Brief reviews for June 2008
Cooke, Heather (2007).
Mathematics for Primary and Early Years: Developing Subject Knowledge.
Los Angeles, CA: Sage
Price: $120.00 (hardcover) $42.95 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781412946094(hardcover) 9781412946100 (paperback)
Heather Cooke is an experienced practitioner and has a particular interest
in helping people who struggled with mathematics in school. The purpose of
this book is to help students and trainees build self-confidence in their
dealings with mathematics. This textbook is part of a series entitled
Developing Subject Knowledge, which includes English, Mathematics and
Science. It provides materials for students to achieve qualified teacher
status and is used on the second level Open University course, which is part
the Foundation Degree in Early Years.
Being an experienced middle-school teacher for twenty-two years and
math education courses as an adjunct professor for five years, I am very
interested in finding ways to help students decrease their math anxiety.
students have knowledge about mathematics and are proficient in their
mathematical skills, but they still have math anxiety. The author makes the
claim that this book was written with the intent to help students who have
little confidence in their mathematics ability. Cooke believes that students
who revisit mathematical ideas from a different perspective and look at the
problems from an adult's point of view can reduce math anxiety and improve
their confidence. The major difference in this text from other textbooks is
that there are task-driven exercises with an emphasis on active learning
towards meeting the needs of students who lack confidence in their
abilities. These types of students limit their possibilities of learning
mathematics and of benefiting from knowledge and skills that could move them
forward in their future goals.
The first chapter introduces a way to learn by "doing and thinking about
mathematics." Questions are presented that encourage students to think about
what mathematics is and comments are provided on different positive
to help students learn what to do when they are "stuck" on a problem.
is placed not only on learning mathematics, but on understanding it and
sense of it. I totally agree with this approach. I have seen many times
students learn the mathematics but have no real understanding of it and are
able to retain the information. The task-driven approach used in this text
very interactive. Questions and comments appear throughout the problems that
encourage students to think about what they notice and to look back and
the next best move. The last part of chapter one explains the different ways
that the book can be used. The student can work from the beginning to the
or only work on particular topics. There are not many practice problems
because the student is encouraged to think through the problems thoroughly,
additional problems are supplied on a web site or in books listed in the
references. Calculators are needed for some problems and students are
encouraged to create a mathematical dictionary to include unfamiliar
mathematical terms, symbols, representations and connections.
The next seven chapters involve number sense, measures and proportion,
statistics, algebra, geometry, chance and probability, and proof and
Each chapter gives an overview of what is covered in the section with
for the student to try, comments about the problems for discussion, and
drawings to help with understanding of the problem.
As I read through the text and participated in completing the problems, I
found them to be interesting and thought-provoking. The idea that "less is
more" definitely applies to these problems. Students are encouraged to think
about the problem, try it, analyze it, revisit it, and understand it. For
example, in the geometry chapter, 2D transformations are explored in tasks 97
through 103. Reflections, rotations, and translations with interactive tasks
such as folding paper, copying shapes, analyzing changes, and revising
problems are included. Extending the problems to include algebra involves
transforming shapes using coordinates are included in task 104. The author
says a great deal at the end of this section when she states, "It is not
important that you remember these connections between a transformation and
changes in coordinates. What is important is that you are aware that such
connections exist and that you could produce your own examples (specialize)
order to reconstruct them (for other connections for different
for yourself" (p. 149). In my experiences I have found that many students
memorize these connections but have no real understanding of transformations.
I believe the interactive approach used in this text can be very helpful to
students' understanding of many different mathematical problems.
The last chapter reviews strategies to help students who will be taking
examinations. Books and web sources, along with references are provided in
this section. A supplementary self-evaluation guide with answers follows the
final chapter and students can use this before they study each chapter. This
assessment can help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and can
reduce the amount of work to be done using the textbook. A practice
test is also included with solutions that are thoroughly explained.
Students who have any level of math anxiety would definitely benefit from
using this textbook because it provides them with opportunities to learn
mathematics in a non-threatening way. Students who pursue teaching
mathematics would also benefit because they could develop a deeper
understanding of mathematics in order to help their future students.
Reviewed by Dr. Carol A. Rodano, adjunct professor at Rowan University,
Glassboro, NJ, and The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Pomono, NJ;
middle-school math teacher at Bunker Hill Middle School, Sewell, N.J.
Interests include mathematics education and math anxiety.
Feber, Jane (2008).
Active Word Play: Games and Activities that Build Vocabulary.
Gainesville, FL: Maupin
Teachers know that a day of school can fly by. Meeting standards and
objectives leaves little time for fun and games. Therefore, when we get a
chance to integrate meaningful learning with fun activities, it can very
beneficial to the student. Jane Feber's new book, Active Word Play: Games
and Activities that Build Vocabulary, allows teachers the opportunity to
make this a reality in the classroom. Feber provides over thirty activities
and games that can be integrated into upper elementary and middle school
classrooms to help build vocabulary.
The book is setup in an easy to read format. The games and activities are
explained in 1-2 pages. Each one has a short description, list of materials,
directions, and possible variations and suggestions. The book then provides
pictures, diagrams, and templates where needed. Teachers could integrate
some of these activities as a one-time fun game. There are others that could
be used as a continual part of vocabulary strategy. One of the strengths of
Feber's book is that it could be used by a teacher planning over summer
as well as by a teacher cramming before class starts. The layout is very
and the objective and description of each activity is easy to grab hold of.
One of the activities presented by Feber is titled "Bumper Stickers." The
basic idea is for students to create a bumper sticker that uses one of their
vocabulary words as a slogan. Each sticker contains a picture, usually
humorous. The example given is "heartrending." The example slogan is:
heartrending to think they actually gave you a license." The bumper sticker
then shows a car slamming into a stop sign. This is a fun, quick activity
could aid students in understanding new vocabulary words and provide some
decoration for the classroom.
A more advanced activity is "Vocabulary Wheels." With this, students
vocabulary words on a construction paper circle with a short definition on
opposite side. It is then attached by a metal brad to a folded piece of
rectangular construction paper with cut-out. Students can see the word as
turn the wheel and then see the corresponding definition on the opposite
This activity is explained in 9 clear steps with a picture displaying the
The games and activities in Feber's book vary extensively. I presented
previous two examples to help display this. The Bumper Stickers could be
quickly placed into a normal school day where the teacher is looking for a
little extra practice on vocabulary in a short amount of time. Vocabulary
Wheels would take a little more time and preparation for both the teacher and
the students. An important benefit of this book is that it provides various
games and activities that are both simple and complex. It can be used for
different situations and classrooms. For teachers of vocabulary, whether it
language arts or content areas, the ideas in this book provide excellent
resources that will be enjoyable for students.
Reviewed by Aaron Lentner, M.A., Azusa Pacific University, and elementary
school teacher. His interests include classroom management and moral
Ferguson, Ronald F. (2007).
Toward Excellence With Equity: An Emerging Vision For Closing The
Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Price: $59.00(hardcover) $29.95(paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-891792-79-3(hardcover) 978-1-891792-78-6(paperback)
What could hip-hop, television, and teacher perceptions have in common?
