Friday, October 14, 2011

Literacy Defined

Q. How define "literacy"?

A. "...speaking, reading, listening, writing and understanding language is being literate."

MC Taylor. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy  (Mar. 06), 500.

Note: Environments are not literate. Environments can't read, write, etc. RayS.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Multi-cullltural Literature

Q.  How can teachers learn and use multicultural literary works that are unfamiliar to parents?

A. Prepare rationales for teaching the multicultural literary works. Share the books with parents and other groups.

RJ Stallworth, et al. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (Mar. 06), 478-489.

[RayS. For examples of rationales for teaching literary works, go to]

 Here are some guidelines for constructing rationales for teaching literary works:

A brief summary of the book.

Appropriate grade and maturity level of the students who will be reading the book.

A detailed plot summary.

Values 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.

Professional educators’ opinions about the values of reading the book.

These guidelines are taken from Teaching English, How To…. By Raymond Stopper, Xlibris, 2004, pp. 434-435.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Q. Why do people become teachers?

A. "None of us became teachers out of a burning desire to raise students' test scores."

CM Santa. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (Mar. 06), 475.

[RayS. In light of the No Child Left Behind law, I think it is time to poll teachers on why they became teachers. How do the effects of the No Child Left Behind law affect their goals as teachers?]

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Action Research

Q. How encourage teachers to participate in action research?

A. Publish their work.

LS Eckert. Reading Research Quarterly (Apr/May/Jun 06), 288.

Comment: As a supervisor, K-12, I didn't encourage teachers to do enough action research in the classroom. If I had, I could have published their work. One of many opportunities I missed. RayS.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reading and Science

Q. Why don't teachers use science picture books in primary grades?

A. Reading and writing science are different from typical primary narratives. Predominance of the story genre. Not aware such books are available. Undermine the hands-on approach to science.

 CC Pappas. Reading Research Quarterly (Apr/May/Jun 06), 226.

[RayS: Raises question as to how best to use information books in the primary grades.]

Friday, October 7, 2011

Innercity Libraries

Q.  How reform inner city libraries to try to address the achievement gap between low-income students and privileged students?

A. Merely providing resources--print and technological--did not bridge the gap. Low-income students with low knowledge and background did not make better use of libraries even though the resources had been upgraded significantly. One idea, however, seemed to offer hope--librarians who got out from behind their desks to work actively with students.

JP Neuman and D Celano. Reading Research Quarterly  (Apr/May/Jun 06), 176-201. [RayS: I think the latter finding is significant. Librarians need to be teachers.]

Thursday, October 6, 2011

ESL (English as a Second Language)

Q. How help ESL students learn English?

A. "Survival English" to understand important words.

CL Medina and G Campano. Language Arts (Mar. 06), 337.

 [RayS: What "survival words" would I emphasize in my secondary English classroom in teaching English? Interesting idea. A place to begin. This idea might be of value for native-English speakers. Reduce the class to key words or concepts that are really important to the meaning of the class. More realistic would be to begin units with key words.]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Q. What are some strategies for improving vocabulary and reading?

A. Generate synonyms, antonyms and other words related to the new word--better than writing the word in a sentence.

R Boulware-Gouden, et al. Reading Teacher (Sept. 07), 70-77.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Writing Across the Curriculum

Q. What types of writing must students learn in other disciplines?

. We need to learn what kinds of writing and specialized writing skills are needed in the disciplines and we, therefore, need to broaden our instruction in writing classes to take these needs into account.

D Becket, et al. Teaching English in the Two-Year College  (Sep. 07), 63-72.

 [RayS: I was always under the impression that Writing Across the Curriculum people thought English instructors needed to teach instructors in other disciplines how to teach writing. The suggestion in this article assumes that instructors in other disciplines already assign specialized writing and the ones needing to learn how they do this are the English writing instructors. Probably the solution to meeting the writing needs of students in disciplines other than English is mutual understanding of what all disciplines do in writing. Interesting.]

Monday, October 3, 2011

Writing Across the Curriculum

Q. What do we know about how instruction in writing classes meets the needs of the students in the disciplines?

A. "However, little is known about how instruction in writing classes meets students' needs in the disciplines."

D. Becket, et al. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (Sep. 07), 63.

Comment: In other words, does the model of the five-paragraph essay meet the writing needs of students in science, social studies, math, etc.? RayS.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Two-Year Colleges

Q. What is the mission of the two-year college?

A. Part liberal arts, part occupational training, part remedial education, part general-equivalency-diploma preparation.

J Andelora. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (Sep. 07), 6.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Literature: Louise Rosenblatt and the New Critics

Q. What was the role of Louise Rosenblatt in the reading of literature?

A. "She challenged the major theories and theorists of literary theory of the time and attempted to turn literary studies in a new direction. She did so by demonstrating the relevance to the study of literature of the human reader...."

