Reviewers’ Page

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30 responses to “Reviewers’ Page

  1. sunyprof

    Sofia’s Book Club Review #1

    Author: Karen Tankersley

    Title: Literacy Strategies for Grades 4 – 12 (2005, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VA)

    In her introduction, Tankersley argues that the U.S. Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 has focused reading advancement research on children in preK through third grade only. As a result, schools now lack innovative reading development programs for children above the fourth grade. Tankersley believes this will have a world-wide impact that is very problematic, especially for the U.S. job market.

    Job outsourcing and globalization initiatives demand that our students raise their standards of reading comprehension in order to be competitive in 21st century America. Not only must American students be competitive with each other, but they must be competitive with other students their age from every corner of the world. Over the last ten years, the National Assessment of Education Progress test scores have indicated that there is a reading crisis among middle school and high school students. In 2003, only 32% of students in eighth grade scored at or above the proficiency level of this exam.

    Based on this statistic, Tankersley argues that the skill of reading must become a linear development that builds hierarchically over time, rather than a holistic process that magically “happens” in ELA classrooms.

    The Struggling Reader

    The Shaywitz study of 2003 has produced new research that challenges the belief that dyslexic children will also grow to become dyslexic adults. This research was gathered by providing 50 minutes of reading instruction to dyslexic students each day in addition to their normal class schedules. After only one school year, these students were reading accurately and fluently! Scans showed that all portions of their brains were eventually activated the same way as the brains of non-dyslexic readers. These students merely needed someone to take the time to help them practice good reading skills.

    The gap between struggling readers and skilled readers grows most in middle school because teachers no longer teach how to read. Instead, they focus on reading as the means to learn about other content areas. Reading then becomes marginalized, and struggling readers grow anxious and unmotivated as their confidence drops. These students simply give up. Adolescent students actually report that unrehearsed oral reading in front of their class is the most damaging experience in all of high school.

    Tankersley offers excellent suggestions for teachers dealing with young readers who struggle in English class. Some of these suggestions that I have found most helpful are:· Teachers, look for the students who are “word-by-word” readers. They concentrate only on “decoding” texts and do not absorb the storyline or facts. These students miss all meaning in what they read.· Now expose these students to a larger variety of genres outside of standard textbooks.

    Newspapers, magazines, and internet reading will help students think about and predict their reading. · Struggling readers need clear definitions. They may not understand the difference between compare, contrast, and discuss, and we as teachers skip over this. In order to teach the definitions of words like these, create exercises where students must connect their text to an event in their own lives and their own worlds.·

    Students do not care about textbooks that do not connect with their own worlds. Allow students to choose what they read for class. This dissolves the lack of motivation in readers.

    Make Reading Fun

    Tankersley suggests different ways of making reading fun so that boredom does not settle atop of students’ heads. The suggestions that I find most relevant to what we have been discussing in class are:·

    Turn novels into theatrical scripts with your students. Performing helps students absorb the storyline.

    Turn your classroom into a “Coffee Shop” and make hot cocoa and herbal teas. Allow students to read poetry aloud and invite parents and teachers to attend.·

    Create Book Club Day. Socializing helps students engage their text. Student-lead discussion also motivates the kids to complete their homework, because they know that the spotlight will be on them! They will want to show-off what they know and also relate to each other.

    Vocabulary, Vocabulary, Vocabulary

    Tankersley believes that there is a difference between teaching students to understand a word in the context of one passage and then using that word in other dialogues later on. How true is this! And didn’t we all have this same problem when we were young ELA students? In order to combat this problem:·

    Help students expand their vocabulary by experimenting with using words instead of memorizing definitions. ·

    Encourage broad ranges of reading, followed by oral discussion. Then link oral and written vocabulary by having students keep vocab logs. They can collect interesting and new words that they find all year long.·

    Assign “Share A Word” projects each week where students must share a word that they think the class should learn. Allow each student to “teach” that word’s meaning.·

    Create a classroom dictionary. Each word that a student contributes must be accompanied by a picture and sample sentence.

    Review & Conclusion:

    I am most impressed by this author because she concludes all of her chapters with an apology to the students she has taught “incorrectly” over the years. It really shows her growth as a teacher and her commitment to changing all of us as future teachers. I want to share the list of things Tankersley would do over if she could go back again, because her reflections have been compiled over decades of teaching.

    All of these suggestions come from a lifetime of seasoning as a teacher:·

    Read a few powerful sentences aloud to your class each day so that struggling readers can hear fluent reading spoken by you.·

    Have your adolescent students adopt reading buddies in the local elementary school. Your kids will be able to “teach” reading once a week, and this boosts confidence and gives an opportunity for extra practice in reading.·

    Have students read a poem aloud together each day.·

    Make reading theatrical and put on class shows.·

    Use more pictures to illustrate word meaning.·

    Encourage web-based research on topics of personal interest, and then have students create reports on their findings. ·

    Use more props, songs and games in teaching the art of reading.

    Tankersle says, “I apologize to them [previous students] for not having been trained, at the time, in what I’d been asked to do” (Tankersley, 2005, p. 168).

    After reading this book, I am so thankful for Tankersley’s detailed suggestions to address so many reading problems in the classroom. If any of you are looking for concrete ideas, directions, charts, and step-by-step exercises for your students, do read this book! My favorite discussion is on creating the ELA Coffee Shop for students, because the direction that Tankersley is taking is toward making students feel like adults. I give the book two-thumbs-up. I hope you will, too! – Sofia

  2. jillian24

    Teaching to the Student: Curriculum Based on Them

    Teaching Literature as Reflective Practice

    Kathleen Blake Yancey. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2004. 123 pp. $31.95 IBSN: 0-8141-5116-7.

    In teachers’ rooms across the country, there is discussion of standardized testing. Numerous scholars examine the value of high stakes testing and the detriment to students. There is little question that with the array of standardized tests and their political importance, they have become the main focus in the majority of classrooms in the nation. With that focus, comes a loss of learning based on interest; instead, students learn due to fear of repercussions. In a time when the need for educational reform is generally accepted, Kathleen Blake Yancey tackles the questions of why and how. To make better educated students, start with the student.

    In Teaching Literature as Reflective Practice, Yancey examines changes in a post-secondary general education English class in an effort to create a more engaged and intellectual reading public (5-6). Her examination of curriculum covers students’ background, classroom delivery and student experience; she calls these the lived, delivered and experienced curriculum, respectively (16-8). Drawing on many other theorists and an original depiction of curriculum, Yancey depicts an extensive and manageable plan for engaging students through technology and reflection.

    Yancey’s work begins with an overview of theoretical research in literature education and reflection. Yancey then evaluates several questions regarding the goal of and problem with changes in the curriculum (5-7). Finally, Yancey tackles her biggest challenge: reflective practice is an effective tool for teaching literature, but it requires the active engagement of the student, “to make the student the site for learning literature” (16). How do teachers accomplish this? Yancey divides curriculum into three interdependent sub-sections, claiming that by acknowledging each portion, students will design their own ways of learning and, therefore, learn more (18).

    The following chapters examine the three curricula in detail, including pertinent examples from Yancey’s classroom. The lived curriculum actively engages the range of knowledge students bring to a literature class (22). Acknowledging what students do not know facilitates the integration of the delivered curriculum (43). The key to the delivered curriculum is to reject a single reading and the superior understanding of teachers; the students discover the answers to their questions by reflecting upon the text (41). Finally, the experienced curriculum is what “students construct in the context of both the lived curriculum they bring with them and the delivered curriculum” (58). Each chapter begins with an identification of the term and explanation of its role in the curriculum. Yet, the majority of the chapter is the demonstration of the term through anecdotal examples.

    Yancey includes a chapter on portfolios and their use in both further reflection and in formal assessment. She gives multiple examples of portfolios, including her experience with digital portfolios.

    In conclusion, Yancey returns to the structure of the introductory chapter, reviewing the lessons she learned regarding the primary purposes of general English education. Emphasizing that literature courses should be courses in reading, how to do it and how to enjoy it, she also focuses on utilizing the variety of new opportunities offered by technology (105).

    A useful resource for English education students and veteran teachers alike, Teaching Literature as Reflective Practice is a merger of theory and practice. Yancey covers a great deal of theoretical research through simple explanation and comprehensive quotations. This strategy allows for a great deal of background information to be available and for the focus of the work to remain on the practical applications. Each chapter includes several strategies used by Yancey, including one focused upon expanding the role of other media in her classroom. At the end of each chapter, Yancey gives a short list of lessons she and her students gleaned from their experiences. Through a focus on reflection, Yancey creates a set of strategies that encourages both teacher and student to investigate the range of possibilities literature education embodies. Her structure in this book allows for teachers to use examples and return repeatedly to the most important lessons of Yancey’s experience.

    -Jillian Everly

  3. sfarah19

    Adolescents at School: Perspectives on Youth, Identity, and Education

    Edited by: Michael Sadowski

    2003 Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, MA

    Sadowski introduces us to the book by discussing how problematic standardized testing is and how the standards-based models teachers have adopted in the classroom fail to help students succeed. Sadowski argues, that as teachers, we must see our students as individual thinkers and learners and most importantly as people (1). Failing to recognize that each student learns in different and unique ways and assessing their intelligence strictly on standardized tests scores in counter productive and does not allow them to be as successful as they could be.

    The authors that contributed to this book focus on how identity and the question of: “Who am I?” is central to how successful a student is academically, socially and personally (1). Adolescents seem to focus most of their energy trying to figure out their place in this world and we, as teachers, should be encouraging them to do so in their own way. Helping our students to build their self-esteem will help them to feel more confident in their ability to learn and interact socially in school and, in the future, the real world. Adolescents are bothered enough by labels they or others give themselves. Sadowski argues that the standardized tests we issue them are only adding to their identity issues by labeling them as failures or under achievers. It is important that teachers try to understand adolescents perceptions of their relationships “with educators and education (5).”

    The first chapter in the book is a “mini case study” on a student named “Mac.” Mac is a student who is frequently in trouble for starting fights and behaving badly in school. We discover, through out the chapter, why labeling “Mac” a “delinquent” with out investigating where the behavior is coming from is problematic. Although, as teachers, we can not control what our students engage in outside our classrooms, it is important that when we do have them we create an enviorment where our students don’t feel they need to perpetuate the stereotypes people place on them outside of school.

    Erikson’s “classic identity model” is examined focused specifically on each life stages unique “crisis.” Erikson states that in each life stage we face a unique crisis that determines our success and ultimate survival in the outside world and that adolescents face a compounded crisis because of their growing understanding of one’s situation in the world becomes more complex (10). Whether or not you agree on how severe Erikson describes this “crisis” situation as, you can not argue that each students process of identity development is crucial and will certainly effect their ability to interact socially and academically in our schools.

    This “crisis” situation is where teachers can play an important role in creating opportunity to “interrupt the cycle of unhealthy development (11).” If we allow our students to reflect on and experiment with who they are in our classrooms we allow them the possibility of success.

    In cases like “Mac’s” it is especially important to offer support and understanding or we risk a “foreclosure” or early commitment of our student to a particularly unhealthy lifestyle or future (12). Mentoring programs can provide guidance and exposure to future possibilities and should be encouraged by teachers, as well as involvement in after school activities like sports or social clubs. While these options are useful , it is most important that our schools promote “positive identity development” as a part of our everyday curriculum (15).” Teachers must connect and learn from their students just as students must connect and learn from their teachers. This “reciprocal transformation” allows each student the option for success by showing our students that they matter (16).

    This book is meaningful because it incorporates students own accounts on their experiences in schools and gives teachers ideas on how to incorporate positive identity development into their curriculum. The book ends with six crucial lessons for teachers in order to make their classrooms successful in fostering students self-esteem: listen to the students, make no excuses but ask a lot of questions, be willing to take risks, rethink the curriculum, challenge yourself and your assumptions, and offer diverse opportunities for your students to succeed (166).

    Perhaps all we need to do is get to know our students and have them get to know us to create a successful classroom.

    Suzanne Farah

  4. jexter1

    Jessica’s Book Club Review #1

    Authors: Deborah Appleman, Richard Beach, Susan Hynds and Jeffrey Wilhem’s

    Title: Teaching Literature to Adolescents
    Nov. 2005 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

    A young, limited experienced, pre-service teacher walks into her first day of graduate school. This young woman thinks that she will learn all that is needed to be known on how to fill a 42-minute English class period and how to connect on a common ground with all her future students by the end of the program. Unfortunately, by the time fall semester of her second year in the masters program begins, the young woman finds herself at a loss and continues on without answers. Then, she comes across Deborah Appleman, Richard Beach, Susan Hynds and Jeffrey Wilhem’s text Teaching Literature to Adolescents, and this curious and confused soon-to-be teacher starts finding some answers.

    Teaching Literature to Adolescents provides a source to young adults that will be entering the secondary English education field shortly, but have a few reservations, questions and/or concerns about the curriculum and teaching techniques that should be used. Easy to navigate, each chapter begins with a question that pre-service teachers frequently ask. A chapter overview comes next, and then a short scenario that represents the question and topic follows. After, the author discusses ways to approach the issue, the strengths and weaknesses of every option, and the results of the choices. There is an emphasis on social constructivism in the classroom and socio-cultural theory of literacy. The chapters encourage multicultural literature and highly interactive classroom environments (i.e. learning should be social, not individual at all times). Each chapter ends with additional links, resources and lessons the new-coming teacher may utilize in the classroom.

