Thursday, February 25, 2010

Topic: Roots (Morphemes) and Vocabulary

10-second review: Fifth grade. Give students word, “transportation.” Break word into its morphemes: “trans-,” “port-.” Students suggest other words based on the first morpheme: “transfer,” “transplant,” “transition. etc.” Teacher leads students in guessing that the meaning is “across.” Other words with “port,“ “carry,” are “import,” “export,” “portable, etc.” Emphasis is on the meaning of the morpheme and how it carries through in the related words to provide a clue to meaning. Consider coincidental spelling (“trance”) and reject as not the morpheme meaning “across.”

Title: “Interactive Frames for Vocabulary Growth and Word Consciousness.” R Winters. Reading Teacher (May 20009), 685-690.

Comment: Good way to focus students’ attention on morphemes (or roots) that form many different words related by the presence of the morpheme while offering a clue to the meaning of the words.

The best vocabulary book for older (grades 9 – 12) students is Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis, based largely on roots and words related by the roots. Example: “ego,” “egoist,” “egotist,” “egocentric,” “alter ego,” etc. RayS.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Topic: Critical Thinking

10-second review: Fourth graders respond to ads in publications, telling what they like about the product and what they don’t like. They add bubbles to characters in the ads talking about the product.

Title: “The Elementary Bubble Project: Exploring Critical Media Literacy in a Fourth-Grade Classroom.” J S Gainer, N Valdez-Gainer, T Kinnard. Reading Teacher (May 2009), 674-683.

Example: “Cecilia stared at her paper as the 17 other fourth graders in her class busily wrote at their tables When I …approached to see if I could help, she held up a full-page magazine advertisement for a Dora the Explorer doll that sings in English and Spanish and said, ‘There is nothing wrong with this. I think it is a good toy.’ ”

A reminder to encourage both positive and negative comments. Important question is “Why?”

Comment: Interesting exercise in critical thinking Will need discussion before the children write about the products they have found in ads. RayS.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Topic: Information Books in Early Grades

10-second review: Start using information books as read-alouds even in first grade.

Title: “Exploring the Literature of Fact.” PS Webster. Reading Teacher (May 2009), 662-671.

Summary: Students should not only read information books, but should write them as well.

Comment: I again suggest that students write paperbacks, an idea that Barbara Stopper used in teaching first grade. Take four or five pages of copy paper (no lines), fold in half, staple at the crease. Students write the text at the bottom and illustrate at the top of each page. Teacher goes over with each student before posting, helping them correct spelling. Illustrated cover page. You will find that students will imitate the books the teacher reads aloud, including story books and information books. The children’s books will look great as part of a classroom library and in the hall, where passersby can’t help stopping to read them. RayS.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Topic: Blogging

10-second review: Teacher blogs with questions about the book the students are reading and the students respond. Increases practice in both reading and writing.

Title: “HOT Blogging: A Framework for Blogging to Promote Higher Order Thinking.” L Zawilinski. Reading Teacher (May 2009), 650-660.

Comment: Why not blog with your students? What to do about mistakes in writing? Keep a record of them and do mini-lessons. RayS.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Topic: Electronic Response to Literature.

10-second review: Students read e-books. They respond in electronic journals. Teacher sets up a message board with questions and students respond to the question and to the comments by other students concerning the e-book. Key to effective use of this method is in the following quote: “As group members communicated on the message board, they carefully read and contemplated the opinion of others before submitting a thoughtful reply.” p. 646.

Title: “Reader Response Meets New Literacies: Empowering Readers in Online Learning Communities.” LC Larson. Reading Teacher (May 2009), 638-648. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Comment: A good method to have students practice thoughtful writing. Has the advantage that students who would not contribute to a face-to-face discussion in class might do so in this online discussion. However, this method should not replace face-to-face discussion. They are two methods requiring different skills—writing and talking/listening. Both are necessary. RayS.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Topic: Research Notes

10-second review: To help students remember to cite both quotes and paraphrases, the author uses a double-entry note-taking technique suggested by Ballenger in 2007. The top of the page lists the complete citation of the text from which the quote is taken. In the column on the left, the student writes the quote. In the column on the right, the student paraphrases the quote. In the space at the bottom the student summarizes the entire article or chapter or book.

