Note: Transferring text frequently causes the loss of formatting. While I have attempted to catch the more obvious ones (like paragraph breaks), the point of posting the material to the web is to make it accessible, not "perfect."
Articles are ordered by student, alphabetically, on this page, but
citations below are linked to the specific reviews.
Culham, Ruth. "The Trait Lady Speaks Up." Educational Leadership 64.2 (2006): 53-57. Academic Search Premier. 4 March 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com.
In Ruth Culham’s
article, “The Trait Lady Speaks Up,” she discusses the six traits of
and debunks five popular myths concerning those traits. When she refers
trait lady,” she is referring to herself, having spent twenty years
and educating teachers about the traits.
Book Review “Breathing In, Breathing Out
“Breathing In, Breathing Out” by Ralph Fletcher is a book that gives advice to both new and old writers. It gives guidelines to go by to help one find their inner voice. In this book Fletcher researches the different usages of keeping a writers notebook and how the effects of this can be useful for writers to avoid blockage and to open up their minds and expand their ideas.
Keeping a journal as I like to call it, or a “writer’s notebook” is a safe haven for ideas. Keeping a notebook of ideas is helpful because in your writing thoughts and feelings can be expanded and changed. Notebooks are supposed to give a writer a peaceful place to work out their thoughts and feelings and help their ideas grow and flourish.
describes keeping a journal as a better way to keep writing structured. Writing thoughts down keeps them more
organized. In the first chapter titled “
The next few chapters in this book talk about what moves one as a person. These chapters discussed writing on something that spawns passion. It is much easier to write about something that we are passionate about than something we are not.
This book was about how to find an inner voice in our writing and how to improve that voice. I found it a great easy read and liked the suggestions on how to get into the zone.
Overall this book could be very helpful for a writer who needs a little inspiration. This book could be used as a guideline for writers block. It had good advice on how to connect to with our inner selves to better help our writing skills.
explains why this statement worried him in the following paragraphs. “Something that's commended to teachers as a
handy strategy of self-justification...doesn't seem particularly
inviting teachers to improve their practices.”
Also, although the goal of the people who tout portfolios and
supposedly to eliminate grades, this simply provides them an easy way
“legitimate grades by offering a new way to derive them.”
Finally, Kohn mulls over the “quick and efficient”
line, imagining teachers as “grading machines.”
Kohn gets to what I believe is the heart of this piece: the effect
having on student writing. He cites an
by Linda Mabry that claims “compliance with the rubric tended to yield
scores but produced 'vacuous' writing.”
This standardization of assessment may also lead to students'
to write without detailed instructions.
According to the article, a Michigan teacher complained that
students, presumably having grown accustomed to rubrics in other
now seemed 'unable to function unless every required item is spelled
them in a grid and assigned a point value.'”
If the goal is to improve student writing, then rubrics may not
best course of action. Teachers need to
reassess their own assessment, according to Kohn, “to make sure it's
with the reason we decided to go into teaching in the first place.”
Weaver, C. Teaching
Grammar in Context.
In her book, Weaver presents a philosophy by offering teachers practical ideas for teaching grammar in the context of student writings, as opposed to the traditional, formal method of teaching parts, structures and definitions in isolation from student writing. The book begins with a historical account of the traditional reasons for teaching grammar alone as a school subject, but then delivers a plethora of research suggesting that grammar taught in such a way is less effective than teaching grammar in the context of student writing.
In the earlier chapters, as well as in later chapters that summarize information from earlier chapters, the author argues against teaching formal grammar in schools. She presents a wealth of research material to prove there is little to gain from teaching grammar “as a means of improving composition skills”(13). Students find such instruction boring, and it appears to them as little more than tedious exercises, which “may be adequate if all that is required is that students pass a test, but the application of grammatical concepts may require cognitive understanding that is not so readily gained through practice exercises” (104). Research shows that students are more inclined to retain information concerning stylistic considerations when they are viewing the information in the context of a piece of writing they care about or that means something to them. She argues, “If schools insist upon teaching the identification of parts of speech, the parsing or diagramming of sentences, or other concepts of traditional grammar (as many still do), they cannot defend it as a means of improving the quality of writing” (13).
