These reviews have been accessed times since February 1, 2006
Brief reviews for February 2006
Bouchard, Margaret T. (2005).
Comprehension Strategies for English Language Learners.
New York: Scholastic.
The large number of children classified as English Language Learners (ELLs)
has dramatically increased in recent years. This is an especially tricky
problem, since it can take up 5-7 years before an ELL student is proficient
enough to use English for academic purposes (Cummin, 2003). More and more
teachers are facing the dilemma of having students who cannot read content
books at grade level. Comprehension Strategies for English Language
Learners offers suggestions for dealing with ELLs of varying proficiency in
mainstream content classrooms.
Bouchard combines two ideas in her approach. The first idea is based on the
premise that teaching content together with explicit strategies improves
comprehension for subject material. This is based on the work of Chamot and
O’Malley (1994). The idea in Chamot and O’Malley’s work is to teach content in
ESL classes. Bouchard has reversed this approach with comprehension strategies
for ELL students in mainstream content classes. This idea seems very useful
since mainstream teachers are frequently called on to do the job that was once
the domain of ESL teachers.
Bouchard’s second idea is that incorporating ideas from the learning styles
literature can be useful for ELLs. It is not my intention to take a stand on
the question of adapting mainstream classroom material to different learning
styles. Readers interested in the controversy should read Ellis and Fouts
(1993, chapter six) for arguments against and Coffield et al (2004) for
arguments supporting this practice. I do, however, have two observations about
using learning styles with ELLs.
The first observation is that learning style assessment with ELLs can be
difficult. Bouchard suggests self-assessment for students with sufficient
reading skills and an observational checklist for students with limited reading
skills. I can see potential problems with both of these approaches. Any
student capable of accurately filling out the survey on page 18 is probably
able to process English academically and might not qualify as an ELL. I say
this because the task requires the reader to use written language for some
fairly sophisticated metacognition. Observing ELLs is probably the better
approach, but students’ learning strategies are going to be limited to their
language processing and might not be a reflection of general learning style
The second observation is that Bouchard’s book is full of really good ideas
on how to present material in ways that help develop comprehension. I don’t
think you need to be a proponent of learning styles to use her suggestions. She
offers of wide range of techniques including frame sentences (p. 24), semantic
features (p. 60), and graphic organizers (p. 80).
One weakness of the book is that Bouchard does not identify grade levels for
the various strategies. I believe this was intentional in that she is hoping
that content teachers from different grade levels can use or modify the
strategies. Most of the strategies are appropriate for elementary students.
Some strategies, such as semantic feature analysis, are also appropriate for
middle school students.
I highly recommend this book as a resource for elementary content teachers
with ELL students. Middle school teachers will also find a number of the
Chamot, A.U., & 0’Malley, J.M. (1994). The CALLA handbook: Implementing the
cognitive academic language learning approach. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley
Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E. & Ecclestone, K. (2004). “Should we be
learning styles? What research has to say to practice.” The Learning and Skills
Research Centre. Accessed from http://www.lsda.org.uk/files/P
DF/1540.pdf on November 14, 2005.
Cummins, J. (2003). “Reading and the bilingual student: fact and friction.“ In
Garcia (Ed). English learners: Reaching the highest level of English
literacy. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association. Pp.2-33.
Ellis, A. K, & Fouts, J., T. (1993). Research on Educational
Junction, NJ: Eye on Education
Reviewed by Reviewed by Cynthia Crosser, Social Science and Humanities
Reference Librarian/Education and Psychology Bibliographer at the University of
Maine. In addition to her M.S. in Library Studies from Florida State
University, she has an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Florida with
a specialization in language acquisition and an extensive background in
Burke, Jim (2005).
Accessing School: Teaching Struggling Readers to Achieve Academic and
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
In my commute to and from school, I’ve seen a bumper sticker that says: “If
you can read this, thank a teacher.” In many cases, the adage on the bumper
sticker is true, but some children advance to high school with the ability to
read little besides that bumper sticker. In his book Accessing School:
Teaching Struggling Readers to Achieve Academic and Personal Success,
author Jim Burke outlines a plan for reaching high schoolers who have not
mastered the basics of literacy.
For high school or even middle grades classrooms, this book provides a solid
framework of ideas for reaching and teaching students who lack strong reading
skills. In six chapters, Burke spotlights a remedial reading class, called
ACCESS, which he pioneered in the Burlingame public schools in California.
Burke first provides an overview of the ACCESS class, explaining how and why
the class targets low-performing high school students and attempts to fast-
forward their learning. In his description, Burke provides ample research to
back up his ideas for the ACCESS class. Burke then carefully lays out the set
up of the class and provides numerous ideas for engendering academic success in
the subsequent chapters. Even though I teach elementary students, I could
relate to Burke’s ideas about how reading buddies stimulate struggling readers.
As the book concludes, Burke looks at how to measure student success and delves
into the roles that teachers play in the ACCESS class.
Throughout the narrative, Burke writes with an easy, friendly tone and
provides real examples from his teaching career and his own life as a father.
Although the book mainly seems geared toward administrators looking to
implement a new kind of remedial reading class, many of Burke’s ideas are
useful for classroom teachers who work with struggling readers on any level.
Reviewed by Katie Wester Neal, who recently completed a Master’s degree at the
University of Pennsylvania, and currently, teaches fifth grade in Sterling,
Virginia. Her academic interests include gender differences in education and
helping struggling readers improve.
Capellini, Mary T. (2005).
Balancing Reading and Language Learning: A Resource for Teaching English
Language Learners, K-5.