Title: “Research That Works: Double-entry Documentation.” LL Revelle. Classroom Notes Plus (October 2009), 12-14. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Comment: One piece of the research puzzle made clear. RayS.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Topic: Literature Discussion

10-second review: This is a silent discussion. Four or five tables in the room. Butcher paper with an interpretive question on each paper at each table. Students rotate from table to table, writing, but not speaking, their responses to the question. They then move on to the next table. When time is up, they read all of the responses to each question and add to the discussion.

Title: “Table Questions.” L Mitchell. Classroom Notes Plus (October 2009), 8. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Topic: Literature Discussions

10-second review: Students write two interpretive questions about the assigned reading the previous night. Teacher demonstrates what interpretive questions consist of (no “yes” or “no” answers) and gives some examples: “Why do you think…felt let down by his family?” “What clues did the author give to how the family would react?” Questions are cut into strips and thrown into a hat. Teacher selects first question, reads it aloud and the students discuss. And so on.

Title: “Mystery Hat.” L Mitchell. Classroom Notes Plus (October 2009), 7. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Comment: Another approach would be for students to submit questions about what they don’t understand in the story. RayS.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Topic: Writing Demonstration.

10-second review: Teacher demonstrates the writing process by writing spontaneously—from letting students choose possible topics to brainstorming through drafting, revising and editing to the final copy. Teacher shows changes through computerized redlining. Students discuss as the teacher writes.

Title: “Writing Onstage: Giving Students an Authentic Model.” BL Hewett. Classroom Notes Plus (October 2009), 1-6. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Comment: I can’t think of one good reason not to do this demonstration. Students usually see the finished product of professionally written textbooks, etc., and have no idea of what happens in constructing the finished product. This method shows students how writers write. RayS.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Topic: E-Books

10-second review: Uses e-books to encourage responding to reading.

Title: “E-Reading and E-Responding: New Tools for the Next Generation of Readers.” LS Larson. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (November 2009), 255-258.

Quote: “Many e-books allow for markups or annotations by the reader. The fifth graders I observed inserted sticky notes in response to the text. For example, the note in Figure 1 captured the reader’s thought process in the form of a personal query and was placed directly on the page in close proximity to the relevant passage. When annotating, students did not concern themselves with proper writing conventions and mechanics but rather focused on transferring their thoughts onto paper as quickly and effectively as possible. Students used invented spellings, letter and number abbreviations, and emoticons: ‘Poor him…he brought it on himself, 2 bad 4 U.’ ”

Comment: How about using sticky notes with traditional texts? How many teachers teach students to annotate as they read? Underline? To summarize? To note quotes worth saving? It is possible that e-books make such a process easier. There’s always the concern about writing in the public school textbooks. Nevertheless we should emphasize how to interact with text, whether traditional text or e-book. It’s the interaction that is important. RayS.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Topic: Academic Words for English Language Learners (ELLs).

10-second review: Variety of activities to help ELLs learn academic words. One activity involved putting pictures found by the students around the room and the other students guessing the academic words to which the pictures referred.

Title: “Building Academic Vocabulary in After-School Settings: Games for Growth with Middle School English-Language Learners.” D Townsend. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (November 2009), 242-251.

Here is the list of selected “academic words” used by the author: analysis, approach, area, assessment, assume, authority, available, benefit, concept, consistent, Constitutional, context, contract, create, data, definition, derived, distribution, economic, environment, established, estimate, evidence, export, factors, financial, formula, function, identified, income, indicate, individual, interpretation, involved, issues, labor, legal, legislation, major, method, occur, percent, period, policy, principle, procedure, process, required, research, response, role, section, sectors, significant, similar, source, specific, structure, theory, variable.

Comment: Interesting idea. Quite a challenge to find pictures for some of these words. Interesting technique to use even with native English speakers. RayS.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Topic: Visual Literacy

10-second review: The case for visual literacy.

Title: “You Gotta See It to Believe It: Teaching Visual Literacy in the English Classroom.” R Seglem and S Witte. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (November 2009), 216-226.

Quote: “No longer are the abilities to read and write in a linear, left-to-right fashion the sole indicators of successful communication. Rather, the world is made up of visual symbols that require more complex thinking skills than traditional literacy requires.”

Quote: What is visual literacy? Braden and Hortin (1982): “Visual literacy is the ability to understand and use images, including the ability to think, learn and express oneself in terms of images.”

Quote: “Ultimately, however, visual literacy must be included within all school curricula if teachers want to adequately prepare students for a world that is surrounded by and driven by images.”

Summary: Authors begin by interpreting tattoos and conclude by having students provide images for texts.