    Teaching Literature to Adolescents served as helpful and enlightening in my pre-service endeavors. I have already begun to implement a few of the concepts and practices discussed in the book in my tutoring work at a nearby high school. An example of this is Chapter 11: “Teaching Media Literacy” (Appleman 196). Chapter 11 informs the reader of the many approaches he/she may take when including media, film in my case, in a lesson plan. The student that I tutor must read “Lord of the Flies,” but I noticed that he has trouble grasping the concepts of the novel and concentrating after reading ten or fifteen pages. As an attempt to interest him elsewhere, but not go off-course, I rented the 1990 film version of “Lord of the Flies.” The student then answered a variety of questions, comparing the film to the novel, discussing the sound, images and scene changes in the film and their significance to the film’s storyline. After one chapter of comparing and contrasting the film with the novel, the child was anxious to read on and follow his reading with watching the film for further analysis. The guidance of Teaching Literature to Adolescents gave me a way to interest a child into literature that once loathed reading.

  5. ll123

    Li Li’s First Book Review
    I posted my Book Review on Sep.19th, and I think that it is a good idea to update it on the Reviewers’ Page as Dr. Stearns required.

    Reaching Reluctant Teen Readers
    I Won’t Read And You Can’t Make Me is a book that is rich in anecdote and practical in the classroom for ELA teachers written by Marilyn Reynolds, an experienced English teacher who also writes Love Rules and seven other fictional novels.
    The primary purpose of the book I Won’t Read and You Can’t Make Me is to provide ELA teachers with practical application. The author has included Possible Journal Topics (99-100) and Simple Ways to Encourage a Reading Habit (113), and she has also tried to convince the teachers in encouraging them to “offer reality checks to the broader public, and one of the most efficient and effective ways to do that is through publication of letters and opinion pieces in newspaper, and other periodicals that reach a wide readership” (74).
    In I Wont’ Read And You Can’t Make Me, Reynolds uses her personal teaching experience in M. H. S. and her struggling at first with dealing with the reluctant readers who are the victims of poverty, abuse, drugs, alcoholism, mental illness, and who have repeatedly failed the standard curriculum. Since the situation is so discouraging, readers can’t help wondering why she chooses to stay. Reynolds gives us a gentle and vivid answer, “Perhaps I stayed because of the angel bending over me whispering ‘grow, grow’” (4). Yes, we can see from her book that Reynolds herself is the angel who bents over to her students and helps each one of them grow and become involved in her Sustained Silent Reading ( SSR) program. What the students have received is a habit of reading for life.
    How did she do it? We, as ELA teachers and educators, follow through the pages as she guides us into her world of a difficult, yet happy and rewarding journey with her students. The school Reynolds works as she puts it, “every aspect of our troubled society was manifest in M.H. S.’s conglomerate student body.” In her daily procedure, she has to take care of many non-academic issues before she can actually offer students reading time. However, she firmly believes that “the essence of such reading [SSR] has to do with the increased understandings of one’s self and of the world, of enabling the wounded to heal, the isolated to know they are not alone, [and] the bigoted to see the humanity of others. It is about helping the disconnected connect with the world beyond them and the world within them” (8). Based on such belief, the author practiced on her SSR with her most reluctant students throughout the year, and we can see the obviously responses from her students. Her belief in their ability of reading, their comprehension of the knowledge and their inner connection to this world has achieved what all English teachers have dreamed about. From her successful stories, we need sit back and ask ourselves such question, “ Are there really reluctant readers or are there reluctant teachers?” If we all just have Reynolds’ passion of teaching, her persistence of connecting with her students, her professional methods of guiding them into the love of books, and her diligent working attitude, the “ I can’t , I don’t , I won’t “ kids would become less and less in our classroom. Instead, we would find more and more book lovers.

  6. mandygrl101

    Mandy McKenney

    Teachers as Readers
    Edited by Michelle Commeyras, Betty Shockley Bisplinghoff, Jennifer Olsen
    International Reading Association, 2003.

    The instructional and enlightening book Teachers as Readers: Perspectives on the Importance of Reading in Teachers’ Classrooms and Lives, would not exist in print today, if Michelle Commeyras, a teacher and an author, hadn’t acted on a simple idea. Her mission was to create and facilitate a seminar graduate class at the University of Georgia that would bring together a diverse set of teachers, all of whom pursued a reading life separate from their teaching life. Once the class was approved, she determined that it would explore “how a teacher’s personal reading” can “enrich teaching… and teaching reading and language art specifically” (163). Not only was her class a huge success, enrolling women of different ages, with unique teaching experiences and distinct individual reading preferences, but this book is a result of that seminar. It contains 19 incredibly intimate testimonials from the women of the class, reflecting on how their personal and professional lives are influenced by their reading, what they learned both in this seminar and in their own classrooms, and advice for current and future teachers.

    I found the first chapter of this collection to be the most thought provoking and interesting. Michelle Commeyras thoroughly introduces this collection and focuses her chapter on some of the crucial questions that teachers as readers and readers as teachers should contemplate, and many of which her class discussed over the course of the semester. Further, all of the questions she asks her readers to consider help to reveal how we “connect ourselves as readers with ourselves as teachers” and how we “share our reading selves with our students“ (10). Commeyras encourages us to examine our reading behaviors and how we determine what books to read, why we decide to finish a book, why readers cry, why people read with friends, what reading for pleasure means, how length affects our reading decisions, and how world events shape us as readers. By answering these questions, Commeyras believes that teachers and readers can more clearly recognize their reading preferences and experiences, which can and should be shared with students. By sharing our reading lives with our students, we are not only scaffolding reading as an activity outside of the classroom setting, but we also give students the chance to “appreciate and respond” to teachers as readers and readers as teachers by engaging in meaningful dialogue with them (163).

    Aside from Michelle Commeyras insightful essay, the subsequent essays are intriguing as well, as 18 other women explore other important educational issues, including our roles as teachers, how to engage with students, how to reform pedagogy and make students active readers, and how to balance standardized testing accountability with personal classroom objectives. Each of these are controversial topics that demand the attention of teachers, and as readers of this book, we can vicariously examine these issues, gain insight from past and present teachers, and hopefully improve our classrooms, our instructional pedagogies and our relationships with our students.

    The purpose of this book is to encourage teachers to use strategies that good reading teachers employ in their classrooms, and many examples are provided at the end of the book. However, this book also encourages teachers to have a reading life outside of their teaching lives, and to do so indulgently and shamelessly, especially for those who are ELA teachers. Further, is it healthy, if not necessary, to pursue an outside reading life, and this can actually be wonderfully beneficial, both personally and professionally. Commeyras argues that we must “challenge the divide between who we are as readers and who we are as teachers… Each must inform the other…” (162). These women believe that if we understand ourselves as readers, we can share our reading experiences with out students, and connect with them in a way that would otherwise not be possible.

    I am intrigued with this whole book. I admire that these women challenged the International Reading Association’s characteristics of a excellent reading teacher, and advocate, through this book, to have the definition changed, so that it includes additional qualities which are important and overlooked. I also appreciate that not only does the book present individualized essays, but that it is also a collective effort, as evident from the concluding chapters, in which the authors pooled their opinions and knowledge together to focus on 13 “stances” or “attitudes or views” that teachers should take regarding reading in the classroom, and how adopting these stances can lead to increased literacy for students in all aspects of their lives (162).

  7. dldvoracek

    “What Choice Do I Have?” Reading, Writing and Speaking Activities to Empower Students

    Terry Patrick Bigelow and Michael J. Vokoun (2005, Heinmann, Portsmouth, NH)

    What initially drew me to this book was the first sentence. “English teachers teach life.” These four simple words when combined had a profound effect on me because it was the first time that someone thought the same way as I when it came to the role of an English teacher. Society works by means of communication whether verbal or non-verbal and without it society ceases to exist. How are students to function in their own life outside of the classroom without the basic tools of knowing how to communicate in a variety of ways. Think of the student who has finished their high school education and is working full-time and feels they deserve a raise. Without a strong base in communication skills, this student would be ill-prepared to communicate and subsequently justify why he deserves a raise.

    The authors firmly believe that English class “is the one class that can help guide students as they consider the type of people they want to become.” Many may find this statement to be a bit, okay, very self-centered, but consider this. In what other class is a student exposed to some many points of views concerning a variety of issues than through the reading of various texts from books to magazines to newspapers. It is through this exposure that students can educate themselves and begin to form their own stance on issues common to society.

    To delve a little further into the book itself, it is divided into two sections. The first offers an introduction on the philosophy and purpose of the book as well as a background of Terry Bigelow as both student and teacher. As alluded to in the title, the authors spend a fair amount of time defending the idea of choice and why it is so important to those we intend to teach. Choice, in and of itself, puts your students in charge, and therefore more willing to put forth the effort needed to accomplish tasks, they themselves had an investment in.

    The second part of the book offers individual chapters that provide teachers with practical, ready to use tools that encourage choice to students across the English curriculum to include reading, vocabulary, writing and speaking.

    Finally, the text concludes with a section offering ideas guaranteed to add excitement to assignments or tests or as the author so eloquently proclaims “end (things)with a bang!”

    All of the strategies presented are thoroughly explained and easy to use. What truly gives the book credibility is that each strategy has been successfully incorporated into Terry Bigelow’s own classroom and he openly shares his experiences. Additionally, he offers numerous adaptations to each activity as well as additional references so that each can be tailored to suit the needs of individual students.

    I recommend this book for any English teacher wishing to breathe some life into their classrooms and their students.

    Donna Dvoracek

  8. jmdegan

    Review #1

    Misson, R. & Morgan, W. (2006). Critical literacy and the aesthetic: Transforming the English classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

    The critical literacy agenda has emerged as an exciting new pedagogy only in the last fifteen years. It is an approach to discovering the ideological assumptions behind texts with a broadly defined purpose of furthering the cause of social justice and responsibility. It has become a standard goal in most educational policies, but it is in conflict with what we know to go on in most secondary classrooms in the U.S. and U.K. Misson and Morgan, two Australian educators track the history of this reluctance through the first chapter of the book, questioning an assumption that critical literacy and aesthetic study are fundamentally separate disciplines of ELA education.

    This way of looking at the issue has led to the prevailing opinion that the agendas of critical and aesthetic pedagogies are in some way opposed. Misson and Morgan attempt to redefine the relationship between these two approaches. Instead of seeing these as divisive, they suggest that “an awareness and a valuing of the aesthetic can be incorporated into sociocultural and political models of literacy” and “that any model of literacy that does not encompass both an aesthetic and a sociocultural awareness is flawed” (Misson & Morgan 2006, 24). In other words, the perceived incompatibility of social and political critique with aesthetic texts leads to the failure of our discipline to enact those critiques on texts that can have the most profound influence on the reader. Aesthetic texts, the authors argue, engages the reader intellectually and, more importantly, emotionally. Our engagement with these texts “allows us to have a broader range of intense experience and so come to know the world better” and “turned into different, and hopefully more comprehensive, human beings” (122).

    This kind of ethical development, while important, is only part of what aesthetic texts can teach us. The aesthetic, like any other discourse, is deeply imbedded with ideology. The essential purposes of critical literacy are to expose the ideological underpinnings of texts and examine the emerged ideology as a social construct and a socially constructive force. We can thus see how the text enforces socially responsible or socially repressive discourses. The main critique of deploying this pedagogy with aesthetic texts is that it does not account for the emotional responses the text elicits. Yet, the authors argue convincingly that these responses are governed by socially and culturally defined discourses, and so are themselves subject to examination. In other words, we can still appreciate the aesthetic qualities in a text, even as we engage in the kind of social critique valued by critical literacies.

    While much of the book draws on postmodern theory to describe the critical processes of reading the aesthetic, it offers a lengthy chapter on how to utilize the pedagogy of critical literacy in the ELA classroom. Offering five propositions for studying aesthetic texts, the authors suggest several activities that support each proposition. The book is incredibly effective at making the point that aesthetic texts, far from being socially irrelevant, are important sites for students

    to create in themselves various aesthetic pleasures in relation to texts; to understand the social, discursive, and ideological means through which those pleasures have been created textually; and to know the consequences of what those texts offer by way of pleasures, meanings, and subjectivities.

    This book offers a sustainable vision of the future of the aesthetic in ELA classrooms: a form of critique where artistic values are both recognized, appreciated, and interrogated for the purpose of creating a socially responsible literacy for our students.

