Brief reviews for June 2007
Allsopp, David; Kyger, Maggie M. & Lovin, LouAnn H. (2007).
Teaching Mathematics Meaningfully: Solutions for Reaching Struggling
Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes
Findings from research studies in the United States (Badian, 1983), Norway
(Ostad, 1998), Israel (Gross-Tsur, Manor, & Shalev, 1996), and Europe (Kosc,
1974) have shown that 5% to 8% of school-age children exhibit some form of
mathematics disabilities and long-term problems associated with mathematics
difficulties (Geary, 2004; Griffin & Case, 1997). With many of these students,
reading disabilities and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have been
identified as comorbid disorders (Geary, 2004; Gross-Tsur et al., 1996). For
some students, mathematical difficulties or disabilities may be observed as a
developmental delay in procedural strategies, whereas other students may
demonstrate developmentally different characteristics that remain persistent
across the grades (Geary, 1993; Jordan, Hanich, & Kaplan, 2003; Rivera, 1997).
Teachers today face the challenge of educating these struggling students in
their classrooms. Doubtless, they are searching for effective instructional
Teaching Mathematics Meaningfully: Solutions for Reaching Struggling
Learners is written to help K-12 teachers of struggling learners to
understand mathematics in meaningful ways. The book is organized to provide
teachers and those who want to become teachers with an informed yet practical
process for doing this very important job.
The authors of the book start by providing a conceptual framework that
integrates four universal features of effective mathematics instruction for
struggling learners, including an understanding of and instruction in both
content and process of big ideas, an understanding of learning characteristics
of and barriers for struggling learners, continuous assessment of learning and
instructional decision making, and an ability to make mathematics accessible.
The rest of the book describes how educators can design and implement the
universal features framework and thereby provide effective mathematics
instruction for struggling learners. The book provides numerous examples, clear
explanations and printable forms/worksheets to be used in the classroom.
Extensive background in the conceptual framework sets the stage for activities,
lesson plans, investigations, and assessment tools that are thoroughly grounded
in the latest research.
The opportunity for struggling learners to learn mathematics effectively is
dependent upon a wide range of factors, but among the more important are
activities and practices within the classroom. In this book, the collaboration
of the authors from the two different disciplines of special education and
mathematics education definitely helps make it a valuable resource for K-12
mathematics teachers. Today, almost every classroom includes a number of
students who are dealing with a disability -- either physical, educational,
emotional, or a combination of all three. Teachers find themselves looking for
information and resources that will help effectively teach those students and
help students learn successfully. This book discuses not only the field of
mathematics but includes the different classroom teaching techniques driven
from the field of special education. There are many ideas and accompanying
student examples for teaching to help teachers understand why some students
struggle. It directly addresses students' learning barriers with lesson plans,
strategies, and forms and most importantly, help teachers checking their own
strengths and needs with a thought-provoking questionnaire on their current
Students from diverse cultures and students who are English language
learners also may benefit from many of the strategies that are described in
this book. However, the research base that supports the information, in large
part, does not address these specific groups of students directly. Secada
(1991) has warned that efforts to educate language minority students will be in
vain unless language teachers and content educators begin to pay serious
attention to each other's reform agendas. The content-ESL teacher will need to
teach the content and skills presupposed in reformed mainstream classes, while
mathematics and science teachers will need to become attuned to the special
needs of language minority students and be prepared to plan their instruction
accordingly. It would be a great addition to this book to include these
specific groups of students and ESOL Math integration in the next edition.
Overall, this is an excellent resource for teachers of K-12 math with
struggling learners because of the many ideas and accompanying student examples
it contains for teaching mathematics. It is a book that demonstrates many ways
the mathematics teacher can make students' thoughts and ideas overt. The
authors pay close attention to the role, importance, methods and techniques of
motivation. They present ideas that will generate attention, interest, and
surprise among students, and thus will foster creative thinking.
Badian, N. A. (1983). Dyscalculia and nonverbal disorders of learning. In H. R.
Myklebust (Ed.), Progress in learning disabilities (Vol. 5, pp. 235-
264). New York: Grune & Stratton.
Geary, D. C. (1993). Mathematical disabilities: Cognitive, neuropsychological,
and genetic components. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 345-362.
Geary, D. C. (2004). Mathematics and learning disabilities. Journal of
Learning Disabilities, 37, 4-15.
Griffin, S., & Case, R. (1997). Wrapping up: Using peer commentaries to enhance
models of mathematics teaching and learning. Issues in Education, 3,
Gross-Tsur, V., Manor, O., & Shalev, R. S. (1996). Developmental dyscalculia:
Prevalence and demographic features. Developmental Medicine and Child
Neurology, 38, 25-33.
Jordan, N. C., Hanich, L. B., & Kaplan, D. (2003). Arithmetic fact mastery in
young children: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Experimental Child
Psychology, 85, 103-119.
Kosc, L. (1974). Developmental dyscalculia. Journal of Learning
Disabilities, 7, 164-177.
Ostad, S. A. (1998).Developmental differences in solving simple arithmetic word
problems and simple number-fact problems: A comparison of mathematically
disabled children. Mathematical Cognition, 4(1), 1-19.
Rivera, D. P. (1997). Mathematics education and students with learning
disabilities: Introduction to the special series. Journal of Learning
Disabilities, 30, 2-19, 68.
Secada, W. G. (1991). Evaluating the mathematics education
of limited English proficient students in a time of educational change. Paper
presented at the Second National Research Symposium on Limited English
Proficient Student Issues, Washington, D.C. Available online from ERIC, ED
Reviewed by Dr. Zafer Unal, Assistant Professor, University of South Florida,
Atwell, Nancie (2007).
The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual,
New York: Scholastic.
Let me be clear about my biases before starting this review. I have been an
avid reader for several decades, so am probably pre-disposed to agree with an
author whose basic premise is that "frequent, voluminous reading" is the single
most important factor for student success in school. Nancie Atwell and her
teaching colleagues also hope that reading will help their students become
"smarter, happier, more just, and more compassionate people because of the
worlds they experience" (p.12) through books. My personal biases aside, I
suspect that other readers will also agree with Atwell’s assertion, and share
her frustration with the hijacking of the reading/English curriculum by
structured, packaged programs that suck the life out of reading rather than
fostering joyful readers. The subtitle of the book, frequently repeated in the
text, summarizes the goal Atwell has for all her students (K-8) at the Center
for Teaching and Learning (CTL), a non-profit demonstration school in Maine
that she established in 1990. She is clearly passionate about reading and about
her students, but that doesn’t mean she is one-sided in her presentation.
