Brief reviews for November 2007
Alley, Marybeth & Orehovec, Barbara (2007).
Revisiting the Writing Workshop: Management, Assessment, and Mini-
Lessons. Grades 1-5.
New York: Scholastic.
The teaching of writing has changed over the years. In the past,
writing was not taught; it was assigned and corrected. Teachers
emphasized the final product of writing, not the process which produced
it (Calkins, 1986; Willis, 2001). By the late 1970's, the emphasis had
changed and the process writing movement began (Willis, 2001). The
process writing approach, first developed by Graves in 1983, focused on
instruction, which allowed teachers to help students brainstorm ideas,
solicit feedback, revise their work, then edit and proofread the final
product before publishing (Calkins, 1986; Graves, 1983; Willis, 2001).
This type of writing process, usually through writing workshops,
provided children with numerous opportunities to practice and
internalize what goes into a piece of writing just as a professional
author does (Wong-Kam & Vasquez, 2003). Writing workshop is an
interactive approach to teaching writing in which students learn and
practice the importance of rehearsal, drafting/revising, and editing
their own work (Calkins, 1986; Graves, 1983). The literature is very
thorough in presenting encouraging success stories of the writing
workshop; however, the establishment of the writing workshop can feel
risky to new teachers since there is no prescribed sequence for
teaching skills and strategies and there is the possibility of students
being off-task during the writing time (Sudol & Sudol, 2001). Not
In their latest book Revisiting the Writing Workshop, Alley
and Orehovec, two mentor teachers share their classroom-tested
procedures and successful mini-lessons on writing craft, genre, and
revision. Breaking down the components of the writing workshop,
including every little detail from scheduling and strategy mini-
lessons to hand-chosen book lists and assessment ideas, checklists and
rubrics, the authors allow teachers to implement their own workshops in
their own classrooms with little to no stress and definitely more ease.
For ease of comprehension, this book has a straightforward structure
in which each individual step building a successful workshop is
distinguished. The authors of the book start with the overall structure
of writing workshop by providing information about the basic elements
(mini-lesson, independent writing and conferring, sharing and
reflection) and giving the rationale for using writing workshop
supported by the literature and latest research. By providing their
real own classroom examples, item checklists, and assessment rubrics,
the rest of the book describes how educators can design and implement
the successful and effective writing workshop.
Probably the only recommendation I can make for improving this book
is to suggest that in their next edition of this book the authors think
about adding directions and strategies on implementing writing workshop
for teachers of students from diverse cultures and/or students who are
English language learnerssomething that would make an already
excellent reference even better.
Revisiting the Writing Workshop is definitive in its description
of the process and thorough in helping educators learn how to begin,
implement, follow-through, and evaluate the success of a writing
workshop. The book is well-organized, with clear headings and
subheadings that make it easy to read and to reference. This book is
full of practical ideas, tips, and suggestions on how to foster
students' writing. The authors capitalize on their actual experiences
to validate their conclusions. This book can definitely serve as an
outstanding tool for anyone choosing to conduct a writing workshop.
Calkins, L. M. (1986). The art of teaching writing. Portsmouth,
Graves, D. (1983). Writing: Teachers and children at work.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Sudol, D. & Sudol, P. (1991). Another story: Putting Graves, Calkins,
and Atwell into practice and perspective. Language Arts. 68(4),
Willis, S. (2001). Teaching young writers feedback and coaching helps
students hone skills. In C. Jago (Ed.), Language Arts: A chapter of
the curriculum handbook (pp. 125-129). Alexandria, VA: Association
for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Wong-Kam, J., & Vasquez, V. (2003). Writing today: Between the ideal
and the real world of teaching. School Talk, 9(1), 1-7.
Reviewed by Dr. Zafer Unal, Assistant Professor, University of South
Florida, St. Petersburg
Cecil, Nancy Lee (2007)
Striking a Balance: Best Practices for Early Literacy. Third
Scottsdale, AZ: Holcomb Hathaway
It seems that everyone has an opinion about how children should be
taught to read; Hooked on Phonics and similar products are
marketed directly to parents as a solution for their child's reading
difficulties. Cecil brings some order to this chaos of opinions by
focusing on practices that either have been tested through research or
identified by practitioners who have a track record of helping children
with reading difficulties.
The title, Striking a Balance, alludes to the old argument as
to whether phonics or whole-language is the best method for teaching
children to read. Chapter 2 discusses the history of reading
instruction in the United States, providing a context for some of the
opinions regarding reading instruction that one still encounters today.
Designed primarily as a textbook for the pre-service teacher on
reading instruction in the primary grades, several features will aid
the student in digesting the information provided. A list of focus
questions precedes each chapter. Chapters begin with an "In the
Classroom" example of effective teaching in action. This is followed
by a discussion of research and recommendations along with suggested
activities for effectively teaching the various concepts. Each chapter
concludes with questions for discussion and suggestions for projects
and field activities.
Attention is given to English language learners, with activities of
particular use for this group noted. An example of the eminently
practical nature of this book is the table of English phonemes that do
not appear in selected other languages. The unique needs of urban
children as they acquire literacy are also addressed. A concluding
chapter reinforces the need for parents and other caregivers to partner
with the teacher in helping the child to become literate. Suggestions
for effective ways of reaching reluctant parents are provided.
For a textbook, Striking a Balance packs an amazing amount of
information into a relatively short number of pages. A "List of
Activities" organized by chapter follows the Table of Contents and will
aid the practicing teacher in the use of this book as a reference tool.
Helpful appendices provide such items as: lists of children's books for
various teaching strategies; recommended books for teachers; websites
for use with students or as aids to the teacher; lists of commercial
and informal assessment instruments; lists of riming and common words;
and a copy of Fry's Readability Graph.
New features of this third edition include a new chapter on reading
and writing informational texts; updates of research, suggested
activities, and assessments; and a discussion of the impact of
technology on literacy and instruction.
While novice teachers will particularly benefit from Cecil's well
researched and written overview of reading instruction, experienced
teachers will also find the book useful as an overview of recent
research and a source of new ideas. Student teachers who have this as
a textbook will want to hang on to the book for reference as they begin
their teaching careers. At $40.95 for the paper edition, students will
find this to be one of the best textbook investments they make.
Hooked on Phonics. (1988-2005 for various levels and editions).
Was Foster City, CA: Gateway Learning Products; now Baltimore, MD:
Reviewed by Christina Cicchetti, Education/Reference Librarian,
University of California Riverside.
Cutter, Joseph (2007)
Independent Movement and Travel in Blind Children: A Promotion
Charlotte, NC: Information Age
With passion and conviction, Joseph Cutter speaks to Orientation and
Movement (O&M) practitioners and students, parents, and teachers
through his child-centered model for enhancing the movement
skills of blind children. His model promotes the cultivation of
alternative skills of blindness, namely the use of a cane. According to
Cutter, a cane "connects, protects, detects, informs, explores, and
makes for more efficient travel" (p. 68). He advocates using a cane to
support movement development well before walking. These pre-cane skills
can be learned by even the youngest blind children through the use of a
teaching cane that sets the stage for independent cane use to support
travel and movement.
Unlike traditional O&M models that represent the perspective of
adults who have lost or are losing vision, Cutter's model truly focuses
on the needs of blind children. Cutter, an O&M practitioner for over
three decades, challenges conventional adult-centered O&M practices
through what he terms a "Promotion Model," a solution-oriented approach
that encourages activities that promote independence in blind children.
Blending his understanding of theoretical approaches and his vast
personal experience in the field, Cutter's Promotion Model inspires
hope and focuses on gaining skills, not on the loss of vision.
Cutter addresses the use of the term "blind" in the opening pages of
the book. Where the term "visual impairment" suggests a deficit of some
kind, Cutter instead employs the term blind for two primary reasons.
First, based on his experience with the blind community, the term blind
is preferred. Second, Cutter believes that using the term visual
impairment reinforces deficit-thinking that can influence the thoughts
and actions of blind children, their peers and parents, and others who
support and teach them. Cutter's consistent message of independence and
equality is refreshing. Writing about the alternative skills of
blindness, he encourages blind children to become early and efficient
travelers. Although blind children may acquire and use information
differently than sighted children, this kind of difference should not
be considered a deficiency. Using echolocation, for instance, provides
information that a blind child needs in order to understand and
navigate the world.