    J. Degan

  9. ll123

    Li’s 2nd Book Review
    Diane Ravitch’s The Language Police

    Diane Ravitch’s book The Language Police has won 2004 Uncommon Book Award. Its subtitle “How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn” is a precise summary on the content of this marvelous book. Ravitch is a leading American historian who also published seven other books on education, including the critically acclaimed Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reform, which has been widely quoted and debated nationwide in education field.
    Based upon professor Stearns’ suggestion regarding the book review assignment, I have read the first chapter, skimmed others and appendix I, and I also read the last chapter—“The language police: can we stop it?” which I found quite interesting. Ravitch says, “For twenty five years…we have lived with this system of silent censorship” (158). And she boldly points her fingers at the people who are responsible for this and they are: the textbook publishers (chapter 3), the testing companies (chapter 4), the Right (chapter 5) and the Left (chapter six). Now, we naturally want to know who gets to decide what is appropriate and what is not, and are there any standard? Can we somehow fire the language policeman? With such questions in mind, we can follow Ravitch’s political and economic analysis of the causes of censorship through ten chapters and find the answer that the political influence of Right and Left are the decisive power that guides today’s exaggerated censorship in all school prints (even the classic American novels face the changing of certain “inappropriate language”) in order to guarantee the safety of our children living in a vacuum which is free from germs – that shows bias, violence, sex, geographical chauvinism, cultural differences, handicapism, colonism, etc. But in contrary, the author argues, the language police “stops us from having objective thoughts” (158), and reduces children’s interest in their school work by making their studies so deadly dull” (160), and we see the “literary heritage disappears from the schools” (160).
    Let us have a closer look at Appendix I; we will be shocked to find out some of the most ridiculous examples under censorship guideline. For instance, the word “crazy” is banned as offensive and replaced with person with an emotional disability or a mental impairment(173); “dwarf “ is replaced person of short stature (174); “ mothering” is banned as sexist and replaced with parenting( 179); “ waitress” is banned as sexist, and thus replaced with server(182). There are also a lot of phrases and usages are facing the same fate: for example, do not say you and your wife, instead to say you and your spouse (183); do not use the feminine pronoun to refer to countries and boats, use it instead (183). Then we see other examples like potential stereotyped images that have to be avoided in texts, illustrations, for instance, women constantly portrayed as teacher, mother, nurse, or secretary( 184); girls as frightened, weak(186). Other images that need to be avoided are: people as color, Native American people, older people, and persons with disabilities, and persons who are homosexual. Some topics on tests are definitely avoided according such censorship, such as abortion, AIDS, Halloween, disobedient children, serious car accidents, etc. Then, we wonder what is left? Is this world really so perfect?
    We are prone to have empathy towards students’ resentment of their textbooks that full of unreal–usage of words, dull texts with filtered images in their Monday through Friday classes and their confusion of those banned issues that they actually encounter in their daily life – the real language or things that they cannot possibly avoid regardless they like it or not. No wonder “school is the Empire of Boredom” (162). Children have the right to know the truth of what is going on in our world. The censors naively hope that by providing kids the filtered language, the corrected images means that they can protect them from any sense of harm from the atmosphere outside the school building. They should realize that “by avoiding controversy, we teach them to avoid dealing with reality” (165). They want to shield students from potential damage by any kind of negative influence, controversy, or ugliness of reality, yet they probably forget that children are living in a real world with both positive and negative influences. They don’t want kids to experience failure, pains, or discrimination, etc. yet as Martin Rochester says in his famous book Class Warfare, “ I think failure is a wonderful teacher, and that shielding a student from failure is a form of child abuse) ( 113). In one word, the authorities try to engrave into our students’ minds with a rosy world. The question here is what good the censorship does to students’ critical thinking skill or to their capabilities of dealing with the real problems that do exist. The world welcomes them not only with roses but most probably with harsh thorns.
    Ravitch argued, “America’s students are compelled to read insipid texts that have been censored and bowdlerized, issued by publishers who willingly cut controversial material from their books — a case of the bland leading the bland.” We see Ravitch as an advocate of anti-censorship in the front line of education field. She is challenging something bigger than just education. The author shows her eagerness to rescue American students from lacking accurate description of historical events, people or authentic literary works. She not only exposes the problem of existed censorship, she also offers some “ practical and sensible solutions for ending it, which will improve the quality of books for students as well as liberating publishers, state boards of education, and schools from the grip of pressure groups.” In chapter ten, she has three suggestions: First, discontinue the state adoption process for textbooks. Second, the public needs to know what the publishers, the states, and the federal government are doing to educational materials. Third, we need better educated teachers. (166-69). However, as much as I hope her voice be heard by the authorities and also by the majority of Americans; what I want to see most is the importance of her suggestions be realized and thus be adopted effectively in publishing text books or tests. I have grave concern about the time period for the political Right and Left to finally realize the side effect of their action on filtering every detail in each text book and test. I wonder how long will it take for the communities in America to answer Diane Ravitch’s calling, “let us fire the language police” (170). Posted by L. L.

  10. jillian24

    When What You’re Doing Isn’t Working

    Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement gap
    Alfred Tatum. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 2005. 165 pp.

    Alfred Tatum’s biggest theory on the current teaching of black adolescent males is that current practices and reforms are not closing the achievement gap (24). He proposes that reading is a pathway through the turmoil of too many young African-Americans’ lives (24-5). He presents a comprehensive, yet simple structure to bring reading into the lives of these teens. Yet, replace the label and Alfred Tatum’s work applies to all struggling or high risk students. His strategies are based in solidly researched theories that will promote the higher functioning of any student. Based upon the gaps between actual and desired performance, something isn’t working. But what? For schools lacking even a portion of Tatum’s structure, the answer is easy. The solution is easy. Tatum has created a framework fleshed out with appropriate texts, personal experiences, personal poetry, lists, charts and graphic organizers.

    A reader won’t miss the point; Tatum is a great teacher. His language is manageable and his structure linear. For anyone who might miss an idea the first time, repetition through charts, lists and diagrams reinforce key concepts. From the introduction of the experiences of Tatum and other black adolescent males to the appendix of supporting materials, each chapter addresses a separate component of Tatum’s theory, which can be simply stated: “that classrooms must function as nesting grounds for our students” (40). If students are going to reach their potential, teachers must create an environment, a community where the ultimate focus and goal is facilitating students’ best performance.

    With three central tenants, Tatum’s theory claims theoretical, instructional and professional development strands are all necessary components to a “nesting ground framework” (42). In chapters 4-6, Tatum addresses the role of literacy, the empowerment of students and the cultural responsiveness of teachers and texts. A highlight of Tatum’s examination of the ideas that support teachers’ decisions is the comparison of two culturally responsive teachers. One is successful; the other is not. Both are culturally responsive. So, Tatum gives a list of questions to guide teachers in being productively culturally responsive (80). Chapters 7-9 address the curriculum necessary for successful instruction, including an array of examples. The basis of Tatum’s theory is illuminated in Chapter 9: teachers must build relationships with each individual student in order to create the community. The examples of assessments and the supplemental questions Tatum includes provide building blocks for establishing healthy relationships with students- and they don’t cost a thing (131). Finally, Tatum examines the role of professional development in Chapters 10 and 11. The community motif applies here, as well. Tatum encourages teachers to ask questions of themselves, of the students, of other teachers and of experts in order to improve their teaching on an ongoing basis.

    Tatum’s approachable structure makes this work a quick first read. Confidence in Tatum’s ideas stems from the practical application of renowned educational theorists. Yet, it is the helpful handbook style that will keep teachers returning to this work whenever they encounter resistance. Tatum presents adolescents who resist education as misunderstood, not as “bad kids”. He challenges teachers to approach struggling students with an understanding mindset, use proven instructional techniques and constantly return to the support of other professionals.

    – Jillian Everly

  11. ll123

    Li’s 2nd Book Review
    Diane Ravitch’s The Language Police

    Diane Ravitch’s book The Language Police has won 2004 Uncommon Book Award. Its subtitle “How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn” is a precise summary on the content of this marvelous book. Ravitch is a leading American historian who also published seven other books on education, including the critically acclaimed Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reform, which has been widely quoted and debated nationwide in education field.
    Based upon professor Stearns’ suggestion regarding the book review assignment, I have read the first chapter, skimmed others and appendix I, and I also read the last chapter—“The language police: can we stop it?” which I found quite interesting. Ravitch says, “For twenty five years…we have lived with this system of silent censorship” (158). And she boldly points her fingers at the people who are responsible for this and they are: the textbook publishers (chapter 3), the testing companies (chapter 4), the Right (chapter 5) and the Left (chapter six). Now, we naturally want to know who gets to decide what is appropriate and what is not, and are there any standard? Can we somehow fire the language policeman? With such questions in mind, we can follow Ravitch’s political and economic analysis of the causes of censorship through ten chapters and find the answer that the political influence of Right and Left are the decisive power that guides today’s exaggerated censorship in all school prints (even the classic American novels face the changing of certain “inappropriate language”) in order to guarantee the safety of our children living in a vacuum which is free from germs – that shows bias, violence, sex, geographical chauvinism, cultural differences, handicapism, colonism, etc. But in contrary, the author argues, the language police “stops us from having objective thoughts” (158), and reduces children’s interest in their school work by making their studies so deadly dull” (160), and we see the “literary heritage disappears from the schools” (160).
    Let us have a closer look at Appendix I; we will be shocked to find out some of the most ridiculous examples under censorship guideline. For instance, the word “crazy” is banned as offensive and replaced with person with an emotional disability or a mental impairment(173); “dwarf “ is replaced person of short stature (174); “ mothering” is banned as sexist and replaced with parenting( 179); “ waitress” is banned as sexist, and thus replaced with server(182). There are also a lot of phrases and usages are facing the same fate: for example, do not say you and your wife, instead to say you and your spouse (183); do not use the feminine pronoun to refer to countries and boats, use it instead (183). Then we see other examples like potential stereotyped images that have to be avoided in texts, illustrations, for instance, women constantly portrayed as teacher, mother, nurse, or secretary( 184); girls as frightened, weak(186). Other images that need to be avoided are: people as color, Native American people, older people, and persons with disabilities, and persons who are homosexual. Some topics on tests are definitely avoided according such censorship, such as abortion, AIDS, Halloween, disobedient children, serious car accidents, etc. Then, we wonder what is left? Is this world really so perfect?
    We are prone to have empathy towards students’ resentment of their textbooks that full of unreal–usage of words, dull texts with filtered images in their Monday through Friday classes and their confusion of those banned issues that they actually encounter in their daily life – the real language or things that they cannot possibly avoid regardless they like it or not. No wonder “school is the Empire of Boredom” (162). Children have the right to know the truth of what is going on in our world. The censors naively hope that by providing kids the filtered language, the corrected images means that they can protect them from any sense of harm from the atmosphere outside the school building. They should realize that “by avoiding controversy, we teach them to avoid dealing with reality” (165). They want to shield students from potential damage by any kind of negative influence, controversy, or ugliness of reality, yet they probably forget that children are living in a real world with both positive and negative influences. They don’t want kids to experience failure, pains, or discrimination, etc. yet as Martin Rochester says in his famous book Class Warfare, “ I think failure is a wonderful teacher, and that shielding a student from failure is a form of child abuse) ( 113). In one word, the authorities try to engrave into our students’ minds with a rosy world. The question here is what good the censorship does to students’ critical thinking skill or to their capabilities of dealing with the real problems that do exist. The world welcomes them not only with roses but most probably with harsh thorns.
    Ravitch argued, “America’s students are compelled to read insipid texts that have been censored and bowdlerized, issued by publishers who willingly cut controversial material from their books — a case of the bland leading the bland.” We see Ravitch as an advocate of anti-censorship in the front line of education field. She is challenging something bigger than just education. The author shows her eagerness to rescue American students from lacking accurate description of historical events, people or authentic literary works. She not only exposes the problem of existed censorship, she also offers some “ practical and sensible solutions for ending it, which will improve the quality of books for students as well as liberating publishers, state boards of education, and schools from the grip of pressure groups.” In chapter ten, she has three suggestions: First, discontinue the state adoption process for textbooks. Second, the public needs to know what the publishers, the states, and the federal government are doing to educational materials. Third, we need better educated teachers. (166-69). However, as much as I hope her voice be heard by the authorities and also by the majority of Americans; what I want to see most is the importance of her suggestions be realized and thus be adopted effectively in publishing text books or tests. I have grave concern about the time period for the political Right and Left to finally realize the side effect of their action on filtering every detail in each text book and test. I wonder how long will it take for the communities in America to answer Diane Ravitch’s calling, “let us fire the language police” (170). Posted by L. L.

  12. jexter1

    Jessica Exter’s 2nd book review

    Author: Theodore R. Sizer

    Title: The Red Pencil: convictions from experience in education (2004, Yale University Press, New Haven)

    Writer and veteran educator of America’s youth, Theodore R. Sizer, conducted a personal observation/study over the years in the education system, producing The Red Pencil: convictions from experience in education. As opposed to the standard instructional texts that guide soon-to-be teachers through their first day of teaching, Sizer criticizes and advises the past, present and predictable future of the educational system. Through Sizer’s writings, one comes to understand how socio-economic class has affected the classroom and teacher for years.

    A topic that has been focused on in AED 541 is incorporating young adolescent interests and relevant experiences into their reading and writing. Additionally, we have established that building a relationship with one’s students allows for better teaching and most likely higher achievement amongst students, since the teacher can gear his/her lessons to appeal to the students. Sizer first touches upon this on page 5 by stating, “… if we want a powerfully educated population we must attend to all aspects of each child’s situation…” Student involvement will rise when students are allowed to bring their points of view, hobbies and concerns into the classroom, rather checking them at the door as we have done for decades. Sizer continues his thought by comparing the importance of input versus output in classroom, and how the two correspond with the amount of attention given to students’ culture. Sizer adds that too many schools shortchange their students due the socio-economic state the school is in. “A successful school might be best described as one that produced “upper-class” – future-oriented – graduates,” writes Sizer in his portrayal of schools over time (Sizer 14). Students of lower socio-economic status are at a disadvantage by also attending under-privileged schools. By being raised in a lower class, the students are denied the infinite number of books, resources and extra help that upper-class students receive. Sizer discusses this angrily and poses multiple solutions that educators and advocates should use. As one reads on, it becomes evident that Sizer supports and encourages “free minds” and “creativity” amongst both students and educators. Through historical examples and argumentative writing, Sizer proves his thesis a strong and useful one.