Atwell cites research to support her approach as well as that which seduced
her, earlier in her career, to adopt reading comprehension strategies. She
clearly identifies when comprehension strategies can be useful and when not.
Using Louise Rosenblatt's terminology, Atwell states that comprehension
strategies serve to build skills for efferent or information gathering
reading (e.g., textbooks, newspapers) but get in the way of aesthetic
This book offers practical guidance on how to create the ideal situation for
students to enter “the reading zone” (a term coined by her students), and how
to become skilled, passionate, habitual, critical readers. Key components,
elaborated in separate chapters, include making reading personal, creating the
appropriate space, offering lots of good books to choose from, making it easy
to find books at the right level, and promoting wonderful books. She offers
examples of letters to parents, readings assignments for students, and
booktalks, as well as numerous guidelines and lists (e.g., The Readers' Bill of
Rights, recommended authors), many of them generated collaboratively with her
students. She has created a website (http://www.c-t-l.org/kids_recommend.html) with
booklists of students' favorite titles; the goal is to help her students
continue reading over the summer. Atwell also discusses reading goal setting
and assessment—another process done jointly with the studentsand includes
examples of forms as well as illustrative student responses.
Atwell tackles related issues such as responding to parent concerns about
particular books chosen by their children and working with students who are
challenged readers, whether due to lack of previous experience or cognitive
difficulties such as dyslexia. She addresses what she believes to be the
spurious alarm raised about gender differences in reading, i.e., boys not being
good readers. Although CTL as an institution is clearly somewhat unique, the
students who attend are not. They come from all socio-economic strata and
ability levels; Maine is a rural and relatively poor state, falling in the
bottom third of states in terms of per capita income. CTL strives, through
tuition assistance, to bring in students representing the population, rather
than those who are gifted or financially privileged; although, Atwell readily
acknowledges that a school in Maine has less than the national average of
students whose first language is not English. She believes all these students
can fall in love with reading and the fact that her middle schoolers read an
average of 40 books a year would seem to support that belief.
Although the CTL curriculum emphasizes reading beginning in kindergarten,
and although Atwell discusses some aspects of the reading zone approach for
lower grades, her emphasis in this book is on middle-school-age students;
hence, those teachers are the ones likely to get the most useful information
from this book. She describes what she believes an ideal English curriculum
should include, acknowledging and offering accommodation for the limitations
imposed by situations where the workshop approach (blocks of time) aren’t
feasible. Having followed the academic careers of many of her students after
they graduate from CTL (through interviews and correspondence), Atwell also
makes a plea for teachers to create a high school English curriculum that
facilitates rather than impedes reading.
The Reading Zone is the right length for the practitioner—informative
and inviting, not overwhelming. She offers lots of pragmatic tools for someone
who wants to try out her approach and enough research to satisfy those who want
to follow up on the ideas, without bogging the text down. So persuasive and
engaging is this presentation that I plan to modify my own course on
multicultural children’s literature, which I teach to education students.
Teachers of reading and English will find this a rich resource and a satisfying
endorsement of the value of reading.
Reviewed by Paula McMillen, Ph.D., currently an Associate Professor at Oregon
State University Libraries. Her previous career as a clinical psychologist,
combined with her present one as a social sciences reference librarian,
prepared her well to become co-founder of the Bibliotherapy Education Project (
y.oregonstate.edu ). She particularly enjoys collaborating with faculty in
subject areas outside the library and was instrumental in establishing a joint
instructional program with the English composition program at OSU. In addition
to her instruction and consultation work with psycholology, sociology and
education faculty and students, she teaches a graduate course on multicultural
children's literature in the OSU College of Education.
Blasingame, James (2007).
Books That Don't Bore 'Em: Young Adult Books that Speak to This Generation,
Grades 5 and up.
New York: Scholastic.
Blasingame, a well-known scholar and expert on young adult literature, makes
a strong case for employing such literature in the classroom. In addition to
meeting the needs and interests of students, using contemporary young adult
literature serves as a bridge to the classics and/or the traditional canon. As
a practitioner, I can speak to the disconnects between our student populations
and traditional pedagogy. We need to diversify our reading choices in order to
meet our diverse student populations and to validate the complexities shared by
this age group. We can no longer solely subject them to the writings of "dead
old white men" (p. 22). Today's readers are facing more societal and personal
challenges. Fortunately, today's books are more reflective of these
challenges. But, how do we get these books into the classroom and more
importantly, into the hands of students? Blasingame answers this question in
his book, Books That Don't Bore 'Em.
Blasingame effectively addresses possible obstacles to using contemporary
young adult literature. Whenever changes to the curriculum are suggested,
practitioners pose two main arguments related to content standards and access.
Given today's politically-charged, standards-based climate, teachers are
concerned about how to address the standards. Blasingame contends that using
popular literature does not sacrifice standards-based instruction. In fact, by
using young adult literature as Blasingame suggests, practitioners can not only
meet grade-level expectations but they will also engage students instead of
boring them. According to standards, students are expected to analyze and
manipulate literary forms and styles. Such analyses can be done using popular
young adult literature. Blasingame also shows how common themes and literary
qualities are present in both canonical and contemporary bodies of literature.
Furthermore, in using literature that reflects students' lives, teachers will
be in a better position to create a nation of readers. We are at risk of
producing an aliterate citizenry, people who can read but choose not to.
The second main opposition is access. Blasingame's book is extremely user-
friendly in that he offers many suggestions for reading materials. He lists
books for whole-class reading, for read-alouds, for literature circles and for
independent reading. He also categorizes books according to themes, genres,
topics, and literary elements. He assumes a lot of the work of finding good
books. Teachers just need to refer to his lists. In addition, he also provides
tips for how to choose the best books. He addresses literary merit and quality
and notes reputable review publications, publishing houses, literary awards,
reputation of authors, etc. He offers questions that practitioners should
consider in selecting texts like "Do the characters represent the diversity of
teen readers?" (p. 56). Blasingame also references graphic novels, which are
extremely popular for young adult readers and especially for reluctant readers.