According to Dr. Ronald F. Ferguson in his book Toward Excellence with
Equity: An Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement Gap, it is
that they are all three at least partially responsible for the gap in test
scores representing achievement between America's black and white youth. As
economist whose work in the 1980s was initially situated in an interest in
the earnings of black and white Americans were not equal, Ferguson writes in
the book's introduction that he "became hooked on the idea of raising test
scores" because "apparently, improving reading and math skills among black
youths was a very promising strategy for reducing racial earnings inequality"
Toward Excellence with Equity is a collection of essays and papers
Ferguson has written throughout his career; chapters have introductions,
summaries, conclusions, and afterwords as needed to establish their context
update their status. Readers are given the opportunity to read about research
involving such instruments as the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth
from the 1990s, a survey used to measure basic reading and math skills and
study the issue of why people made different earnings. In the longitudinal
of this research, participants were surveyed as teenagers and then again as
young adults with jobs. Ferguson writes that the results "shed light on one
aspect of the inequality puzzle: the growing black-white gap in earnings" (p.
Another research instrument discussed in the text is the Armed Forces
Qualifications Test (AFQT). Scores from 1949 and 1953 didn't reveal why
and whites eventually earned differently; even in the 1960s, they were not
predictors. Ferguson writes that by the early 1990s, AFQT scores were "quite
important predictors of the hourly earnings for young adult males and
(p. 2). Jobs were changing, requiring employees to have abilities in math
literacy to succeed. The AFQT tested both math and reading. Success on the
became a foretelling of the possibility for earnings.
Readers with limited knowledge in statistics and data analysis may
be alarmed by the wealth of tables of statistical information provided in
Toward Excellence with Equity, but, as the reader continues, he will
find that while Ferguson provides the numbers, he also does an excellent job
explaining the results in the narration of the book. So, statisticians may
and appreciate the support from the data while those who are not as learned
quantitative research may read and profit from Ferguson's guiding narrative.
Ferguson's beliefs concerning the discrepancy between the academic
of black and white students are presented and supported in very interesting
thought-provoking ways. In chapter 2, Ferguson writes that the explanation
have at one time been found in the forced busing and mixed messages that
leaders in the 1970s provided to black youth. Hip hop is also mentioned as
perhaps one of the ways that black youth pulled away from alignment with
society's ideas of public education as they searched for ways to express
themselves as black people. Reading this volume, one finds there are passages
along the way that arouse the feeling that "he makes sense; this certainly
could be a valid reason for the gap in black and white test scores." Not only
are Ferguson's thoughts and opinions convincing, in many cases he provides
data that prove his contentions to be very possible.
Ferguson answers his chapter 3 title "Can Schools Narrow the Black-White
Test Score Gap?" by examining the six most popular proposals for improving
test performance of black children and thus closing the gap. Does preschool
help if black children then find themselves in elementary school classrooms
with ineffective teachers? Ability grouping and tracking are discussed with
Ferguson expressing his belief that the grouping and tracking are not the
actual issue; the issue usually again involves teacher quality for the
achieving kids. He discusses instructional interventions. The discrepancy
between home and school cultures is a possible issue that retards the
growth of black students. Class size is also an issue that is included in the
discussion. An effective chapter summary provides the author's beliefs
concerning each of these issues with the ultimate concern focused on teacher
The chapters in this book address various issues concerning why black and
white students do not score similarly on standardized tests, including as
chapter 5 "A Diagnostic Analysis of Black-White GPA Disparities in Shaker
Heights, Ohio." While some black students in this "well-to-do suburb" (p.
match the college entrance exam scores of their white neighbors and
there is still a "disproportionately black" group of students with the same
opportunities in this setting who struggle to pass Ohio's graduation exam.
findings from this quantitative case study include an examination of race,
attitudes, family background, and behaviors as they relate to the achievement
disparities. An appendix outlines the Tripod Project for School Improvement,
professional development model Ferguson created with input from educators in
The reader of Toward Excellence with Equity will gain much insight
concerning the gap between the academic achievement of black and white
in America's public school but can gain that knowledge without a concluding
sense of guilt. Ferguson somehow manages to present the facts, numbers, and
his own philosophies concerning this racial divide without insinuation of
toward any one group of people. His focus on the success of our nation as the
ultimate goal for education and society guides his writing from the beginning
to the end of this book.
Reviewed by Kandy Smith, a doctoral student in literacy studies at the
University of Tennessee in Knoxville. As a school consultant for the
State Improvement Grant, she works in classrooms across the state, helping
teachers to improve student literacy practices.
Gentry, J. Richard (2007).
Breakthrough in Beginning Reading and Writing: The Evidence-Based Approach
to Pinpointing Students' Needs and Delivering Targeted Instruction.
New York: Scholastic.
Pages: 128, includes DVD
In his earlier book, Breaking the Code, Gentry built on the work of
Clay and Ehri introduced what he terms "phase theory" and his belief that
writing and reading are all part of the same process of code breaking.
Breakthrough in Beginning Reading and Writing expands and details
Gentry's theory. Phase Theory contends that early writing is a precursor to
and leads naturally to reading, that the process of learning to read and
(i.e. code breaking) naturally progresses through 5 phases, and that a
teacher can identify the child's current phase by identifying aspects of the
child's writing characteristic of a particular phase.
Gentry is not referring to formalized instruction in writing, with its
emphasis on mechanics, but rather to what he calls "kid writing." This
involves a child's early attempts at writing ranging from squiggles to
squiggle/letter combinations to use of invented spellings. He also uses
related activities such as an adult modeling "adult writing" by transcribing
child's description of his/her picture. According to Gentry, "invented
spelling is the perfect vehicle for code breaking" (p. 66). In fact, the
teacher's analysis of invented spellings determines in which phase the child
currently operating and thus identifies the activities needed to help the
move smoothly into the next phase.
In part I, Gentry discusses the characteristics of each of the 5 stages
how to identify the stage of a particular child. The phases are as
The accompanying DVD provides helpful examples of Gentry working with 5
children representing each of the 5 phases, analyzing the writing they do for
him, and discussing why each child was classified at his/her respective
- Phase 0: Operations without letter knowledge
- Phase 1: Operations with letters but without sounds
- Phase 2: Operations with partial phonemic awareness
- Phase 3: Operations with full phonemic awareness
- Phase 4: Operations with full code and chunking
Part II discusses phase theory in light of the current policies regarding
the teaching of reading and writing. No Child Left Behind's emphasis on
"reading first" tends to exclude writing from the process of learning to
He contends that the policies have put the part before the whole, i.e.
awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, etc., rather than on the whole.
Gentry believes that the learning of the parts should flow from experience
the whole. The skilled teacher, as s/he provides reading and writing
experiences for the child, should point out phonemic, phonics, and spelling
patterns, for example, that will benefit the child at his/her particular
and help move him/her to the next stage.
The book ends with a call to action composed of three proposals for
reforming education in the twenty-first century. Gentry proposes revamping
teacher preparation to include a special emphasis on teaching beginning
reading, providing universal access to preschools, and providing incentives
bring the best teachers to the worst schools. While this section makes some
good points, it is not directly related to phase theory, and therefore
somewhat disconnected from the rest of the book.
In the introduction, Gentry describes the vagueness and uncertainty that
surrounded the teaching of beginning reading when he first entered the
classroom more than 30 years ago. Students who caught on quickly did fine,
there was no clear understanding of how to help students who struggled.
Through phase theory, Gentry hopes to provide a clear blueprint for teachers
follow, eliminating the trial and error which he experienced. It should be
emphasized that Gentry's examples deal with students of normal ability; he
not discuss students with learning disabilities or other specialized needs.