    Sizer discusses in greater depth the difference between teaching and learning, how to create a congruency between the two, the (negative and positive) significance of authority in the school and at home, and the structure and arrangement of the education system. Sizer’s study proves that the education system has failed its students, especially those of diverse and/or underprivileged backgrounds. Through the historical accounts that Sizer writes about and his proof of how education has wronged students for the last five decades, incoming and veteran educators can work towards change and improvement. Furthermore, Sizer demands for schools to honor and respect students’ differences, and provide attention to each student individually.

    Divided into chapters titled “Building,” “Authority,” “Order,” “Horace Compromised” (a reflection on his previous book on education), and the Epilogue, “Dodging Our Duty,” Sizer publishes his own case study on the education system. With suggestions and guidelines for reform, Sizer tells new and elder educators the education system is in desperate need of a facelift. This short, slender book intends to influence the decisions and practices of policy-makers, parents/guardians and educators. The Red Pencil motivated me to want to teach differently from my past teachers, become more involved with students, and embrace my future students’ differences.

  13. allison

    Allison Porzio
    October 17, 2007
    Professional Review
    Literature Circles 2nd Ed. by Harvey Daniels
    Stenhouse Publishers 2002

    Building Circles to Benefit Students

    Harvey Daniel’s second edition of Literature Circles offers teachers a very structured plan for implementing these groups in their classrooms. In the past weeks, I have looked at several texts on how to increase literacy in the classroom. Daniel’s book excels because he provides methods for teachers and students that seem unlikely to fail if implemented well.

    Daniels clearly explains his definition of a literature circle and what a teacher must do to build such a program in their classroom. While Daniels acknowledges that some teachers deviate from this plan, he asserts that his method is distinct. His particular plan is a good one for several reasons. First, the classroom is divided into small, temporary groups of students. Each group reads a different book, article, poem, chapter, play, or other text. The students choose which group to join by deciding which text they would like to read. The students are not divided reading level or ability; rather they are divided by interest in a specific text. The teacher does not divide them to create specific groups; instead the students choose their own groups. This aspect deviates from the methods of Deborah Appleman in her book Reading for Themselves (2006). Appleman’s method provides that the entire book club reads the same novel. The Daniels’ method is also distinct from that of Nancie Atwell’s method in The Reading Zone (2007). In Atwell’s book, she examines the advantages of allowing the students of a class to read different novels, and then make recommendations to one another. Daniels’ method seems to be the best of both worlds. The students benefit from reading the same books. They will be able to have the depth of discussion that Appleman’s club is able to have, and they will be able to have the option of choice that Atwell’s students are able to have. Further, the students who engage in Daniel’s literature circles will surely be enthusiastic about the discussion because they have independently chosen to read the text and they will feel a responsibility in the group.

    The students will feel this responsibility since Daniels’ method insists that students lead their own discussions. Appleman and Atwell also glorify this method, insisting that letting the students talk builds their literacy skills. Daniels provides roles for students such as “Connector,” who finds connections between the book and themselves; “Questioner,” who writes questions they had about the book; and “Word Wizard,” who finds words that are important or provides definitions for unfamiliar words. There are many other roles as well and Daniels provides worksheets explaining each role, which can be photo-copied from the book and given to students. These roles allow students independence, and the teacher should only be involved as an occasional facilitator or observer.

    The teacher must observe to aid discussion when needed and to evaluate the students’ work. Like Atwell, Daniels favors positive reinforcement and evaluation; the evaluation should never stifle the reading/discussing process. Daniels says teachers must use tools of “kidwatching, narrative observational logs, performance assessment, checklists, student conferences, group interviews, video/audiotaping, and the collection in portfolios of the artifacts created by lit circles.” (Daniels 24). If a rubric must be made, Daniels asserts that allowing the kids to help make the rubric is more fun and more educational (196). Daniels provides an entire chapter on the methods of evaluation, which above all, must be unobtrusive.

    Daniels book provides a reliable method for instituting literature circles. The first edition was published in 1994, and this edition was published in 2002. This history, along with the examples he provides of successful performance of the method, convinced me of its effectiveness. Any teacher would benefit from this method. It is a method that I hope to institute in my own classroom one day, and I would recommend it to my fellow teachers as well.

    For Further Reading:

    Appleman, Deborah. Reading for Themselves. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006.

    Atwell, Nancie. The Reading Zone. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2007 .

    Daniels, Harvey. Literature Circles. 2nd Ed. Portland: Stenhouse Publishers, 2002.

  14. canadawr5

    Ray Canada
    October 21, 2007
    Book Review 2
    Conversational Borderlands
    Language and Identity in an Alternative Urban High School

    This is a non fictional report of the school systems in the state of California. Betsy Rymes voices her concerns toward the schools in the city of L.A. Many of these schools are adjacent to downtrodden drug infested neighborhoods that fail to implement and encourage academic excellence. She interviews high school drop outs and gives the readers a chance to see the mindsets of those who fail to finish their secondary education. Rhymes has a chapter entitled “dropping in”, which refers to students who quit but then returned to school after a brief hiatus. She conducts interviews from this group and questions them about why they decided to return. Rhymes attempts to know everything she can about these teenagers including their vocabulary. The “language of dropping out” is an analysis of why these students felt that they could no longer succeed in the school system. Rhymes uses the term ”Reframing Dropping Out Narratives”, to signify the various stories she heard from the students who had the hardest time attending school and successfully succeding in the system. Most of the students interviewed are gang members and their government and gang names are documented in the text. The section entitled, “When Friends Aren’t Friends”, uncovers the nature of the comradship which exists in the underworld. Many gang members felt that their “friendships” were based solely on gang affiliation. Everything was for the love of the gang. There were times that affiliates had to do bad things to those who were their friends because they were told to do so by their superiors. School closure’s were common in many areas and many students were frustrated. They would come to school only to get to the door and not be able to get inside. She also talks about teaching reforms and the many ways in which society can better improve its city schools.

    Rhymes reported that in the city of L.A., 25-30% of students drop out of high school. This is a major reason why Charter Schools had become so popular in the last two decades. Many people were hoping that Charter Schools could alleviate some of the problems which plagued inner city school students. Charter schools were also funded by the state and California had passed a law in the early 1990’s to open 100 charter’s. One of the goals of charter schools were to help create more educational opportunities for underserved minority students. Rhymes talks about a section in L.A. county called the Pacific Palisades. The parents who lived in this area began sending their kids to private schools once the overpopulated inner city schools started busing kids to the suburbs.

    There are many reasons that kids had for dropping out; all of which do not pertain to the difficulty of academics. In a section called “Knife Story”,one student admits that a fellow student turned a knife on him because he was a member of a different gang. There was a story from another student who admitted to being stabbed in the bathroom. Many kids had reported being attacked in hallways and classrooms.

    Rhymes decided to have a conversational group and the worst students participated because they could receive money for summer programs. She had seminar’s for students who dropped out as well as students who “dropped in”. She gathered her information by receiving feedback from everyone. There was one student named “Gracie” who admitted dropping out because she was a gang member but “dropped in” because she wanted to be a good example for her son. Rhymes says, “Dropping out and dropping in perspectives need not be so mutually exclusive” (91). She also had discussions with group leaders. These were usually gang members, taggers, and other students who were considered “role models” to others. So they could become affiliates, these kids had to be “jumped in” (beat visciously) before they could become gang members. They looked at their gang leaders as not only role models but father figures since many of them lacked having positive strong men at home. She was shocked to learn that many of these students thought going to jail was honorable.

    Many teachers felt they had a lot in common with these students because they shared the similar ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, Rhymes says that they were still worlds apart from what these students encountered on a daily basis. The most relevant issue here is that students had a difficult time distinguishing themselves as students and this is a major reason why they could so easily walk away from school. Rhymes hoped that through her seminars and conversational groups, she could change the way students viewed themselves and motivate them to finish their education.

    Many students can learn from this text by realizing not only how good some of their schools may be but the despair that many students deal with (in this country) in regards to educational attainment. If they can acknowlege it, then maybe the next generation can fix the problem.

  15. sfarah19

    Suzanne Farah
    2nd Book Review

    Ernest Morell
    Linking Literacy and Popular Culture: Finding Connections for Lifelong Learning

    2004 Christopher-Gordon Publishers Inc.
    Nowrwood, MA

    “Popular Culture is a lens in which students view and make sense of the world”
    -Ernest Morrell

    Ernest Morrell’s book is essentially about using popular culture to make connections between local literacies and the literacies of schools (13). Morell argues that, as educators, it is our job to prepare our students to properly integrate into our society; a society that is increasingly postindustrial and “techno-literate.” Morrell focuses his argument around the New Literacy Theory and the idea of teachers as researchers and knowledge producers with in this discipline (11).

    Morrell introduces New Literacy Theory in his opening chapter. New Literacy theorists believe that students are not illiterate but that they posses literacies that have little connection with the dominant literacies that are promoted through institutions like our public schools (12). Morrell argues that the greatest failure in American education today is our inability to find effective ways to develop academic and critical literacies among students across “multiple lines of difference (4).” Chapter One introduces the author’s idea behind linking literacy and pop culture. Morrell describes his experiences as an African American youth in the New York City public school system. He describes his educational experience as alienating and discouraging. His teachers failed to inspire a real desire to learn in him. He argues this is mainly because of the curriculum. Morrell never felt he could relate to any of the literature being studied in his classrooms and therefore became ambivilant and disinterested in school. It was not until he began listening to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power Album” that he became inspired to question the literature he was being taught:

    “The album caused him to reflect on his own education: which texts he was forced to read, who had been portrayed as the hero(s), and what values had been promoted or left out (9).”

    Morrell believes that if more teachers would encourage and integrate pop culture into the curriculum than maybe the gap between the student’s literacies and the dominant literacies of our public school would be bridged. Morrell makes several arguments for teaching popular culture in the classroom: First, he argues that pop culture is relevant to the lives of adolescents. If we encourage students to read against the texts they are being forced to read, they will be able to appreciate the source and content as relatable to the world and their own lives (40). Second, pop culture consumption involves intellecutally rigorous literacy practices. Third, teaching pop culture can help young people make connections to academic texts and concepts. Fourth, pop culture can facilitate critical readings of the worlds of America’s youth. Lastly, teaching pop culture can provide greater motivation for many students.

    Morrell does not argue that educators should use popular culture with out fully researching and investigating which forms of popular culture prove to be the most innovative and help yield the types of radical classroom practices that will create dynamic literacy-learning classrooms (17). Besides making an argument for teaching popular culture, Morrell also argues for teachers as ethnographers of language and literacy practices of the neighboorhoods and homes of their students (6). Only, through these active research projects and learning through our students, can we as educators become revoutionary in our teaching, hopefully, creating a learning enviornment that values and enhances literacy skills across multiple lines of difference.

    The critical aim of the book is to understand how, we as critical educators, can integrate (relevant) popular culture into our curricula to inspire and involve America’s youth in “revolutionary practices that lead to social, academic, and critical transformations (10).”

  16. mandygrl101

    Mandy McKenney
    Book Review 2
    Bob Fecho’s: Is This English? Race, Language and Culture in the Classroom

    Bob Fecho began his career in 1974, with no intention of working in a predominantly African American urban school district in Philadelphia, as one of the few white teachers. However, he was offered a job as an English teacher, and in desperate need of work, he took it. Regardless of his initial lack of purpose regarding his career, it is clear from his book Is This English? Race, Language and Culture in the Classroom that he made a life changing decision when he chose to enter the field of education.

    Over the course of his career, Fecho has encountered an array of educational issues, from administrative issues, to recognizing inequities in the U.S. education system, but most importantly he encountered students, both those who failed and those who succeeded. And it was through these students that Fecho gained a greater sense of purpose as an educator. He even realized that his first day as a teacher in Philadelphia marked the construction of the “frame” from which he would “build outward” for the rest of his educational career (2). Through this text, it is obvious that Fecho was deeply impacted from both his early teaching experiences and from every subsequent year he remained in the field, totaling more than twenty. This book is his testimonial, not only of his own trials and tribulations, which many teachers can relate to and which others can become enlightened about, but most importantly it is about how race, language, and culture affect literacy classrooms.

    I personally found chapter one to be the most informational section of this text, as Fecho eloquently and shamelessly outlines what this book is and is not about. He is very forthcoming with his ideas and divulges that aside from being about race, language and culture in the classroom, his book is also about diversity, values, democracy, power, struggles, truth, and prejudices. His book and his ELA pedagogy are both about interrogating these controversial issues and searching for answers, by having student engage in discussions to aid in the pursuit of meaning, and to develop empowering discourses, through literacy and critical thinking skills. This book is also about learning processes and “learning to teach, teaching to learn, and about embracing the belief that both activities occur simultaneously throughout one’s career” (3). All of these explorations function together to “make sense” of how educators and students use transactions, or how “we shape and are shaped by texts we encounter” to “find…meaning in our worlds” (4). As Fecho argues, finding meaning is interdependent on other factors, including language, race and culture. Fecho adamantly emphasizes that his book isn’t about best practice, educational models, or about a “white teacher educationally saving black children”, all overdone topics that readers are fortunate to escape with this book (7). Fecho inspires teachers to enhance their understandings of their individual students, their school environments and themselves, in order to develop better pedagogy specifically in diverse ELA classrooms (11).

    Throughout the text and in the beginning of each chapter, Fecho presents readers with various vignettes which recollect experiences he encountered in education, both as a student and as a teacher. After each description, he proceeds to make meaning of these experiences and theorizes how they have impacted him individually, and thus how they impact and inform his teaching methodology and in turn, his students.