Portland, Maine: Stenhouse
Balancing Reading and Language Learning is a resource for mainstream
K-5 reading teachers who have English Language Learners (ELLs) in their
classrooms. The book contains a table of contents, 14 chapters, 7 appendices,
references, and an index (of subjects and authors). The book begins with
assessment, moves on to planning, and then discusses reading development by
type. Capellini discusses the role of read-alouds, shared reading, guided
reading, and independent reading for ELLs.
Reading teachers with little or no training in dealing with ELLs will be
especially interested in chapter two and the appendices. Chapter two discusses
the difficulties with language and reading assessment for ELLs. The appendices
include examples of assessment instruments, bibliographies for thematic units,
and lists of English-Spanish cognates.
Although the book is designed to be used for all ELLs, it includes special
resources for Spanish speakers. This is the largest primary language for ELLs,
accounting for approximately 77% nationally (Hopstick and Stephenson, 2003).
Capellini is fluent in Spanish and has experience as a bilingual teacher. It
might seem unreasonable to expect Capellini to provide support for all of the
languages that are used in today’s classrooms, but teachers with ELLs who speak
Hmong and Russian need special resources too. This is the one weakness of the
Capellini begins each chapter with a short anecdote about the experience of
a student trying to communicate in a foreign language. The anecdotes perform
two functions. They help the reader to view ELLs as unique individuals, and
they set the topic for each chapter. The anecdote is followed by a discussion
of the chapter subject. Capellini is careful to include relevant research for
each chapter to justify her proposed strategies. One of her most important
sources is Cummins (2003) who stresses the importance of understanding and
developing both social and academic English. Capellini makes the important
observation that many ELLs are mistakenly categorized as fluent because they
have mastered social English.
The author’s training and experiences give her insight into the world of
ELLs. In addition to studying Spanish, she has lived in Spain and is married to
a man who learned English as an adult. Capellini knows that there are many
things ELLs understand but can’t express in English. She also knows that there
are cultural differences that can initially confuse them. It is her weaving of
this knowledge into her book that makes it special.
Capellini does an excellent job combining anecdote, research, and practical
tools for reading teachers. This book should be required reading for reading
teachers dealing with K-5 English Language Learners. It is an essential
purchase for education libraries.
Cummins, J. (2003). Reading and the bilingual student: Fact and friction. In G.
Garcia (ed) English learners reaching the highest level of English
literacy. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Hopstock, P. J. & Stephenson, T.G. (2003). Descriptive study of services to LEP
students and LEP students with disabilities: Special Topic Report #1: Native
languages of LEP students. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.
Reviewed by by Cynthia Crosser, Social Science and Humanities Reference
Librarian/Education and Psychology Bibliographer at the University of Maine.
In addition to her M.S. in Library Studies from Florida State University, she
has an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Florida with a specialization
in language acquisition and an extensive background in developmental
Carden, Kathleen A. & Godley-Sugrue, Mary (2005).
Grade 1 Writing Curriculum: Week-by-Week Lessons.
New York: Scholastic.
Although educators have long debated approaches to teaching reading and
writing, research shows that effective teachers balance both skills instruction
and whole language approaches (Pressley, 2003). A teacher adopting such an
integrated approach, for example, might directly teach phonemic awareness and
structure of language helpful for reading and foster students’ development of
knowledge about writing in the context of its purposeful use.
For teachers interested in fostering writing skills and confidence among
their first-graders, Carden and Godley-Sugrue’s Grade 1 Writing Curriculum:
Week-by-Week Lessons provides a practical classroom resource. This book,
the first in a three-book series, is intended to help first-graders form simple
sentences and build up to paragraph writing. It offers a full school year’s
worth of daily journal prompts, weekly lessons, and reproducible planning pages
to facilitate direct instruction and guided practice.
The book is organized into 12 chapters. The first two chapters provide an
overview of beginning writers’ developmental and curricular profiles, and
features illustrative student writing samples. The remaining ten chapters
outline daily journal prompts, weekly writing instruction, and weekly lessons.
The lessons make explicit the writing process from prewriting and generating
ideas, to drafting, revising and editing, and finally to sharing the finished
written product. Throughout the book, there are helpful teaching hints from the
authors, who have 25 years of teaching experience between them. Also included
are appendices providing templates and checklists for students, and recommended
references for further reading for teachers.
While the writing lessons in this book can seem highly directive, the
authors provide a variety of open-ended topics to allow students to respond in
their emergent authorial voices. They also offer practical classroom management
strategies to create a learning environment conducive to writing, one in which
the teacher regularly models writing and students take on more responsibility
for planning and checking their own work. Teachers and students also confer
about writing, which is essential for providing positive feedback and
constructive criticism. Since teachers will want to use particular lessons to
address the needs of their students, the included chart highlighting particular
genres, skills, and curricular standards is useful.
I particularly liked that the authors included suggestions for journal
prompts and technology integration. Asking simple questions of younger students
and lower-ability students of any age allows these students to respond with
more correct answers, receive ample encouragement, and get help as needed.
Using such questions in journals is an excellent way to encourage students to
reflect and write. As they progress, students may want to generate their own
topics to make their journal entries and learning more meaningful. Teachers may
also substitute prompts appropriate to a specific curriculum and encourage
understanding across subject areas. Computers can motivate students to get
their ideas on paper and facilitate reorganization of ideas without the agony
of rewriting by hand. This may be particularly advantageous to students with
learning disabilities whose handwriting cannot be read (Hallahan & Kauffman,
1997). Students can also use materials from other media, such as clipart, to
enhance their writing in addition to, or as an alternative to drawing
illustrations as recommended by the authors. Students may also use the computer
for their journal time.