Even though there is wide variation in child development, some are
quick to assume that any developmental variation or perceived delay in
a blind child is due to the blindness itself. This is not the case
according to Cutter. Age/stage appropriate development experiences are
not delayed due to blindness, but rather to the absence of critical
movement experiences. Using the example of voice-face synchrony where
sighted children use auditory and visual senses to verify information
(for example a parent's face), Cutter describes how blind children pair
auditory, touch, or smell senses to verify information. Parents can
help blind children achieve this important developmental milestone by
encouraging blind children to verify information using these three
senses. Readers will find the guide to age/state appropriate skills for
a variety of settings as well as the specific cane techniques quite
Throughout the book, Cutter reinforces the importance of parents as
the blind child's first teacher. He advocates for "role release" where
O&M practitioners empower parents to teach their blind children using
practical O&M skills. A significant portion of the book is devoted to a
pictorial guide with descriptions of how blind children learn
independent movement and travel skills. The photos, many of them
depicting parents teaching O&M skills, vividly demonstrate how the
goals of the Promotion Model can be achieved.
The book is well-organized, with clear headings and subheadings that
make it easy to read and to reference. O&M professionals and students
along with those involved in early intervention programs will find that
the Promotion Model provides concrete ways to encourage blind children
to move beyond what many sighted people consider boundaries and into
Reviewed by Shannon Alpert, doctoral student in Educational Leadership
at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Dennison, Paul E. (2006).
Brain Gym and Me: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning.
Ventura, CA: Edu-
To many people unfamiliar with Brain Gym, the sight of children
standing in a circle and touching their elbows to opposite knees might
seem an activity completely unrelated to improving their ability to
read. But to practitioners working in direct service to young people
with difficulties in learning (whether within the category of Special
Education in schools or outside the field in private consultation), the
Brain Gym program has earned its international reputation and following
fair and square. As a remedy for a diverse array of learning
impediments from dyslexia to attention-deficit disorder, the gross-
motor exercises designed to repair and rejuvenate damaged or unused
neural pathways are extremely simple to execute and practice by
parents, teachers, and children alike.
In this book, Brain Gym co-creator Paul Dennison (his wife Gail is
his collaborator) shares this story of the genesis of Brain Gym in
parallel to the narrative of his own personal growth as a scholar. The
author of several books on whole-brain learning, Dennison has developed
a battery of materials for teachers and students alike, but this book
in particular offers autobiographical details that make personal his
Dennison's account of his arrested development as a reader is
examined in terms of his relationship to his physical body and emerging
proprioception. The child of artistic parents growing up during the
tail end of World War II, Dennison experienced acute shame and anxiety
early on at school as a result of his treatment at the hands of his
classroom teacher. Because of his difficulty reading and writing, Paul
Dennison was often singled out and shamed by his teacher. With exposure
to extracurricular experiences and a new classroom teacher, Dennison
noticed that when he felt physically relaxed, supported, and secure, he
was able to engage emotionally and intellectually with his environment,
and vice-versa. This new-found confidence in his learning finally
allowed Dennison to thrive academically.
The desire to help struggling readers in particular led Dennison to
a private practice as a reading specialist in the 1970s, but he soon
began to look to the field of neuroscience for inspiration as he
noticed familiar patterns repeating themselves with his clients:
tightened back and neck muscles correlating with difficulties in
decoding written language, and the inability to cross the midline with
the eyes as a symptom of dyslexia, for example. Memories of his own
long journey to become a skilled reader surface throughout the book and
accompany a wide array of case studies and in-depth discussion of the
neuroscience behind the Brain Gym program.
Dennison's writing is uncomplicated, familiar, and accessible and,
due the relaxed tenor of the narrative, may have wide appeal for direct
service professionals as well as researchers. Those professionals who
have developed remedial or therapeutic programs for children and adults
may find much in Dennison's narrative that resonates with their own
experience, and this may increase the appeal of the book for them.
The serendipitous discoveries and synchronous program development
described here may seem alien to denizens of the agitated world of
educational research, however. Some may not subscribe to the idea that
pleasure and learning should be inextricable, for example. But
Dennison's books and their appeal are internationally known, and have
made inroads into practice in a way much research-validated
intervention has not. The research supporting Dennison's work is
abundant, and has been replicated internationally, giving Brain Gym a
social validity thumbs-up from the grass roots contingent: parents and
children. (For the curious, the book also contains a snapshot of some
Brain Gym exercises, with photos and instructions.)
To say that Paul Dennison found a way to integrate learning and
relaxation may be a little one-dimensional. He describes the
development of a program of neurological repatterning that allows
individuals to integrate themselves, to bring mindfulness and delight
to their daily routine, and to provide relief to children who
experience learning difficulties in and out of school. This book is
Dennison's celebration of that journey, and it has arrived at an
excellent time in our educational history. With schools, districts, and
states more concerned than ever with deciphering arcane and formulaic
standards of achievement as well as the resulting pressure on students
to learn by rote, Dennison's story is a good reminder that the best,
most permanent, enriching pedagogy is one that happens in an
encouraging, pleasurable, and holistic context.
Reviewed by Gita Upreti, MA, Graduate Research Assistant, Department
of Special Education, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Diller, Debbie (2007).
Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for All.
Portland, Maine: Stenhouse
Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for All is
an extremely well-organized "how-to" manual for any teacher of reading
whose students display a wide range of learning needs and abilities.
And anyone who teaches knows, of course, that this is a fitting
description for just about any group of students that has ever crossed
the threshold of a classroom; therefore, this book is a must-have for
the vast majority of teachers interested in developing and honing their
skills at delivering differentiated instruction.
The book contains two parts: eight chapters that contain the actual
content followed by seven appendices that are perfectly aligned with
chapters two through eight. For example, Chapter Two and Appendix A
are entitled Organizing and pertain to the organization of reading
instruction, Chapter Three and Appendix B are entitled Grouping and
pertain to the painstaking thought and planning that must precede the
actual implementation of student groups in reading instruction, and so
According to author Debbie Diller, the purpose of small group
instruction is to meet the individual needs of each student and to
accelerate learning. While the main focus of this book is small group
instruction, it also explicitly addresses whole group and one-on-one
instruction by providing innumerable strategies and tools for
organizing teacher work in ways that promote the addressing of
individual student needs via a variety of groupings and best practices.
Author Diller reports that she dreamed the table of contents one
night and awoke to jot down the eight chapter titles that form the
framework for her tome: Time, Organizing, Grouping, Comprehension,
Fluency, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Vocabulary. In each chapter
she includes explicit direction on how to implement every step of
planning and executing reading lessons while ensuring that instruction
promotes deep thinking among students. "Focus is key in small group
teaching" (p. 11) she declares, yet she urges teachers to remain
flexible so as to ensure that they make every grouping count.
In addition to a multitude of explicit instructions (including
lesson and work plans) on how to maximize the power of small group
instruction in reading, there is a meta-cognitive element infused
throughout Diller's book. It is evident that the author has a deep and
thorough understanding of, and expertise in, the teaching of reading
and that she is able to communicate all levels of this know-how to the
reader. Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for
All gets to the heart of the matter and provides all the tools
needed to teachers seeking to hone their pedagogical skills in the
teaching of reading.
Reviewed by Harriet R. MacLean, Ed. D., Middle Schools Network
Executive Officer in Oakland Unified School District, Oakland,
California. Her research interests include student motivation and
issues affecting the success of young adolescents in urban middle
Education Week (2007).
The Last Word: The Best Commentary and Controversy in American
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-
This is a collection of 42 Education Week commentaries,
selected by Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily and Veronika Herman Bromberg of
Editorial Projects in Education. It celebrates the twenty-fifth
anniversary of that publication. There are between four and seven
essays, averaging three to four pages, in each of nine thematic
The earliest essay dates back to 1982,
but in almost all cases there is a one paragraph update by the original
author written specifically for this collection.