The last section of the book is entitled "In the Authors' Words."
Blasingame provides short biographies, recommended works, and interviews on
popular authors of young adult literature such as Laurie Halse Anderson, Sandra
Cisneros, Nancy Farmer, Paul Fleischman, Mel Glenn, Cynthia Kadohata, Laurence
Yep, and many others. In addition to the above mentioned lists of reading
choices, this section is also valuable to practitioners in that it offers some
insights on contemporary authors, especially for those unfamiliar with this
genre. Practitioners can use this information to be more informed about their
reading choices. Again, Blasingame does most of the research and provides a
succinct handbook of sorts for practitioners. This book could also be titled
"Young Adult Literature and Authors in a Nutshell."
The book is well-written, easy to read and easy to implement. It is very
practitioner-oriented in that Blasingame considers pedagogical implications.
After all, he was a former teacher. From his writing, I can tell that he was a
very reflective and responsive teacher. His approach is student-centered.
Books are valuable tools to engage students in the learning process.
Knowledge about books is a powerful factor of effective instruction; as a
result, this book is a must-read. As an avid reader and a proponent of using
contemporary literature in the classroom, I thoroughly enjoyed Blasingame's
work. My response to this book is very positive. I highly recommend it. It is
useful and scholarly in its presentation of suggestions and rationales.
Reviewed by Virginia S. Loh, a doctoral candidate at SDSU-USD, an adjunct
professor at National University and University of San Diego, an elementary
school teacher and a published children's book author with Candlewick Press.
Burnard, Pamela & Hennessy, Sarah, editors (2006)
Reflective Practices in Arts Education.
Doerdecht, Netherlands: Springer.
Burnard and Hennessy's Reflective Practices in Arts Education
endeavors to engage the artists, researchers, and practitioners in educational
settings who are trying to impact the validity of arts education research as a
discourse for transforming teaching, learning, and research practice. Although
the book's content relates to the everyday of teaching contexts it is not
written for the K-12 educator/practitioner. This book is clearly written for
those involved in higher education who wish to pursue research or validate
their own research. The significance of this book revolves around the practice
of reflection which is referenced in multiple domains and contexts related to
education across the arts. These authors consider reflection a form of
critical inquiry where judgments, conversations, practice, process, and
multiple perspectives form an interactive foundation to pursue changes in
Reflective Practice as research practice can be seen from different vantage
points as these authors present three different sections framing the
theoretical, historical, and cultural; the methods, tools, and instruments; and
the case studies that show reflection in practice. ÊAll three sections of this
book explore research practice in a dynamic way telling stories that exemplify
the "what is," the "how-to" and the "why" of reflection.Ê If you are looking to
explore reflective practice as a research method in the arts (as well as other
content areas in education), this book is an excellent introduction and
synthesis of reflective practice as a whole.
This first section (chapters 1-6) clearly demonstrates the "what" of what
it means to be a reflective practitioner or be a participant in reflective
practice, and provides a foundation for understanding reflective practice. As a
reflective practitioner myself, I believe Kushner's ideas (chapter 2, p. 21)
about an aesthetic curriculum best articulate how reflection in action works,
stating that we must think in terms of:
This section is full of theoretical and pedagogical ideas about how reflective
practice functions as "collective reflection" (p.10) and if implemented, can
prompt change and create new educational histories for this generation.
- lives, not stages
- experiments, not orthodoxies
- event-histories, not outcomes
- judgement, not appreciation
- conversations, not demonstrations
- the whole, not the parts
The second section (chapters 7-11) demonstrates the “how” of reflective
practice and extends an understanding of the way in which reflective methods,
tools, and instruments are used. These chapters illustrate the unique voices
of individuals and their ideas and processes in specific settings. These
settings include: gallery workshops involving a game, music workshops focusing
on a need for a common framework, trainee dance teachers involving learning
journals, technology and pre-service music teachers involving multimedia
projects, and music educators involving strategic learning tasks that are
pedagogically reflective. Each chapter in this section provides readers with
ideas that could potentially make a difference in how they see teaching and
learning through reflective practice.
The third and last section (chapters 12-15) introduces readers to the “why”
of reflective practice. This is where specific issues are addressed. Several
examples include using drama to reflect on negative leadership in the UK
schools and conflict and bullying management in Australia. Another example
discusses a music educator's pursuit to disrupt Western Curricular knowledge
systems through an African music project. Kerchner's chapter (11) in this
section was my favorite as it really offered insight into the artistry of what
good teaching is and the different ways we can witness transformative knowledge
through reflective practice. This book is best summed up in a statement by
Hilton (p. 33) saying that teaching the "art[s] requires reflective discussion
[in multiple forms] to create and shape meaning." This book is for all those
who are educating in the arts who wish to explore, view, or participate in
reflective practice. For the artist/teacher/researcher this book is a great
resource for reflective practice in the arts.
Reviewed by Heidi Mullins, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Art Education,
Eastern Washington University
Chenoweth, Karin (2007).
"It's Being Done:" Academic Success in Unexpected Schools.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard
All children deserve a good education. Few would argue with that statement.
There is also a general consensus that all children can learn, but we squirm
about whether they are all able to learn at the same rate and level. Coleman’s
1966 findings that family background has a strong predictive role in academic
achievement has fostered the idea that schools with high number of students
from poverty and/or of color will not be as successful as schools without those
demographics. The Education Trust, under the leadership of Kati Haycock,
identifies schools that are “Dispelling the Myth” where poor children and
children of color are achieving at a higher rate than their peers at other
schools. Education writer Karin Chenoweth spent two years visiting some of
these schools. In this book, she describes what was happening so that all
children are learning.