I would recommend Carden and Sugrue’s Grade 1 Writing Curriculum: Week-
by-Week Lessons to elementary school teachers looking for a practical
writing resource filled with purposeful writing activities that they can
integrate into a holistic approach to help beginning writers develop the skills
they need to succeed.
Hallahan, D.P., & Kauffman, J.M. (1997). Exceptional learners: Introduction
to special education (7th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Pressley, M. (2003) Balanced Elementary Literacy Instruction in the United
States: A personal perspective. Keynote Paper presented at Literacy
Policies for the Schools We Need The International Literacy Conference held at
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto November 6 to
Reviewed by Nobuko Fujita, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Curriculum, Teaching
and Learning, OISE/UT
Cunningham, Patricia M. (2005).
Phonics They Use: Words for Reading and Writing. Fourth edition.
Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
If you’re looking for a book that is packed with activities for teaching
phonics for reading and writing, particularly at the K-1 level, here it is.
Phonics They Use is written in a cheerful, upbeat style, and it is
free of the jargon that clutters some books on education. This book is not
written to impress, but to communicate activities to teachers in the clearest,
most direct way. And it certainly has activities -- pages and pages of them.
For anyone who wants to learn about teaching reading or writing in the primary
grades, this book would make an excellent resource. It’s readable, well-
edited, full of useful information, and as textbooks go, the price is a
In its previous editions this book ran only four chapters -- four very long
chapters. For this fourth edition, the book has been reorganized into five
sections and 15 chapters of ten to 15 pages each, resulting in a more reader-
The activities in Part One: Building the Foundations of Phonics They Use
focus on print concepts, phonemic awareness, and the like. The activities in
this section -- as with most of the book except for chapters 10 and 11 -- are
decidedly primary. Again in Part Two: Fluency, most activities are for K-1
readers, though there are also ideas for special cases. Have an older student
who needs to read easy books? How about an older student who hates to write?
You’ll find ideas for both in chapter 5.
Sidebars throughout give related information and extensive lists. Here’s
examples: sidebar “Fluency and Rate Increase across the Grade Levels” appears
as a table on page 56; the highest-utility phonograms, the most common blends,
digraphs, and vowel spelling patterns, on page 72 (intended for use with making
and “doing” a word wall, for which see p. 68); and 180 or so high-frequency
words, in a sidebar on p. 73.
In Part Three: Using Phonics and Spelling Patterns, the emphasis shifts from
reading to writing as the chapters look at activities on related words (such as
play, player, and replay), using rhymes to help with reading and spelling, and
other spelling activities.
Part Four: Big Words suddenly jumps to activities for upper elementary
grades (fourth and fifth are mentioned) in its chapters on word roots,
prefixes, and suffixes. The activities assume a fourth- or fifth-grade
vocabulary as they work with compound words and introduce a bit of
wordsmithing. Want to know the four prefixes that account for 58% of all
prefixed words? Take a look on page 142. The three suffixes that account for
65% of all suffixed words? Same page. How about a table with the most common
prefixes, their meanings, examples of their use in morphology and spelling? An
extensive list fills page 144, and a similar list for suffixes fills page 147.
Part Five: Coaching, Assessment, Research, and Jargon begins with ideas for
coaching children one-on-one to use what they have learned about reading and
writing, including specific examples of the words a teacher might use in a
conference. The book then steps back from its focus on activities to look at
assessment and theory. In the assessment chapter, teachers may find useful the
checklists on “beginning reading strategies” (p. 173), “sight word, decoding,
and spelling behaviors” (p. 177), and a marking system for any 100-word reading
assessment (p. 175). The Theory and the Research -- The Why Underlying the How
(chapter 14) is a succinct summary of research on phonics education. It begins
with a history of the author’s own involvement with phonics education, then
frames the research summary in terms of “What We Know about How Good Readers
Read Words” and “What We Know about How Children Learn to Read Words.” It is
in this section of the book that the author uses the word “disambiguating” (a
new word to me; I read by chunking it into meaningful pieces).
Phonics They Use concludes with a bonus chapter, Phonics Jargon -- For
Teachers Only!, intended as a study tool for teachers who may need to take a
mandated test of phonics jargon. The chapter makes a wonderful glossary. If
you have ever wondered how a digraph differs from a consonant cluster, or what
a rime is, or what morphemes are, you’ll find them all here -- there are 41
words defined in this section.
There are four pages of references, and the book is thoroughly indexed at
six pages. Readable, charming, and full of activities for teachers, you get
the sense that Patricia Cunningham wants you to be a great reading teacher.
This book can certainly supply teachers and those training to become teachers
with many solid phonics activities.
Reviewed by John Sundahl, a second grade teacher in the Beaverton School
District in Beaverton, Oregon and a graduate student at Portland State
University. I wrote this review under the supervision of Dr. Dannelle Stevens
in the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University in Oregon,
with help from Kim Monahan and Jan Peterson-Terjeson reading and improving my
McTighe, Jay & Wiggins, Grant (2005).
Understanding by Design. Second Edition.
Alexandria, Virginia:Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
I am taking a Curriculum Development class for my Master’s degree and also
am participating in a study group through my school district. The study group
is for this book, Understanding by Design. When I began both, I wasn’t
anticipating the correlation between the two. I am now thankful that I did
both simultaneously because of the insights I have gleaned from them.
While the book is aimed at anyone in education who is interested in
curriculum development and assessment; I see this book as something a district
would need to embrace as a whole. I don’t think it would be practical for a
teacher to try designing a unit on his/her own, without administrative support,
nor could a district adopt it without buy-in from its teachers.