While I am not a classroom teacher, his approach makes a lot of sense.
Gentry's articles on spelling show frequent citation in Web of
and phase theory builds on this earlier research. Breakthrough in
Reading and Writing provides a clear and logical process for teachers to
follow in helping beginning readers learn to read. As such, it will be a
welcome resource to teachers in kindergarten and the primary grades.
Clay, M. (1982). Observing young readers. Exeter,
Ehri, L.C. (1997). Learning to read and learning to spell
are one and the same, almost. In C.A. Perfetti, L. Rieben, & M. Fayol
Learning to spell (pp. 237-269). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Gentry, J.R. (2006). Breaking the code: The new
of beginning reading and writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
No Child Left Behind Act, 20 USC 6301 (2001).
Reviewed by Christina Cicchetti, M.S., Ed.S., Education Services/Reference
Librarian, University of California Riverside
Gillham, Bill (2007).
Developing a Questionnaire. Second edition.
London; New York: Continuum.
Perfect timing! Just as I embark on dissertation research that requires
some sort of a survey, I've found just the right help, an uncomplicated text
that provides a thorough analysis of how and why to develop a questionnaire.
Gillham's quick read covers the good, the bad, and the ugly in terms of
utilizing questionnaires in research. I appreciate the fact that a how-to
on questionnaires starts out by warning the reader about the pitfalls of
use and advises careful consideration of both use and design.
Gillham's philosophy behind this text is that research is a practical
and any instruction in how to conduct it should be just as practical. An
excellent example of this is found in the chapter on the statistical analysis
of closed questions. Gillham's explanation of why and how the chi square
should be used is aimed at the non-mathematicians among us and is as clear an
explanation as I have yet to encounter. His tips on strategies for making
you get a maximum number of completed questionnaires returned to you are also
practical as well as creative. Unapologetically, this streamlined manual
includes recommendations for further readings that go into much greater
Beyond discussing the pros and cons of questionnaire usage, Gillham's
comprehensive guide covers how to draft the questions and design the layout,
various approaches to dissemination, result analysis, and the presentation of
results. The sequence of the text is such that a novice researcher could
start at page one and by the end, have formulated a solid questionnaire and
know how to extract information from it.
Gillham cautions the novice researcher that questionnaires normally raise
more questions than they answer. He suggests a multi-method approach to
validating questionnaire results by incorporating interviews and then follows
that up by describing how one might go about making sense of all that data.
have found this text useful not only in designing my questionnaire and
formulating my questions, but also in deciding whether or not to even include
questionnaire in my research design.
Reviewed by Amy Larrison Gillan, science teacher, Southmont Junior High
Crawfordsville, IN, and doctoral student, Science Curriculum and Instruction,
Department of Education, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. Area of
research interest: ocean literacy and stewardship.
Heidger, Terri & Stevens, Beth (2008).
Become a Good Reader! Six Simple Steps.
Gainesville, FL: Maupin
Learning to read is just like "doing a dance." Heidger and Stevens
a wealth of condensed research-based instructional strategies in this little
flip-book. Become a Good Reader represents the collective 50 plus
of teaching experience and knowledge, from these two highly regarded
about how to best support emerging and struggling readers.
Aimed at teachers who are working with emergent and struggling readers
flip-book promises "six simple steps" to effective teaching of reading.
the strategies offered do represent and describe many proven and foundational
reading instructional strategies, here in this flip-book format they are
presented as a "reminder" of a presumed greater teacher knowledge,
understanding, and skill base. Each strategy reminder gives the experienced
teacher a quick reference to sound teaching strategies. For novice or
beginning teachers teachers who are developing their expertise in
intervention and instruction these quick tips and simple steps may
to misapplied interventions and unfounded reading strategy instruction.
Primarily the snapshot strategies and flip format target experienced,
seasoned teachers who can best utilize this colorful, flip-book as a way to
support "best practice." Additionally, teachers attending reading workshops,
or schools that have focused professional development on reading strategies
emergent and struggling readers would find this little flip-book to be a
follow-up reference and condensed reminder of sound reading intervention
As an experienced teacher myself, I would consider purchasing this book
teachers more readily if it were titled: Become a Good Reader Six
Strategies to Support Emergent and Struggling Readers. Kept at the
tips of an experienced teacher this flip-book accomplishes the condensing of
strategy prompts resulting from over 50 years of teaching and "dancing"
Reviewed by Jan E. Blake, a doctoral student in Literacy Studies in the
Department of Theory and Practice at The University of Tennessee.
Israel, E. Susan; Sisk, A. Dorothy & Block, Cathy Collins (2007).
Collaborative Literacy: Using Gifted Strategies to Enrich Learning for
Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin
Price: $80.95(hardcover) $38.95(paperback)
ISBN: 9781412916974(hardcover) 9781412916981(paperback)
In their resourceful book, Collaborative Literacy: Using Gifted
Strategies to Enrich Learning for Every Student, Susan Israel, Dorothy
Sisk, and Cathy Collins Block provide education practitioners with both
theoretical insight and a pragmatic framework to increase collaborative
activities. Such activities would take place in classrooms where students can
generate their own ideas, and then in groups, utilize those ideas towards
creating a new product. The authors define collaborative literacy as "the
of multiple strategies to engage the readers in a group setting" (p. 11). The
definition is central to the book's coverage of a wide variety of research-
based collaborative literacy guidelines for all student types average
and gifted learners, advanced-level readers, gifted students with special
needs, and high achievers. The authors also show ways to promote
collaboration in order to blend school and home in one flow of continuous
The authors take turns authoring chapters, taking advantage of each
person's strengths. The wide-ranging message and value of the book
very well with the authors' belief that "collaboration helps develop and
reading, writing, speaking, and thinking experiences…realized by the
product" (p. 1). For the authors, the end product was a collaborative
construction of the book itself.
The volume is divided into four parts: part one is a summary of the latest
research on gifted education, and the conceptualization of building
collaborative literacy. It also offers advice on how to identify and mutually
engage advanced readers and gifted students, showing how to involve all types
of students in common collaborative literacy building. This part of the book
provides an engaging mix of theorizing and observation on giftedness,
interdisciplinarity, and conceptual connections. It also focuses on identity-
centered adjustments in curriculum, and, last but not least, emphasizes the
role of environment (both home and school) for students with special needs.
Part two outlines ideas on how to engage regular and gifted students in a
multicultural classroom to develop a cohesive learning community. It
rationales for constructing collaborative literacy when teaching reading and
writing, and examines options for building collaborative literacy with
In addition, in this part the authors discuss useful techniques for building
collaborative classrooms in terms of the following categories: peer access,
pace and goals of teaching, a path of inquiry that is aligned with talents,
interests, and learning styles, cultural diversity, reading instruction, and
Part three covers the topic of comprehension development and higher-level
thinking and shows ways to increase natural curiosity and creative thinking.
emphasizes the benefits of inquiry-based learning and provides guidelines on
how to evaluate collaborative literacy. In this part, the three authors (plus
Jennifer Gilmore, Nicole Caylor, Whitney Wheeler, and Shari R. Parris
none mentioned on the front cover of the book) provide a detailed emphasis on
the importance of lesson process modeling. They discuss pre, during, and post
metacognition assessments; awareness of student creativity and obstacles that
may block creative engagement; the use of technology; and evaluation in order
for students to be able to think at a higher, more analytical level.