Brady (2003) noted that there is a great deal of information on how
effective schools work, but there is little known about how to move an
ineffective school from failure to success. In 2004, The Education Trust joined
with Business Roundtable, Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, National Center
for Educational Accountability and National Council of La Raza to form the
Achievement Alliance to identify the practices in these schools that are making
the difference. Using the “Dispelling the Myth” Web tool available on The
Education Trust Web site (http://www2.edtrust.org/edtrust/dtm
/), Chenoweth and Education Trust analysts looked for schools that had a
significant population of children living in poverty and/or a significant
population of children of color with either very high rates of achievement or a
very rapid improvement trajectory. These schools also had to be open enrollment
for neighborhood children and the high schools had high graduation rates and
higher -than state average promoting power index (PPI). Chenoweth feared that
she would find facilities teaching to the test staffed by burnt-out teachers
robbed of any creativity. Instead she found true professionals who love their
jobs and are determined that all students have the knowledge and opportunities
of a well-rounded curriculum.
Chenoweth describes the programs at 14 elementary, middle, and high schools
and one district. The schools were in rural, urban and suburban settings. There
were striking similarities. At each school, the change was instigated by
strong leadership that did what was necessary to set the stage for optimal
results. Collaboration was prevalent with teachers working within and across
grade levels and content areas to vertically align the standards and
curriculum. Standards were the focus, not the testing. New teachers were
mentored and all teachers were provided focused professional development
throughout their tenure. Additional support for students, such as ESL and
special education services, was "pushed in" to the classroom rather than being
conducted on a pull-out basis. The principals and teachers understood that
accountability was the foundation for student achievement and used data to
focus on individual students, not just groups of students. School time was used
wisely and the schools leveraged as many resources from the community as
possible. They paid careful attention to the quality of the teaching staff,
making sure that the students who struggle the most had the best instruction.
Chenoweth sums up that adults in these schools expected all students to learn,
and the adults worked hard to master the skills and knowledge necessary to
“It’s Being Done” is an inspiring documentation of schools where best
practices are being put to use and are working. As stated over and over again,
there is no "magic bullet," but there is a reoccurring theme of the
determination to succeed and putting together the pieces to do just that. Each
story of a school success demonstrates how that school's personnel focused on
the student and coordinated all available resources to maximize the potential
for that student. Educators and policy makers need to read this book to remind
us what it is all about and that all children can learn – if we make that our
Brady, R. C. (2003). Can failing schools be fixed? Washington, D. C.:
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
Coleman, J. S. (1966). Equality of educational opportunity.
Washington, D. C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Reviewed by Lee Ann Dumas, Ed. D., the Director of Educator Excellence for the
Texas Education Agency. She and her staff work with programs such as the
Beginning Teacher Induction and Mentoring Program and the School Leadership
Gallagher, Kelly (2006).
Teaching Adolescent Writers.
Portland, Maine: Stenhouse
Teaching Adolescent Writers joins a growing body of practical
literature – 25 of which are helpfully listed in an appendix – for middle and
secondary school writing teachers. That this is a book to be referenced is
underscored by the 13 appendices containing examples of teaching strategies
used in Gallagher's classroom, ranging from "Great Quotes About Writing" to
rubrics. While some of the ideas in this book come from Gallagher's own trial
and error as a teacher, he freely acknowledges his debt to others for many good
ideas. Whether original or borrowed, all ideas have been well tested in
Gallagher's classroom. An experienced teacher of writing – he is part of the
South Basin Writing Project based at California State University Long Beach –
Gallagher has compiled a number of practical, useful ideas for teaching what he
considers to be the most crucial aspects of writing for middle and high school
Gallagher premises his teaching approach on six needs that he contends must
be met in order for students to learn to write effectively. Students need: 1)
a lot more writing practice; 2) teachers who model good writing; 3) the
opportunity to read and study other writers; 4) choice when it comes to writing
topics; 5) to write for authentic purposes and for authentic audiences; 6)
meaningful feedback from both the teacher and their peers (p. 13). These six
needs form the basis of the final six chapters in the book.
Gallagher begins his book with a discussion of what he terms "the literacy
stampede." He tells his students:
You are growing up in the dawn of the Information Age. More than
ever before in history, the ability to read and write will determine how far
you will go in this world. For the most part, people who read and write well
will compete and prosper; people who read and write poorly will be left behind.
Simply put, there is a literacy stampede approaching, and it is bearing down
right on top of you (p. 3).
Gallagher quotes alarming statistics such as the 2002 National Assessment of
Educational Progress, which found that nationally only 24% of twelfth graders
performed at or above the proficient writing level (p. 6). He correctly
identifies writing as one of the most basic skills students will need to be
successful in life. Looking at this fact, and the writing proficiency
statistics quoted, one can see that educators have their work cut out for them.
The author provides timely advice on dealing with the load of national and
local standards, all of which teachers are expected to teach to often reluctant
students. Gallagher’s philosophy can be summarized as "first things first;" he
freely acknowledges the difficulty of covering everything well, and strongly
advocates meeting students where they are, and giving them the most essential
skills that will serve them well in the world of work.
On top of dealing with standards imposed on writing teachers from outside,
Gallagher contends that it is crucial that teachers deal with the perceptions
of students regarding themselves as writers. According to Gallagher, the
typical succession of writing assignments connected solely to school work has
left students with the perception that writing is a skill needed only while
they are in school. Students need to understand that they will continue to use
their writing skills throughout their life. Gallagher offers a number of ideas
aimed at avoiding what he calls "fake writing." He advocates finding ways to
give students an audience for their writing outside of the teacher and even the
classroom. He also believes that choice in writing topics is an important way
of motivating students to take writing seriously.
Gallagher offers the intriguing suggestion that teachers model the writing
process for their students. He believes that students not only need finished
pieces of writing as models, but also that the writing process itself should be
modeled. He composes essays on an overhead projector in the front of the
class, thinking aloud as he goes, so that students can see how he does it.
Gallagher similarly develops his grading rubrics together with the students,
analyzing a piece of writing on the overhead projector and noting together what
it is that makes the writing good or poor.
Gallagher very much advocates the integration of grammar instruction with
writing instruction. He provides lessons on the most frequent grammar
mistakes, in his experience, made by students. Beyond that, students correct
the errors made in their own papers by keeping a notebook of the grammar rules
which apply to their individual errors. Gallagher keeps a file of mini grammar
lessons which he can deliver on cue, and at appropriate times asks students
what he can teach them that would most benefit their writing at that moment.