With the ramifications of No Child Left Behind, adequate yearly progress,
state accountability, etc. fast approaching, school districts are examining and
reexamining their curriculum, assessments, instructional delivery and so forth.
Understanding by Design focuses on what the authors refer to as
"backward" design, which I will explain in more detail later. The designing of
units takes place in three stages.
The first stage, which is basically chapters 1-6, discusses the tightening
of the curriculum. The design effort must clearly define the desired results.
The authors talk about focusing on what the big ideas are and developing
essential questions related to those ideas. They suggest that readers look to
state and district standards, existing curriculum, as well as teacher knowledge
to determine what those big ideas should be. The essential questions should
foster inquiry, understanding and transfer of learning.
Also in stage 1, the designer(s) needs to determine what understandings the
student will have as a result of the unit. There are 6 facets of
understanding, according to the authors. They are: explanation,
interpretation, application, perspective, empathy and self-knowledge. The
understandings of explanation and self-knowledge are vital to all units. Other
understandings will vary in importance depending on what the big ideas and
essential questions are.
The final step in stage 1 is determining the knowledge and skills students
will understand at the end of the unit. It is the crux of the authors' message
that true understanding requires students be able to take knowledge and
transfer it to different and sometimes confusing situations. As the authors'
state: "Transfer involves figuring out which knowledge and skill matter for the
particular situation and adapting what we know to solve the problem at hand"
(p. 41). This is similar to the application and synthezing stages in Blooms'
taxonomy (see Bloom, Madaus & Hastings, 1981, p. 233).
Something that is worth mentioning before I go further - Stages 1 and 2 are
developed for the designer’s use and it is not until Stage 3 that the learning
plan is developed. This is what makes it, as I mentioned earlier, a backward
design. The authors go into great detail about how research shows that the
assessments must be put into place before the learning plan.
Assessment evidence, then, is Stage 2. This order of unit design
development is essential for understanding to occur. Otherwise student
misunderstandings will occur that the teacher might never know and never
address. This is due to what the authors refer to as “The Expert Blind Spot.”
The two most common ways of teaching, the authors say, are content-driven units
and activity-driven units. These, while they may give students some facts to
take away that they didn’t know before, do not produce understanding.
Stage 2 requires designers to develop assessments that will truly show that
understanding is occurring. The authors are adamant about the importance of
authentic performance assessments and go into some detail as to what
constitutes an authentic performance assessment. This is not to say that other
assessments such as quizzes, tests, observations, journal prompts, etc.
shouldn’t also be used throughout the unit to check for understanding.
The second but related part of stage 2 is developing criteria to judge the
performance assessments. Chapters 7 and 8 focus on how to think like an
assessor and the importance of validity. Also, going back to the
understandings, the text discusses the need for students to self-assess and to
reflect upon how they think they are learning and understanding.
Stage 3 brings us to the learning plan. Chapters 9 and 10 focus on how to
plan for learning and how to teach for understanding. The authors are very
constructivist in their beliefs. They also refer to didactic or direct
instruction and coaching. The learning activities and instruction are what
will help students to achieve the desired results (Stage 1). The assessments
are how we know understanding is happening (Stage 2).
The authors present an acronym to help plan for learning: WHERETO. The W
refers to where is the unit going, what should the students expect and where
are the students coming from? H refers to hooking the students and holding
their interests. In the book the authors go into the importance of intrinsic
motivation and how real understanding is not going to come from an extrinsic
reward but from authentic, genuine learning experiences that will hook and hold
the learner. E is to equip the students with what they need so that they can
experience and explore. R is being able to rethink and revise. Here the
authors talk about bringing a paradigm shift to teaching so that students
aren’t always concerned with getting the answer right. Misunderstandings and
mistakes will eventually lead to insight and true understanding, The authors
point out that teachers should take student misunderstandings as valuable
information. Instead of saying "they just don't get it", look at it as the
student's failed attempt to transfer knowledge. Therefore, as the student moves
on in his/her education the big ideas should always be rethought and revisited.
This is referred to later in the article, as the authors discuss the importance
of a spiraling curriculum. E refers to Facet 6 of the understandings - having
the students evaluate their learning. T refers to the activities being
tailored to meet the needs of different learners. O is being organized in
order to maintain engagement and sustain effective learning.
A final section clears up misconceptions and discusses how Understanding
by Design fits into a district's curriculum. As I mentioned at the
beginning, I believe a district would need to adopt, as a whole, the idea of
creating units using Understanding by Design . Starting as an
individual teacher, out there on his/her own, would I think be very difficult.
There is a need here for professional discussion with other colleagues in order
to get feedback.
The authors refer to a scope and sequence curriculum as being outdated and
they go as far as to say that that type of curriculum will continue to produce
poor performing students. Instead they talk about a spiraling curriculum. The
authors write that a spiral approach develops curriculum around recurring,
ever-deepening inquiries into big ideas and important tasks, helping students
come to understand in a way that is both effective and developmentally wise.
If your district is one of the many struggling with curriculum issues, this
book is a great resource for rethinking curriculum and assessment development
as well as teaching what is best practice.
Bloom, B., Madaus, G., & Hastings, J.T. (1981). Evaluation to Improve
Learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Reviewed by Jennifer Reed, a 3rd grade teacher for the Ralston School
District in Ralston, Nebraska and a graduate student in Elementary
Education at the University of Nebraska
Muldaur, Sheila (2004).
Genre Assessments for Fables, Fairy Tales, and Fantasies. with
Reading Passages for Genre Assessments for Fables, Fairy Tales, and
Fantasies. The Proficient Reader Record series.