In part four, which consists of only one chapter, Israel discusses how to
increase teacher self-efficacy in terms of constructing collaborative
by reflecting on the mindset of the teacher. She also gives advice on how to
develop dense collaborative literacy environments through an effective
organization of available resources (newsletters, journals, periodicals,
and Internet sites).
As Susan Israel points out in the text's introduction, this book is a
response to the need to provide educators (specifically, regular classroom
teachers) "with a research-based resource that synthesizes literacy
used in gifted education and higher level thinking strategies from the field
reading education to build collaborative literacy" (p. 3). The book provides
excellent contribution through its complementary use of research and
strategies. The resources of existing literacy research were skillfully re-
applied to construct rationales, organization, and implementation of
collaborative literacy practices for every student, teacher, and parent.
Reviewed by Gatis Dilans, PhD program in Culture, Literacy & Language, the
University of Texas at San Antonio.
Jensen, John (2007).
The Silver Bullet Easy Learning System: How To Change Classrooms Fast And
Energize Students For Success.
Price: $27.89 (hardcover) $17.84(paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-4257-6620-79(hardcover) 978-1-4257-6609-2(paperback)
John Jensen claims that he is "not a teacher by trade" in the introduction
to his new book. However, he does claim to know of a silver bullet (not to
confused with a popular beer slogan) which will transform traditional
environments. Teachers can follow his seven step process, which oddly
resembles a pre-service teacher's lesson plan template, to energize students.
His book, The Silver Bullet Easy Learning System: How to Change Classrooms
Fast and Energize Students for Success, begins with a misspelling on the
book jacket and title page, and goes downhill from there. It is difficult to
get past the misuse of bold faced text and odd text spacing throughout the
book. It's as if you bought a used textbook from the university bookstore
a previous reader has highlighted, but they've highlighted things you don't
necessarily find important to remember or worthy of drastic fluorescent
shading. The text progresses slowly with a weak introduction comparing
learning to athletic achievement. It cites student regurgitation of a
kindergarten teacher's verbal behavioral expectation as a model for
learning. I'm not convinced that recitation of a directive can be considered
as student success or a "score" on the standardized assessments by which
student learning gains are currently measured, or that it implies learning
taken place. The remainder of the text is neither easy nor energizing, as
title might suggest.
The seven core elements of the Silver Bullet Easy Learning System are
simplistic components of teacher preparation programs taught throughout the
country and include: Understanding, organization, practice, scoring,
performance, good feelings, and communications. The author notes that this
process is revolutionary in transforming classrooms without costing
systems money by requiring additional curriculum materials or training. I
think the real question is why a teacher not employing these seven common
practices is still teaching? The seven steps are not directly addressed in-
depth with their own chapters, but incorporated into mini-introductions of
fifty-four methods of how to practice this process. These methods should
likely be renamed as tips or suggestions as none are comprehensive models of
The fifty-four methods are an exhaustive listing of idiot-proof, common-
sense practices in teaching like the use of independent practice in a lesson
plan. Another method is the use of "memory hooks," which Hilda Taba called
concept teaching in her spiral curriculum layout in the 1960's. There is
reference to the use of mnemonic devices for recalling factual information.
Assessing student learning by scoring instead of grading is suggested in
chapter 7, but may not be endorsed by school administrators as it is not
practice and is not how standardized assessment systems measure student
or how school API scores are calculated. Many of Jensen's methods are simply
tips for organization or structuring of class instruction, time management,
development of student/teacher interpersonal skills, and communication
techniques from Speech 101. In this regard, the author fails to deliver a
model for revolutionizing classrooms of the 21st century and
settles for a rehashing of tried practices from the past.
The ideas in this book resemble a collection of practices that span the
three decades in education. The author does not appear to be as concerned
learning gains or measurable student success from current data-driven
with well-written behavioral objectives as he is with student engagement, or
time spent on task. The first chapter is a schedule of timing for a lesson
that illustrates how a teacher chooses to engage students during small blocks
of time in order to maximize the use of their short attention spans. He does
not elaborate on how this practice energizes students, but it does illustrate
how to control student behavior by micromanaging their task completion
schedule. The idea of time management is not a new concept and can be
by novice teachers through observation of veteran teachers and by learning
their own teaching experiences. It is referred to again in chapter 6, where
the author asks teachers to use a digital timer to "quantify to the second
time they (students) waste in changing from one learning activity to another"
(p. 105). Would the teacher's time not be better spent learning how to
more efficient transitions? This could be learned by observing a mentor
teacher or while sharing best practices with colleagues at a school faculty
The majority of this book focuses on communication in the classroom with
discussion of feelings. Incorporating the teaching of communication skills
within a lesson is a practice that open-concept design schools in the 1970's
were exploring and are typical practice in today's classrooms and school
counseling programs. Much of the dialogue is reminiscent of a Dr. Phil
where "I hear you say…" is used in teaching conflict resolution and
emotional understanding. Another idea introduced by the author is the use of
"mind movies," which is not unfamiliar to teachers who used the Success for
packaged reading program, which included that exact term in teaching reading
skills within a given timeframe each day. The "Partner Practice" outlined in
different steps in chapter 2 of the book sounds an awful lot like cooperative
learning from the 1980's. These ideas are not necessarily changing
but are common practices incorporated into everyday learning.
Chapters 3 and 4 cover topics of classroom management that incorporate
direct teaching and modeling of communication skills, the use of discussion
groups and conflict resolution, and the use of rules and consequences to help
students learn to control their own behavior while taking responsibility for
their actions. These topics are clearly addressed in Harry Wong's The
First Days of School, which is the modern day bible for novice teachers
the field. Chapter 6 includes methods for helping students focus learning
which again refers to teachers sharing an expectation, engaging learners, and
helping students organize their thinking. Chapter 9 discusses a pilot
of the silver bullet in use and chapter 10 delves further into implementation
of the methods. The appendices list topics that students would like to talk
about in classes, but that are not necessarily linked to student success and
could be viewed as a glorified interest inventory. The author also provides
graphic organizers for scoring and measuring student progress with the silver
bullet process at the end of the book.
This author should practice what he preaches in one of his fifty-four
methods and focus attention on the topic of transforming classrooms with
efficient practices and energizing students for success. The text fails to
deliver what the title suggests in a rambling collection of activities that
teachers might entertain if they were able to focus their attention span long
enough to make it through page 181. This book lacks editing, continuity,
purpose, structure and a readable format. Chapters are filled with
numerical listings of activities or ideas referred to as methods for
improvement that are not research based or supported with statistical data of
measurable student learning gains, which is how student success is measured
the age of No Child Left Behind. Perhaps if Jensen were a "teacher by trade"
as he so eloquently stated, he could develop more useful literature
real teachers on how to perfect the profession to which they've devoted their
time, effort, talent, and creativity.
Reading Comprehension Series. (2000) Baltimore: Success for All Foundation.
Taba, Hilda. (1967) Teacher's handbook for elementary social studies. Palo
Alto, CA: Addison-Wesley.
Wong, H. K. (1998) The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher.
Mountainview, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications.
Reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Holloway, an assistant professor in Cameron
University's Department of Education. She currently teaches courses for
preparation and has also taught 3rd and 6th grades and served as an assistant
principal and principal for eight years.
Jossey-Bass Reader on The Brain and Learning. (2008).