Should students request something he is unprepared to teach, he provides the
lesson on the following day. In this way, he is responsive to the immediate
needs of his writing students.
Grounded in the philosophy of teaching writing as a process, Gallagher's
book offers a wealth of ideas for middle and high school writing teachers. A
teacher can never have too many classroom strategies from which to choose, and
this book will take its place alongside other well-thumbed titles on the
writing teacher’s bookshelf.
Reviewed by Chris Cicchetti, Education Librarian, University of La Verne,
Public schools are sites of contestation. The right seeks fundamentalist
judgment as morality; the left says morality should not be taught and opts for
a foundationless, faddish concept of right and wrong. Despite the fact that our
schools statistically are very safe places, the violence that each of us in the
larger society promotes gets reflected in the schools. The many micro
aggressions, the assumptions and presumptions, the stereotypes, the
classifications, the dichotomies, the hypocrisy, the racism, the classism, the
sexism, and the shallow fuzziness of multiculturalism prevents us from
following the most basic moral teaching of a universal nature, what C.S. Lewis
(2001) referred to as the Tao: love one another as you love yourself.
Too often we want to vilify "them" or to feel pity after the fact for "those
poor souls," never reflecting on our own responsibilities, our own
contributions to violence and hate. Timothy Hillmer's novel helps complicate
school violence and shootings. Even the most basic question of "who is the
shooter" becomes hard to answer. Certainly someone is pulling the trigger, but
that hardly answers the question in a novel where someone else brought the gun,
there is a struggle, and where the teacher is shot by a policeman with
questionable method and intent. If you are confused, then this review reflects
the book and what I believe is intended: school violence is confusing and
Hillmer's writing and organizational structure are not confusing. He focuses on
each main character at a given time in the fateful day. He depicts the many
tragedies in the lives of the adult and student charactersleft silent and
privateeach harbors fears and fantasies of violence, even the most
righteous. Guns are prominent for all characters. Real life is not as black
and white as we see portrayed in the media.
In the book Fundamentalist Christians protest the nature of school
curriculum. Hillmer causes us to question the relevancy of what we teach given
the lives lived by teachers, students, and community members. Postman and
Weingarter (1971) challenged teachers to ask themselves these questions: What
will you have your students do today? Why is it important? How do you know?
This novel causes us to ask how what we teach and how we teach contribute to or
fail to address the daily violence in our schools.
The novel delicately approaches the problem in many of our schools where
athletes and upper class students monitor "others" behavior by the constant
harassment, intimidation, and marginalization of other students. Homophobia is
a major obsession. Of course, these students rarely receive the discipline
they need. Michaelis (2000) challenges us to recognize the structures of
oppression which include exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural
imperialism, and violence made inevitable beyond certain thresholds. We are
reminded of the passive violence of adult nonresponsiveness. She encourages a
perspective of injustice that incorporates the perspectives of the
marginalized. Current multicultural appreciation classes in teacher education
are not up to this task. A more critical examination, including examination of
self, is needed for future teachers.
Hillmer brilliantly leads us into a journey of the lives of characters that
allows us to share perspectives of the marginalized by giving us the past as he
proceeds along a time path on the fateful day. The "big trouble maker" at
school gains sympathy when we see the secret he hides which arose when he nobly
saved the life of his sister. Interestingly, the same reason that his secret
can not be disclosed relates to the secret harbored by the first person shot,
homophobia. We see violence begetting violence when each character confronts
fear and this includes teachers and administrators.
This is a well written book and worthy of practitioner attention. As we
read this book, let us remember the words of Robert F. Kennedy:
For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive
as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions;
indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts
the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different
colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without
books and homes without heat in the winter.
When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a
lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when
you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or
your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but
as enemiesto be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be
subjugated and mastered.
We learn, at the last, to look at our bothers as aliens, men with whom we share
a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in
common effort. We learn to share only a common fearonly a common desire
to retreat from each otheronly a common impulse to meet disagreement with
force. For all this there are no final answers.
Maybe it is time we not only listen to our young people, but also truly hear
them, suspend our judgment and love them. Perhaps this book will remind us.
Lewis, C.S. (2001). Abolition of Man. San Francisco: Harper
Michaelis, Karen. (2000). From Injustice to Indifference: The Politics of
School Violence. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 446392). Retrieved
April 15, 2007, from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2/content_storage_01/00
Postman, N., & Weingratner, C. (1971). Teaching as a Subversive
Activity. New York: Delacorte Press
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial (n.d.). On the Mindless Menace of Violence, Address
to the City Club of Cleveland, April 5, 1968. Retrieved April 28, 2007, from htt
Reviewed by Michael W. Simpson J.D., M.Ed., an attorney, teacher, and social
activist currently studying American Indian education in Arizona.
Howard, Gary (2006).
We Can't Teach What We Don't Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools.
New York: Teachers College Press.
ISBN: : 0-8077-4665-7
Gary Howard, a devoted multicultural practitioner, has written his second
edition of We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multiracial
Schools. His writing embodies the wisdom and credibility acquired from
forty years of multicultural teaching, curriculum development, writing,
training, and school reform activism. Howard also created the REACH Center for
Multicultural Education, an organization that has designed staff development
programs and has published classroom materials internationally.
Howard writes his second edition with a renewed sense of urgency. In the
introduction, Howard discusses changes that have developed in the field of
education since the publication of his first book in 1999. At the forefront of
these challenging issues is the federal No Child Left Behind legislation which
is responsible for the high stakes testing and strict accountability. The
author sees some benefit to the legislation which has forced schools to pay
attention to students who are not achieving and to disaggregate their
achievement data by race among other dimensions of difference. However, the
NCLB legislation places little or no emphasis on increasing the competence of
teachers to work effectively with children from diverse racial and cultural
backgrounds (p. 2). Howard finds this omission a cause for concern because the
demographics in education are rapidly changing. The teacher force today is
mostly white (90 %), whereas the student population is highly diverse. The
students of color are at risk of being caught in the achievement gap (p. 4).