    At the end of the text, Fecho proposes various ways for creating learning communities within our schools, in order to enhance literacy skills. However, the end of the book is primarily dedicated to advocating for implementing “critical inquiry classrooms” into every school, to represent a place where students and teachers can share their perspectives, embrace literacy, enable each other to cross cultural boundaries, and to foster future quality learning experiences while being responsive and responsible members of the classroom. Further, Fecho deems that critical inquiry is “a way of life”, an appropriate ending for a book that serves as a vicarious journey for educators, who seek purpose in their teaching, since there is no better way to find meaning, than through individual and collaborative critical inquiry. This book is especially informative for those who are interested in accessing the culture of their students and exploring “what happens when teachers and students inquire into issues of language and literacy across boundaries of race” (3). Fecho’s purpose appears to be to encourage teachers to be a presence in their classrooms, to understand kids by reading and accessing their culture, and thus, help them evolve as learners. Although this book is a powerful educational tool, I think it’s purpose is much more significant. I think Fecho truly stress the importance of caring about “both who you teach and what you teach.”

    I find this book fascinating, as my education experiences are in stark contrast to what Fecho describes. I was rarely, if ever, in a classroom that promoted critical inquiry when I was in high school, so I can especially appreciate his stance on this issue. Further, it is hard to me to relate to many of the issues that characterize urban schools, as I never attended one and have yet to observed in an urban setting. However, I was still able to find this text informative and enlightening, which speaks to the powers of Fecho’s arguments, opinions and writing ability.

  17. traverse02

    Sorry Everyone! I posted my first draft of my book review on accident.

    Raphael Tombasco

    Book Review 2

    22 October 2007

    Authors: Gayle H. Gregory and Carolyn Chapman
    Title: Differentiated Instructional Strategies (2002, Corwin Press, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA)

    Vary the Attack to Fit the Situation: The Art of Developing a Meaningful Classroom

    Gregory and Chapman’s text is an important resource for all teachers who wish to connect with students on multiple levels. It explains how our minds become engaged in assigning meaning to the content of our lives and it presents options, not one true way, to sustain said engagement. The authors—both renowned educational consultants/trainers–recognize the importance of varying the attack to fit the situation.

    One Size Doesn’t Fit All

    As the subtitle to Differentiated Instructional Strategies mentions, one size doesn’t fit all. People are “different, they learn differently and have different likes, preferences and needs.” Gregory and Chapman describe a differentiated classroom as “one in which a teacher responds to those needs” by providing a variety of options, content, assessment tools, performance tasks and instructional strategies.

    The idea is to promote C.A.R.T. skills and attributes. C.A.R.T. is an acronym that breaks down as follows: C(Connected, competence, confidence, compassion), A(Acceptance, affection, appreciation), R(Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, responsibility, respect, relationships), T(Thinking, technology, team work).


    The first chapter outlines different ways for teachers to produce a climate, a zone or social atmosphere that allows for productive thinking. In order for teachers to promote this type of learning, it is important that we understand the potential of each student at an individual level. Gregory and Chapman state how cooperatively developing this climate with the students can facilitate engagement on a much deeper level than if teachers simply impose a prescribed setting. We have to be aware of the students’ emotions and do everything possible to eliminate possible threats and create an open environment that promotes the reaching of mutual goals.

    Gregory and Chapman go on to stress how the physical environment should reflect the emotional environment of the classroom. They describe how simple things such as lighting and cleanliness can go a long way in creating a positive atmosphere for learning. Displaying student artwork is given as an example of something that can give the class pride in what they have accomplished. Social interaction is encouraged.

    Knowledge and Assessment of the Learner

    The next two chapters provide outlines on different learning and thinking styles and the ways in which we can assess these styles.

    In planning curricula, it is important to be mindful of which students are auditory learners (those who learn from spoken, audio material), visual learners (those who take in what they see and read), tactile learners (those who absorb material they handle) and kinesthetic learners (those who thrive on physically involving material). We must also note whether or not they understand material in or out of sequence concretely or abstractly.

    For us to assess these ways of learning and thinking, Gregory and Chapman state that we must allow for students’ self-reflection by implementing a variety of techniques (such as journals, surveys, checklists, and so on). There is also a level of pre-assessment that is essential in planning since there is no point in going over material the students already know. Gregory and Chapman also focus on the importance of combining the final grade with ongoing assessment so that the student is constantly aware of where he or she stands in regards to understanding the material. They believe, and I believe, that a grade should not just be determined by test and quiz scores alone.

    Adjusting, Compacting Grouping

    Gregory and Chapman define adjustable assignments as those in which “students focus on essential skills and understanding key concepts recognizing that they may be at different levels of readiness” (p 58). Basically, as knowledge and experience vary, so should assignments.

    It is important to expand and contract our curricula so as to maximize time. The text mentions again the importance of pre-assessment (figuring out what students already know/don’t know). Collaboration with other teachers in the school is mentioned as a good way to gather information for pre-assessment (and as a good way to contextualize lessons with material the students are learning in other classes).


    This is a very informative text with good examples of tools that can be used to create strategies of our own with a focus on non-static approaches to teaching. Gregory and Chapman provide good examples of how to engage and assess ourselves and our learners. They also explore important factors in curriculum development (very useful in regard to our project this semester). Each topic is relevant and can be discussed at great length in 541.

  18. dldvoracek

    Title: Youth Online: Identity and Literacy in the Digital Age
    Author: Angela Thomas
    Year: 2007
    Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York

    At first glance, this book appeared to be good reference on how to incorporate technology into the classroom and thereby engage students in ways in which are more comfortable to today’s generation.

    Upon reading the introduction, I soon discovered that the text was essentially a dissertation aimed at those in the scholarly world and not to the average high school English teacher. The second chapter bored the reader with references to every known researcher involved in the study of technology and its influence on identity among youth. The remainder of the book focused on case study after case study of youth involved in various forms of online communication from chat rooms to gaming communities and the literacy skills required in each. While it supported the idea that such forums are ideal settings for youth to develop literacy skills that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to explore in the offline community, the greatest let down was that no guidance was offered on how to incorporate such forums to the classroom setting. While the idea that youth are able to develop skills of leadership, explore their own identity and become community activists, I was so turned off by the scholarly writing format of the book that I completely lost interest.

    Although I wouldn’t recommend this book to other aspiring or practicing English teachers, I would like to see the author take all the data and demonstrate in practical terms how her research could be translated into effective teaching strategies.


  19. sofiapenna

    Sofia’s Book Review #2
    Title: Teachers as Readers
    Editors: Commeyras, Bisplinghoff & Olson

    Each chapter in Teachers as Readers has been written by a different teacher, and this variety of voice gives many excellent perspectives on being a teacher who also reads. The central question that each essay in this book addresses is, “What is the potential of a teacher’s personal reading for enhancing teaching in general and teaching reading and language arts specifically?” (p. 5). A total of 18 essays on this topic have created Teachers as Readers, and each author joined together in the same seminar on this topic before they began writing. It was that graduate-level seminar that inspired the book, because each member of the class understood the imperative need for teachers to share their reading lives with students. Throughout the chapters, you will find references from other teaching journals, featuring authors such as Atwell-Vasey, Baumbach, Rummel, and Quintero.

    The most invaluable question asked in the first chapter of the book is, “Got a reading friend?” (p.14). This question explores the idea that, as adults, we teachers should be able to reach out to one or two friends who we talk to about what we are reading, how we understand what we read, and how our books of interest widen our perspective. Because we enjoy relating to our grown-up reading buddies, we should also provide this same opportunity for our younger students. Working in opportunities for in-class sharing and critiquing fosters intimacy between students who learn about each other through their reading choices. I strongly relate to this suggestion, because I never had the opportunity to discuss my personal reading life (or anyone else’s) throughout my high school experience in the 90s. If my high school English teachers took the time to orchestrate a book club or reading buddies program, I would have been much more motivated to read more outside of school. If the payoff was going to be an opportunity to talk to others about my hand-picked novels, I would have read every night!

    However, this idea about reading friends and book clubs is not a new one, and so I began searching through Teachers as Readers for some new idea that I have not heard before. My goal in reviewing this book was to walk away with a brand new teaching tool in-hand. I certainly found one! This somewhat familiar idea presented itself in a new, catchy phrase that will stick with me. Every time I tell myself to “come out as a reader” in front of my students, I will think about Sarah Bridges chapter on crying with her students during a reading of Cana River. Bridges writes about the immediate interest her students took in the novel and in her emotional response when they saw her tears as she read to them. This kind of coming out is a memory that every student will keep, because it is the day they saw their teacher cry. More than this, it is the day they saw their teacher as a real person and a real reader. Exposing a little bit of ourselves teaches our students that reading is highly intimate, and they have every right to learn this first from us.

    The greatest lesson on the dangers of being a hypocrite in the classroom comes in Margaret Echols chapter on reading pleasures in the second half of the book. Echols writes, “I want to find out what my children think about this thing called reading and if they see me as a reader” (p.122). Echols reminds us that reading is about building relationships, and if we do not read as teachers, classroom relationships with our students will be nonexistent. Relationships in the ELA classroom can exist between the student reader and his favorite character, other students who are impressed by his book choice, and the teacher who wants to learn more about him through his reading life. However, relationships are about give and take, and so the relationship cannot be one-sided. The teacher, in return, must share her reading choices, her favorite characters, her reading difficulties, and her reading triumphs with her students. If we as teachers think the reading relationship can be one-sided in our classrooms, we are hypocrites who cheat our books, our students, and our profession, and we have forgotten the importance of our reading journeys. We must practice what we preach, and we must read like it’s still our first love. Hopefully, we still love it and still want to learn how to do it better every day.

    As I finish the final chapter of the book, I try to return to the main question that was asked in the beginning, “What is the potential of a teacher’s personal reading for enhancing teaching?” I don’t believe any one of us can argue that personal reading is not crucial to the life of an English teacher. However, I believe that this book is a must-read for you if you have forgotten to make time for personal reading, or forgotten to talk to your students about your next Barnes and Noble purchase. Personally, I am very guilty of neglecting my reading life outside of school and work. I have found inspiration in Teachers as Readers, but not because it has bombarded me with many new ideas or tools. Rather, it has been a practical reminder of why we love to read, and of why we have a duty as teachers to share our passion with our students. Whenever you need your reminder of this duty, pick up a copy of Teachers as Readers. After the first chapter, you will have your light-bulb moment and feel a strong desire to wipe the dust off of the paperback novel on your nightstand.


  20. rayhedrick

    Ray Hedrick
    October 2007
    Book Review #2

    Meier, Deborah. The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem. Boston, Beacon Press: 1995.

    It Just Does Not Work: Transforming Public Education with Deborah Meier

    For my second book review I read The Power of Their Ideas, by Deborah Meier. This is not a book that I would have normally picked for myself; however, I am glad that Dr. Stearns recommended it for me. The major “theme” of this well-written text is the idea that schools should construct well-rounded citizens and decent human beings rather than skilled, professional academics.

    This book is easy to read, and I would recommend it to anyone. Meier’s technique of showing-by-example is very successful. At first, Meier describes her work as a co-principal for a school in Harlem. Meier co-founded this alternative high-school in which 90% of the students graduate high-school and go on to college. The most surprising fact that arises from this is that despite their success, these students are mostly African-American or Hispanic from low-income households. She writes that “The story of Central Park East [the alternative school that she co-founded] is important because it offers a chance to shed the mystery and join the challenge of educating all our kids in unprecedented ways” (67).

    Meier attributes her success to her awareness of the current problems in public education. She shows that these are caused by inequality, school bureaucracies and unrealistic demands for performance. Identifying the problem is only the first step. Her solution to these problems was simple: choice. She writes, “While choice has been advocated by enemies of public education, I believe that choice is in fact an essential tool for saving public education” (93).

    Meier continues to discuss the pros and cons of choice: “Public school advocates worry that choice, even if occasionally beneficial, will become a vehicle for creating an elite set of public schools that will increase–not narrow–the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and that it will ultimately be used to undermine public education itself” (97). However, she also writes that “The primary reason [to advocate choice] is that choice may offer the only way to create schools that can experiment with the radically new pedagogical practices being wisely recommended by educators these days” (100).

    Meier shows us the benefits of choice through examples. I would highly recommend that everyone read this book becuase it isn’t as effective unless the story is told, understood. Anyone could write a book review on this book; however, the stories, which can not be retold as effectively, are the key to the success of this book. This book does truly have the potential to change how we think about teaching and learning, as we already are in this class.

  21. jexter1

    Jessica Exter’s draft review/critique on a YA text.

    Author: Patricia McCormick
    Title: Sold (2006, Hyperion, New York)

    Lakshmi, a thirteen-year-old girl from Nepal, tells a heart-wrenching story of life as a sex slave. Born into poverty on an isolated mountain where everyone knows each other’s names and business, Lakshmi is ordered by her step-father to become the source of income for her family. Lakshmi is ultimately removed from her hometown and displaced in the hustle and bustle of Calcutta, India. Unbeknownst to Lakshmi, she had been sold into prostitution to support her family. Author, Patricia McCormick, the best-selling author of Cut, writes Sold in blank verse, creating vignettes that focus on particular moments of Lakshmi’s journey from innocence, to emptiness and torment, to survival. McCormick intensely uses the feminist critique to construct her characters and set the mood. Through deconstruction of the text, McCormick brings readers into consciousness of the cruelty and abuse against young adolescent girls as sex slaves, America’s efforts to stop such practices, and a respect for the innocence and liveliness of young adolescents.