Katonah, NY: Richard C. Owen
Based on the premise that assessment and evaluation drive instruction,
Sheila Muldaur sets out to support teachers’ learning about how to assess
specific genres of literature. Teachers are provided with classroom-ready
assessment tools, directions for administration of the assessments, and sample
evaluations of student responses. For each genre, two reading passages taken
from children’s literature are included in an accompanying book. The author
focuses on assessments of third and fourth graders as they are becoming more
Through a process of identifying the genres mandated in many state learning
standards and investigating features of these genres, Muldaur synthesizes her
findings in an organized and systematic manner. Her creation of concise, one-
page forms for assessing reading processes and assessing genre understandings
provide tools that can be practical and useful for the classroom teacher. She
classifies and presents six specific skills for reading process (including
anticipating the genre, articulating problem solving, reading with oral
fluency, and processing the text) and thirteen skills for understanding genre
(including identifying text form, attending to structure, creating word
meaning, investigating character, interpreting specific genre features, and
using reading for writing). Rubrics for evaluating each of these skills are
provided. Using these forms can provide teachers with a means to identify
individual and group needs, plan instructional programs, and communicate
student progress to parents.
One difficulty with this system is its dependency on one-on-one interviews
for collecting the assessment data. While the process is explicitly presented
and standardized, teachers may be challenged to find time to implement it. At
least fifteen minutes are required for each student interview.
Clearly, Muldaur has condensed much information into these forms and another
difficulty with this system is the complexity of the assessment process. I
believe teachers will be challenged to implement the entire system as she has
designed it. However, there are many excellent sections that teachers will find
useful. Particularly helpful are the notes on what the teacher needs to know
for assessing each of the particular genre skills as these identify specific
characteristics of each genre and compare similarities and differences between
them. Although the emphasis of the assessment is on student readers, links to
proficient writers are presented. This is valuable for intermediate grades as
there is an increasing emphasis on writing.
The book is one of a four-module series on genre assessment and while it can
be used as a stand-alone resource, the author assumes that the teacher is
familiar with Theory and use of genre assessment and refers frequently
to the tenets of the Proficient Reader Record (PRR) described in that module. A
prior reading of the entire series would most likely benefit the teacher who is
interested in implementing these assessment tools.
Genre Assessments Pages: 127 ISBN:
Reading Passages Pages: 11 ISBN:
Price for both: $23.95
Reviewed by Gladys Sterenberg, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education,
University of Lethbridge
Parini, Jay (2005).
The Art of Teaching.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Will I publish or perish? What first impression will I make on my students?
Can I be more dramatic in my presentation? Do they notice that I am almost as
young as they are? These and many other questions dashed through my mind.
Dressed in my bright red “power” pantsuit, I tilted my head with its short crop
of hair in front of my Educational Psychology course on my first day of
teaching college. I spoke with a smile even though I was trying to present an
air of control of the situation at hand as I addressed my undergraduate
students. In a few days I began to find my voice, a style of teaching that
gained the respect of my students. In The Art of Teaching, Parini
Few outside the teaching profession understand the courage it takes to step
into a classroom, to wear a mask that you know is a construction, hiding behind
it, letting it give shape and substance to your formulations, letting the mask
become your face. (p.68)
In this intriguing and quick read, Parini reflects on a variety of
professors that he has witnessed in the trenches and uses the looking glass to
journal about his own journey through three decades in higher education. With
great detail and precision he recalls and examines professors based on details
such as their lecture style or their clothing. In fact, he has given deep
thought to the costume of the professor. He discusses how students perceive a
teacher based on whether the teacher is wearing a tweed coat, a white shirt and
tie, or a pair of jeans with holes. Each clothing choice demonstrates to the
audience an shared stereotype as to how the material will be presented.
In the chapter titled “A Letter to a Teacher” Parini tells the aspiring or
new professor everything that he wishes he had known prior to beginning in
academia. He feels that it is vital to find one’s own voice and notes that
voice can be cultivated by watching mentors in action and utilizing their
tricks of the trade. He explains that discourse is important in the field
because you must be able to defend your stand on a position, however you can
also learn from others and admit that you have changed your mind. Instructors
need to explain up front to students exactly what is expected for a positive
grade in the course. Professors can make each presentation a performance by
remembering to catch students’ attention and by varying consistency. If an
instructor’s ego begins to slip, Parini recommends readers remember that they
acquired the job because someone felt that they were scholarly.
The concept of “publish or perish” looms over the heads of many new
professors. Prior to taking the position the author suggests that readers find
out everything they can about the university’s tenure policy. Once you know
how much you need to publish the trick is to actually write. He explains that
before he began writing for living he wrote a list of books that he wanted to
write some day. This form of goal setting proved to be valuable to him. He
also tries to follow the two-page a day rule that worked for John Updike.
Parini elucidates that, “Two pages a day adds up to a long book every year”
which even includes revision time. He suggests that you stop writing when you
are at a point that you can definitely pick up the next day because you know
what is coming next, which is a technique that Ernest Hemingway used in his
In the preface, Parini states that he welcomes the discussions that may
follow from his work. It is my feeling that the discussions will be positive
due to the fact that the book naturally generates self-reflection not only on
one’s own teaching experience in front of the classroom, but also by viewing
with open eyes teachers from their own past. This book focuses on the author’s
relating memories in the lyrical voice of a poet interwoven with the thoughts
of authors of classic literature. The Art of Teaching is filled with
subtle lessons garnered from a lifetime dedicated to observing and teaching the
Price: $17.95(cloth); $9.95(paper)
ISBN: 978-0-19-516969-0(cloth); 978-0-7407-1912-7(paper)
Reviewed by Shellie Hipsky, currently an Assistant Professor of Education at
Robert Morris University and an Educational Consultant for the Tri-State Study
Council at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Shellie Hipsky’s career includes
teaching students from kindergarten to graduate school in the U.S. as well as
in Rome, Italy. As a recent Assistant Principal in charge of curriculum and
supervision at a school for students with emotional/behavioral disabilities,
she is acutely aware of teacher and student needs.
