Chandler, Kelly and the Mapleton Teacher-Research Group. (1999)
Spelling Inquiry: How One Elementary School Caught the Mnemonic
Plague. York, Maine: Stenhouse Publications.
Readers who open Spelling Inquiry looking for specific
recommendations of how to effectively teach spelling will be
disappointedwhile interested in updating teaching techniques for
spelling, the authors do not focus on instructional methods. Instead,
they present a very different, and perhaps, ultimately, more useful,
approach to instruction. In Spelling Inquiry, they describe
whole (and holistic) strategies for creating an environment that is
"student-centered and inquiry based," and thus more conducive
to effective learning and teaching of spelling.
Teachers at the Mapleton Elementary School, along with Kelly
Chandler, then an doctoral student, organized a research group to both
discuss issues that arose in their classrooms and find solutions to the
questions they raised about teaching techniques, especially for
teaching spelling. Spelling Inquiry details the group's
development and evolution over the course of a few years and provides
suggestions about how teachers in other schools could implement similar
research groups. Included in each of the six chapters are very
practical suggestions and recommendations on how to organize a group.
Also included are "interludes," descriptions of how various
teachers integrated what they had learned during their group
discussions into the classroom. The authors emphasize the importance
of talking with children and their parents about their expectations
(the teachers distributed a survey about spelling to parents, the
results influenced their teaching tremendously) and discuss ways of
assessing and evaluating what children have learned.
The authors' emphasis on collaborative efforts, allowing time for
reflection, observing how children really learn to spell and asking
parents for input create a new paradigm for teaching spelling.
Although it is very time intensive, this new way of approaching
teaching, especially for a complicated subject such as spelling, offers
teachers an alternative to more traditional techniques. Instructors
interested in exploring other methods of teaching will want to read
Reviewed by Shellie Jeffries, Wayne State University
Fountas, Irene C. and Pinnell, Gay Su. (1999)
Matching Books to Readers: Using Leveled Books in Guided Reading,
K-3. Portsmouth: NH: Heinemann.
Teachers responsible for developing the reading skills in K-3
classrooms face the monumental task of finding appropriate books to
accommodate the various reading levels and abilities found in any given
class. The authors of Matching Books to Readers offer practical
suggestions on how to address this issue. Building on the foundation
laid in their 1996 book, Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All
Children, Fountas and Pinnell, have not only expanded and revised
the book list of recommended titles, but also written instructions for
implementing guided reading in primary classrooms.
In the first chapter, the authors carefully explain the
reasoning behind the use of "leveled books," which they
define as "books that have been analyzed in terms of how they
support and challenge young readers as they learn how to read and that
have been organized in a gradient of difficulty." In subsequent
chapters, they explain the criteria for the different levels, describe
the role of leveled books within an effective literacy program, and
indicate how to integrate leveled reading into the curriculum. They go
on to offer advice on creating a classroom collection of leveled books,
including funding and purchasing the collection. The actual book lists,
arranged by level and also by title, make up the remainder of the
book.Some teachers may chafe under the imposed structure of this
guided reading approach to instruction. Others, will find it
beneficial to adopt this well-thought out, easy-to-follow and easily
implemented reading program that will help many students become
successful, confident readers.
Reviewed by Shellie Jeffries, Wayne State University
Lipkin, Arthur (1999)
Understanding Homosexuality, Changing Schools: A Text for Teachers,
Counselors, and Administrators.
Boulder, CO: Westview
Imagine the ideal book on homosexuality for educators. It would
look at the issues in depth with historical and psychological
perspectives. It would recognize that each person and each school
approaches the issue from a different vantage point. It would offer
practical suggestions as well as paradigm shifting discussions. It
would be innovative without being prescriptive.
This ideal book would not limit itself to discussions of how to
handle homosexuality in sex education classes. There would be
information for homosexual teachers who must decide whether to come out
to the school community. The special concerns of gay parents, members
of conservative religious groups, and adolescents struggling with
homosexuality would all be examined. There would be an excellent index
and easily accessible suggestions for further reading.
Lipkin has not written the ideal book, but he has come far closer
that I would have thought possible. This book is a treasure trove of
information. It will serve as an excellent introduction for those
unfamiliar with the issue, and as a current update for those revisiting
it. There is no bibliography beyond the extensive "Notes" section
(pp.369-483) and the index, while substantial, emphasizes proper names
rather than concepts. Despite the breadth of coverage there is depth in
the discussions that goes beyond simply whetting the appetite. Lipkin
takes a major taboo and disarms it admirably. Overall an excellent
offering that deserves a wide audience.
Price: $65.00 (cloth) $18.95 (paper)
ISBN: 0-8133-2534-x (cloth) 0813325358 (paper)
Reviewed by Kate Corby, Michigan State University
Owston, Ron. (1998)
Making the Link: Teacher Professional Development on the
Portsmouth NH: Heinemann.
Most books on the Internet written for teachers focus on how to use
the Internet in the classroom. Ron Owston takes a different approach
to the Internet. Owston's unique book encourages teachers to utilize
the Internet and exploit the many available free or low-cost resources
in order take charge of their own professional development.
Teachers usually have to rely on brief seminars and workshops for
their professional development. Even those opportunities may be few
and far between when school finances are limited. Owston maps out a
workable strategy for customizing a professional development plan using
online resources. Owston's manual is not limited to what can be found
on the World Wide Web. Starting with e-mail, he also includes chapters
on using newsgroups, FTP and online conferences to maximize enrichment
While he does include some Web sites which may be of use (and which
are available on the book's companion Web page found at
http://www.edu.yorku.ca/MTL/), the book goes beyond listing interesting
Web sites and guides readers through how to utilize them in their
The book is of greatest use to the novice. Even those who have
never used the Internet or e-mail could use this book to get started.
More experienced users can skip over the "how-to" information on
navigating the Web or setting up bookmarks and focus instead on the
advice on actually utilizing these resources for personal learning and
professional growth. Particularly useful are to the non-novice are
Owston's explanations of how to develop an action plan and how to
devise a research strategy for the Internet.
The Internet offers new opportunities for personal learning.
Owston's book is a good guide for educators who would like to get more
out of this tool.
Reviewed by Darlene Nichols, University of Michigan