    McCormick arranges her vignettes in fictional, yet realistic pieces. At the close of the book, McCormick explains that she researched and prepared for writing Sold by following Nepalese girls in their tracks from quiet homes in Nepal to the chaos and crime of sexual slavery in Calcutta, India. McCormick also interviewed aid workers that rescue girls of sexual slavery, tend to their medical needs, provide them with job training and assimilate them back into society. Interviews with survivors of prostitution in Calcutta served as the most influential and emotional part of writing Sold (McCormick 265).

    Sold is an appropriate text for young adolescents, particular in 9th grade. An excellent text to for attributing many types of literary critiques, 7th and 8th graders do not have the maturity level and emotional depth needed for to read and analyze Sold. Students will notice the constant use of characterization, symbolism, imagery and foreshadowing. McCormick writes about a young prostitute that Lakshmi comes into contact with under the vignette titled “Understanding Anita,” “She could not smile, even if she had a reason to” (McCormick 156). The emotional and psychological tolls of sexual slavery reveal themselves in descriptions of characters in the text. Graphic verses compel the reader to become emotionally involved with the text. With a tone mixed with sadness and anger, McCormick writes of Lakshmi’s first job or rape:

    “With a sudden thrust I am torn in two . . . I hear, coming from a distance, a steady thud . . . another sound interrupts . . . I know this noise from somewhere. I work very hard to make it out. Finally, I identify it. It is the muffled sound of sobbing . . . Then I understand: I was the person crying.” (McCormick 120-121)

    McCormick writes with honesty and conviction. In the character of Lakshmi, McCormick places the reader into the mind and heart of a scorned girl. Young adolescents will look at the sanctity of their bodies differently, boys will view girls and women with a new-found respect and girls will find instantaneous pain and hope for young Lakshmi.

    Patricia McCormick’s text Sold, a National Book Award finalist, should be part of the required reading for all secondary English classrooms. Students may research the cultures and politics of foreign countries, conduct a current events project on recent findings in sexual slavery throughout the world, or simply research the changes of young adolescent girls and boys. With a plethora of meanings, the incorporation of several literary techniques and the ability to apply such critiques as feminist and deconstruction, Sold is an ideal young adolescent text.

  22. traverse02

    Raphael Tombasco
    Book Review 3

    Author: John Golden
    Title: Reading in the Dark: Using Film as a Tool in the English Classroom (2001, NCTE, Urbana, Illinois)

    A Shot in the Dark: How to Make Film Meaningful

    In his introduction to Reading in the Dark, noted English teacher John Golden describes a very familiar scene; rolling the TV/VCR down the hallway and into his classroom. I remember looking forward to moments like this back in high school, when the teacher would struggle to maneuver the unruly audio/visual components through the door. It meant that we wouldn’t have to do work for a few days. We would watch a movie and fill out a worksheet at the end of the week.

    There is a problem with this method. It ruins everything. Film is an experience, a stage for some of the world’s most talented artists. The 20th century saw the rise of film as major part of American culture. Drive past a multiplex on the weekend of a major blockbuster release and it’s hard to deny the Zeitgeist.

    But somehow, my teachers failed to capture this. Instead of engaging the class, they pressed play and told us to be quiet. As a result, all eyes turned to the clock and the whole endeavor became an endurance test. Why wouldn’t students just stay home, rent the movie, and skip the next few days of class? What would stop them from doing this?

    John Golden provides some answers in this text. He states that since “kids tend to be visually oriented… [And] that the skills they use to decode the visual image are the same skills they use for a written text,” the study of film can bring a new level of excitement and interest to the classroom. By examining the elements that make a film and describing different techniques he has used over the years to present certain films to his students, he offers practical ways for teachers to relate the study of film to that of literature. His methods remain faithful to the mainstream (he mostly uses “classic” films directed by Spielberg and Hitchcock), but there is room for variance. After all, there is no one true way to teach.

    The Terms

    Chapter one functions mainly as a beginner’s guide to film terminology and different camera effects. It is divided into sections: The Shot, Framing, Focus, Angles, Camera Movement, Lighting, Sound, Editing, and Mise-en-Scène. Each section gives a general explanation of each film element and how it affects the whole.

    Essentially, it is an introduction to the craft. Golden uses simple language to describe the complexities inherent in filmmaking. This allows for teachers to relay the information to students in a way that is easy to understand. For example, in the section labeled ‘Sound,’ he explains the difference between two easy concepts that at first glance may seem confusing. First, there is diegetic sound, which is “any sound that could logically be heard by a character within the movie environment” (17). This includes noise from the background, dialogue, etc. Then, there is non-diegetic sound, which is “any sound that is intended only for the audience” (19). Film scores are a good example of non-diegetic sound. As Golden explains, the shark theme from Jaws would not be heard by any characters in the film otherwise they would get out of the water as soon as it started playing.

    Golden does a good job of relating certain concepts, but as a film nut, I find it problematic that he brushes off Mise-en-Scène. He describes it as “one of the more difficult film concepts,” and even states that he “debated for along time about including it” (25). Simply stated, it is a French term that literally translates to “putting on stage.” It is what is presented to the audience on the screen—a result of all the elements listed above—from lighting to set design. If anyone is going to talk about film in a serious manner, then it is important to know this term.

    Reading Strategies and Analysis

    The next two chapters deal with film reading strategies and literary analysis, respectively. In Chapter 2, “Film and Reading Strategies,” Golden outlines different activities such as Prediction Charts that allow students to come up with explanations of what they think is going to happen in the film based on scene analysis and Viewing Logs where students can note their views on significant scenes. He also explains a Storyboarding Activity. For those who are unfamiliar with storyboards, they are “graphic representations of exactly what would appear in each shot in a film” (53). For this activity, the students pick a written work and create a storyboard of how they would imagine the scene unfolding on screen.

    In Chapter 3, “Film and Literary Analysis,” Golden gives us specific scenes he has found to be useful in explaining how different literary elements (Characterization, Setting, Point of View, Symbolism, etc.) are used by filmmakers to tell the story.

    The Complete Film

    In Chapter 4, Golden details some useful ways to approach the teaching of a complete film. He mentions how this can be risky since viewing a complete film can take a week or more of class time. However, as long as teachers set specific goals and lead the class in a compelling dialogue, it should prove to be an awarding experience.

    Each section of the chapter deals with one of eleven films he has used in teaching the complete film. Each film is divided into viewing days, complete with activities and prompts for the students. This is extremely useful for any teachers who may want to teach a complete film but have little to no knowledge of good resources. As mentioned before, he uses very mainstream films (The Lion King, E.T: The Extraterrestrial, etc.) so as to relate to kids, but as teachers we can ultimately decide what we want to view with our students.


    Ultimately, I find Golden’s Reading in the Dark to be an informative text most useful for teachers who may not be familiar with the world of film. It provides very basic information and uses terminology suitable for relating complex ideas to students. The appendices are especially useful because they contain blank worksheets (the aforementioned Prediction Charts, Viewing Logs, etc.) for teachers to copy and use in their own classrooms. Although I find certain problems with the text insofar as the author’s adherence to mainstream cinema (I would like to see more independent and foreign films used) and the lack of information regarding mise-en-scène and media theory, I feel that it provides a good start. I would encourage anyone interested in teaching film to do more research on top of Reading in the Dark so that students will have an opportunity to become better equipped when deciphering the images that are thrown at them on a daily basis. Film is big and exciting. Teaching it should be too.

  23. allison

    Author: Blasingame, James.
    Title: Books That Don’t Bore ‘Em.
    Publisher: Scholastic Inc. 2007

    Teach ‘Em with “Books That Don’t Bore ‘Em”

    James Blasingame remembers the passion of reading as an adolescent and strives to awaken that passion in adolescents today. In a fast-pasted world, it’s hard for some students to sit down with a book, but Blasingame offers accessible and appealing choices in his text Books That Don’t Bore ‘Em (2007). This book embraces young adult literature and examines methods for utilizing the genre.

    Blasingame’s book begins by defining young adult literature and providing reasons for incorporating it into the classroom. Blasingame’s defines young adult literature as that which invites young adults into a familiar, exciting world. This world is driven by a good, straight forward plot. “Young adult literature works best if it is not encumbered with so many literary devices that the reader has to pick through the allusions, metaphors, and symbols to find the actual story” (Blasingame 16). This may seem revolutionary, but Blasingame shows methods for using young adult texts as portals to the classics, as well as portals to understanding contemporary issues. These books are anything but simple, dealing with difficult issues that teens encounter on a daily basis. National and state testing standards are also addressed; Blasingame shows how young adult literature may be used to achieve several standards, such as understanding plot, character development, literary devices, language, style, point of view, theme, etc. Citing a report from the National Endowment for the Arts, Blasingame explains that young adult literature may save the declining youth literacy rates (42). The genre has the power to capture youth and keep them reading into adulthood.

    Blasingame explains that educators must snare student interest with carefully selected titles. For every outdoorsman there exists a Gary Paulsen book, and for every sports fan there exists a Matt Christopher book. The educator must guide these matches, and Blasingame provides criteria for such matches including reputable reviewers, awards, publishers and authors. The other criterion is slightly more individualized, with suggestions based on student interest, diversity, and reading level. The most helpful aspect of the book, though, is the collection titles arranged according to suggested usage. There are lists of titles which may be used for whole-class novels, literature circles, read-alouds, and thematic units. The titles grouped by theme cover issues pertinent to teens: abuse, addiction, humor, love, etc., and range from classics like The Outsiders to contemporaries like V is for Vendetta.

    Liberal and conservative minded teachers alike will love this resource. Blasingame gives adequate attention to graphic novels, which represents the cutting-edge of literacy. Teri S. Lesesne, in an essay for Adolescent Literacy (2007), notes that “current curriculum demands that now include visual and/or media literacy can also be addressed with graphic novels and their variants from other countries” (Beers 67). Also on the cutting edge of literacy is a more critical examination of theme. The thematic groupings in Books That Don’t Bore ‘Em will help guide a lesson in critical literacy. Students can experience immersion in a topic, investigating it through different stories and lenses, for a more critical understanding of today’s society. Deborah Appleman writes in Critical Encounters in High School English (2000) “Learning to read the world as text is an important result of high school literature instruction that includes theory” (Appleman 143) Blasingame might add that it also includes young adult literature, and his thematic groupings can help students to read their world. More conservative teachers, who like to stick to traditional methods of analyzing literature, will enjoy the grouping of titles according literary elements such as character, flashback, foreshadowing, plot, etc. Blasingame certainly does not disregard the canonical texts, but rather embraces this literature as well as young adult literature, which lies just outside of the canon. One section of the book even makes suggestions for using young adult literature to break open canonical texts.

    The final section of the book looks at essential young adult authors through brief biographies and interviews. The biographies contain basic life information and colorful quotes from the authors. After each biography is a list of important books with plot summaries. The 32 interviews with YA writers offer authorial insights into the texts as well as insights into the world of young adult literature. “At no time in life are people more vulnerable to this pattern of external abuse by their peers than in their teen years,” says author Michael Cart. “And, therefore, at no other time in their lives do they more urgently need to see their own faces in the pages of good books and to learn, thereby, that they are not alone” (Blasingame 131).

    Cart captures the essence of young adult literature: it gives them comfort and companionship at a tough time. A teacher must forage a path to deeper learning from there. Blasingame gives educators a great place to start with his book, which takes a good look at the genre and discovers that with so much YA literature hanging around, there’s no need to bore ‘em.

    Works Cited

    Appleman, Deborah. Critical Encounters in High School English. New York: Teachers College Press (2000).

    Beers, Kylene and Robert E. Probst and Linda Rief. Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann (2007).

    Blasingame, James. Books That Don’t Bore ‘Em. New York: Scholastic Inc. (2007).

  24. jillian24

    Difference Is Good: Using Multicultural Literature to Expand Student Thinking

    High School Students’ Competing Social Worlds: Negotiating Identities and Allegiances in Response to Multicultural Literature

    Richard Beach, Amanda Haertling Thein, Daryl Parks. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2008. 317 pp.

    In a world where the majority has become a conglomeration of minorities, multicultural literature provides an opportunity to bridge the gap of difference. In High School Students’ Competing Social Worlds: Negotiating Identities and Allegiances in Response to Multicultural Literature, authors and educators Richard Beach, Amanda Haertling Thein and Daryl Parks reinforce research-based multicultural pedagogy that many teachers throughout the nation have already embraced. With a teacher-friendly combination of facts and helpful vignettes, the authors have combined decades of research and theories with contemporary experience.

    Beginning with a discussion of identity construction, Beach et al dedicate the first chapter to an exploration of the variety of theories and research available on the subject. Gee’s concept of “identity tool kits” is introduced as the guiding force to how “participants constructed their identities in different social worlds” (9). Discourses, or “ideologically based ways of knowing and thinking”, are used to identify social worlds and track the movement of students within those worlds (9). These social worlds may be defined by class, race or gender, for example. Beach et al argues that, given the changes in our culture and economy, students must learn to negotiate multiple social worlds. Literature, by emphasizing the differences between these social worlds, will prompt them to “imagine alternative ways of constructing identities” (33).