Pellegrini, Anthony D. (2005).
Recess: Its Role in Education and Development.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
In Recess, Anthony Pellegrini marshals theory and empirical evidence
from cognitive and social psychology to argue its importance to education and
children’s development. He builds a compelling case for how play and recess
contribute to children’s social competence and academic performance.
Well-organized and readable, the book’s nine chapters outline the contours
of the recess debate (Ch. 1), review historically the place of play and recess
in American schools (Ch. 2), examine the research evidence about children’s
play in educational settings (Chs. 3-8), and discuss the policy implications in
support of recess periods for children (Ch. 9). Usefully, seven of the
chapters end with practical questions to stimulate further thinking/action on
the role of recess in the school day. Comprehensive author and subject indices
enhance the book's referencing capacity.
Pellegrini opens by confronting two anti-recess arguments. The first – it
takes away from valuable instructional time – is not surprising in our
contemporary, post-industrial age dominated by the cult of efficiency. The
Puritan/Calvinistic work ethic (work is good; play is not) found in much of the
Anglo Saxon world makes recess an easy target for tough-talking school
superintendents and politicians that mean “business in making schools more
effective” (p. 3). Disturbingly, his analysis of a 1999 US Department of
Education survey shows that in kindergarten, only 70 percent of children had
daily recess. Drawing mainly from “play theorists” Piaget and Vygotsky,
Pellegrini demonstrates how important social and moral lessons are learnt
during recess. At the same time, Pellegrini debunks a second popular anti-
recess claim – kids get bullied and learn hostile behaviors at recess – by
showing that physical and verbal aggression actually accounts for less than 2
percent of all playground behavior. I wonder if this would also be the case in
middle and high schools (...interested readers might wish to read Social life
in school: Pupils’ experience of breaktime and recess from 6 to 16 Years by
The six empirical chapters are the heart of Pellegrini’s book. They draw
extensively from his research conducted over 25 years in the United States and
the UK. In relegating the formal research methods and statistical analyses to
individual chapter appendices, Pellegrini is able to reach a wide range of
teacher-leaders, scholar-researchers, students, and parents. Each chapter
makes good sense of relevant theory, which is explained clearly and exemplified
using observation, questionnaire, and interview data. The selected results
help to characterize the school playground as an important venue for children’s
social development, to look at its gender segregation, to explore the potential
effects of gender on young children’s play preferences, and to consider the
importance of games for children in school.
In the process, Pellegrini makes an important distinction between play (e.g.
fantasy, rough-and-tumble) and games (e.g. soccer). Whereas games are rules-
based and require the integration of multiple perspectives, play makes less
cognitive demands of young children because they are mainly concerned with
their own perspective. Both, however, shape the development of children’s
preoperational (i.e. play) and operational (i.e. games) intelligence. Hence
the play and games that children undertake in the natural, unstructured
environment of recess periods provide rich opportunities for socio-emotional
A chapter entitled "The Role of Recess in Children's Cognitive Performance in
Classrooms" provides additional, valuable grist to Pellegrini’s mill. Using
longitudinal and experimental evidence, it shows how recess benefits learning
by maximizing students’ attention to classroom tasks. In providing a break
from sustained periods of work, recess periods help restore children’s
cognitive efficiency and readiness to learn in class. I am sure that middle-
years and high-school teacher-leaders would welcome further empirical work to
find out if this holds true in their schooling contexts.
Overall, Pellegrini’s slim book builds a compelling, evidence-based case for
how and why play and recess shape children’s social competence and academic
performance. The book’s salutary message of the benefits of play/recess on
student learning and development aims to re-balance educational priorities.
Though Recess belongs on the bookshelf of all who wish to engage matters that
go to the heart of educating the “whole child”, I look forward to reading its
sequel -- with more of Pellegrini's discerning, readable prose... but using
longitudinal data to trace the role of recess throughout the elementary,
middle, and high school years.
Blatchford, P. (1998). Social life in school: Pupils’ experience of
breaktime and recess from 6 to 16 Years. Bristol, PA: Falmer Press.
Reviewed by Eric Jabal, PhD candidate, OISE-University of Toronto, Canada
Shaw, Darla (2005).
Retelling Strategies to Improve Comprehension: Effective Hands-On Strategies
for Fiction and Nonfiction That Help Students Remember and Understand What They
New York: Scholastic.
This book immediately states the purpose of retelling: comprehension. The
introduction defines retelling for fiction and nonfiction. Shaw then devotes a
chapter each to structured retelling activities for fiction, non-fiction, and
vocabulary development. Shaw states that retelling for comprehension leads the
student to absorb, retain, and utilize information that is read.
Having the benefits of retelling on the first page helped this book make an
early good impression. Shaw describes many benefits to retelling with research
to support her assertions. Retelling transforms text into the student’s own
words. It enables students to “own” the material they have read. It can be a
“fix-it” strategy for comprehension. The interactive process helps students
better process information and leads to enriched comprehension. It gives
students practice listening and speaking in front of the class and boosts self
confidence. Sometimes a retelling can be the bridge to the next phase of
study. Retelling can also be used as an assessment for comprehension.
Shaw explains the comprehension process in a side box using a flow chart.