- The Art of Teaching
- Equity and Social
- Testing Well, Testing Fairly
- Curriculum in the
- Technology and Learning
- Democracy and
- Change and Reform
- Charters and Choice
There is a brief Foreword by Jay Mathews, an education columnist for
the Washington Post, who unfortunately closes his comments by saying,
"…readers of this book are under no such obligation [i.e., to
cite their sources]. Take whatever you like here and adopt it as your
own. Your friends, like mine, will think you are much more clever than
you actually are. What's wrong with that?" Aside from the implicit
encouragement of plagiarism, this seems a somewhat sideways insult,
suggesting that readers aren't smart enough to incorporate insights
gained from reading these essays into their framework of knowledge and
experience to create new ideas and solutions. The Preface by the
Editorial Director of Education Week Press, Ms. Deily, outlines some of
the selection process but only vaguely refers to "the power of the
questions" raised and the importance of the writers to tell us why
these particular essays and these particular topics.
I also found it somewhat annoying that no mention was made of the
fact that most living authors appear to have been asked to provide a
short comment on the current status of the issue they wrote about in
their commentary. Although one can figure this out if one notices that
the introductory paragraphs are identified with initials that in most
cases match the name of the commentary author, it would have been a
courtesy to alert readers to the structure of the text. Somewhat
confusing as well is the fact that each pre-essay paragraph is
immediately followed by a "Published ___Date___" which refers, not to
the preceding paragraph, but rather to the original essay which
follows. The reader can sometimes ascertain from the content of the
pre-paragraph that it couldn't possibly match the date and, of course,
one can go back to the table of contents to determine that the date in
question actually refers to the essay itself. For my money, the update
would make much more sense after the essay so that the context has been
set. These are all just annoying issues of format. Each essay is
followed by a two to three sentence professional biography of the
Formatting grievances aside, the collection itself is very good, and
very dense. Imagine all these really bright people—like Howard
Gardner, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Bill Clinton, and Robert
Sternberg—condensing their best thoughts on issues of great
concern to them into three or four pages and then grouping these
together so that one can read through 42 of them! Maybe some intrepid
scholars are able to do this but I wasn't and I wouldn't recommend it.
Taken a chunk or two at a time, however, this collection is brilliantly
suited for provoking thoughtful consideration of issues that resonate
as urgently today as when they were written. In all too many cases, the
author's update includes the lament, "not much has changed" in the
five, ten or twenty years since this was written. As Bill Clinton
points out in his essay on leadership, these are thorny issues that
can't be adequately addressed in a short time; they require our
sustained attention and creativity and passion.
Reading a range of essays on a topic from this collection would be an
appropriate pedagogical strategy not only for teacher educators but
also for those guiding future educational administrators. Contrasting
viewpoints are offered that are bound to stimulate rousing discussion.
Some of these commentaries would inform students of almost any social
science. For example, Lee Shulman's essay on research-based policies
admonishes that, "evidence alone never tells the story," but requires
critical examination and informed judgment before it can be truly
useful. Of course anyone who wants to be apprised of the scope of ideas
surrounding key educational issues can benefit from dipping into this
hearty buffet of positions and propositions, be they parent, teacher,
or concerned citizen; for, we all have – or should have – a
vested interest in this public good called education.
Reviewed by Paula McMillen, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Social
Science Reference Librarian at Oregon State University Libraries and
adjunct to the OSU College of Education.
Flockhart, Dan (2007).
Fantasy Soccer and Mathematics: A Resource Guide for Teachers and
Parents, Grades 5 and Up.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-
In the September 2007 edition of these brief reviews, Carol Rodano
presents a thorough review of Fantasy Baseball and Mathematics,
a parallel volume to the one reviewed here (http://edrev.asu.edu/br
ief/sept07.html#4). Fantasy Soccer and Mathematics is the
same curriculum with identical learning goals, tasks, and performance
assessments; the major difference is the content, as indicated by the
titles. Rodano does a nice job in her review of describing the
curriculum and situating it within the context of classrooms, pointing
out why this book seems especially teacher-friendly. As a compliment to
Rodano's comments, in this review I will focus on the research context
around fantasy sports, mathematics, and learning. It is my hope that
readers will walk away from this review with an understanding of why
Flockhart's books are powerful classroom curricular designs for middle
Understanding games, specifically digital games, as powerful
mechanisms for learning is a growing field of research. We are
beginning to recognize the many hours kids spend playing games from
card games like Yugioh to massively multiplayer online games
like World of Warcraft as worthwhile. Engagement with games
involves much more than staring open-mouthed at a television; kids
acquire and use the kinds of literacy skills we expect students to
demonstrate in the classroom, including making sense of complex
technical texts, producing original texts that have been revised over
extended periods of time, making predictions, and testing assumptions
(for a good introduction to what kids learn from video games, see Gee,
Fantasy sports games (which include every sport you can imagine,
including the sports Flockhart has used for his curricula) engage
players in the literacy skills described above, but are uniquely suited
to mathematics in that the primary task of game play is fundamentally
statistical. Fantasy players (called "Managers") study large bodies of
historical statistical data (in the case of fantasy soccer, individual
soccer players' performance across a variety of categories) and then
make predictions about which players will fare the best in the current
season. Research on fantasy basketball and fantasy baseball game play
has demonstrated that they reinforce basic statistical concepts such as
sample size, prediction, and modeling (Halverson & Halverson,
forthcoming, Smith, Sharma, & Hooper, 2006). Fantasy Soccer and
Mathematics takes these concepts much further by engaging students
in the formalization of these skills with specific activities and
quizzes that encourage students to relate the informal math of fantasy
sports to formal graphing and problem solving.
In fact, the bridge created by Flockhart's curriculum fills a
crucial void that researchers have found exists between students'
informal mathematical knowledge that they use in authentic contexts and
the formal math we expect them to use in school. Na'ilah Nasir's work
with high school boys who play basketball demonstrated their ability to
employ statistical skills such as calculating percentages and
estimating in the context of game play but not in the context of the
math classroom (Nasir, 2000). Fantasy Soccer and Mathematics
(and its accompanying titles) provides that bridge for students by
combining the engagement of game play, the authentic context of real
sports data, and formal mathematical activities and exercises.
It is also possible that this Fantasy Soccer curriculum will
engage a broader variety of students than Flockart's two other volumes,
Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Football. These second two
sports are currently the most popular fantasy sports games on the
market and are predominantly played by white males. Given soccer's
broad appeal as a sport, teachers who want to use this curriculum to
engage all of their students may want to try Fantasy Soccer and
Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning
and literacy. New York: Palgrave/Macmillan.
Halverson, E., and Halverson R. (forthcoming). Fantasy baseball: The
case for competitive fandom. To appear in Games and Culture,
Nasir, N. S. (2000). "Points ain't everything": Emergent goals and
average and percent understandings in the play of basketball among
African American students. Anthropology and Education Quarterly,
Smith, B., Sharma, P., and Hooper, P. (2006). Decision making in online
fantasy sports communities. Interactive Technology and Smart
Education, 4, 347-360.
Reviewed by Erica Halverson, Assistant Professor, Department of
Educational Psychology, School of Education, University of Wisconsin,
Haynie, John (2007).
Inside John Haynie's Studio: A Master Teacher's Lessons on Trumpet
and Life. Essays by John, Compiled and Edited by Anne Hardin.
Denton, TX: University of North
John Haynie, Professor Emeritus of The University of North Texas, is
recognized as one of the great music teachers of our times. His skills
as a performer and gifted teacher of trumpet players is universally
recognized and praised. This book of essays about musical performance
and approaches to life and teaching reveals his solutions to most
musical problems. His teaching of what he calls "The Big Four"
(Embouchure, Breath, Tongue, Fingers) presents trumpet teachers and
band directors with practical guidelines to effective teaching. His
essays are supplemented with brief remembrances by former students,
including some of our finest trumpet performers and teachers
Like John Haynie, I am not prone to excess verbiage. In summary, I
simply say that this book should be in the library of all those who
aspire to play or teach the trumpet and those who conduct bands
Reviewed by Gordon Mathie, Professor Emeritus, The State University of
Larner, Marjorie (2007).