In the next section of the book, the author suggests alternatives to the formal teaching of grammar; that is, she presents guidelines for teaching grammar in the context of student writing and gives insight into ways to stress the piece of writing rather than the correction of errors, as “One of the problems with overreacting to errors is that it stunts our students’ growth as writers. Under pressure not to make mistakes, students have often written less interesting pieces of writing” (81). Don’t rant on errors. Everyone makes them. Instead, address errors during the revision and editing phases of writing instead of grading something that is not a complete piece of writing (one that has been through the drafting, revision and editing phases). One particular way, in addition to the above, of helping students focus on writing more than grades is to offer publication opportunities for students, whether it is a school, community or national publication.
In the final section of the book, the author describes the uses and appropriateness of mini-lessons. She notes that all the practice in the world does not promote adequate understanding if students are not trained in the concepts they need to know in order to make their writings proficient. She offers two ways to present a mini-lesson: to the class, or to the student. When a teacher notices the majority of a class having the same or a very similar problem, a mini-lesson for the entire class should be used. When only a student or a handful of them have a problem, the mini-lesson should be restricted to just those students, as there is nothing to gain from teaching students in things they are already aware of and are applying consistently and adequately. She notes also that a key element of a mini-lesson is “that students are not given follow-up exercises to practice what has been taught. The teacher simply helps them use the information if their writing suggests a need for the skill and they seem ready for it” (151). Exercises take up time that can be spent writing, and in order for students to become better writers, they need the time spent on writing optimized.
In all the author presents a noteworthy book that, unlike most books, actually presents solutions to problems; however, there are some issues in the book that I am not convinced are ideal ways to teach. For example, one suggestion the author has concerning corrections on final drafts is to purposely overlook errors. It is understandable that students spend a great deal of time working a piece of writing from first draft to final draft, but that still does not excuse the fundamental role of the teacher: to instruct. The author writes, “Many teachers follow a hands-off policy for at least some final drafts, especially if the writing is not being sent to an unknown audience” (97). Regardless of who does or does not read the piece, errors are still errors, and the failure to notify a student of such errors is a failure in teaching.
The above is the only criticism I can find for the book, but, it is important to note, the author presents alternatives even to the criticism. For example, directly after her idea to neglect errors, the author suggests, alternatively to that, to put a check mark in the margin where the error is and have the student locate and repair the error. She notes, however, that caution should be used here because using a checkmark in such a fashion will only work if the student already understands the kind of error in question. Of course, the in-depth sections on mini-lessons give ample suggestions on how to correct this as well.Overall, the book is worth consideration for a reference. Weaver puts in the work years of experience. Even with the only criticism I did find with the book, there are, directly next to it, alternatives to the method that are sensible.
(1994). Using Formal and Informal Writing
in Middle School Social Studies. Retrieved February 22,
2007 from http:// members.ncss.org/se/5801/580113. html.
· Using writing to encourage thinking
o Writing encourages students to think more and process information more fully. She calls pre-writing “pre-thinking” in her class and says that this contributes less dominant students to participate more in discussions because they have thought out what they are going to say ahead of time.
· Writing encourages independent learning
o If a student writes down what they already know than they are more likely to bride the less familiar information with more familiar information. Also, through their own writing, students begin to find more evidence of author bias in what they read. In this way writing helps students to become more critical thinkers of social studies.
· Raising teachers’ comfort level
o O’day says that in many subject areas, teachers are apprehensive about including writing into their curriculum. Social studies teachers tend to see themselves as the transmitters of information and are at first uncomfortable with students writing informally in their classes. Because of the fears, students and teachers alike will need to practice this in order to develop comfort.
O’Day says that both formal and informal writing is a learning tool in Social studies classrooms and it improves student thinking and performance.Response:
could have been a little longer with more examples of how different
strategies were successful in her classroom.