    In the second chapter, the authors introduce the social worlds of the school involved in their study. A focus upon athletics and tradition creates a system of dominant discourses that can be related to a multitude of high schools across the nation. Finally, Beach et al propose that students who experience little tension between social worlds will find it unnecessary to critique themselves or their worlds. On the other hand, competing discourses encourage the critical thinking that is necessary to negotiate differences.

    Chapter Three presents a theory of reading literature in terms of the cultural models operating in the world of the readers. Expanding upon this theory, Chapter Four explains the dialogic tensions created by competing social worlds and how reading multicultural literature emphasizes these dialogic tensions. Beach et al propose that examining the dialogic tensions in multicultural literature will prompt students to challenge the institutional forces that dictate their social worlds (84).

    Perhaps of most interest to teachers, Chapter 5 is a variable handbook for teaching multicultural literature. Depicting both strategies and examples, Beach et al define each element of Parks’ pedagogy. Parks “provided them [his students] with specific practices and tools for exploring alternatives to their status quo identities. This suggests that rather than masking their identity construction to create a façade of neutral objectivity, teachers need to make explicit their processes of identity construction associated with interpreting literature” (139).

    The next three chapters (Chapters 6-8) present the stories of six students. Corey and Michelle, in Chapter 6, show the minimal change achieved by students whose worlds a consistent with the dominant culture (168). Devin and Kayla, in Chapter 7, are willing to engage in the critical thinking prompted by their teacher, “resulting in their amending or revising their status quo discourses” (193). Kathy and Mai, in Chapter 8, are both female student of color. As a result of either gender or racial discourses, both students found it difficult to actively participate in discussions, minimizing the impact of their cultural views on classroom analysis (210).

    In another section that may serve as a handbook to high school teachers, Chapter 9 recounts the class journey through three multicultural novels: Kindred, Love Medicine, and Bastard Out Of Carolina. Each novel is discussed in detail based upon the dialogic tensions and the students’ reactions. Recreated classroom conversations give a practical example of how a teacher might present the issues of the texts.

    Did it work? How do we do it? These are two of the questions tackled in Chapter 10, the conclusion. Based on a list of influencing factors, Beach et al propose that teaching multicultural literature led students to examine their own identities. Whether or not the student changed their views regarding identity as a result of studying multicultural literature depended upon the student and, in the case of female students of color, their social pre-conditions. Beach et al have created a work that is by no means solely a research summary; each chapter contains useful strategies for classroom application of multicultural literature. Chapter 10 includes a description of some of the primary elements of Parks’ success, as well as an explanation of how teachers can choose multicultural texts for their classrooms. Appendix B moves beyond method to list all the multicultural literature suggestions for the College in the Schools Literature Course (315).

    One of the most common concerns for teaching multicultural literature, especially at the secondary level, is the lack of proven pedagogy. We want to teach it; we know it’s valuable, but can anyone prove it? Take Beach et al to administrators and school boards: it works and this is how. Use the strategies described to develop your own curriculum. Refer back to vignettes when confronted with difficult classroom situations. This book moves the teaching of multicultural literature from theory into practice, a practice that should be adopted in every high school nationwide.

    -Jillian Everly

  25. ll123

    Li Li
    Third Book Review

    Tatum’s Dream: Desegregation

    Can We Talk about Race? is an educational book that consists of collaborative lectures written by the prestigious Brock International Prize winner, Beverly Daniel Tatum. The Lectures consist of the sensitive topic: race and resegregation in today’s American school. What makes Tatum address this issue, and how she is going to convince the reader that our society still in many ways allows this segregation happen is my curiosity to look into this book deeply and finds out an answer.

    As an Asian foreign student in a predominantly White college, I almost talk myself out of reading Tatum’s book because I think, “Why bother?” First of all, I am not a black student; secondly, perhaps the racial issue isn’t something that I should discuss among my peers who are mostly White.” But the question Tatum asks to challenge readers in her introduction interests me, “Can we get beyond our fear, our sweaty palms, our anxiety about saying the wrong thing, or using the wrong words and have an honest conversation about racial issues?”(xiii) I was struck by that bold invitation. I have never thought about the possibility of having a conversation like that, partly due to my fear of becoming a racial anger target. Having a conversation about academic work? Yes, we’ve done that in every class, a conversation about multi-culture literature? Yes, both my professor and peers enjoy it; a conversation about politics? Yes, we definitely discuss that topic during some of our book club or literature circle discussions. But race? I doubt and hesitate.

    Can We Talk about Race? is the very first book that I have ever read regarding the sensitive race issue; yet, I finish it very quickly because it is interesting, thought-provoking and inspiring, and because it has answered my question, “how can race have anything to do with academic performance?” However, one question lingers in my mind after I’ve finished reading it, “Can Tatum really convince the poor black students to strive to success when she herself comes from a privileged middle class family, lives in a white neighborhood and is raised by her parents who both have received higher education?” Even with such doubt, I find her book useful to me personally because I have started to look at American society and education with a more critical eye based on my current education training.

    From the very beginning, Tatum warns us the racial segregation not only still exists in our schools but also has a huge impact on students’ achievement performance. She believes that racial segregation is associated with economic and residential segregation (13). Those segregation factors are the reason that teachers lack multi-cultural experiences and students are not receiving quality education. Due to poverty, insufficient learning conditions, and fixed self-images, black students tend to fail tragically. When we first look at the SAT data, then read the facts on the poor performance of color students and the achievement gap that exists between White and Black students among all grades, it makes it an urgent call from Tatum: teachers not only need to recognize their own Whiteness—“a story of achievement, success, and of being in charge” (32), which means, their privilege that has been programmed into their minds, but also need to take action by learning some effective strategies in encouraging students-both white and black to talk openly about race which is the root of resegregation in today’s schools. One way for teachers to be able to do this is to provide both teachers and their students with antiracist, multicultural education courses or programs. She urges both White and Black students to start a meaningful conversation in order to promote an effective diverse educational learning environment that can benefit both. Tatum quotes social psychologist Pat’s conclusion, “students who experienced the most racial and ethnic diversity in and out of their classrooms benefited in terms of both ‘learning outcomes’ and ‘democracy outcomes’”(110). Tatum, a race expert, has acted on such commitment for over twenty years in her teaching and workshops.

    The author believes that universities should take an active role and the responsibility in training students some practical anti-racist courses in order to not only narrow the racial segregation gap but also to improve students academic performance. Education is the key to stop racial conflicts especially in assumption and ideology. Only when dominant Whites and the minority can respect each other on the grounds of understanding, friendship and mutual interest, as Dr. Tatum’s cross-racial friendship with Andrea shows, can segregation be broken. However, Tatum’s own story of an open conversation with her white friend, Andrea, in promoting effective and honest communication between White and Black is not quite convincing to me. As a foreign student who observes the segregation from a certain distance, I can’t help asking myself one question, “Under what condition does the friendship between Andrea and Tatum develop?” It is obviously under the conditions of a similar middle-class background, same education level, and work relationship. Their mutual respect is the foundation of such friendship, which is based on their belonging to the same class rather than to a simplified open dialogue between a white and a black individual. For example, what if Andrea were from a poverty residence? What if one of them were not educated? My point is that the communication between White and Black / minority cannot be solved by a simplistic method or strategy as is the case between Andrea and the author. Another question I am curious about is, Since Tatum has promoted programs and workshops on multiracial and diverse learning environments throughout this book, then how is she, as the current president of Spelman College, able to justify the fact that Spelman College is not only an all black but also an all female institution? Can she invite the white students to her college in the future? If not, can the white population accuse her causing resegregation?

    After reading Can We Talk about Race?, I agree with the author, to some degree, that the resegregation does exist as Dr. Tatum claims, yet I also see the desegregation is highly enforced by Affirmative Action through government and by people both white and black. My personal working experience in a couple of schools tells me that the white people are very aware of the race issue, and as a matter of fact, they put their efforts in making the minority students feeling equally important both academically and socially. The author has obviously found the factors that cause race resegregation which pinpoint the root of segregation problem. As far as the academic gap issue, to me, is a problem existing in any society regardless there is a race issue or not. As long as the economic and political gaps exist, a sense of segregation will always be there between the rich and the poor, and the race issue is only one branch of the big tree. As much as I applaud for Dr. Tatum’s dream- letting the white and the black hold hands with sincere appreciation, as much as I value her efforts for reaching such a goal by promoting the anti-racist workshops and an effective conversation, I still don’t see how soon we can realize it when other gap factors like financial status are dominantly shaping people’s ideologies, lives and politics in America as well as in other countries.

  26. canadawr5

    Author: Janet Alsup & Jonathan Bush

    Title: “But Will it Work with Real Students?”
    Scenarios For Teaching Secondary English Language Arts

    Publisher: National Council of Teachers of English

    Alsup is an assistant professor of English education at Purdue University and Bush is an assistant professor of English Education at Western Michigan University. These two authors focus on the most effective ways to teach English in the classroom.
    The first topic they analyze is the characteristics of effective literature and reading pedagogy. In other words, what activities can the teacher produce to encourage students to read. The first activity is the Literature circle. Literature circles have been around since the 1980’s and at that time they were classified as “study groups.” Each small group had a student reading a different book. The reading workshop was also a helpful activity which should be used in the classroom. In these workshops, students have to read a certain number of various genres. Students have to write journal responses and communicate with each other on their progress. There should also be and integration of multiple genres of texts in the classroom. It is imperative for students to use a diverse text set when incorporating them into their reading selection. Many classrooms across the country are becomming more and more diverse and it is important to meet the needs of as many students as possible.
    There is major controversy, however, when addressing this type of reading instruction. There is a strong debate that exists in regards to young adult literature verses classical literature. Many literature “elites” believe that young adult literature is unsuitable for young readers because of its “anti-intellectual” content. They are convinced that it would be best for students to continue to be well versed in classic novels. Quite the contrary, there are other scholars who believe that young adult literature can be linked to classical texts. Keywell writes:

    one can offer practical ideas for connecting dozens of classical texts to diverse YA texts such as linking The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck to Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston to Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor. (8)

    The next discussion focused on how to teach writing. One primary question to begin with is what is considered good writing? What components create a good paper? Why should you assign writing to your classes? What kinds of writing assignment should be required?
    The first rule of writing is that your adolescents should be practicing as much as possible. Students should also get in the habit of evaluating their own writing. Writing should be viewed as a process that is continuously on-going. Teachers should assist their students with their writing in the planning and prewriting stages of development. Students should constantly be reminded to draft and revise before they hand in their assignment. Grammar and mechanics should alway be viewed as important skills that all students needs to develop. It is important for teachers to develop a classroom writing community. Teachers should always give students constructive evaluation of their work.
    There are also controversies involving writing instruction. One of the biggest controversies is academic writing verses non academic writing. Many theorists believe that the only way to teach students how to write is through research and literary essays. There are others who are convinced that research reports, book reviews, and memoirs are the most effective methods of learning how to write. The “grammar debate” asks the question should teachers give up teaching standard english?
    Another important topic is how should teachers teach language and grammar to adolescents? According to Weaver, “Studying grammar as a set of terms is not the best use of instrctional time if you want students writing to improve” (81). What many don’t realize is that children acquire the majority of their grammatical constructions of their language naturally and intuitively. In terms of learning grammar, some believe that one of the best ways to do so is for students to partake in a wide range of reading which involves texts from many genres.
    How to narrate the teaching of second language learners in English classrooms was one of the primary subjects in the text. The authors talked about the different types of ESL programs. Submersion programs place non english speaking students in english speaking classrooms. There is also the “pull out ESL program” which is used in conjunction with the submersion program between twenty minutes to several hours a day. There is also Transitional Bilingual Education which provide language instruction during sessions where students are learning English. Late exit transitional programs develop the first language overtime while adding a language.
    In regards to teaching a secondary language in an english classroom, students should understand that their is a distinction between academic english and conversational english. Teachers should also make students aware that language can be interpreted through gestures. Teachers should be aware that most ESL students have the same problems learning english as native speakers. Students first language should never be allowed in the classroom.
    The controvery with ESL is a debate between Addictive Bilingualism verses Substractive Bilingualism. Addictive bilingualism is a theory which states that the additional second language will not interfere with the primary language and the individual can develop both languages together. The theory of subtractive bilingualism is that if one develops a second language then they will loose their primary language and possibly their culture.

    Ray C.

  27. sfarah19

    Suzanne Farah
    Final Book Review

    Title: A White Teacher Talks About Race
    Author: Julie Landsman
    Publisher: Scarecrow Press Inc. MD, 2001

    “Race is part skin color, part privilege, part social construction.”
    – Julie Landsman

    It is safe to say the title allows for an obvious assumption of what what the book is about. Julie Landsman is a white teacher who wrote a book about issues of race she has encountered in her 25+ years of teaching. I find this topic to be increasingly important due to the growing population of minority students in our public schools. Landsman’s honest accounts of her failures and success are refreshing and encouraging and discouraging all at once.

    Landsman introduces us to the book with a description of what she refers to as: “benign racism (X).” This is the term she uses to describe the way that white teachers treat students of color or the way they often avoid issues of race because they are afraid of their own racism. What she refers to as “benign racism” are things like: hesitating to discuss acknowledgement of skin color differences and the experiences that have been encountered due to these experiences. What I struggled with was the notion of racism ever being benign. Is this not an oxy-moron in a sense? Landsman struggles with this issue when she makes a note to the reader about language. She quotes Beverly Tatum (author of “Why are all the Black kids Sitting Together at the Cafeteria”) who says: “It is difficult to talk about what is essentially a flawed and problematic social construct with out using language itself that is flawed and problematic (xvi).” Essentially, Landsman is attempting to discuss and deconstruct “race” and “racism,” two terms that are imbedded in our society in a very flawed manner. She must use the language of the discourse in order to deconstruct it.