Tools for Leaders: Indispensable Graphic Organizers, Protocols, and
Planning Guidelines for Working and Learning Together.
New York: Scholastic.
Marorie Larner's book, Tools for Leaders: Indispensable Graphic
Organizers, Protocols, and Planning Guidelines for Working and Learning
Together provides templates for planning and activities, and a
standardized presentation of materials throughout the text. Including
a list of references and an index, these twelve chapters will help
guide a leader through implementing change in any setting, with
examples drawn from K-12 environments. Furthermore, Larner also
includes trouble-shooting guidelines and handouts to use in faculty
development, all of which aid the understanding of the materials
presented and assist in planning change. Although the suggested
activities and charts can be made use of in certain situations, the
organization of the materials makes it hard to follow the text itself,
as there are often more images and figures than discussion. On the
plus side, the judicious use of white space in the text enables the
reader to easily take notes and follow along. The resources presented
in this book were developed in the field, and will assist the user in
following the step-by-step process of creating effective peer learning
communities among the faculty and staff of an educational setting.
Each chapter ends with field notes, discussing what Larner has learned
through her experiences as a teacher, facilitator and administrator.
The book is divided into three thematic sections that progress
logically along the change continuum. Part I begins by setting the
tone for change, illustrating that not all settings will be best served
by the same philosophy. Larner emphasizes the importance of setting
the tone, as this is the building block upon which the remainder of the
change will, or will not, occur. She then proceeds to discuss the
logistics, again addressing various settings as not all districts, or
even schools, are alike. Planning the logistics of change can take
time, and only by preparing correctly can one move ahead with working
together as desired. Larner's third chapter addresses "Big-Picture
Planning and Assessing," a part that is often overlooked in the desire
to jump right in. Having an final goal, and knowing how the progress
will be assessed, is just as important as the steps taken toward that
end. Ending the first part of the book is a chapter on agendas and
evaluations, focusing on the smaller pictures, to plan out the changes
in manageable steps, and to evaluate the each step of the agenda.
Moving on to Part II, the book changes focus from the foundations to
"The Heart of the Conversation" between teachers working and learning
together. Learning occurs only through sharing information, or
conversing. The first step, and first chapter in this section, is to
begin the communication. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to say
the first word, or to write the first sentence. In the same way,
Larner begins by addressing how to start a conversation among
participants. Once the conversation has progressed, agreements must be
made to support the agreed upon purpose of the learning and change. In
order for agreements to work, there must be active listening to the
other members, or listening to each other. Agreeing and listening are
steps along the way to developing positive working relationships,
necessary for effective teaching and learning together. Part II ends
with a discussion of issues and dilemmas that ultimately will arise,
even in the best planned situations.
The book ends with Part III, "A Culture of Learning," which opens
with a discussion of bringing new ideas into practice. By keeping
abreast with the literature and work of others, participants can bring
in ideas from others that might not have been thought of before.
Classroom observations are discussed next, followed by a chapter
discussing the student's view of the process and its outcomes.
Drawing on her extensive background as a teacher, administrator,
facilitator for National School Reform Faculty, and former staff
developer for the Denver-based Public Education and Business Coalition,
Larner helps the leader who has a technical enough background to
understand the terminology while at the same time providing materials
to help the new leader.
Reviewed by Sara Marcus, Graduate School of Library and Information
Studies, Queens College, Flushing, New York.
Lybolt, John; Armstrong, Jennifer; Techmanski, Kristin Evans &
Gottfred, Catherine (2007).
Building Language Throughout the Year: The Preschool Early Literacy
Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes
Building Language Through the Years: The Preschool Early Literacy
Curriculum is a valuable resource for the facilitation of language
and literacy skill development for any preschool classroom. The focus
on vocabulary in each of the lessons helps to address a key feature of
literacy development that is often overlooked in other curricula. This
emphasis is supported by a review of research included in the text with
specific suggestions for teachers to follow to maximize the vocabulary
development and subsequent learning taking place in their classrooms.
The authors also provide definitions and descriptions of the teachers'
roles in using the Building Language Through the Years
curriculum, focusing on the need for assessment, preparation of the
physical aspects of the learning environment, appropriate lesson
planning, implementation of the lessons, and the importance of both
explicit and opportunistic instruction to scaffold literacy learning.
Of note, the curriculum integrates as enrichment words more than 60%
of the 1000 words used in conversation on a daily basis. Weekly
language concept suggestions encompass language and literacy
development and general
cognitive development as well. Similarly, the Building Language
Through the Years curriculum provides for socio-emotional
development as well as early math and science skills, providing
seamless assimilation of development of these concepts throughout the
The introduction includes a table of Head Start domains related to
language and literacy development, indicators for the domain, and how
the domain is addressed through the use of this curriculum. Additional
chapters provide helpful tables highlighting the skills used by
successful kindergartners in a variety of literacy domains that are
also addressed by the curriculum. This sets a framework for the
curriculum while also drawing attention to the importance of
implementation of the content.
The curriculum was developed with a typical early childhood
classroom in mind, emphasizing the role of the curriculum within the
existing preschool schedule. The curriculum supports the typical
classroom function by providing suggestions for preliteracy activities
as well as using dramatic play, group time, shared book reading, art,
and music/rhythm activities suggestions for each day of the week. This
curriculum highlights not only the importance of play in developing
literacy skills, but it also helps to ensure the integration of
language and literacy development in areas of early childhood education
settings that can often go neglected. Most importantly, explicit
information related to the instruction of language is provided,
including techniques such as repeat-model-expand, think- and talk-
alouds and the use of open-ended questions. Suggestions for and
examples of using each technique are further elaborated to maximize
teacher interactions with children.
There are 42 themed units included. Each unit begins with a weekly
schedule that includes the language concepts of the week as well as the
specific domains and abbreviated descriptions of activities within
those domains. A bulleted list of components of the week's lesson is
provided for teachers, with a brief research citation linking the
activities with research-based practice and an additional list of
aspects of the lesson that teachers have found through implementation
(based on a previous pilot study). Antecedent pages provide more
specific information for each activity as well as space for teacher
notes, with a final page consisting of a one-page newsletter for
Suggestions for working with parents through both sharing classroom
activities and encouraging reinforcement of learning include specific
suggestions for activities parents and children can enjoy at home. They
will help parents realize the value of their role as the child's first
and most important teacher. While a parent component is typical of
many curricula of this nature, the explicit suggestions and the
predominant theme of co-teaching offered here are a reflection of
recent research suggesting the need for cooperation between home and
school to develop language and literacy.
The Building Language Through the Years Curriculum Forms
allow teachers to track the progress of individual children and include
space for individualization of plans. Forms include the Teacher
Observation Scale for Classroom Behavior providing a mechanism to track
individual progress. This provides a critical instrument for
differentiating learning while also empowering a teacher to track and
monitor the progress of each student. A Table Talk Tally Sheet allows
teachers to track conversations among children and adults, including an
observation summary to note words and sentences heard within the
conversations. A Parent Self-Observation Form further encourages the
integration of parents into the curriculum, while a Teacher Self-
Assessment form enables teachers to note the areas in which they can
further develop to meet the needs of the children they teach. These
forms are not only useful, they underscore the deliberate nature of
language and literacy development activities and capitalize on
opportunistic moments for learning within preschool classrooms.
A list of suggested books and music is alphabetized by title in an
index at the end, providing a quick and easily used reference. The
chapters preceding the lessons are lengthy, yet provide a rationale for
both the curriculum and its components as well as a framework for
successful integration in the classroom. The authors also include the
results of the comparison pilot study which suggests the curriculum was
effective for the participants in the pilot study, but caution the need
for additional research and further evaluation.
Overall, Building Language Through the Years is a helpful
reference that can be used in any preschool classroom. Lybolt,
Armstrong, Techmanski, and Gottfred have provided a practical set of
lessons to develop language and literacy in the preschool classroom.