She had wonderful theories, but more evidence would have been
A. (2002) Effective Literacy Instruction: Building
1. In effective schools, learning and instruction related to knowledge and conventions of English and high literacy take place as separated, simulated, and integrated experiences. In contrast, in typical schools, although each approach might be used at some time, one or another instructional approach dominates.
2. In effective schools, test preparation does not mean mere practice of test-related items. Rather, the focus is on the underlying knowledge and skills needed to do well in coursework and in life, as well as on the tests, and these become part of the ongoing English language arts learning goals and the students’ ongoing received curriculum. In contrast, in the typical schools, test prep means test practice. It is allocated its own space in class time, often before testing begins, apart from the rest of the years’ work and goals.
3. In effective schools, overt connections are constantly made between knowledge, skills, and ideas across lessons, classes, and grades as well as across in-school and out-of-school applications. In contrast, in the typical schools, connections are more often unspoken or implicit, if they are made at all. More often, the lessons, units, and curricula are treated as disconnected entities.
4. In effective schools, students in English language arts classes are overtly taught strategies for thinking as well as doing. In contrast, in typical schools, the focus is on the content or skill, without overtly teaching the overarching strategies for planning, organizing, completing, or reflecting on the content or activity.
5. In effective schools, the tenor of the instructional environment is such that, even after students reach achievement goals, English language arts teachers move students beyond them towards deeper understandings of and ability to generate ideas and knowledge. In contrast, in the typical schools, once students exhibit use of the immediate understandings or skills and focus, teachers move on to another lesson.
6. In effective schools, English learning and high literacy (the content as well as the skills) are treated as social activity, with depth and complexity of understanding and proficiency with conventions growing from students’ interaction with present and imagined others. In contrast, in typical schools, students tend to work alone or interact with the teacher, and when collaborative or group work occurs, the activity focuses on answering questions rather than engaging in substantive discussion from multiple perspectives.
Although, all the schools in the study were different, they all shared one common thing. Each nurtured a climate that coordinates efforts to improve student improvement, fosters teacher participation in a variety of professional activities, and creates instructional improvement activities in ways that offer teachers a strong sense of agency, values commitment to the profession of teaching, engenders caring towards students and colleagues, and fosters respect for learning as a normal part of life. The book in separate chapters highlights two schools with effective teachers in urban school districts, highlights an effective teacher of English language learning, and highlights an effective teacher in a suburban school with rich professional support. Each of these sections is broken down into a discussion of the school profile, the teacher profile, classroom settings, program organization and professional support. The book ends with a summary of how to create educational culture within which students learn and contains an Appendix section with more detailed information regarding the schools specifically and specific class activities.This book reads very much like a scientific study and in that regard is very dense. However, it is full of thorough information about successful English programs and how to implement them. I appreciated the descriptions of shared positive attributes among teachers and schools and specific information about English programs that work and are successful. As a pre-service teacher, the professional profiles of ‘effective” teachers were enlightening and can serve as a basis for my own professional development. I believe this study to be fairly well-conducted, and extremely well-reported. Due to the abundance of information provided, there is much to be learned, and the study is completely capable of being understood and analyzed by the general reader.
the past teachers of writing have only focused on the form of writing. They believe that once they know the forms of
writing: the parts of a paragraph, the
parts of an essay, the structure of a sentence, and the element of
the students, should be able to write a paper flawlessly.
They also believe in very little instruction
over content. However this essay says
that if the students decide to write about and pay less attention to
that they will be writing in. It
claims that even if they decide what to write about and do some
research on the
topic, knowing forms and formatting will not help the students pull out
content of the paper from the research they have.
Karen R., Steve Graham, and Linda H. Mason, eds. “Improving the
Writing, Knowledge, and Motivation of Struggling
Young Writers: Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development With and
Support.” American Education Research
Journal 43:2 (Summer 2006):
The article, “Improving the Writing, Knowledge, and Motivation of Struggling Young Writers: Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development With and Without Peer Support,” examines the effectiveness of an instructional model (SRSD) designed to foster development in each of the following areas: strategic behavior, knowledge, and motivation. The addition of a peer support component augmented SRSD instruction by increasing student’s knowledge of planning and enhancing generalization in two writing genres: the short story and the persuasive essay. With and without peer assistance, the article concluded that students wrote longer, more complete, and qualitatively than those in comparison conditions (Writer’s Workshop).