    Landsman does not claim this book to be an attempt at theorizing the issue of race in our society, she states very simply, that what she wants this book to be is: “…one person’s attempt to come to grips with the reality of race at a particular time and in a particular place (xvi).” She stresses the importance of celebrating diversity and raising the standards of minorities through compassion, cooperation and global knowledge (ix). Also, for white teachers to allow themselves to reflect on their own memories, and to be honest with themselves about what formed their definintions of race and racial predjudice.

    In the first chapter, Landsman talks about the differences in the treatment of immigrants. She uses the example of Sarah (an immigrant of Ukrain) versus her classmate, Mai (an immigrant of Hmong). Both students are immigrants, both are poor, and both are minorities but Mai will be treated differently because of her “race,” her skin color. She also disscusses her student’s fear of being, what they refer to as, the “only:” the only black person on the bus, the only black person to walk into a restaurant filled with white patrons (3). These fears are certainly different from Landsman’s but she, like everyone else, has her own set of fears. For Landsman, it is about the struggles that she and her students face in trying to find a common ground with each other and it is about understanding.

    “Resistance” is the title of the last chapter in the book. Landsman dedicates this chapter to “the power of white activism (153).” She claims that we can be anti-racisits in our daily lives, as well as outside the classroom. Because she has “abandoned all hope in the national government’s ability to support practical anti-racist initiatives (156)” she must concentrate on being an activist in her community and her school. She writes of her inability to “laugh, eat, or relax when she is around racists (156)” casual jokes or generalizations are destructive and poisonous acts that can not be easily over looked. Students should not have to tolerate such things in school. Landsman speaks of schools as being a place of hope for students, teachers and parents a like.

    Landsman approaches a number of issues of race that are typically avoided by white people. Her accounts of student experiences, self reflection, and ups and downs while teaching were thought provoking and informative. Her comments on the discourse of race and racism complement those of Gee and Appleman. It was nice to have a true account of a teacher’s encounters with these issues in the classroom. Lastly, I would like to include a quote that I found strikingly perceptive: “Race and racism are complicated subjects…multifaceted: a prism turned perpetually in different directions, light breaking at a multitude of angles, revelations (xiv).”

  28. mandygrl101

    Mandy McKenney
    Book Review 3
    December 2007

    Adolescence is a turbulent time period, characterized by physical and emotional changes, for both boys and girls. There is ample research concerned with ways to best aid teenagers during this time, and ensure their prosperous development. However, despite profuse advice and recommendations, there is current research that suggests that adolescent girls specifically experience “greater stress and are twice as likely to be depressed” during this time period than are adolescent boys ( ). Thus, in their new book Discovering Their Voice: Engaging Adolescent Girls With Young Adult Literature, authors Marsha Sprague and Kara Keeling specifically focus on the experiences of adolescent girls, many of who feel alone, lost and helpless, and how to best guide them through this tumultuous time.
    Throughout their book, Sprague and Keeling share their ideas regarding the potential for adolescent girls to use young adult literature, especially texts with female protagonists, to explore a wide range of issues that female readers may be encountering. By doing this, readers are able to relate to the characters in the texts, while examining actual issues, problems, and solutions, through the books. Most importantly, these authors focus on ways to help “girls who are fighting to establish a voice”, one of the most critical aspects of adolescents (xiii). However, as this text points out, developing a strong voice and sense of self is incredibly challenging, as teenage girls have to negotiate between being accepted or rejected, conforming or remaining unique, and intimacy and sex, among other issues, all of which are frequently raised in literature. Further, girls have to navigate the relationships with and influences of parents and peers, along with ever-increasing societal pressures and expectations. The goal of this book is to provide ideas to help girls “participate in some type of supportive, open dialogue…to understand how to overcome the pressures of adolescents…[and] to find their authentic self” despite the array of issues they are bound to encounter (4). As Sprague and Keeling point out, one way to do this is through books.
    Chapter one is essential for readers because it contextualizes female adolescent experiences in both the past and the present. There are repeated references to psychologist Erik Erikson and his popular identity model, as well as to the 1994 text entitled Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, a book that was provoking and controversial, because it exposed the pressures of adolescents through firsthand accounts from teenage girls. After these discussions, the text explores the differences and similarities in female experiences over the last 50 years, and reveals “challenges that adolescent girls have faced for generations”, leaving readers wondering, “what is the young woman of today suppose to be?” (6, 8). Chapter one also explores what scholars have to say about the effects of school on girls and lists various programs that try to support girls in developing a stronger sense of identity and self-esteem. Despite all these programs, there are very few that “engage in meaningful efforts to address the… developmental needs of adolescent girls” (16). Many of these programs reinforce rather than challenge traditional female stereotypes, and so Sprague and Keeling were determined to find a way to “use the rich world of literature to build discussions of gender identity and girls’ issues into classrooms and schools” (17). They succeeded through advocating for widespread school usage of young adult literature, especially texts with strong and relatable female characters, as a way to allow adolescent girls to discuss various issues in safe and supportive environments.
    I found chapter two to be the most valuable part of the text, because it provides a foundation for the rest of the book and for understanding the breadth and depth of issues that adolescent girls encounter. Entitled How to Use Literature to Explore Adolescent Girls’ Developmental Issues, this section provides logical ways to incorporate gender discussions into the classroom, especially today, with the abundance of young adult literature available, many of which support heroic and strong female protagonists. This chapter offers solutions regarding how to select specific texts to use with girls, how to initiate discussions, and how to analyze female characters and recognize when and if their voices are being suppressed or expressed. Further, it highlights how adolescent female readers can achieve heightened understandings of the world around them through investigating how the world is portrayed in literature. Essentially, this chapter focuses on the “forces at work in causing girls to express or suppress their voices”, such as the influence of adults, parents, mentors, male and female peers, boyfriends, the media and society. Clearly, this section examines how these forces can threaten adolescent girls and leave them at risk for “low self esteem, poor academic performance, depression, self mutilation, sexual and physical above and even suicide” (18). However, this section also emphasizes how books are an authentic solution for tackling and resolving many of these problems.
    As a whole, this book is extremely reader friendly, as the authors review a number of important issues before launching into how to engage adolescent girls with literature. There is a thorough overview of adolescent development, and rich information about how to use young adult literature to inquire into female issues, while using a variety of genres, including contemporary fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. There is a chapter dedicated to each of these categories, accompanied by sample lesson plans regarding how one would use these genres in the classroom. Further, there is also a chapter that addresses how to start, run and maintain a book club as another way to “create environments that support productive and open discussions” of literature and specifically for teenage girls (143). Finally, the last chapter of the book presents actual teaching methods for use of female friendly literature in ELA classrooms. Clearly, this book is an incredibly valuable tool, as it provides concrete ways to use books as catalysts for helping adolescents understand who they are in this world, and where they fit in it. (1).


  29. jexter1

    I thought that I managed to post my third book review on the Reviewer’s Page, but now I’m unsure. So here it is, possibly again:

    Book Review #3

    Author: David W. Moore & Kathleen A. Hinchman

    Title: Teaching Adolescents Who Struggle with Reading: Practical Strategies (2006, Pearson Education, Inc., Boston, MA)

    Reputable and well-respected amongst educators, authors David W. Moore and Kathleen A. Hinchman offer novice and veteran teachers of secondary schools an accessible, easy-to-read guide to reading strategies and exercises. Teaching Adolescents Who Struggle with Reading: Practical Strategies describes adolescents who struggle with reading as a challenge, but not impossible. Founders of The Commission on Adolescent Literacy of the International Reading Association, Moore and Hinchman use plausible classroom scenarios so that educators who read their instructional book can relate. Moore and Hinchman convey in their text that teachers who have a passion for reading and meticulously plan out strategies, goals and exercises of relevance can produce fervent readers.

    Recently my Methods class was assigned to come up with strategies for teaching a few texts from a 5-week unit plan students made. Moore and Hinchman’s guide to practical reading strategies is an excellent resource for my Method’s assignment. Each chapter opens with a question that gives the reader an area of concentration for the upcoming chapter and engages him/her. The authors respond in the form of vignettes and short categorized paragraphs as to avoid chapters that drone on for pages. At the close of the chapter, the reader revisits the question as a means for reviewing the strategy and assessing what has been learned. Difficult terminology is explained as to avoid confusion, and outside resources are included that the reader may refer to in case he/she needs further clarification.

    For my Methods class, I chose Moore and Hinchman’s strategy called Story Frames. Story Frames help students that find it difficult to retell a story into their own words with sentence starters and endings. A series of aspects may be touched upon in a Story Frame: Story Summary with One Character, Important Idea or Plot, and Character Analysis. An example for Story Summary with One Character would be, “This story is about __________. ___________ is an important character in (the) story. ___________ tried to ____________. The story ends when ______________” (Moore, 69). For simplicity, I will use the classic children’s story Cinderella. The students complete the Story Frame as follows: This story is about a young woman who is abused by her step-mother and step-sisters and forced to be a servant to them. Cinderella is an important character in (the) story. The story ends when Cinderella marries the Prince and escapes the cruelty of her step-family. Students use this approach for assistance, but will not depend on it. A strategy like Story Frames intends to guide the students into independent writers. As time progresses, Story Frames should be less frequent while the students advance towards restructuring stories on their own.

    The importance of being able to read and read well is evident in the emphasis Moore and Hinchman put on instruction that promotes self-efficacy and stimulates students to achieve literacy goals inside and outside the classroom. Moore and Hinchman’s text comforts and motivates not only the struggling reader(s), but the struggling teacher(s). Professor Richard T. Vacca, of Emeritus Kent State University, writes in Teaching Adolescents . . .’s Forward, Moore and Hinchman, “. . . present down-to-earth direction that is meant to be in touch with the real world of teaching . . . providing quality instruction . . . and adaptable for educators who need information now” (Moore, x). The authors introduce the reader to the text with the “4 P’s” of teaching and learning: passion, partnership, purpose and plans. Moore and Hinchman explain that a teacher who expresses his/her passion for reading humanizes the act of reading, thus making reading an acceptable and enjoyable activity. Prompting and modeling the act of reading, that is reading along with the students and discussing one’s own favorite pieces of literature, “. . . rubs off on students” (Moore, 3). A passion for reading and writing combined with a passion for the development of the students’ reading and writing skills create an encouraging reading and writing-centered environment. Purpose is described as the point when “you’ve got to think about big things while doing small things so that all the small things go in the right direction” (Moore, 3). A purpose for every exercise, strategy and lesson keeps order, provides a goal to work towards and helps the class move forward. Moore and Hinchman add that creating community between the students and teacher allows students to become brave and daring readers. The strategies offered in the text ask for students to participate and voice their opinions. Diversity is welcomed and encouraged. In order to achieve openness and participation, the students and teacher need to have a comfortable, accepting relationship.
    With each strategy they present, planning is the most crucial step, Moore and Hinchman reiterate throughout the text. Plans can be coupled with purpose. A classroom’s arrangement and the distribution of work (i.e. type of assignments, due dates and grading scale) need to be premeditated, but also open for change, the book explains. Moore and Hinchman stress the importance of planning ahead and having alternative plans for the possibility of an exercise not working out or having time left over.

    Moore and Hinchman make multiple connections between their lessons and strategies with the lives of adolescents. They show how reading strategies connect with the school structure, school culture and popular culture of the students. Moore and Hinchman find that strategies succeed when all aspects of school are involved. From bell schedules, to counseling, to reading materials that are readily available, Moore and Hinchman teach their readers a multitude of ways that will mold adolescents into strong readers.

    David W. Moore and Kathleen A. Hinchman use Teaching Adolescents Who Struggle with Reading to simplify the complexity of lesson planning, strategies and reaching goals through visual aids, such as graphic organizers, lists, charts and illustrations. This text calls for readers to ponder what type of classroom environment and culture they wish to construct. Acknowledgement of classroom and personal goals, and framing strategies based on their appeal and abilities of the students become more realistic after reading Teaching Adolescents Who Struggle with Reading.

  30. dldvoracek

    I completely forgot to post my 3rd review so here it is. Donna

    Title: Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels
    Edited by: James Bucky Carter
    Year: 2007
    Publisher: National Council of Teachers of English

    I found this book to be extremely engaging and practical for all high school English teachers. The first chapter focuses on an introduction to the graphic novel, its history and the research that demonstrates that these types of texts are extremely effective in building literacy in adolescents. The chapter also wisely discusses the problems teachers may encounter with their school districts when trying to introduce graphic novels to their students. The remaining nine chapters highlight teaching strategies and are written by the English teachers who have employed the techniques with success in their own classrooms. My favorite aspect of the book is the pairing of a graphic novel alongside a more traditional text in an effort to compare and contrast and subsequently minimize resistance from both parents and administrators. This strategy was used by six of the teachers featured and included pairing such texts as The Amazing “True” Story of a Teenage Single Mom with The Scarlet Letter, Fagin the Jew with Oliver Twist to address anti-Semitism and Persopolis with Red Scarf Girl to illustrate cultural revolutions.
    Each chapter outlines a complete lesson plan to enable teachers to read a chapter of interest to them and immediately enact the plan in their own classroom. I highly recommend this book to any teacher looking to bring excitement and modern texts to their students.

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