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Advances in neuroscience, medicine, and technology have promised
revolutionary changes in the way we understand and approach our lives and
behavior. Current research endeavors no longer focus simply on curing
but on improving, enhancing, or optimizing normal behavior and skills. As
understanding of human cognition and learning deepens, the desire to
on this understanding through the development of better educational
and tools also grows. While it would be optimal if the results of bench and
laboratory science were easily translatable to the art and practice of daily
living, experiences both past and present constantly remind us this is not
This text is a compilation of facts, philosophies, and perspectives on
advances in neuroscience, biology, educational theory, and a common desire to
improve, if not completely reinvent, the current educational system. As the
editors note in the Introduction, the key to this will be "the creation of a
new field that integrates neuroscience and other areas of biology and
science with education" (p. xvii). Accomplishing this will require the
creation of a new interdisciplinary science and the goal of the text is to
educators learn about the human brain and neuroscience in order to craft
research goals and objectives factually grounded in these sciences.
The book begins with basic overviews about the brain, the ongoing debate
about brain-based learning, and how the brain operates while learning the
fundamentals of education (e.g., math and reading). It also offers
on the interplay between emotions and learning as well as the different
pathways utilized for learning different subject matters. The pathways used
for learning music differ from those sparked by a lesson in grammar, although
there is often crosstalk between pathways. Each of the chapters could stand
alone, so the reader with a specific interest is able to go directly to their
area of interest although reading the chapters sequentially provides an
interesting tapestry of information. There is overlap between chapters,
particularly in the earlier part of the text, but this overlap does not
redundancy. The authors are all highly qualified and experienced, and each
chapter is distinct from the others in tone and approach. While reading the
text, I had the feeling of being at a multidisciplinary conference with a
variety of speakers; while some were more engaging or easily understood then
others, overall the quality was superb.
For those interested in advancing the possibilities uncovered by
neuroscience research in education, the text provides an excellent
to brain biology, mechanics, and how the brain interfaces and interacts with
the world at large. If there was a similar book regarding education and
educational theory written specifically for neuroscientists and biologists,
would be a wonderful complement to the Jossey-Bass Reader on The Brain and
Learning. Together they would form a platform of basic knowledge about
fields, serving as a curricular model for the creation of this new
Reviewed by Michele Curtis, MD, MPH.
Lipson, Marjorie Y. (2007).
Teaching Reading Beyond the Primary Grades: A Blueprint for Helping
Intermediate Students Develop the Skills They Need to Comprehend the Texts
New York: Scholastic.
The subtitle of Marjorie Lipson's Teaching Reading Beyond the Primary
Grades is an apt description of this excellent addition to Scholastic's
"Theory and Practice" series: "A blueprint for helping intermediate students
develop the skills they need to comprehend the texts they read." Teachers,
parents and not least of all students know that the mantra "learn to
to learn," so often used to distinguish the aims of reading instruction in
early and later elementary classrooms, is a fiction that masks the complexity
of teaching and reading in both contexts. It too often prevents older
from receiving purposeful instruction in the strategies successful readers
to make sense of an increasing variety of text forms and genres. As the RAND
Reading Study Group noted in their 2002 report, Reading for
Understanding (cited frequently by Lipson), reading at the third grade
level in the third grade is no guarantee that a child will be able to
comprehend the complex and various texts he or she will encounter in
grades. What children need beyond the primary grades is reading instruction
that is "comprehensive and balanced" (two of Lipson's buzziest of buzzwords),
and what Lipson delivers in this book is indeed a blueprint for achieving
Bookended by strong chapters on strategies for organizing and
differentiating assessment-informed language arts instruction, the four
of Lipson's research-based model for teaching reading receive detailed
treatment: engagement and motivation, background knowledge and vocabulary,
metacognitive reading strategies, and word study. Every chapter provides a
solid, highly readable review of the research supporting best practices in
area under consideration, as well as several enlightening critical analyses
student writing and think alouds. Lipson also includes excerpts from popular
age-appropriate texts, and "Into the Classroom" vignettes that integrate best
practice recommendations into an adaptable framework for systematic reading
In contrast to some professional books that present mini-lessons and best
practice ideas in a more or less haphazard laundry list fashion, Lipson
all of her recommendations in an interactive model of reading that she and
colleagues developed in the early 1980s. She consistently situates her ideas
a comprehensive approach to language arts instruction that balances reading
with writing, individualized guidance with small and whole group teaching,
top-down metacognition with bottom-up processing strategies. "Discussion and
Reflection" questions at the end of each chapter are crafted in such a way as
to make Lipson's book valuable to pre-service and in-service teachers alike.
Should intermediate level language arts teachers with well-worn copies of
Atwell's In the Middle and Robb's Teaching Reading in Middle
School already in their professional libraries make a space for Lipson's
Teaching Reading Beyond the Primary Grades? Definitely. What Lipson
to the detailed instructional programs outlined in those earlier, now classic
works of teacher literature is an integrative, assessment-informed framework
that encourages teachers to take an anthropological eye in determining the
unique needs of individual students and crafting instructional interventions
that reflect the best of what research has demonstrated about reading
comprehension. Lipson's book is an exemplar of what Scholastic has set out to
achieve with its Theory and Practice series, and is ideally crafted to become
essential reading in pre-service and professional development circles.
Atwell, N. (1987). In the middle: Writing, reading, and
learning with adolescents. Upper Montclair, NJ: Boynton/Cook.
Robb, L. (2000) Teaching reading in middle school.
New York: Scholastic Professional Books.
Snow, C. E. (2002). Reading for understanding: Toward
an R&D program in reading comprehension. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.
Reviewed by Dr. Sean Kottke, Reading/Language Arts, The Robert B. Miller
College, Binda School of Education
Marshall, Stephanie, editor (2007).
Strategic Leadership of Change in Higher Education: What's New?
Stephanie Marshall's Strategic Leadership of Change in Higher
What's New? chronicles 13 stories of change in higher education
institutions in the United Kingdom. In his preface, Ewart Wooldridge
how storytelling must be interwoven into the process of leadership
What unfolds are narratives from contributing authors who are fellows in the
Leadership Foundation of Higher Education's Fellowship Programme. In brief
chapters, they outline processes their institutions used to implement change
with transparent, rich analyses on lessons learned, reflection and
Change was needed for reasons like merging two institutions, revamping an
department, fusing more research into a teaching-centered mindset, creating
succession-minded programs and cultivating diversity. The editor groups the
narratives by their approach to change: through a structured change, through
incentives, and through capacity-building.
The structured change model is top-down and strategically planned.
and models help illustrate the sometimes complex structures for the reader.
About half of the fellows in the program use this framework and four
are included. An example of the incentive-based approach to change is at a
small teaching intensive college where leaders wanted to further develop its
research and scholarship. They focused on "enablers," or incentives, like
sabbaticals, small grants, money for pursuing advanced degrees, etc. Overall,
the author feels like the initiative was fruitful and all had "successfully
completed their research work" (p. 89).
Capacity-building is an approach used by Bournemouth University, which
wanted to add global perspective and sustainable development across its
curricula. Capacity-building focuses on teamwork and Bournemouth's team
represented most campus stakeholders. Through meetings, presentations, focus
groups, surveys and conversations, the team developed a strategic report and
action plan, some of which was already implemented throughout the planning
The approaches to change varied but each narrative embodies the concept
change is a process. There are no quick-fixes and the authors are forthcoming
with shortcomings in their processes and implementation. A couple of stories
merit particular note.
