practice at all.” P. 5.

Comment: The author frames the problem very clearly. For me, the practical answer to the question of research’s relevance to the real classroom, lies in viewing research findings as ideas. That’s why, in my comments in this blog, I suggest possible applications of the findings in my classroom. I’m not trying to learn absolute answers to questions about teaching English, only possibilities that I can try.

In a later editorial, the author has noted that it’s not THE single blockbuster research study that matters, but the collection of research studies that pretty clearly set a direction. For example, collected research studies have established the importance of audience to effective writing and the application of audience knowledge in the revision stage of writing. The importance of audience and when to apply that information has become a regular part of my teaching of writing. Without this research, I would not have made concern with audience a major part of my instruction in writing. RayS.

Title: “Musings… Principled Practice.” Arthur N Applebee, co-editor. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1986), 5-7.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Editing and Revision

Question: How are editing and revision similar in function?

Answer/Quote: “Composition researchers in academia and communication professionals in the workplace both use the term editing to describe some aspects of revision.” P. 322.

Quote:  “Cooperation between  composition researchers and practicing editors to develop a common definition of editing that reaches across both disciplines has tremendous potential for bringing a greater consistency to research, a much needed precision in terminology to the practice of editing, and perhaps most important of all, a substantial advance in bridging the gap between theory and practice so often talked about by theorists.” P. 331.

Comment: I’ve always considered editing to deal with “surface” features that do not affect meaning and revision to affect meaning. However, “surface features” often affect meaning (plurals, “the ‘student’ vs.’ students’ in avoiding sexist language), so that that definition of editing is not clear cut. As a practical matter, I don’t think the definitions of editing and revision matter. Why not include editing and revision under the heading “revision”? The purpose is the same: to polish writing so that the reader begins to read, and continues to the end without interruption, whether from lack of correctness or from unclear meaning. RayS.

Title: “Coming to Terms with Editing.” Diane Haugen. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1990), 322-333.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Reading Literature

Question: Does the art in literature reside in the reader or the text?

Answer: Rosenblatt or John Rowe Ransom. This study finds that “The work of art lies not in the reader or the text but in the transaction between the two in a particular social context.” P. 261.

 Comment: Of course. Both points of view, Rosenblatt’s contributions of the readers to the meaning of literary works and Ransom’s exclusion of extraneous elements in the reader’s point of view, are important in the history of the interpretation of literature. In other words, both points of view are correct and useful. RayS.

Title: “A Longitudinal Study of the Spectator Stance as a Function of Age and Genre.” Lee Galda. Research in the Teaching of English (October 1990), 261-278.