 E A Flynn. College English (Sep. 07), 68.

 Comment: In other words, she pointed out the importance of the reader’s experience to understanding the literary work. RayS.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Machine Scoring of Writing

Q.  Why use machine scoring of compositions?

A. Review of Machine Scoring of Student Essays: Truth and Consequences by PF Ericsson and Richard Haswell, editors. 2006. The big question: machine scoring for what reason? The usefulness of machine scoring of essays depends on the answer to that question.

C Rutz. College Composition and Communication (Sep. 07), 139-144

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Urban Education

Q.  How deal with the problems of urban education?

A. We need to change the image of urban areas by presenting positive images of what actually occurs in urban schools.

V Kinloch. Language Arts (Sep. 07), 61-68.

[RayS: All right, this will not solve all the problems of urban education, but I think it is one piece of the puzzle. The only images of urban areas I see are the "If it bleeds, it leads" of Channel 6, Action News each night--a daily chronicle of murder, rape, arson, and other assorted violence, etc. The perfunctory 30-second image of students gathered around the piano or receiving awards does not convey the kind of positive image needed to change people's views of urban education.]

Monday, September 26, 2011

Education Reform and Independent Study

Q.  How should schools be reformed?

A. Author suggests that beyond kindergarten and fifth grades in which basic skills are taught, students should engage in independent study with less and less time devoted to a standardized curriculum.

J Lemke. Language Arts (Sep. 07), 52-61.  

[RayS. One of the most interesting ideas I have encountered in my professional journals. Working out the details of such a reform will be difficult, but I think it is an idea worth pursuing.]

Friday, September 23, 2011


Q.  How help young students become interested in words?

A. Student wears a "hat" (a crown) with an interesting word he has discovered written on it so that when other children or people ask about the word, he can explain it to them.

P Pargh, et al. Language Arts (Sep. 07), 31-42.

 Comment: This idea is so cutesy that it might work. RayS.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Literacy and Science

Q.  How help young children to relate literacy and science?

A. Kindergarten students observe bird feeder outside the classroom. They raise questions, learn to use bird publications, record their findings, take pictures for reference and evidence of the answers to their questions, etc.

P. Whitin. Language Arts (Sep. 07), 20-30.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reading Comprehension

Q.  What is wrong with our teaching of comprehension?

A. Comprehension is expected, not taught. Comprehension strategies are not often taught.

S Dymock. Reading Teacher (Oct. 07), 161-167.

 What are comprehension strategies?
SQ3R (Robinson, 1961): “A study strategy in which readers survey a text before reading and devise questions to answer, generally using the headings to guide question writing. They read to find answers to their questions; after reading, readers recite their answers. Finally, they review by going over their answers and rereading where necessary. The emphasis is on using questions to guide study reading.”

DR-TA (Stauffer, 1969): “A comprehensions strategy in which readers speculate on what will occur in a text (e.g., what the topic is, what content a selection will cover, what a story is about, what will happen in a story). While reading, readers stop to check on predictions and predict what will happen next. The emphasis is on predictions.”

K-W-L (Ogle, 1986): A study strategy in which readers think about what they already know about the topic of a selection and predict categories of information they expect to learn from reading it, and also decide what they want to learn. After reading, they think about what they have learned. In this scheme, K stands for what I know; W for what I want to learn, and L for what I have learned.”

Comment: Excellent techniques for improving students’ comprehension. RayS.

Title: “Essential Reading: Targeting, Tracking, and Thinking about Main Ideas.” DG Hennings. Journal of Reading (February 1991), 346-353.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Q.  How can writing a journal help your writing?

A. Makes writing a habit. Set inner editor and critic aside. Write letters. Organize into random thoughts and observations, collect snippets of conversations and comments, collect quotes that inspire you.

DM Raab. The Writer (Oct. 07), 30-33.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Q. What to do about the subjunctive?

A. "If it were...." "I wish I were...." The definition of the subjunctive is "contrary to fact." If you can't figure it out, write around it. "If it were I, I would do it" becomes "I know that I can do it." "I wish it were I who could do it" becomes "I wish I could do it." The author explains the basics of the subjunctive, but he pretty much says to follow the definition of "contrary to fact" for "If" and "wish" clauses or write around it.

A Plotnik. The Writer (Oct. 07), 15-16.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vocabulary: A Reminder

Q. How teach homonyms, homophones and homographs?

A. Homonyms, same word, different meanings (bank--for money; bank--by the side of a stream); Homophones, same sound, different words (their, there); and homographs, same spelling, different meanings (tear--to rip/ tear--cry). Special problem for English as second language learners.

J Jacobean, et al. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy  (Oct. 07), 88 - 111.