The author believes that educational institutions have not dealt adequately
with the many issues presented by the complexities of teaching in a
multicultural nation (p. 4). Therefore he felt compelled to write the second
edition to his book which addresses the need to prepare a predominately white
teaching force to work effectively with an increasingly diverse student
population. Throughout the book, Howard has successfully woven together
research from multicultural education as well as personal experiences drawn
from his many years of practice in the field. He postulates that both theory
and practice are needed as teachers begin the work of becoming transformational
leaders and educators who truly value ALL students.
If the reader is familiar with Howard's first edition, chapters 1-6 will be
similar with the exception of updated references and expanded thoughts
throughout. In chapters 1-3, the author first describes his personal
transformation as he has grown from a state of complete ignorance concerning
the realities of race toward a greater awareness of racism and social
dominance. Next, he provides a review of the literature related to social
dominance that can help teachers understand the methodologies of white
supremacy. Howard continues to examine the roots of racism and social dominance
through a paradigm which consists of three components: the assumption of
rightness, the luxury of ignorance, and the legacy of privilege. The author
proposes that using this paradigm will help white educators examine their own
personal and pedagogical assumptions regarding race and cultural differences.
Howard encourages the reader to follow him down the path of transformation
in chapters 4-6. First he suggests that white teachers can contribute to the
healing and social transformation process by exhibiting honesty, empathy,
advocacy, and taking possible action against racism. Next, he provides an
overview of research related to racial identity development that identified
central issues of personal transformation that white teachers face as they grow
toward greater multicultural competence. To assist with the personal
transformation of educators, Howard discloses a model called the White Identity
Orientations which is designed to describe and clarify the different ways of
being white. It is his hope the model will facilitate and encourage the process
of growth toward greater empathy among white educators (p. 103).
Chapter 7 is a new addition to this second edition which describes the
actual beliefs and practices of the transformationist white teachers: Race
matters, change begins with us, beliefs determine outcomes, and teaching is a
calling, not just a job. The chapter is extremely helpful as one applies the
practical ways of becoming a transformationist teacher through one's behavior,
relationships, thinking, and teaching practices. In the chapter, Howard
provides some practical advice to teachers as they work to help their students
close the achievement gap. Howard concludes in chapter 8 that the road to a
transformationist white orientation is not easy. It will cause cognitive
dissonance as one reflects upon previously held assumptions about race and
white dominance. However, if one perseveres, there is personal renewal and hope
to be found in the possibility of change. There is satisfaction in knowing that
as white educators, we have helped stem the tide of racial dominance (p. 139).
Overall, We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know (second edition) is a
thought-provoking book which has the potential to foment a valuable discussion
among educators, administrators, and preservice teachers. His book is more
relevant today in light of the many challenges that educators face in the field
of education. Howard writes with conviction about controversial issues but
without judgment or blame. The author engages the reader as if he were a
colleague sitting across the table sharing in a reflective dialogue. His
writing is intelligent and logical. The use of metaphors and personal examples
help to envisage the journey needed to become a transformationist educator.
The book is designed to be a helpful tool. An index, reference section, and
guidelines for discussion and reflection are included at the end of the book.
In addition, the models (White Identity Orientations and Achievement Triangle:
Dimensions of Knowing) as described in chapters six and seven are valuable to
the reader as he or she participates in the metamorphosis of becoming a
I highly recommend this book to any young teacher who is just beginning his
or her journey, or to a teacher who has traveled many miles down the road of
education and wants to be a part of a vision that honors diversity and ensures
greater equity for all people.
Reviewed by Patricia L. Burgess, Benerd School of Education, University of the
Johns, Alison C. (2006).
Remember Why You Teach: Reflections for the Journey.
In her introduction, Alison C. Johns describes Remember Why You Teach:
Reflections for the Journey as a "collection of 'musings'" intended to
offer "inspiration, consolation, insight, and comfort in their messages" (np).
The musings originated as Johns' weekly "Captain's Log" e-mail messages to the
teachers at Sierra Vista Elementary School, where the author was an
administrator. If there is one theme that reveals itself in the brief book, it
is making connections with colleagues and students. Throughout her encouraging,
conversational e-mail entries, which include inspiring quotations plucked from
her office calendar, Johns models what communication between supervisor and
teachers can be and emphasizes that the staff is together on their teaching
journey (p. 41). In one e-mail, she personally thanks members of the staff by
name for all that they do that may seem to go unnoticed (pp. 16-17), and in
another she exhorts, "Don't ever doubt your importance or worth" (p. 23).
Clearly, Johns wants both to affirm the good work her teachers are doing and to
raise their spirits: "We are the beginning of the dream. We are the little
voice that starts inside challenging ourselves and our students to be more, to
better, to be great!" (p. 29).
"I know my Soul Talk still makes many uncomfortable, but I must say it...it
is who I am..." (p. 60). Johns' disclaimer comes late in the text, in the
penultimate entry in fact, so readers leery of references to the soul, beware.
Personally, I found it refreshing that Johns acknowledges her faculty as having
lives outside of teaching and souls that need nourishing. With her reminders
about testing dates, deadlines, and stressful validation visits to the
classroom, Johns also recreates the teacher's work world, and as a teacher, I
felt a sense of kinship with an administrator who completely understands what a
complicated, exhausting, busy, frustrating, gratifying, and sometimes lonely,
profession teaching is.
As a matter of aesthetics, I would have preferred a larger font and easier-
to-read layout. Johns' e-mails are presented on the page much as they would
appear on the computer screen-typos, lagniappe punctuation, and all. In her e-
mails, Johns is responding to specific incidents at her workplace and in her
life, so I couldn't always appreciate the references and in-jokes and at times
Johns' stories seem to veer off topic a bit. In other entries it appears that
Johns is ruminating on paper. "Connection, vulnerability, growth" (p. 31), she
writes in one, but in such a shorthand form, these ideas may not be helpful for
Johns seems to be a dedicated, thoughtful teacher-administrator, and this
book is a glimpse into the author's thinking, almost a brainstorming session on
the kind of book she could write if she plumbed even deeper into her titular
reflections. Throughout, Johns writes about making connections, but how does
she do it, and how can we do it? An entire book could be written exploring
that. Obviously Johns has a great deal more to say, and hopefully this is just
the beginning of a prolific writing career.
