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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Yes, a Conference on Grammar!

The Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar (ATEG) held its annual conference July 27-28 at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. As an assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), ATEG is a membership group of individuals who share a common interest in helping students to understand the importance of grammar, to learn it, and to put their knowledge of it to good use when communicating in speech or writing.

I attended this year's conference and enjoyed meeting the presenters and other attendees and getting new ideas for teaching grammar
  • in the English composition courses that I teach,
  • in the Modern Grammar course that I teach, and
  • in the English language arts teaching methods course that I offer for future teachers of English.
Here were some particular highlights:
  1. Christian Aguiar (University of District of Columbia Community College) -- He offered a session on using mindfulness practices to help students put aside the distractions of technology and the concerns of their daily lives in order to focus on the study of challenging grammatical topics.
  2. April Burke (Central Michigan University) -- She presented interactive instruction activities appropriate for use with K-8 students learning grammar. We adults enjoyed doing the activities as much as elementary children likely would!
  3. Beth Rapp Young (University of Central Florida) -- Her presentation was on advanced dictionary skills. She sees dictionaries as an illustration of how rhetorical context affects language use--and she has found that her students enjoy delving into dictionaries, learning about what they offer, learning about what different dictionaries offer differently, and so on. A fascinating session!
  4. Sean Ruday (Longwood University) -- He is a proponent of studying grammatical concepts "in their natural habitats"--i.e., in published texts to see how authors use them in their own writing. Like April, Sean got us out of our seats to participate in some of the grammar activities that he advocates for use with students. Very engaging!
Here are some texts that you could check out if you're interested in how grammar is and/or could be taught so that students will be better users of and experimenters with their own language(s):
  1. The Common Core Grammar Toolkit: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Language Standards in Grades 3-5 (2013), in Grades 6-8 (2014), and in Grades 9-12 (2017) by Sean Ruday (here)
  2. Teaching Grammar: What Really Works (2010) by Amy Benjamin and Joan Berger (here)
  3. Understanding English Grammar (2016) by Martha Kolln, Loretty Gray, and Joseph Salvatore (here)
And now, a couple timely articles:

"A Grammatical Analysis of Donald Trump's Double Negatives" (2018) by R.L.G. -- After Donald Trump used the world stage to side with Vladimir Putin and against American intelligence agencies in their determination that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election, uproar across our country caused Mr. Trump to issue a pseudo-retraction by saying that he had meant to say the opposite of what he said. This author takes a deeper look at that claim.

"Behemoth, Bully, Thief: How the English Language Is Taking Over the Planet" (2018) by Jacob Mikanowski -- "English is everywhere; and everywhere, English dominates." How did that come to be so? And what does that mean for the world's other languages? Read on!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Your Classroom Library

Many teachers spend a good chunk of their summers reading. I'm in communication with a lot of PreK-12 teachers who are catching up on their own pleasure reading while relaxing and rejuvenating. Many others are reading professional books on teaching as they plan for the school year ahead.

And some of my best conversations in the summer are with teachers who are reading children's literature, middle grade literature, or young adult literature to familiarize themselves with great titles and be able to make recommendations to students once school is back in session.

How can you get great books for youth into the hands of your students? And why should you? Read on!

"Who Doesn't Read Books in America?" (2018) by Andrew Perrin -- From the Pew Research Center come these sobering data about the "demographic traits that characterize non-book readers" in the United States of America.

"How to Get Your Mind to Read" (2017) by Daniel Willingham -- The article starts with, "Americans are not good readers." Why not? And what can parents and schools do about it? Dr. Willingham shares his insights and advice.

"Statement on Classroom Libraries" (2017) by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) -- Many teachers--particularly elementary teachers and secondary English language arts teachers--maintain classroom libraries: collections of books stored on the classroom shelves and available to students for small-group or independent reading. As opposed to school libraries, stocked and maintained by school library media specialists for use by the entire school, classroom libraries generally are curated by the classroom teachers in whose rooms they exist and accessed by students in the classroom. Read this statement by NCTE for clarity on what classroom libraries can and should offer to students.

"Building a Vibrant Classroom Library without Breaking the Bank" (2017) by Haley Moehlis -- If you are a teacher who has committed to providing a classroom library for your students, then check out this article's advice on how to get started . . . particularly if your school has no start-up funds to help you out.

"Build Your Stack" (2018) by NCTE -- This is not an article but an initiative. It is "focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries."Get advice from other teachers, authors, and literacy experts by attending Build Your Stack sessions at NCTE's annual convention and/or by following the hashtag "#BuildYourStack" on social media.

"What Is a Book Talk? Your Guide to Making Them Work in the Classroom" (2018) by Samantha Cleaver -- Once you have established a classroom library, how do you get students interested in books from your collection? Check out this advice on delivering a "book talk" to promote a book and help get it into readers' hands.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Progress Report on America's ELA Teaching These Past Five Years

Today's release of Reading and Writing Instruction in America's Schools (here) by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is the subject of these online postings:
  • "Implementing Higher Literacy Standards or Putting on a Show?" (here) from Timothy Shanahan's blog Shanahan on Literacy
  • "New Study of Common Core Reading Standards Finds Teachers Aren't Giving Students Appropriately Challenging Texts" (here) by Carolyn Phenicie from The 74
The report itself offers four overall conclusions: that ELA teachers
  1. need help with assigning texts to students based on their grade levels (their targets for reading) instead of on their reading levels ("where they're at" currently);
  2. ought to ensure that they're not eliminating "classic works of literature" in their efforts to assign more informational texts;
  3. must instruct students on evidence-based writing, which appears to be taking a back seat to creative writing; and
  4. should organize their teaching around sets of texts that together provide content knowledge while students are learning English language arts skills.
Ms. Phenicie provides excerpts from the Fordham report in her report on those four overall conclusions.

Dr. Shanahan addresses those four conclusions by noting that it wasn't enough for states to develop and adopt higher standards for ELA. They should have also provided the training and resources needed for teachers to implement those standards. In his blog post, he mentions some of the things necessary to raise literacy levels.

What do you think of the Fordham report's findings? Or of Dr. Shanahan's recommendations?