Helen Valentine and Julian Constable share a change story about a complete
restructuring of Anglia Ruskin University. A QAA audit declared limited
confidence in the institution, and a new vice chancellor began a change
to simplify an organizational structure that had become unmanageable. Changes
were debated by management and to a lesser degree in the faculties, but all
were invited to send thoughts to the vice chancellor. Eight schools and 24
central units were restructured into five faculties and 12 units. Surveys
conducted to gain insight on managers' views before, after and during the
change process. The perceptions ranged from strong support to a "dismissive
attitude" but 84 percent of respondents agreed the university was in a better
One commonality the authors note is that restructuring is "a painful but
necessary process" (p. 60). Valentine and Constable include the emotional
realities of restructuring. In their lessons learned, they urge others to "be
aware of the enormous personal stress for those whose jobs are affected by
restructuring" (p. 63). Personal situations must be handled before someone
focus on the institution's vision. They suggest how displaced staff can be
great resources when dealing with extra work created by restructuring. The
authors report signs that restructuring was successful. The university is
experiencing better student retention, better finances, and better outcomes
Finding successors for a possible 20 leadership positions led Newcastle
University to change the way it approaches leadership development. Its
"papal" selection for leadership positions wasn't going to work. Tony
and Lynne Howlett tell the story of a leadership program's development.
Engaging senior management and incorporating many leaders in the creation of
the pilot were key. Another part of the design was identifying and training
"observers," who would act as facilitators and mentors at the leadership
program. Next, applicants were accepted into the program after an
advertising/marketing campaign and application review. Supervisors helped
encourage reluctant future leaders to apply. At a 1.5-day event, participants
were briefed on the leadership program, completed Myers Briggs Type
and three other questionnaires, heard from existing leaders about their
realities, role-played, received feedback on personality questionnaires and
discussed issues as a group.
The event was just the start to the program and participants had
follow-ups with an observer. Then, individual leadership development plans
produced. Instead of purchasing a pre-fab leadership program, Newcastle
decided to create a version that would cater to its needs. The pilot was
successful for participants and observers. Ten participants are working
leadership positions, one has already attained a position and there's a
list for the next leadership program. The university is exploring
for other leadership needs on campus and will better know the long-term
as emerging leaders assume higher positions.
Common themes prevail in the 13 narratives. One is the importance of
from the top. Another is having champions for the change, which should
top administrators. Staying the course is reiterated in different ways. One
that Marshall highlights in her introductory chapter is from Valentine and
Constable: "Hold ones nerve!" Trust is commonly cited as a facilitator of the
change process and a lack of trust hinders change. Some chapters highlight
importance of celebrating early successes and show advantages to implementing
initiatives throughout the process, not only in an action phase.
shows up as a common theme, and recommendations are that it happen often and
clear. The fellows warn against relying too heavily on electronic
communication. A conclusion chapter that weaves common themes and challenges
the reader to think about his or her own change initiatives would have
strengthened the text.
The book lends itself to new administrators' study of strategic planning
implementing change. It might make a good preface for a change initiative at
campus. Participants could sample different approaches and extract from the
lessons learned to create their own change plans. At the least, this text
creates a catalog of experiences for the first fellows of Leadership
of Higher Education's Fellowship Programme and a history of changes in UK
Reviewed by Sarah Maben, a Doctoral Student in the Higher Education Program
the University of North Texas.
Merrell, Kenneth W. (2007).
Strong Teens-Grades 9-12: A Social & Emotional Learning Curriculum.
Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes
Teenagers certainly face challenges in developing their social-emotional
confidence. General education classes, unfortunately, do not always provide
their needs in this sphere. Kenneth W. Merrell's Strong Teens: A Social &
Emotional Learning Curriculum is the last of the Strong Kids curriculum
series, aimed at high school age students (grades 9 through 12). The proposed
curriculum may just be one of those useful guides to establish the confidence
that young adults need. It addresses social-emotional and mental health
of the students. The book, which could serve as a teacher's manual, consists
two major parts the theoretical background and the curriculum itself.
The proposed twelve-lesson curriculum touches upon topics of emotional
stability, stress and anger management, goal setting, clear and positive
thinking, and other related issues. Each lesson, designed to last
45 minutes, introduces the students to the issues and prompts their responses
by means of individual assignments and cooperative learning activities. The
author offers clearly written lessons, which include not only suggested
activities, but also sample scripts for teacher presentations, as well as
handouts, transparencies, and homework sheets. The accompanying CD-ROM
the same handouts, transparencies, and homework assignments from the
corresponding lessons. Lesson preparation time is greatly reduced by the
careful planning of all the basic details of the lesson, thereby making the
book attractive to busy teachers.
Although the author presents very detailed lesson descriptions, the
used in the teacher sample scripts as well as in the activities themselves
seems rather simplistic, and more appropriate for a younger audience. Some
modern-day teenagers may find the teacher's script patronizing and the
activities overly condescending. The author, for example, suggests that the
teacher use the following script in one of the lessons: "Fear is an
uncomfortable feeling. When I feel afraid, I feel scared, my heart races, my
stomach feels queasy, and I may even cry." Even though it is important to
explain the concept of fear, such straightforward explanation seems to be
appropriate for younger students rather than high schoolers. Since the
idea of the course is attractive and much needed for a high school age group,
the author might want to consider revising the material to better suit the
Taking into account the current trends in offering language courses
content areas, however, Strong Teens may serve as a content base for
language instruction either in an English as a Second Language or even
as a Foreign Language setting. The uncomplicated language of the material may
serve as a sheltered instruction tool in order to accommodate language
learning. Additionally, since the author has provided a separate section with
recommendations on how to adapt the material for English language learners
students from different cultural backgrounds (pp. 16-19), teachers may find
rather useful in such cases.
In general, it might be challenging to implement the Strong Teens
program into an already well-established general high school curriculum.
However, once the tone of teacher scripts and activities are revised, schools
might consider using the proposed course as a part of their communications or
health education courses. Additionally, the course may be implemented by
counseling services or extra-curricular organizations.
Reviewed by Kira Gulko Morse, Doctoral Student, Department of Bilingual
Education, Texas A&M University đ Kingsville.
Noddings, Nel (2007).
When School Reform Goes Wrong.
New York: Teachers College Press.
Price: $50.00(hardcover) $19.95(paperback)
ISBN: 0807748110(hardcover) 0807748102(paperback)
As a second-year teacher of a first grade special education class in the
South Bronx, I was concerned when my student Jamel kept falling asleep in the
classroom. One moment he would seem fine, and then the next moment his head
would start "pecking" towards the table until he would fall sound asleep.
he even fell off a chair and hit his head against the floor. I was concerned
might have a serious medical issue, so I inquired about his sleep habits and
found a simple but disconcerting explanation: Jamel shares a bed with his
mother and two younger siblings.
Jamel's situation, which is clearly hurting his school performance, is one
example out of many similar obstacles faced by my students, who live in one
the poorest congressional districts in the United States. However, those
students face the same "high expectations" to pass standardized tests under
No Child Left Behind act as students just across the river in Manhattan, one
the richest districts in the country. Before reading Nel Noddings's book
When School Reform Goes Wrong, I felt that something was fundamentally
twisted about the way the NCLB act approaches the "achievement gap." Noddings
book has given me sound arguments and historical context for what until now
just a vague gut feeling.