This extra information provides teachers with a guide to understand where
retelling appears in the comprehension process. Shaw links retelling to
comprehension using Benson’s (2001) critical thinking skill list which
- Process thinking
- Problem Solving and Analytical Thinking Skills
- Language and Communication Skills
- Independent Learner Skills
These skills are used in ten different applications described by Shaw. The
application exercises can be taught whole group then practiced in a small
groups or as an individual activity. If an activity is too difficult for some
students, the application can be modified to include a role for a reflective
listener. The reflective listener provides feedback on the presentation. The
following are examples of retelling:
- Finger Retelling for Story Grammar
- Retelling Charades
- Retelling With Illustrative Props
- Retelling with Items on a Rope
- Retelling Through a Mural
- Retelling Mini Books
- Retelling Chains
This practitioner’s book, Retelling Strategies to Improve
Comprehension, could enhance a student’s comprehension process because of
the variety of activities and the explicit direction for each activity. The
format is easy to follow and is researched based.
Benson, V. (2001). The Power of Retelling. Desoto, Texas: The Wright
Reviewed by Dr. Sandy Thomas, Reading Specialist, Center Point School,
Snow, Catherine; Griffin, Peg & Burns, M. Susan (Editors). (2005).
Knowledge to Support the Teaching of Reading: Preparing Teachers for a
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
A companion book to Preparing teachers for a changing world: What
teachers should learn and be able to do (Darling-Hammond & Bransford,
2005), this volume presents the work done by a subcommittee of the National
Academy of Education's Committee on Teacher Education. Led by Catherine Snow of
Harvard University, the subcommittee's task was to delineate the essential
knowledge about the development, acquisition, and teaching of language and
literacy that all teachers need to possess.
The opening chapter addresses the question of why another book about reading
is necessary. The contention is that a rejection of the "status-shift view of
teacher preparation allows an escape from artificial and unrealistic limits on
definitions of the knowledge base for teaching reading." Once this is
accomplished "a quite elaborate, specific, and detailed knowledge base can
become useable knowledge when teacher preparation is seen as a developmental
process of progressive differentiation emerging from recurring cycles of
learning, enactment, assessment, and reflection" (p. x).
The second chapter's focus is on what teachers need to know about reading
development. This is followed by how to address individual student needs and a
chapter on the specialized knowledge necessary to deal with the developmental
difficulties of students with special needs. A discussion of utilizing reading
assessments wisely and an overview of a model of professional growth in reading
education conclude the book.
Although a sentence in the preface states that this book is intended for
those who oversee teacher preparation in either the academic or governmental
sectors, there's much to recommend it to the man or woman in the trenches.
Discussing with peers the five levels of a teacher's progression (preservice,
apprentice, novice, experienced, and master) and how the five kinds of
knowledge discussed vary in importance on each level will make for some lively
conversations in the faculty room.
Looking at what knowledge is considered essential to foster student growth
from one grade level to another is certainly a worthwhile endeavor for any
teacher. A listing of what effective teachers know and do offers a check list
individuals can use to assess their own pedagogical approach. The debunking of
some of the myths associated with second-language learners/speakers and the
impact of poverty on literacy will also be an eye opener for many educators.
Granted, this book offers no reproducible worksheets, lesson plans, or tips
on how to control an unruly class or inspire a youngster to write coherently.
But, there are ideas that teachers on all grade levels will find interesting
and worth mulling over.
Sometimes the practicalities of surviving another day have to give way to a
little "pie in the sky" musing . Why not devote a little time at a staff
meeting discussing some of the ideas found in Knowledge to Support the
Teaching of Reading? Talking about how to improve the preparation for the
teaching profession may generate an interesting dialogue with some surprising
positive "on site" benefits.
Darling-Hammond,L. & Bransford, J. (Eds.) (2005). Preparing teachers for a
changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do. San
Reviewed by Robert F. Walch, Retired educator, Monterey, California
Spandel, Vicki (2005).
The 9 Rights of Every Writer: A Guide for Teachers.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Spandel’s The 9 Rights of Every Writer: A Guide for Teachers is a
handy reminder for K-12 teachers who promote authentic writing experiences in
their classrooms. The intent of the author is not to educate the reader
regarding the basic principles of establishing an effective program; rather,
she reinforces the elements that should be inherent to the environment that
teachers and students have collaboratively created.
Each student “right” merits its own chapter in the text. Easy to read,
Spandel’s book follows a similar format in discussion of each of the rights. A
chapter typically begins with a narrative recounting an experience in which the
author has been reminded of the importance of the chapter’s right. Next,
Spandel clearly states the rationale behind why the student deserves that
particular right. Through the use of student examples, Spandel explores the
right as it looks when teachers and students understand its authentic
implementation. Finally, each chapter ends with a prominent author’s brief
input as to why the chapter’s right should be cherished.
- The first “right” explores permitting students to reflect upon their
writing. “It takes...the courage to dive below the surface, the willingness to
live with a topic for a long period of time, turn it over in your mind, and
decide for yourself what questions to ask about it” (p. 5). In this chapter,
Spandel reminds teachers that writing is a process rather than just a means to
- Secondly, the author discusses the students’ right to choose a topic that
is important to them. She states, “...because writing with voice is worth
reading, we should do everything possible to encourage students to create such
writing, and everything we can think of to eliminate time wasted on creating
writing no one—writer or reader—cares about” (p. 18). The text illustrates the
difficulties students face even when they are permitted to select their
- Spandel highlights the students’ right to veer from teacher-assigned
topics. Although she acknowledges that writing from prompts is important, it
should not be the only type of writing in which the students are engaged. She
notes, “When we shackle writing with rigid prompts, we take over the ownership”
(p.37). The author indicates that teachers who want students to engage in
authentic writing experiences should permit some leeway with the choices that
- Spandel discusses the students’ right to personalize the steps of the
writing process for themselves. She states, “Though these steps overlap,
though they are recurring, and though they look different in the hands of every
writer, they show up in some way, in some form, in each writer’s work” (p. 43).