The SRSD method is a simple three step strategy - topic selection, organization of the writing plan, and individual development of the plan (which includes development of vocabulary) and leads to changes and improvements in four main aspects of students' performance: quality of writing, knowledge of writing, approach to writing, and self-efficacy. Additionally, data obtained during the study found that the SRSD method promoted student independence, improved writing skill knowledge, and increased motivation and effort, not only for second-graders but also for middle and high school students. Most importantly, for teachers working in schools where high-stake testing governs teaching methodology, the article provides conclusive validation for multiple positive “educational implications” (22) associated with explicit and systematical SRSD teaching strategies.
Review:Although the article focused on young writers, interesting findings, which could easily be transferred to a high school learning environment, were found: (1) teachers should engage students as active collaborators in their own learning reinforcing ownership; (2) learning can be improved through self-regulatory skills; and (3) modeling, dialogue, sharing and scaffolding are critical. The study, adequately confirmed through specific instructional procedures and relevant findings, that the SRSD method was an effective means of improving student writing. Overall, the article was well organized, reader friendly, and provided effective classroom practices in writing instruction supported by valid and realistic data.
1. Lessons about Topic- minilessons designed to aide students in finding a focused and profound starting point.
2. Lessons about Principles- minilessons designed to teach students the ‘so what’ of writing and ‘really bad words’.
3. Lessons about Genres - a series of minilessons on fiction, poetry, and essay writing.
4. Lessons about Conventions - minilessons which attempts to provide students with the knowledge and editing skills to perfect their writing both orally and visually.
Additionally, there is ‘how to arrange your
section, which might be advantageous for a beginning teacher but not
veteran teacher because most already have a standing syllabus. Each
followed a simple format – list of materials, discussion and purpose of
actual lesson, and follow-up lessons and assignments with the primary
each on the ‘famed’ minilesson - a vehicle for helping students improve
Julie WaltersZinsser, William “Inventing The Truth The Art and Craft of Memoir”. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.
this book on writing memoirs because writing memoirs
is an area where I have not had much experience. The
author, William Zinsser focused on the
writings of eight authors, who are known for their memoir writing
techniques. The authors that are
reflected on in this book are Russell Baker, Jill Ker Conway, Annie
Ian Frazier, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Alfred Kazin, Toni Morrison and
Simpson. This book focuses on
memoirs as a way to tell the stories of ones life and the people and
that make it important.
Even though I felt that there
was many important tools discussed in the book to use when writing a
there are just a couple authors that really seemed worthwhile in
Russell Baker focused his memoir on growing up during the depression. He did an outstanding job showing how this time period affected both himself and the society in which he was a part of. When asked how much of his memoir was truthful and how much is good writing, he stated “Well, all the incidents are truthful.” What he meant by this is that there has to be some connection to fiction to be able to tell a story from memory.
Toni Morrison seemed to focus on intertwining memoirs with fiction and finding the place in the middle where these two come together. Ms. Morrison, has been a great voice to the African American Slaves, she has a great way of telling their story as though she lived it with them. Ms. Morrison is able to creatively tell her stories and shows the reader how to do so through memoirs.The best lesson I got out of this book was when William Zinsser wrote, “Be true to yourself and to the culture that you were born into. Have the courage to tell your story as only you can tell it” (page 20). I thought this book was a good guide when writing a memoir; it seemed to give good tips on becoming a strong writer. However, I thought some of the writers featured were not very interesting and that they made the book longer and more drawn out than necessary. I feel that reading this book, did show me some different things to look for when writing a memoir and I would recommend parts of it to other writers, however, I do not feel that it is necessary to read and study the book in its entirety. By just studying a few of the contributors, one is able to understand what the others are trying to convey.