Reviewed by Déirdre Carney, adjunct English instructor at Berkeley College and
William Paterson University, both in New Jersey. Ms. Carney earned an M.A.
from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the Trinity College London
Certificate in TESO
Kelly, Arthur, S. (2006) .
Writing with Families: Strengthening the Home/School Connection with Family
Gainesville, FL: Maupin House.
Writing with Families is a clearly written, easy to follow,
accessible, step-by-step guide for anyone who is interested in establishing a
Family Scribe Group. In this book Kelly explains exactly what constitutes a
Family Scribe Group, how to go about setting one up and the potential benefits
they bring to families, communities and facilitators alike.
An English teacher for over ten years at an inner-city, culturally diverse
middle school in Las Vegas, Kelly began Family Scribe Groups in 2001 with the
families of students at his school. The five week groups were established to
encourage the involvement of families in the life of the school through writing
together. The book aims to give the reader "a usable guide to designing and
leading Family Scribe Groups" (p. 4), an aim which is certainly achieved. A
clear idea of what Family Scribe Groups are, along with all the necessary
information anyone interested in starting such a group might need to set up
similar groups, is contained within this short book including tips on making
groups flexible and contextually relevant.
For Kelly Family Scribe Groups "...are made up of families who meet, in
order to write, with the guidance of one or more facilitators" (p. 7).
They provide families with an opportunity to write about their lives and
their experiences, to have their voices heard in the community and
Chapter by chapter the reader is led through the theoretical and practical
processes required for success. The book contains a great deal of detail
concerning how a group should operate including, a week by week breakdown of
activities, suggested themes and 25 "culminating projects" which can be
undertaken by the group once the writing is completed. Ideas for such final
projects range from producing a cookbook or a calendar to planting a community
garden. Examples of writing produced by previous Family Scribes Groups are also
provided. However, experienced teachers may find that in some places the detail
provided on how to run sessions, such as ensuring families sign in, is perhaps
a little too simplistic. One of the most useful resources the book has to offer
is the various templates at the back which are provided in English and Spanish.
Kelly stresses that Family Scribe Groups are about the sharing of ideas, the
building of relationships with other families and the valuing of differences,
as well as commonalities, within the community. Categorically they are not
concerned with literacy levels, school tests or targets; "a Family Scribe Group
is not the place for curriculum designers to step in and say what is needed or
for testing enthusiasts to discover ways to manipulate their statistics" (p.
11). Throughout the book there is great passion in Kelly's writing,
particularly when he talks about the families and the facilitators he has been
involved with. He clearly believes in the benefits Family Scribe Groups have to
offer everyone involved and claims facilitators, "…grow emotionally with their
families and realize that they are able to help parents in new, useful ways"
(p. 104). For anyone interested in starting such a group then this is the book
Reviewed by Anthea Rose, Ph.D. Student, School of Education, University of
Kent, Richard (2006).
A Guide to Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers, Grades 6-12.
New York: Peter Lang.
This book explicitly promises to guide teachers in creating student staffed
writing centers; however readers will find much more in it: plenty of reasons
to start a writing center, savvy suggestions to overcome reluctance and
inertia, plus Richard Kent's passionate and encouraging testimony of teaching
High School English with a writing center.
In seven chapters, intertwined with proven strategies to start and run a
writing center, Richard Kent presents a body of pedagogical principles in
action. You can look at actual classes with vivid exemplars of NCTE Beliefs
about the Teaching of Writing: "Everyone has the capacity to write, writing
can be taught, and teachers can help students become better writers." These
classes embody also the following principles of the author: editing is crucial
to good writing, everyone can become a good editor; "editors are guides,
confidants, and caretakers;" editors "understand the subtlety and mystery of
the craft," therefore, by becoming editors, students improve their own writing;
and writing is a powerful "way to learn and to serve others."
The guide begins with an Introduction, devoted to general aspects of writing
centers, their theoretical foundations, and different manners of staffing and
running them. In particular, it describes the effects of the Mountain Valley
Writing Center on the student staffers, on the school, and on Richard Kent,
whose "teaching life changed forever as a result of the writing center."
A chapter on Planning and Organizing explains the strategy for getting
started. It includes how to introduce the center to colleagues, principal,
entire school staff, parents/caregivers, and superintendent. Kent advises
waiting to "get the OK from your superintendent and principal" well before
introducing the writing center to the school board and the media, since "[a]s
you know, the hierarchy in schools is alive and well" (p. 28).
Staffing and Training reveals how Kent recruited and trained student
editors, and student directors of his writing center. The author emphasizes
that, "Our handpicked group of writing center staffers represented a cross-
section of the student body. However, these young people had one common trait:
Other kids liked them" (p. 4). Recruitment started by sending personal letters
to potential staff members, requesting them to perform several writing and
reading activities over the summer. Training was an on-going process. After the
summer introductory plan, students editors got involved in a demanding program
aimed at understanding writing as a process. Throughout the semester, students
became effective editors. They learned to connect with the writer; to focus on
content rather than on correcting mistakes; to tutoring students with drafts;
and to prompt students who arrived at the writing center with no draft. These
young editors developed skills to work with diverse population, composed of
their own peers, teachers, school administrators, and nonnative speakers of
English. This chapter is particularly rich on Recommended Reading for Writing
In Operating a Writing Center, Kent narrates his own journey to find a home
for the center. He also describes the creation of an identifiable image that
comprised a smart-looking logo, brochures, calendars, hallway passes, literary
magazine, and bookmarks. An asset of this chapter is the Record Keeping
section; it presents how the Mountain Valley Writing Center kept and analyzed
records from the editor's log, and tutors' signing book.
Working Drafts: Writing Centers in Action warns readers not to feel limited
by the experience, however appealing, of a unique students-staffed writing
center. To prevent such limitation, the chapter introduces three different
writing centers, and explains their distinctive client and coaching issues,
particular strengths and opportunities.
Resources and Activities is filled with suggestions and tips to help "create
a community of writers while marketing the center" (p. 123). Kent shares
websites that supply sample writing assignments for teachers, and tips on
writing, as well as publishing outlets for students, writing contests, and
information for English-language learners. He also includes lists of resource
books, of books on writing, and of books on publishing. And there is much more:
tips to catch digital plagiarism; quotations for journals; and themes for
school-sponsored writing contests. Furthermore, this chapter suggests and
briefly describes dozens of activities to be sponsored by the writing center,
including writing careers night; writing workshops; literary cafés;
publishing enterprises, and fundraising for charitable causes, among others.