[I never could get the differences clear in my own mind. This review was useful. RayS.]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Oral Proficiency and ESL

Q.  How is oral proficiency useful in ESL learning?

A. Oral proficiency is important in learning English, but is often overlooked in instruction. RA Grant, et al. Reading Research Quarterly  (Oct/Nov/Dec 07), 599.

[Comment: Learning to read in English for native speakers of English means identifying the words in their listening and speaking vocabulary and matching them with the same words in print. Unfortunately, ESL students are not proficient in oral English. They can learn to say the words, but they will have difficulty in understanding them, particularly  with idioms. Use the DRA or Directed Reading Assignment to achieve ESL proficiency in oral English and academic language. Adjust the DRA by using discussion with each step. DRA: Build background on topic. Survey--Title, sub-titles, first pragraph, first sentence of each paragraph, last paragraph--set purpose for reading. RayS.]

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vocabulary and Comprehension

Q.  How important is vocabulary in comprehension?

A. The better the vocabulary scores, the better the comprehension scores.

BW Riedel. Reading Research Quarterly (Oct/Nov/Dec 07), 547.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

English Teacher's Purpose

Q. What is the Purpose of the English Teacher Today?

A. Comment by RayS: I continue to maintain that the purpose of the English teacher is to work with words, to communicate with words, to read words, to write and speak with words, to create with words. I still think Joseph Conrad said it best: "My task is by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see." I maintain that images, sound and video are most valuable when they support the words we use. I remember reading in the book version of Civilization that Kenneth Clark said he could not emphasize law and economics in the TV version of his survey of the history of civilization because he could not find visuals to support those topics. Of course not. Those topics consist almost entirely of ideas. And words are the key to expressing ideas.

We are English teachers. And our job is to teach the use of words. I have no problem with teaching how to use other media to support words. We need to emphasize words because words are ideas. Pictures may be worth a thousand words as the cliché goes, but no picture will ever replace words as the best medium to express ideas. The NCTE and I do not agree on the centrality of multimedia. I maintain that to the degree that emphasis is taken away from words in our English classes, students' mastery of literacy will be significantly weakened.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Research Paper

Q. What are some creative ways to present the results of research in the classroom?

A.  Put it in the form of an unfamiliar genre: cook book; how-to book; instruction booklet; user's manual; pamphlet; dialogue; guide; letter; memoir; news article; news feature; in-depth report; obituary; opinion column; editorial; review; poetry; resume; speech.

 S Andrew-Vaughan & C Fletcher. English Jourbal (Mar. 06), 36-42.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Five-Paragraph Essay

Q. What is the value of the five-paragraph essay?

A. Provides the foundation for organizing expository writing.

K Smith. English Journal (Mar. 06), 16.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Research Paper

Q. How teach research?

A. Students keep a journal of their progress in researching.

RD Derrico. English Journal (Mar. 06), 10.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reflective Writing

Q. How encourage reflective writing?

A. Create scenarios--problems, something like Dear Abby, but not necessarily personal; could be a school problem on how to study, how to write a research paper. Students respond with helpful suggestions.

TE Henning. English Journal (Mar. 06), 102-104.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Failing Students

Q. How help students who are failing?

A. When students are failing, ask them why.

A Bloodgood. English Journal (Mar. 06), 97-99.

[Seems like such a basic question to ask, but it’s a great idea to ask it. You may be surprised at the answers. RayS.]

Monday, September 5, 2011

Research Paper

Q. How teach the research paper?

A. Use a mini-research paper on assigned topics, a paper of 500 words, and take students through the process, step-by-step.

KA Pfaffinger. English Journal (Mar. 06), 75-77.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Research Paper

Research Paper

Q.  How organize a research paper?

A. Use "I-Search" paper [Ken Macrorie] in which students ask and answer questions that are of personal importance, like careers.

H Lyman. English Journal (Mar. 06), 62-67.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Research Paper

To My Readers:

Introduction: I have read thousands of professional articles in the field of English education. In this blog, I plan to select what I call 5-star ideas, ideas that are significant to me, RayS, ideas that I used in my classroom, recommended to teachers when I was a supervisor, or ideas that I might use if I were not retired. I look forward to hearing from my readers.

Some of the publications from which I selected the ideas are Language Arts. Voices from the Middle, English Journal, College English, Teaching English in the Two-Year College, College Composition and Communication, Research in the Teaching of English,and  English Education from the National Council of Teachers of English. From the International Reading Association, I read The Reading Teacher, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy and Reading Research Quarterly. I also read The Writer, a publication by writers for writers and The Wall Street Journal.


Research Paper

Q. What are the advantages of paraphrasing in note taking?
A. "By actively engaging with the material to write it in their own words, students have the opportunity to process the content and develop better understanding of it." K Guinee and MB Eagleton. English Journal (Mar. 06), 52.