Noddings is not afraid to attack and refute many of the catchphrases of
NCLB act, such as "the soft bigotry of low expectations" and "no excuses."
chapter of her book is dedicated to a fundamental tenet of NCLB: equality,
accountability, standards, testing and choice. In clear, unassuming words,
explains how the language of the NCLB act usurped each of these concepts to
mean something quite different from its original meaning.
In the chapter titled Accountability, Noddings shows how this concept was
borrowed from business and runs the risk of being harmful if not built upon
responsibly. Under NCLB, accountability centers on the "bottom line," as
does in business. In the current way it is practiced, where educators are
accountable only for test scores, it narrows learning and "removes the
necessity to develop intellectual habits of the mind" (p. 44).
on the other hand, is our deeper and wider responsibility towards our
as whole human beings, for their intellectual, social, emotional, physical,
ethical and aesthetic development:
Responsibility is a much deeper, wider ranging concept than
accountability. Typically, a worker or teacher is accountable to some higher
authority, and accountability can often be satisfied by conformity,
compliance with the letter of the law. In contrast, responsibility points
downward in hierarchy. As teachers, we are responsible for those below
usthose for whom we serve as authorities. Teachers may be accountable
administrators for certain outcomes, but they are responsible to their
for a host of outcomes. (p. 39)
When I noticed that Jamel kept falling asleep in my classroom I was
responsible to find out why and report it to his mother and my
However, the NCLB act fails to address this fundamental role of education.
Furthermore, where does the act state the responsibility of the federal
government towards our students, teachers and educational system as a whole?
The NCLB has a double standard of using "accountability" to point a blaming
finger downward, while ignoring the government's responsibility of providing
adequate standard of living and learning conditions to our children.
The term "equality" is laden with the same kind of misuse. When School
Reform Goes Wrong argues that under NCLB equality came to mean
In other words, we neglect to recognize and celebrate differences in
abilities and talents, and provide them with education that develops these
One troublesome effect of NCLB is that group and individual
differences have been confounded. When we expect all children to master the
same material, we may easily fall into confusion. Which things should all
students learn, and at what point should we provide different educational
experiences for children with different aptitudes and interests? This is a
question of fundamental importance in education, and the current standards
movement has suppressed its discussion. (p. 29)
Noddings raises many such important questions in her book, although some
not answered satisfactorily. When School Reform Goes Wrong reads a bit
like a trial attorney's opening statement, where the issues are dealt with in
broad strokes but without enough detailed evidence to support them. One of
arguments is that the system of tracking students into vocational and
training is inherently positive but was poorly executed in the past, because
stigmatized vocational training and didn't offer challenging classes. She
argues against the widespread view "that anyone who will amount to anything
must go to college" (p. 33) suggesting that "in the next decades most job
openings will be in the service sector." (p. 33) However, I would like to
exactly what kinds of jobs she is referring to, and what kinds of salaries
these jobs offer. Surly we need cashiers and short order cooks, but can a
single mother raise her family on such salary or is she better off on
Here I would have liked to see some sound statistics to back up Nodding's
In spite of these shortcomings, I agree with Noddings's main argument.
Although the NCLB started out on the moral high ground of closing the
achievement gap, it is ill-conceived, morally questionable and has the
potential to cause inexcusable damage to our students, teachers and the
educational system as a whole. As I was reading the book I realized how much
the NCLB has made me feel at fault for my special education students' failure
to meet "standards," even as a teacher in a non-testing grade. I do
in my power to close the "gap" and bring them to a standard that was
for them. What is it that I am doing wrong? Is it that my high expectations
not genuine enough? Am I really expecting my students to succeed or do I
subconsciously not expect them to succeed as much as I should? If I expect
every bone of my body that Jamel will not fall asleep in my classroom will he
After reading Noddings's book I don't feel I need a shrink anymore. I feel
perfectly normal knowing that there is someone out there who understands my
plight and the plight of my students. I feel encouraged that there is someone
reputable who understands that much more is needed to close the achievement
than some abstract emotional exchange between teachers and students, (an
exchange that, one might add, costs the government no money). Noddings is not
afraid to say what many educators know but don't admit: that socio-economic
factors are one of the main causes of this gap, and that by stating this fact
we are not "making excuses." Furthermore, we have a moral responsibility as a
society to address the issue, even if it will not automatically close the
achievement gap, because it is the decent thing to do:
A compassionate and rational society would see health care,
adequate housing, clean air, instruction in parenting, accessible
transportation and genuine physical education as essential parts of equal
opportunity. "All children can learn"? Maybe if they are not sick,
suffering toothache, squinting to see the chalkboard, abused at home,
air contaminated with lead, worried about a parent in prison, or serving as a
caretaker for young children. (p. 36)
I have seen my students struggle with all of these issues, and as special
education students, with much more, but how is the government showing
responsibility for their well-being? I recommend Noddings book to every
in a situation similar to mine, if only as something to hold onto hoping the
NCLB storm will pass.
Reviewed by Hagar Sadan, an MS in Urban Education candidate at Mercy
NY, and a first grade special education teacher in the Bronx.
Pianta, Robert C.; La Paro, Karen M. & Hamre, Bridget K. (2007).
Classroom Assessment Scoring System: Manual Pre-K.
Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes
Measurement of classroom effectiveness can be a difficult task to
Arguably, this is particularly true for classrooms with younger children,
there are no standardized or otherwise evaluative tests which are
to the students. Furthermore, classrooms with younger children in
particular, pre-kindergarten, as with this manual have a largely
different focus than do classrooms educating older children: for younger
children, the focus is often on structured activities involving teamwork and
teaching the ability to follow direction and instruction, whereas instruction
for older students is almost exclusively dedicated to declarative and
procedural knowledge. Therefore, Pianta and his colleagues have devised
the CLassroom Assessment Scoring System in order to assess
teacher/student interactions in the classroom, which are so critical in this
young age bracket. These educators and researchers have undertaken somewhat
a great feat, and appear to have succeeded quite admirably.
Importantly, the manual is extremely user-friendly, as evidenced not only
the manner in which it is written, but also by the very helpful scoring
that provides an overview of the CLASS dimensions including exemplar
for each. The manual is very detailed in its explanations of proper
application and usage, and offers comprehensive descriptions of how CLASS
should be used in a wide variety of situations. In this manner, CLASS
to be extremely flexible, and the manual attends to this by providing
alternative administration and scoring procedures in detail. The manual and
the insert also give concrete behavioral examples for each of the potential
scores on each of the dimensions, evidencing a behaviorally-anchored rating
scale, or BARS, a rating format which has been shown to be valid and
albeit costly (e.g.: Campbell & Cairns, 1994; McIntyre & Gilbert, 1994;
& Baxter, 1986).
The manual should also be commended for recognizing that further rater
training beyond the manual is necessary, and referring readers to a training
website (http://www.classobservation.com, see p. 7). Without explicit
of the type of training, it appears as though CLASS aims to utilize a frame
reference, of F.O.R., training, which much research has shown to be a
particularly effective type of rater training in that it is able to
raters with the sought-after (and also unwanted) behaviors (e.g.:
Day, Mayes, & Riggio, 2002; Sulsky & Kline, 2007).