Comment: I’m not sure the world is “driven” by images. Society is still driven by ideas and ideas are formulated in words. RayS.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Topic: Museum Literacy

10-second review: Don’t forget museums when it comes to relating topics in school to the real world.

Title: “Museum Literacies and Adolescents Using Multiple Forms of Texts on Their Own.” AJ Akle. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (November 2009), 204-214.

Comment: Prepare students for using real museums by establishing purposes, background information and activities before, during and after the visit.

No museum that deals with your topic? Don’t forget the Internet. The Smithsonian consists of 19 museums on a variety of topics. You will find a listing of museums in the local area, some of which you don’t think of as museums—The Chester County Historical Society, for example. Although the amount of information on each museum on the Internet—American and world museums—varies, you will be able to sample some of that information, pictures, etc. RayS.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Topic: Contemporary Students and Boring Schooling.

10-second review: Students’ engagement in popular ;media (texting and tweeting, etc.) and practices in schooling are growing farther and farther apart.

Title: “Thinking Like a Forensic Scientist: Learning with Academic and Everyday Texts.” B Guzzetti. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (November 2009), 192-203.

Summary/Quote: “Two of the most challenging issues facing teachers today are how to engage adolescents who are growing up in a digital age surrounded by popular culture media and how to relate school content concepts to real life. Teachers have reason to be concerned because secondary students report that what they learn in school is boring and has little relation to everyday life outside of classrooms. Adolescents complain that they are more interested in and learn more from their own explorations with the media and the Internet outside of school than they learn in their content classes.”

Comment: Sounds like the 1960s again. School is becoming irrelevant to the individual student and unrelated to the real world. One writer from the 60s referred to George Eliot’s “Silas Marner crap.” I don’t doubt that the problem is real. But then I think teachers have always faced the problem of demonstrating the relevance of their subject to the real world.

One activity might help to close the gap today. Whatever the topic you are teaching, be sure to find out what is happening on the Internet before teaching it, what is happening with that topic in today’s world. And students should always finish the unit by exploring the Internet to find out the topic’s application in today’s world.

Let’s take the topic of punctuation. You will find on Google a site dealing with National Punctuation Day, a punctuation checker, a blog that suggests leaving punctuation out of your Twitter profile—punctuation marks take up too many characters. A hilarious video demonstrates what happens when you leave punctuation out of your communication. And that’s only a beginning. RayS.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Topic: Placement Decisions in College Writing Courses

Topic: Placement Decisions in College Writing Courses

10-second review: A demanding on-line writing assignment was superior in placing students in first-year college writing courses than using ACT writing scores.

Title: “Online Placement in First-Year Writing.” I Peckham. College Composition and Communication, 66 (3), 517 – 540, 2009.

Summary: Students had to write the essay based on reading 8 – 10 articles on a subject.

Comment: The more demanding assignment would obviously produce a better assessment of students’ writing abilities than the simpler ACT writing score. I think it’s a good idea. Such an assessment would require considerably more time than is allotted for the ACT. RayS.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Topic: Teacher and Student Feedback on Writing.

10-second review: Teacher and student feedback in end comments were about the same in quality and quantity.

Title: “A Validation Study of Students’ End Comments: Comparing Comments by Students, a Writing Instructor, and a Content Instructor.” MM Patchan, et al. Journal of Writing Research, 1 (2), 124-152, 2009.

Summary: “Concludes that peer feedback is fairly similar to instructor feedback, both in quality and quantity.”

Comment: Note that the comments were end comments only. Question is, did end comments by either students or instructors help students improve their writing? RayS.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Topic: Shared Rubric in Writing in Five Different Universities

Ten-second review: Five university English departments used the same rubric (criteria for grading) for a one-semester first-year writing course. All students improved in writing performance. Students at selective universities scored highest. Students with full-time instructors scored higher than students with adjunct faculty. Gender, SAT verbal Scores, number of class assignments, and number of drafts written in class were not significantly related to scores.

Title: “An Inter-Institutional Model for College Writing Assessment.” N Pagano, et al. College Composition and Communication, 60 (2), 285-320, 2008.

Comment: I think the key to this success was agreed-on expectations in writing. I wonder to what degree teachers of writing agree on the quality of writing they expect. I am willing to bet that writing teachers do not agree on their expectations in writing. My expectation for expository writing? Introduction; thesis; topic sentences in intermediate paragraphs (with additional extending paragraphs if needed) and summary paragraph. RayS.