The use of deliberate planning and careful implementation of lessons is
based on noted research in emergent literacy development and provides
an appropriate framework for the text.
Reviewed by Meagan Shedd, MS, CLE, doctoral student and research and
teaching assistant in the Educational Psychology and Educational
Technology program in the College of Education at Michigan State
McGregor, Tanny (2007).
Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
In Comprehension Connections, Tanny McGregor presents a
resource for educators in developing effective curriculum plans to
enhance reading comprehension for elementary readers. In this text,
McGregor sets out to "provide concrete instruction that jump-starts
(students) into the realm of strategic thinking" (p. xii), while
incorporating successful strategies to help revitalize teachers. She
uses this fundamental philosophy as a framework for helping educators
develop curriculum plans to assist students in becoming better readers
Based on her nearly twenty years of experience as an educator,
McGregor believes that by incorporating concrete items into the formal
lesson plan, educators can provide a learning environment that may help
students make abstract concepts become realities. Within the framework
of developing reading skills and comprehension, McGregor shares some of
her curriculum plans, lessons, activities, and projects to provide
concrete examples for children as they develop skills as readers and
McGregor introduces her four stage "launching sequence" consisting
of concrete experiences, sensory exercises, wordless
picture books, and time for text within a frame of seven
fundamental concepts for developing strategic reading skills. These
project-based lesson plans are designed to help students transition
from an abstract and distant concept into a more tangible reading
experience that incorporates strategic thinking about the reading while
instilling a sense of independence for the developing reader.
The seven concepts are divided into chapters for easy identification
and adaptation by the reader. They include Metacognition, Schema,
Inferring, Questioning, Determining Importance, Visualizing, and
Synthesizing. McGregor opens her chapters by reflecting on personal
experience as a lifelong learner to introduce and connect her reading
comprehension strategies. Each chapter incorporates the launching
sequences framework for that particular lesson objective. To enhance
each chapter-based lesson, McGregor also shares plausible curriculum
examples with student feedback, famous quotes to motivate and stimulate
readers, and a selective list of text resources for educators
interested in delving deeper into the concept.
Overall the text is readily accessible to elementary educators and
reading specialists who wish to revitalize their curriculum plans and
methods for developing young readers. As one of McGregor's students
commented, "reading is a pattern of text and thinking" (p. 16). In
Comprehension Connections, McGregor has produced an applied text
that provides educators with plausible examples and motivation for
developing reading curriculum plans that may help students along the
pathway to becoming strategic thinkers.
Reviewed by Philip E. Strong, Ph.D., Assistant Dean, Lyman Briggs
College, Michigan State University.
Merrell, Kenneth W. (2007).
Strong Kids-Grades 6-8: A Social & Emotional Learning
Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes
Recently, increased attention has been placed on the social and
emotional well-being of children. This is due, in part, to the growing
rate of mental health disorders among our nation's youth. As a result,
there will be an increased demand on the public school system to
provide students with adequate prevention and treatment measures for
stress, anxiety, and depressive disorders. Strong Kids-Grades 6-
8 is part of a four part series of learning programs designed
specifically to address the social-emotional learning (SEL) of school
age children. The other books in this series are: Strong Start-
Grades K-2, Strong Kids- Grades 3-5, and Strong Teens-
Grades 9-12. Merrell recognizes the need for scientifically
researched curricula in schools and touts this program as being
evidence-based. It has been designed, researched, and refined to
promote maximum effectiveness. Merrell does not provide the research
within this text, but invites the reader to investigate the book's
companion Web site at http://strongkids.uoregon.edu
to view supporting research.
The curriculum presented in this work is age-appropriate and
designed to create a positive classroom environment, promote social
skills, and prevent the development of future emotional problems
through coping skills. The program does this through a series of
twelve lessons aimed at feelings identification, dealing with anger,
understanding emotions, clear and positive thinking, conflict
management, letting go of stress, and goal attainment. This program
can be adapted for use in most classrooms or learning environments,
including use as a supplement for students with severe mental health
involvements. Merrell has succeeded in creating a comprehensive and
focused curriculum that is easily implemented into almost any classroom
without the additional cost of special training or staff. The program
is primarily self-contained.
Each lesson includes sample scripts for teachers to use to guide
their class through the lesson's topics and activities. Lesson One,
About Strong Kids, introduces the class to the Strong Kids curriculum
by having them identify their emotions and the appropriate ways to
express those feelings. The curriculum acknowledges that this lesson
will not meet the needs of students with severe depression and anxiety;
however, the curriculum guides students to seek help from appropriate
persons be it their teacher or school counselor. This lesson has
students share stories about their emotions and has the class
understand the importance of listening quietly and respectfully. The
learning objectives of this lesson are to respect others, come
prepared, and personal stories shared in the classroom should remain in
the classroom. The other lessons in this work follow the same format
of guided learning objectives.
Basic classroom supplies are needed, such as an overhead projector,
transparency film sheets, copy machine, chart paper, chalk and/or
marker board. Each lesson is designed for a one hour class period,
taught once a week over a twelve week span. The lessons are extremely
comprehensive and well-organized. The book begins with a primer and
brief summary of each lesson, as well as, suggestions for success in a
variety of environments. Merrell recommends that teachers use
dedicated folders throughout the curriculum, continually reinforce and
remind students of the techniques learned throughout the program. He
suggests the teacher complete at least one homework example with the
entire class to help them understand the assignment. Each lesson
includes: a clearly stated purpose, agenda, sample scripts, time
estimations, well laid out activities, and supplemental materials. The
book contains an appendix with "booster" lessons which review skills
and strategies learned during primary implementation. The text also
comes with a CD-ROM that contains teaching tools, handouts,
assignments, and transparencies.
This text is an extremely practical tool for any Middle School
educator. The author has gone to great lengths to anticipate any need,
problem or question that may arise throughout this program's execution.
Strong Kids-Grades 6-8 can be carried out independently or as
part of a broader SEL curriculum.
Reviewed by Shauna LaMagna, MS, Online Tutor at Smarthinking, Inc.
Middendorf, Cindy (2008).
Differentiating Instruction In Kindergarten.
New York: Scholastic.
In recent years, teachers and researchers in early childhood
education have explored the topic of the changing kindergarten from
various angles (Goldstein, 2007; Graue, 2001; Gullo, 2006; Hatch,
2005). At stake is figuring out how teachers can address the twin
demands for increased levels of student performance and the
implementation of a standardized content, performance, and program
expectations in a developmentally appropriate manner that recognizes
the needs of their individual students. Middendorf enters this
discussion carrying the voice of a practitioner. Her goal in this text
is to provide teachers with an introduction to strategies that they can
use to differentiate their instruction so that their students can be
addressed in a manner that helps each of them succeed.
Middendorf begins her book by stating that differentiation is a
philosophy of teaching that puts children first (p. 10). In making
this claim, she adds two important points. First, once teachers
understand what differentiation entails, they will then realize that
they've probably been putting many of these ideas into practice.
Second, Middendorf recognizes that the pressure to improve student
performance that teachers face from multiple audiences makes it
difficult to take on any new tasks, but in this case, she believes
differentiation can help students achieve this goal. While this task
of teaching to each student's needs seems daunting, Middendorf, here
and throughout the book, reminds the reader that no teacher can
differentiate every lesson for each child.
A practitioner friendly tool that Middendorf introduces in the first
chapter and uses in each additional chapter is a set of examples that
she terms "A look inside a differentiated classroom." These examples
cover various types of lessons (whole group, center time, etc) that
occur throughout a typical kindergarten day, and in them, Middendorf
provides detailed examples of what differentiation looks like in
practice. Along with these "look-ins," she uses sidebars to provide
tips for implementing these strategies, facts about how young
children's brains develop, and quotes about teaching and children that
are meant to inspire teachers.
Middendorf connects brain research, the theory of multiple
intelligences, and developmentally appropriate practice to frame the
need for differentiation. She address this research by explaining the
importance in teaching across the modalities (vision, auditory,
tactile, and kinesthetic) and addressing Gardner's (1983; 1993)
multiple intelligences (verbal-linguistic intelligence, bodily-
kinesthetic intelligence, logical-mathematic intelligence,
intrapersonal intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, visual-spatial
intelligence, musical intelligence, and naturalistic intelligence).