In effect, she warns teachers against rigidly enforcing each step of the
writing process; rather, teachers should permit their students to have the time
and the opportunity to engage in each of them.
- The author encourages teachers to permit students to experiment with their
writing. She explains, “If we trust the power of [student] thinking, we will
give our student writers the freedom to explore, to write badly in order to
work their way through to the point where they are writing well” (p. 69).
Clearly, Spandel reinforces the notion that students need some time for
“practice” in composing precisely what they wish to say.
- In addition to the writing opportunities that students deserve, students
need to observe the ways in which their teachers write. This section states,
“We...need to model drafting, partly so that students can see how one idea
leads into the next—at least in the writer’s mind” (p. 83). Through modeling
each step of the process, teachers can demonstrate the thinking that is an
essential part of their own craft.
- Spandel’s seventh chapter is devoted to a discussion of the students’ right
to receive critical yet thoughtful assessment from their teachers. She reminds
educators that this “does not come about by accident. It is the result of
clear vision and thoughtful planning” (p. 97). She then discusses the ways in
which national writing assessments do not permit this type of authentic
assessment to occur.
- The next right is the students’ freedom from following a particular
structure. It emphasizes, “Formula writing takes away both the pain and the
reward of thinking like a reader” (p. 123). Instead a writer should work to
anticipate what potential readers might either want or need from the
- The final chapter indicates the necessity of “voice” in student writing.
Spandel writes that “[students] need to read aloud, to compare, to try a single
sentence three, four, or even five different ways, and to make choices” (p.
137). Only through experimentation will students maximize the effectiveness in
As briefly stated, this book is not intended for the reader who wants
suggestions for establishing the basic elements of a language arts classroom.
It seems designed for the teacher who has facilitated such an atmosphere but
who needs a refresher for the important principles that are an integral part of
an effective writing program. This book should be a part of every writing
teacher’s professional library.
Reviewed by Christopher Palmi. Palmi teaches English methods courses at
National-Louis University. He is also a high school English teacher. He is
native to the Chicagoland area.
Wassermann, Selma (2004).
This Teaching Life: How I Taught Myself to Teach.
New York: Teachers College Press.
How does a teacher progress through a career from an inexperienced student
teacher to become a competent professional educator? Dr. Selma Wassermann uses
this question to reflect upon her professional life in her memoir titled,
This Teaching Life: How I Taught Myself to Teach. As expected of a
professional memoir, This Teaching Life intimately portrays a variety of
aspects of the author’s career in an attempt to demonstrate the range of
influences and experiences that have formed her as a teacher. Honestly told,
Wassermann’s inspiring career story offers the reader insights into the
development of an important career spanning five decades of teaching, learning
Drawing on her research on highly competent teachers (Wassermann and Eggert,
1976), Wassermann frames the recollection of her career around the concepts
developed in her research. These concepts serve as a launching pad to explore
Wassermann’s original question of how one becomes a competent educator. In
examining significant events in her teaching life, Wassermann continually
searches for the links between experience, reflection, and development. Her
story highlights the significant events and people that have influenced her as
she collects teaching methods and techniques in her efforts to refine her
teaching skills. Throughout the memoir, Wassermann draws on her extensive
research and touches on her important contributions to and research in
education in areas such as case study use in teacher education, key work
methodology, and the role of thinking in education.
One of the greatest strengths of this memoir is its honest, at times gritty
portrayal of the development of a teaching career. Wassermann became a teacher
by “default” and clearly recounts the struggles and mistakes of an
inexperienced teacher. She makes no attempt to sugarcoat the often messy
process of teaching and learning, even when she is not portrayed in the most
positive light. Emphasizing that there is no magic formula to make a competent
teacher, Wassermann argues that competent teachers are formed through continual
practice gained by years of determined experience. As someone who is never
content to rest on her laurels, Wassermann serves as an example of an educator
who “walks the walks” by continually following her curiosity and pushing
herself beyond safe confines.
If there is one shortcoming of this book, it would be the writing style. The
first impressions of the book lead the reader to believe that it will follow
more of a personal approach with an emphasis on narrative voice. When the
style becomes academic and detached, the cohesion of the story is interrupted
as the author’s voice shifts from that of a practitioner to an academic. The
recursive transitioning from personal narrative to the theory behind each of
the principles of an experienced teacher is at times unwieldy and serves as a
distraction that ultimately diverts the reader from the heart of the story –
Wassermann's teaching life.
In This Teaching Life, Wassermann sets out to write memoir that is
personal and touching, rich with both her own, and her students’ voices.
Despite any distractions that may be caused by style, the book is recommended,
especially for those experienced teachers who can bridge the two worlds of
academia and classroom practice. Non-educators and beginning teachers might be
turned off when Wassermann waxes academic, but those who look past the
incongruity in styles will be rewarded with an inspiring memoir that sheds
light on how a great education career can be built.
Wassermann, S., & Eggert, W. (1976) Profiles of teaching competency.
Canadian Journal of Education, 1(1), 67-93.
Reviewed by Matthew Magnuson, Education Librarian, Miami University
Carnegie unit. [Definition] Retrieved December 7, 2005 from
Reviewed by Dr. David E. Lee, Educational Leadership and Research, University
of Southern Mississippi
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