Although some concerns do arise in a careful critique of the manual and,
more generally, the CLASS system outlined therein, a short evaluative summary
such as this is not in a position to detail all of them. Nevertheless, it is
necessary to briefly touch upon some overall concerns. First, the CLASS
as presented in the manual raises concerns of a possible cultural bias,
particularly when considering individualistic versus collectivistic cultures.
The manual should explicitly state that said evaluative system should be used
only in Western cultures, for instance, until sufficient research has shown
that CLASS is also applicable for collectivistic cultures. Likewise, given
pedagogical differences even between Western cultures, some might argue that
CLASS should be further limited to the nation(s) in which it was been
and tested, presumably the United States.
Secondly, another concern is the manual's recommendation that evaluation
typically begins "at the beginning of the school day and continues throughout
the morning for at least 2 hours" (p. 9). Although the manual does say that
afternoon observation is possible in some cases, and that "both structured
unstructured times of the school day are important to observe" (p. 9), the
that a particular time period is suggested is somewhat worrisome, since it is
likely that children and possibly also their teachers will
exhibit different behaviors based upon the time of day (e.g.:
Türnüklü & Galton, 2001; Zagar & Bowers, 1983). This is
particularly true if certain activities are consistently scheduled for the
time of day. It appears as though CLASS could be substantially improved were
it to recommend observation either throughout the day or at various times on
Finally, although such a relatively new assessment system cannot be
faulted for the lack of such studies, CLASS would benefit from additional
validity studies including some attention to issues of divergent
validity which should be referenced in future editions of the manual.
These studies should be conducted on all variations of CLASS observation,
particularly videotaped class sessions to be evaluated later. This variation
on the typical CLASS evaluation should be sufficiently investigated, since
although videotaped sessions are becoming increasingly warranted and
(e.g.: Lammers & Kirchner, 1985), there remains some concern about their
validity and suitability. It is important to give due consideration to the
videotaped alternative, however, since regularly-scheduled live observations
are likely to be prohibitively expensive for many school districts.
Nevertheless, for the most part these issues can be easily rectified by
minor changes and/or additional empirical support, and they should not
from the quality of the manual or of CLASS as a whole, which appears to be
based on a particularly comprehensive literature review and pilot testing
effort. Although an extensive discussion of the theoretical and empirical
foundations for CLASS is not addressed in the manual, it is arguably beyond
scope of this more application-based publication, and, as the authors note,
be found elsewhere (Hamre & Pianta, 2007; La Paro, Pianta, & Stuhlman, 2004).
In all, Pianta and his colleagues do an excellent job of concisely reviewing
the background information to the extent necessary in the manual, and basing
their evaluative recommendations squarely on such foundations. They should
commended for a job well done and for, as they credit teachers in their
acknowledgments, their "dedication to improved practice" (p. xi).
Campbell, T., & Cairns, H. (1994). Developing and measuring the learning
organization. Industrial and Commercial Training, 26(7/8), 10-15.
Hamre, B.K., & Pianta, R.C. (2007). Learning opportunities in preschool and
early elementary classrooms. In R.C. Pianta, M.J. Cox, & K.L. Snow (Eds.),
School readiness and the transition to kindergarden in the era of
accountability (pp. 49-83). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing
Lammers, M.B., & Kirchner, D.F. (1985). The construct validity of teaching
behavior evaluation methods: A multitrait-multimethod analysis. Journal
Marketing Education, 7(2), 35-44.
La Paro, K.M., Pianta, R.C., & Stuhlman, M. (2004). The Classroom
Scoring System: Findings from the prekindergarten year. The Elementary
School Journal, 104(5), 409-426.
McIntyre, F.S., & Gilbert, F.W. (1994). Improving performance in case
courses: An argument for behaviorally anchored rating scales. Marketing
Education Review, 4, 31-58.
Rarick, C.A., & Baxter, G. (1986). Behaviorally anchored rating scales
(BARS): An effective performance appraisal approach. SAM Advanced
Management Journal, 51(1), 36-39.
Schleicher, D.J., Day, D.V., Mayes, B.T., & Riggio, R.E. (2002). A new
for frame-of-reference training: Enhancing the construct validity of
assessment centers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4), 735-746.
Sulsky, L.M., & Kline, T.J.B. (2007). Understanding frame-of-reference
training success: A social learning theory perspective. International
Journal of Training and Development, 11(2), 121-131.
Türnüklü, A., & Galton, M. (2001). Students' misbehaviours
Turkish and English primary classrooms. Educational Studies, 27(3),
Zagar, R., & Bowers, N. D. (1983). The effect of time of day on problem
solving and classroom behavior. Psychology in the Schools, 20(3),
Reviewed by Maura J. Mills, M.S., Industrial/Organizational Psychology,
Robb, Laura (2008).
Differentiating Reading Instruction: How to Teach Reading to Meet the
of Each Student.
New York: Scholastic.
Laura Robb's Differentiating Reading Instruction: How to Teach Reading
Meet the Needs of Each Student introduces the principles and practice of
differentiated reading instruction. The goal of differentiating instruction
to observe and understand the differences and similarities between students
plan instruction according to their individual needs. To meet the needs of
students at different instructional levels, it is crucial for teachers to
reading instruction from one text for all to differentiation. Instead of
shifting abruptly from traditional to new techniques, the author suggests a
gradual process to develop differentiation. This is a practical guidebook
helps teachers of adolescent learners to build differentiated lessons on the
basis of daily reading instruction.
The author starts by introducing fundamental knowledge to understand why
how to plan differentiated instruction. It is essential for teachers to build
foundation before presenting the instruction. Robb suggests establishing
routines. Various useful techniques are recommended to prepare the students
instruction. For example, from her abundant experiences, the author provides
sample schedule to set up classroom routines, practical strategies to
classroom discussion, a choice of assessments to determine students'
instructional levels, written plans and frameworks to incorporate
differentiation strategies, and sample lesson plans to teach different texts.
Once the teacher has established a classroom foundation, the students are
to read independently at their own reading level.
Instead of presenting innovative approaches, this book demonstrates how to
apply traditional teaching methods to differentiated reading instruction. A
story at the beginning of each chapter depicts real classroom practices. For
example, the teacher can move students toward independent reading by
introducing reading strategies through reading aloud. First, the teacher
for students how to apply a specific strategy while reading aloud to the
class. Then, the teacher supports the students to practice these strategies
their reading. Finally, the students are able to use the strategies for
independent reading. The author provides examples of how to plan and practice
strategic reading aloud in reading class. She suggests five steps to present
the lesson, name the strategy, explain how to do it, summarize the key points
from previous reading, read the passage aloud, and show how to apply the
strategy during reading.
Another useful technique of differentiation is the use of multiple texts
reading classes. Although the students read different texts according to
instructional level, it is important to focus on the same theme or topic. The
author provides practical guides for choosing materials and useful tips to
establish a classroom library for the purpose of independent reading.
Finally, the author takes the readers to her classrooms in which whole
instruction, small groups activities, independent reading assignment, and
writing instruction and differentiation are practiced. With her thorough
descriptions of classroom activities and lesson plans, readers are able to
observe the expert's teaching practices.
This is a valuable and practical resource for teachers who need to apply
differentiation in reading instruction to the meet the diverse needs of the
students. The book contains useful principles, guidelines, and full strategic
lesson plans for designing and implementing differentiation. It is highly
recommended for teachers who hope to see every student reading and learning
Reviewed by Ming Chang, doctoral student at the Department of Bilingual
Education at Texas A & M University - Kingsville