In Chapter 3, Middendorf makes the case that teachers must know
their students as learners so that they can differentiate instruction
to meet their children's needs. To do this, she shows the reader how
to make a learner profile for each student that includes informal
observations, notes from such things as the child's permanent record,
teacher and student selected work samples, and formal assessments, such
as kindergarten screeners. Middendorf also provides sample checklists
for end-of-year expectations in literacy and math and a modalities of
learning checklist to help teachers with this process of assessment.
In getting to know students, Middendorf highlights the importance of
connecting with families in this process, and she offers practical tips
in establishing a line of communication with them. She ends this
chapter by providing some useful examples as to how a teacher can
develop children's self-assessment skills.
The final two chapters of this text get to the heart of the
discussion about practices that kindergarten teachers can engage in to
differentiate their instruction. Chapter 4, which Middendorf titles
Setting the Stage, begins by stating that teachers must let children
and families know from the beginning of the school year that their
instruction will be tailored as much as possible to meet each student's
needs. To get this point across, she provides a beginning of the year
activity that gets families involved by asking them to fill out a
questionnaire about when their child learned to walk, talk, and tie
his/her shoes. Using this information, Middendorf demonstrates how a
teacher can make a series of graphs to show his/her students how each
one of them develops at their own pace. Middendorf also provides
examples of how a teacher might use these graphs to teach his/her
students different math skills.
The book also includes some helpful tips in assisting students to
develop self-management skills so that a teacher can work with children
either one-on-one or in small groups, and provides examples of "sponge
activities" that children can engage in either when they complete their
work or are waiting to work with the teacher. While lacking in detail,
these activities (e.g., puzzles, exploration station, or a book nook)
offer students the chance to reinforce concepts they've already
learned. Middendorf gives examples of how some of these activities
can be turned into center-based lessons that teach students new
knowledge and skills. It includes a detailed example of a teacher
engaged in differentiating literacy centers for individual students.
Here, Middendorf provides a glimpse into the questions, directions,
and statements that teachers can use to help tailor varying literacy
activities to their students' skill levels.
In Chapter 5, Middendorf focuses on implementing skill building
activities in developmental and academic areas. She begins with
suggestions to build a child's fine motor and visual skills and then
moves into literacy using children's names and class books. She also
explores activities that use numbers to build children's math skills.
Middendorf rarely uses worksheets in addressing this process of skill
building. She provides useful examples of how teachers can
differentiate such topics as the concept of "equal" in math through
typical classroom situations. Middendorf ends her text with
suggestions for managing the classroom and providing techniques that
help the child feel like a successful learner.
As a former kindergarten teacher who sat through one-too-many in-
service days where the speaker directed his/her talk towards
differentiating instruction for students who already knew how to read,
write, and do basic math, Middendorf's book offers a breath of fresh
air, and she provides useful examples that teachers can use immediately
in their kindergarten classrooms.
To be clear, this book is directed towards practitioners.
Middendorf assumes that her readers do not need detailed explanations
about scheduling, the classroom environment, etc. I would suggest
looking at Seefeldt and Wasik (2002) or Hatch's (2005) work for more
detailed conversations about these issues. Finally, while I
appreciate the practitioner-friendly nature of this text, I would make
three suggestions to improve this work.
First, it would be helpful if Middendorf spent a moment defining
developmentally appropriate practice. This is term has been thrown
around so much that is has become almost useless. Second, the research
Middendorf cites to support her argument for differentiation is
somewhat dated, and by tapping into what more recent empirical work
states about how children learn (e.g., National Research Council, 2000)
her argument could be strengthened significantly. Finally, her
discussion on informal observation is unrefined, and I would recommend
those interested in strengthening their skills in this area to look at
such work as Jablon, Dombro, and Dichtelmiller's (1999) for a more
detailed and theoretical discussion of methods of assessment that
teachers can implement in their classrooms.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple
intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: The theory in
practice. New York: Basic Books.
Goldstein, L. (2007). Embracing pedagogical multiplicity: examining
two teachers' instructional responses to the changing expectations for
kindergarten in U.S. public schools. Journal of Research in
Childhood Education, 21(4), 378-400.
Graue, E. (2001). What's going on in the children's garden?
Kindergarten today. Young Children, 56(3), 67–73.
Gullo, D. F. (Ed.) (2006). K today:Teaching and learning in the
kindergarten year. Washington, DC: National Association for the
Education of Young Children.
Hatch, J.A. (2005). Teaching in the new kindergarten. Clifton
Park, NY: Delmar Learning.
Jablon, J.R., Dombro, A.L., & Dichtelmiller, M.L. (1999). The power
of observation. Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies, Inc.
National Research Council (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind,
experience, and school (Expanded Ed.). Washington, DC: National
Academy Press. Retrieved October 15, 2007 from http://www.nap.e
Seefeldt, C., & Wasik, B. (2002). Kindergarten: Fours and fives go
to school. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill-Prentice Hall.
Christopher P. Brown, PhD, is an assistant professor of early childhood
education at The University of Texas at Austin in the Department of
Curriculum and Instruction.
Notari-Syverson, Angela; O'Connor, Rollanda & Vadasy, Patricia (2007).
Ladders To Literacy: A Preschool Activity Book.
Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes
Ladders to Literacy is an excellent evidence-based, field-
tested reference for any preschool teacher, daycare provider or parent.
It has been field-tested in inclusive preschool settings with both
large groups and small groups of children. Field testing also included
children from many different cultural backgrounds. Support for
development and field-testing was provided through grants from U. S.
Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative
Services, and Early Education Program for Children with Disabilities.
The two theoretical perspectives upon which the book is based are
Bronfenbrenner's ecological model of human behavior (Bronfenbrenner,
1979) and Vygotsky's social interactionist perspective (Vygotsky,
1978). Ladders to Literacy also uses Snow's (1983) definition
of literacy which does not restrict early literacy to reading and
writing but also includes other literacy events in which young children
participate such as listening to stories, drawing to represent writing,
helping adults with cooking recipes, and using invented spellings.
The twelve-page introduction provides an overview of the many facets
of early literacy with emphasis on the theoretical and research base.
It is accompanied by 7 pages of references. Some of the topics
addressed in the introduction are oral language development, English
language learners and intervention practices. The introduction also
provides an overview of the activities included in the book as well as
instructional features that accompany the activities. The
multidimensional instructional approach is based upon research by a
number of researchers including Sulzby & Teale's work in early literacy
(1991) and work by Notari-Syverson, O'Connor and Vadasy on early
literacy and language skills with young at-risk children as well as
young children with disabilities (1996). The inclusion of both formal
and informal assessment procedures such as portfolios, checklists and
observation forms allows both parents and teachers to easily determine
just which activities will be most appropriate in a given situation.
Ladders to Literacy is divided into four sections. Section
one provides the theoretical framework as well as information on a
literacy-rich classroom environment, early literacy development, and
scaffolding as well as instructional suggestions for how to use the
activities found in sections two through four. The Head Start Outcomes
Framework provides teachers and parents with suggested goals. A scope
and sequence chart provides suggested implementation throughout the
school year. The accompanying Activity Planning Sheet allows for easy
implementation of any activity into daily planning.
The three broad dimensions which categorize the activity sections in
this book are: print/book awareness, metalinguistic awareness, and oral
language. Sections two through four list child-responsive,
developmentally appropriate activities in each of the above dimensions.
Each section begins with an overview of evidence-based explanations of
what sorts of activities are included in the section and how those
activities might be implemented in a classroom setting, either large or
small group. More detailed scope and sequence charts and Head Start
Outcomes charts applying to the activities in that section also appear
near the beginning of each section. The final pages of each section
include assessment instruments which apply to the skills taught through
the activities in that section.