Kent wraps the book up with festive anecdotes that illustrate how the
editor-students' enthusiasm and confidence inspired, encouraged, and helped him
"dare to create a wide variety of activities and opportunities," and to
redefine his role as teacher (p. 148). In a very similar way, Kent's
enthusiasm and commitment could inspire all of us, novice and seasoned
teachers, to create a student staffed writing center. In doing so, we might
also redefine, and renew, our role as teachers.
Writing Study Group of the NCTE Executive Committee. (2004). NCTE beliefs about
of writing. Retrieved May 10, 2007 from http://
Reviewed by Celine Armenta, Ed. D., professor of education at the Universidad
Iberoamericana Puebla (Mexico). She served as middle school science teacher for
20 years. Her professional interests include inclusion and diversity, and
measurement and evaluation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Leaming, Deryl R. (2007).
Academic Leadership: A Practical Guide to Chairing the Department.
Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.
Leaming's second edition of his text, Academic Leadership: A Practical
Guide to Chairing the Department, offers readers a broad overview of the
roles and responsibilities of departmental chairpersons. Today's chairpersons
face unprecedented challenges due to the many changes being experienced by
higher education institutions: demands for fiscal and educational
accountability, growing competition from for-profit colleges and universities,
declines in accessibility for middle and low income students, and increased
expectations for productivity in teaching, scholarship, and service. These
challenges require that department chairpersons become effective change agents
as opposed to competent caretakers of routine departmental business. While the
work of departmental chairpersons has become both heavier and more complex, the
provision of effective professional development for this critical leadership
position is quite limited at most colleges and universities. Academic
Leadership is a practical primer that most chairpersons, especially those
who are new to the position, are likely to find very useful.
The text consists of thirty chapters each addressing a different aspect of a
chairperson's duties. The chapters have been organized into five major thematic
areas: leadership, the department, legal issues, faculty, students, and career
management. Most chapters provide both a very general overview of the topic and
related issues, and lists of much more practical and specific pieces of advice.
Although some concrete examples from Leaming's own extensive administrative
experience are sprinkled throughout text, some readers may find themselves
wishing for more illustrations of how Leaming actually used the practices he
recommends. The text is highly readable, and the content is well supplemented
by the lists of website and published resources found at the end of each
chapter. The appendices are likely to be very useful to new chairpersons, and
include examples of forms related to faculty appointments, course evaluations,
tenure and promotion guidelines, and post-tenure review policies.
Much of the more general advice seems relatively obvious and many of these
pieces of advice are presented repeatedly across chapters. Some of the ideas
that appear in many chapters included the importance of being fair, honest,
open, sensitive, caring, confident, and having effective communications skills
and an excellent work ethic. New chairpersons are frequently encouraged to talk
with their deans, chairpersons already viewed as competent, and the in-house
experts before deciding how to respond to a wide variety of problems arising
from personnel or student behaviors. Several chapters address issues to which
some department chairpersons may not have given much attention, such as working
with various external constituencies to build support for a program, developing
outcome assessment programs, and recruiting and retaining students. Throughout
the book, readers can expect to come upon ideas and recommendations that hold
particular salience for them and their context.
Academic Leadership should prove a useful resource for most
department chairpersons. Portions of the text related to tenure and promotion,
and to working with difficult colleagues and students, also may be helpful to
many faculty. Indeed, because of its topical breadth, the identification of
other resources related to each topic, and the many examples provided in the
appendices, this text would be a sound addition to the professional library of
Reviewed by Melissa L. Heston, Associate Professor, Educational Psychology and
Foundations, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA
Walker, Pam & Wood, Elaine (2006)
Science Sleuths: 60 Forensic Activities to Develop Critical Thinking and
Inquiry Skills, Grades 4-8.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Walker and Wood are addressing the heart of scientific thought,
Critical Thinking and Inquiry, by placing it in a format of forensics, a
tremendously appealing idea for the targeted age group in grades 4-8. Acting
as sleuths or detectives, students use scientific procedures to solve who-dun-
it types of problems. They are first taught to be very careful scientific
observers, looking for the smallest of clues. This book is intended to teach
science to middle-graders, by posing a problem or question, in a way that is
fun and has applications in the real world.
The book is grouped into six chapters related to forensic science. Topics
cover the three areas into which science is often grouped: physical science,
earth science, and life science. In the physical science activities, for
example, students conduct chemical analyses, carry out examinations and
comparisons, perform investigations, and gather and process data. Fibers,
latent fingerprints, paper, and food are some of the materials that they
Each chapter contains ten activities, eight designed to be used in class and
two for homework assignments. The activities integrate math and writing skills
with science. The student “Activity Package” contains written activities that
teachers may copy for their students, a list of needed materials, and also
background information for students to read and directions for each activity.
The appendix contains a list of twenty web-sites relating to forensics.
The authors have 46 years of teaching science between them. Both teach in
Douglasville, Georgia and they are coauthors of several resource books
including Hands-On General Science Activities with Real-Life Applications;
Crime Scene Investigations, Real-Life Science Labs for Grades 6-12, and Crime
Scene Investigations, and Real-Life Science Activities for Elementary
Authentic activities such as the ones in Science Sleuths help
students to make meaning of the applications of science to their lives in a
format that is highly interesting. Walker and Wood have provided yet another
valuable resource for teachers of science in the middle grades.
Walker, P. & Wood, E. (1999). Crime scene investigations: real-life science
activities for the elementary grades. West Nyack, N.Y. : Center for Applied
Research in Education.
Walker, P. & Wood, E. (1998). Crime scene investigations: real-life science
labs for grades 6-12. West Nyack, N.Y. : Center for Applied Research in
Walker, P. & Wood, E. (1994). Hands-on general science activities with real-
life applications: ready-to-use labs, projects & activities for grades 5-
12. West Nyack, N.Y. : Center for Applied Research in Education.
Reviewed by by Dr. Kay Starcher Klausewitz, Assistant Professor, Merrimack