Each activity in each section is fully developed, often containing
four to five pages of explanations and examples. Many of the
activities include materials that may be copied. The spiral-bound, 8-
1/2 x 11 format allows for easy copying of appropriate charts and
Activities are designed to be adaptable to a variety of learning
styles, grouping practices and curricula. Each activity in Ladders
to Literacy contains the following components:
- Activity description
- Suggested adult/child interactive behaviors
- A parent/home link or activity
Appendices include a Preschool Checklist which can be used to
provide an overall assessment of a child's growth, more suggestions for
parents, a glossary of terms and a listing of suggested children's
books including some books in Braille.
Ladders to Literacy is written in terms easily understandable
by teachers, day care providers or parents. This book is a "must have"
for the bookshelf of any professional who works with young children. I
would highly recommend this book to anyone who works with young
children in any capacity. It is filled with a wealth of information,
materials, and (most importantly) excellent activities to use to
promote literacy skills in developmentally appropriate ways.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development:
Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Notari-Syverson, A. (1996). Preparing young children with
disabilities for reading instruction: An investigation of the effects
of early instruction in phonemic awareness (Final Report).
Seattle: University of Washington
Notari-Syverson, A., O'Connor, R., & Vadasy, P. (1996, April).
Facilitating language and literacy development in preschool
children: To each according to their needs. Paper presented at the
American Educational Research Association Meeting, New York. (ERIC No.
ED395 692.) Retrieved October 12, 2007 from http://www.eric.ed.gov/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?ac
Snow, C. (1983). Literacy and language: Relationships during the
preschool years. Harvard Educational Review, 53, 165-189.
Snow, C., Burns, M., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing
reading difficulties in young children. Washington, D.C.: National
Academy of Sciences. (ERIC No. ED416465.) Retrieved October 12, 2007
Snow, C, & Goldfield, B. (1983). Turn the page, please: Situation-
specific language acquisition. Journal of Child Language, 10,
551 – 569.
Snow, C. & Ninio, A. (1986). The contracts of literacy: What children
learn from learning to read books. In W. H. Teale & E. Sulzby (Eds.)
Emergent literacy: Writing and reading. (pp. 116 – 138).
Stamford, CT: Ablex.
Sulzby, E. & Teale, B. (1991). Emergent literacy. In R. Barr, M. Kamil,
P. Mosenthal, & D. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research
(Vol. 2, pp. 727 – 757.) Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Longman.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher
psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Reviewed by Dr. Lynda Robinson, Associate Professor, Department of
Education, School of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Cameron
She received her Ph. D. in Child Language and Literacy Development
(Education) from University of Illinois in 1990. Her fields of
expertise are early childhood, reading, and children's literature. She
has been instrumental in developing the graduate program in Reading at
Cameron and also teaches Primary Reading in the Undergraduate
Elementary Education program. Her current research interests involve
multicultural children's literature and early literacy.
Pohlman, Craig (2008).
Revealing Minds: Assessing to Understand and Support Struggling
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-
In Revealing Minds: Assessing to Understand and Support
Struggling Learners, Craig Pohlman makes a very compelling case as
to why education professionals ought to rethink what they have come to
understand as the purpose of assessment. Rather than using assessment
as a tool to diagnose learning problems and consequently label learners
(i.e., a deficit-oriented approach), Pohlman argues that assessment
should be a dynamic, interactive process in which teachers, learners,
parents and other professionals have an opportunity to gain an
understanding of the learner as a whole in order to inform and guide
instruction. Moreover, Pohlman asserts that assessors must be not only
committed to identifying the learner's weaknesses, strengths/assets,
and affinities (i.e., areas, topics or activities of interest for the
learner), but they must be willing to draw on all these individual
characteristics to create a learning and assessment plan that can be
used to more effectively understand where the learner is at that moment
and what the learner can accomplish if provided with the appropriate
means to reach various academic goals. This book thus provides a step-
by-step guide for professionals interested in implementing this
innovative perspective towards assessment.
Throughout the book Pohlman emphasizes that there are at least six
key, interrelated elements that come into play when using assessment to
understand the learner. First, the assessor has to adopt the role of
not only the person who is designing and performing the assessments,
but the person who will empower the student. Students are empowered
when they understand that, although they may struggle in school, they
can work with assessors to create assessment tasks that are built
around each learner's unique profile by employing an approach called
demystification. According to Pohlman, demystification is an ongoing
process, occurring in the form of a series of dialogues, in which the
learner gets the opportunity to become cognizant of what and why they
are struggling with certain academic tasks. This leads to agreement on
how they can work together to minimize the student's struggles in
school. Pohlman suggests that parents and others should also be
involved in this demystification process.
Pohlman asserts that in order to understand the learner, assessors
have to construct a profile which builds on each student's unique
assets (strengths) and affinities (areas of interest for the student)
as well as on each student's weak areas. Pohlman argues that it is
through this profile that practitioners, parents and the students
themselves can see and understand what ought to be done to help the
student succeed in the classroom.
Once the profile is in place, Pohlman introduces task-analysis,
which is a process that enables the assessor to understand which
neurodevelopmental functions are at play during a specific task, and
how those constructs may be better assessed through a variety of means.
Also, task-analysis helps make linkages between the academic skills
that education professionals are all well versed in and the
neurodevelopmental functions (e.g., memory, attention) underlying each
one of these skills. According to the author, understanding these
functions and linkages can enable the assessor (e.g., teacher,
clinician) and others (e.g., student, parents) to understand why a
learner may be struggling with a specific academic skill, and what can
be done to help the learner bridge these difficulties.
Pohlman comments that assessors must be willing to draw on a
phenomenological perspective towards the collection of data sources for
each individual student. That is, the assessor must use both
quantitative and qualitative techniques to better understand not only
the whys someone has not mastered yet a skill, but also to
inform how and what should be done next to help the child succeed. He
asserts that assessment practices need to be analyzed from multiple
angles and perspectives, and that doing so will result in having a more
comprehensive profile for each learner.
Pohlman emphasizes that collaboration is a key aspect in
understanding the learner. In the book the author provides examples of
how the work by various professionals, and what can be learned from
parents and the students themselves, can enlighten and inform the
assessment process. Finally, once data have been collected for each
student, assessors ought to understand how to find and analyze
recurring themes from the data sources collected. These themes will
later enable the assessor to write a detailed yet comprehensible report
that can be used to share findings with not only parents and other
professionals but also with the student. Numerous examples of how to
analyze and report the data are provided in the book.
Overall, I think this is an informative, insightful and well-crafted
book. The author's clear writing style makes it easy for everyone (even
those who may not be familiar with the fields of education and
psychology) to understand the contents of the book. Research support
appears in the appendices for further reference. The case studies are
very helpful for understanding key concepts and how assessment tasks
may be used to assess all learners. In all, I believe this is a good
resource for education professionals and researchers alike. The book
can definitely be used to help professionals working in classrooms
understand the importance of assessment, how assessment can be carried
out in the best interest of all students, not only struggling learners,
and how these professionals have a crucial role in helping all learners
succeed through an assessment approach that is built for each unique
learner. The book also provides a very good example of how
theory/research informs practice. I believe this is a book that more
than one will want to revisit and keep close.
Reviewed by Carla Amaro-Jimenez, Doctoral Candidate in the
Literacy/Teaching English as a Second Language Program at the
University of Cincinnati.
Rief, Sandra F. & Heimburge, Julie A. (2007).
How to Reach and Teach All Children Through Balanced Literacy:
User-Friendly Strategies, Tools, Activities, and Ready-to-Use
Materials. Grades 3-8.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-
Sandra Rief and Julie Heimburge's book, How to Reach and Teach
All Children Through Balanced Literacy, offers a wide variety of
engaging tools, tips and strategies that are readily usable for the
practicing teacher. The rationale given for taking a balanced approach
to literacy rests on the belief that using the best methods from both a
skills-based and literature-based holistic approach is most effective
in reaching all students in the upper elementary and middle level
literacy classroom, grades 3-8. Using a metaphor of literacy as an
umbrella, the components of literacy instruction (reading, writing,
speaking and listening) are presented as inextricably connected,
requiring students to experience both modes in their quest to make
meaning from text.
The book is broken down into fourteen chapters, guiding the literacy
practitioner through a veritable maze and serving as a how-to guide to
taking a balanced literacy approach in the elementary and middle school
classroom. Sprinkled throughout are ready-to-use reproducible student
hand-outs, representing the authors' approach to strategic literacy
instruction. Beginning with a brief six page rationale for reaching all
learners through a "balanced approach," the first two thirds of the
book provides ideas for structuring classroom settings, using reading
and writing workshop, word study, oral language, thematic approaches to
literacy instruction, author studies, literature circles and book
clubs. Chapter eleven explores methods for helping students with
reading and writing difficulties, using reading and writing strategies
to scaffold and accommodate instruction for the dependent reader.
Lastly, the use of enhancing literacy through technology introduces the
reader to software programs that support literacy as tools to aid
A variety of factors influence decisions about best practices in
literacy instruction, including teachers' understanding of the
discipline, their insights into and philosophy surrounding learning,
and the growing need to meet local, state, and national standards. In
an era in which school administrators worry about low achievement
scores and under- prepared teachers in the field of reading, this book
presents a wealth of methods to scaffold reading instruction. Well
prepared, capable literacy practitioners who already have a rich
theoretical understanding of literacy and learning will be able to take
the strategies offered in this book to support a socially interactive
and constructive model of reading. For the novice practitioner, what is
missing is a critical discussion of ways to sustain a literacy
environment conducive to reading and understanding challenging texts.
As a comprehensive reference guide, the strategies, tools,
activities and ready-to-use materials presented in this book will be of
help to the literacy practitioner. Notably absent, and of particular
concern as research on effective literacy instruction points out, is
that teachers should be utilizing reading strategies not only for
accomplishing literacy tasks, but for also for teaching students about
the metacognitive process of reading, modeling explicitly when and how
to use strategies (Langer, 2000; Greenleaf et al., 2001). As its title
suggests, the book's methods strive to reach ALL children. This far-
reaching claim serves up instruction as an elixir for poor readers.
Unaccounted for are the complexities inherent in the notion of
literacy, necessarily including social and cultural contexts that are
situated and relational. Set out to offer such a wide scope of
techniques, the book necessarily and admittedly by the authors is
intended to be a reference source; as such it presents a myriad of
reading instruction methods for the already capable, well- prepared
teacher to support competent, and confident, readers.
Greenleaf, C., Schoenbach, R., Cziko, C., & Mueller, F. (Spring, 2001).
Apprenticing adolescent readers to academic literacy. Harvard
Educational Review, 71(1), 79-129.
Langer, J. (2000). Guidelines for teaching middle and high school
students to read and write well: Six features of effective
instruction. Albany, NY: National Research Center on English
Learning and Achievement. (ERIC no. ED462679) Retrieve October 21, 2007
Reviewed by Mary F. Wright, Assistant Professor, Middle and Secondary
Literacy, University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Stepanek, Jennifer; Appel, Gary; Leong, Melinda; Turner Mangan,
Michelle & Mitchell, Mark (2007).
Leading Lesson Study: A Practical Guide for Teachers and
Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.
Since the late 1990's, increasing numbers of educators in the United
States have heard about and shown interest in lesson study, a practice-
based, inquiry approach to professional development. In lesson study
(LS), 4-6 teachers collaboratively design a lesson plan, teach and
observe the lesson to collect data on student learning, use their
observations to refine the lesson plan, and reflect upon the
implications of their work for their future teaching. LS has been
credited with having a transformative impact on teaching and learning
in Japan (Stigler & Hiebert, 1999), where it originated, and it aligns
with many American scholars' definitions of high-quality professional
development (e.g., Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995). Nonetheless, in
spite of increased awareness of LS in the United States, it generally
remains a "boutique" reform, practiced in a limited number of areas and
inaccessible to the vast majority of teachers. Stepanek, Appel, Leong,
Turner Mangan, and Mitchell's new book, Leading Lesson Study: A
Practical Guide for Teachers and Facilitators, has the potential,
however, to help a greater number of American teachers to become
involved with LS.
Stepanek and colleagues set out to provide the tools and advice
necessary for educators to translate interest in lesson study (LS) into
concrete action. Chapter One opens with a brief description of the LS
process, and then moves into an explanation of the habits of mind it
develops and big ideas it addresses. Next, there follows a succinct,
research-based rationale for LS, and finally a convenient, one-page
summary introduction to LS. For the individual with some basic
knowledge of LS, this chapter is unlikely to cover much new ground, but
it does live up to its title by "Making a case for lesson study." It
could be a valuable resource for anyone trying to provide basic
information to colleagues about LS, or secure administrative support.
Chapter Two offers a comprehensive list of things leaders should
keep in mind as they lay the groundwork for LS. For example, the
authors suggest four "necessary ingredients" that should ideally be in
place - willing and engaged teachers, time for collaboration,
administrator support, and an action plan - and five additional
supports that can be key to LS's success: high-quality curriculum,
collegial relationships, collaborative school climate, outside support,
and school wide participation (p. 18-19). Although all of the above
influence the work of an LS group, and should thus be considered by
leaders, this chapter could be intimidating for some readers. It is
suggested, for example, that, "it may take an extended period of time
to bring together the people and resources to support lesson study" (p.
32). The authors do, however, also suggest that, "starting out small
with a group of enthusiastic teachers will help lesson study to grow
and gain momentum" (p. 32). The work of such a trailblazing group might
then serve to spark curiosity among more people and attract resources
For the LS leader who does succeed in getting a group of teachers
onboard for the process, the meat of this book is in Chapters Three
through Seven, which walk through how to facilitate the different
stages of the process. These chapters have a consistent structure,
starting with a general description of what should happen during a
particular LS phase, and then providing worksheets or guidelines that
leaders can use to help structure their group's work. Each chapter
includes sample materials, and "From the field" sidebars that describe
related work from actual lesson study groups. They then include
Challenges, Reflecting and Assessing Progress, Moving On to the Next
Phase, and Key Ideas sections before concluding with From our Team to
Yours, which provides advice from classroom teachers active in LS work.
Because users of this book are likely to read and reread it in bits and
pieces as they prepare for and proceed through the LS process, such a
regular structure is a helpful feature.
After this meticulous progression through the LS process, the book
steps back and concludes with a short chapter aimed at helping LS
leaders to grow and sustain LS beyond a single successful cycle. Rather
than suggesting how to rapidly scale up lesson study, the authors focus
instead on "gradual growth" and how to improve the "depth and
integrity' of LS work (p. 155).
Leading Lesson Study fulfills its subtitle's promise to be a
"practical guide," with numerous samples, examples, and worksheets. In
total, the book's 161 pages include sixty-three forms or figures, not
to mention its three appendices, one of which includes three sample
research lessons plans. The authors thankfully do not take practicality
to the extreme of setting out an overly rigid LS recipe. One of the
causes of LS's success in Japan has been its flexibility and the fact
that teachers and leaders have modified it to respond to different
contexts and purposes, and Stepanek and colleagues have accordingly
avoided being too prescriptive in their approach. They do, however,
provide an accessible wealth of information that will support lesson
study leaders, and be useful to a variety of different readers. For
educators who have some familiarity with LS, but may be uncomfortable
leading a group of teachers, Leading Lesson Study's resources
and practice-based advice could effectively scaffold their work. For
those who may feel comfortable leading, but lack familiarity with LS,
the book provides a solid foundation in LS's technical elements and
ethos. For a new lesson study group that does not have a single leader,
Leading Lesson Study could also serve as a resource to the
entire team, allowing for shared leadership and responsibility. In sum,
Stepanek and colleagues have succeeded in creating a guide with rich
potential to increase both the quantity and quality of lesson study
work done in the United States.
Darling-Hammond, L., & McLaughlin, M. (1995). Policies that support
professional development in an era of reform. Phi Delta Kappan,
Stigler, J. & Hiebert, J. (1999). The teaching gap. New York:
The Free Press.
Reviewed by Jeffrey P. Carpenter, a doctoral student in Curriculum and
Instruction at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education. He
spent eight years teaching in public and private schools in the United
States, Honduras, and Japan, where he had the opportunity to
participate in lesson study.