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Oral Language Review

When Students Have Time to Talk:
Creating Contexts for Learning Language Written by Curt Dudley-Marling and Dennis Searle
Publisher: Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH)
Copyright Date: 1991
ISBN #0-435-08588-3

Synopsis of Content:

Dudley-Marling and Searle have written When Students Have Time to Talk to link the principles of language learning with classroom practices. They believe that rich language emerges when there is a classroom culture in which students are immersed in language throughout the day and across the curriculum. When teachers create rich language-learning environments, they promote the language of all their students. Dudley-Marling and Searle have listed six main reasons why teachers should include talk in their classrooms.

They believe that when students have time to talk:

  • they are able to try out their language.
  • they are challenged to stretch their linguistic resources.
  • teachers encourage them to draw on background knowledge to support classroom learning.
  • teachers learn about students’ current state of language development.
  • teachers get a window into on students’ language development and the effect of their own instruction on student learning.
  • classrooms become places in which students and teachers get to know each other and live and learn together.

Chapter 1: Learning Language at Home – Gives a general overview of children’s language learning. They believe that children learn language quickly and easily because of their abilities and because parents foster conditions for learning. This chapter also reviews why children learn language in the first place, what they learn about language that enables them to participate in communication, and how children learn about language.

Chapter 2: Learning Language at School – To create a rich language environment, teachers must make oral language an important goal. The authors talk about the six principles that provide the foundation for the development of rich language learning environments in the classroom. These principles are: don’t fragment language, provide authentic situations for using language, let the students try language out, let students experiment with language, trust students’ ability to learn and create challenging situations. Each of these principles is discussed in this chapter.

Chapter 3: Creating Environments for Learning Language – This is an introduction to how teachers can start creating a classroom environment that will provide rich language experiences. The authors look at the emotional setting, creating a physical setting for talk, and grouping students for instruction.

Chapter 4: Using Language for a Variety of Purposes and Audiences – The two most important language goals in the classroom are to increase the range of function for which students use language and to vary and expand the audiences with whom students fulfill these purposes. As teachers, we need to use authentic purposes and a variety of talk, if we want our students to be exposed to new language structures.

Chapter 6: Strategic Approaches for Teaching Language – When students are having difficulty with specific areas of language development, teachers need to make a deliberate effort to address the particular areas. If students are struggling, you may need to use a strategic approach to language learning. This approach enables the teacher to address the specific language needs of their students within a context of sound language learning principles.

Chapter 7: Talking and Learning – Looks at the critical role of talk in learning. Through talk, students bring their experiences and learning together. In essence, they are using language to construct and shape a view of the world.

Chapter 8: Talk-Around-the-Edges – Talk happens in all areas of the classroom. Teachers need to include the talk-around-the-edges in planning the classroom environment. Talk-around-the-edges is defined as any talk that is not at the center of learning, or is peripheral to the instruction intent. If a teacher values this kind of talk, the entire classroom climate for talk is improved.

Chapter 9: Teachers as Reflective Practitioners – Teachers need to become researchers in their classrooms. They need to look at children’s language, how children learn language, and how they can influence children’s language development. To become effective teacher researchers, teachers need to be able to focus on students’ abilities.

Chapter 10: Assessing Student Language – With all the talk going on in the classroom, how are you going to know that students are learning? Easy, you need to assess them. This chapter explains different ways to assess language. These assessments can tell a teacher what students make of instruction. These assessments may also show gaps in their language that need to be repaired.

Chapter 11: The Meaning of Our Lessons – What are the underlying pedagogical assumptions that underline our classroom practices? Studies have shown that a teacher’s belief system affects our teaching. This chapter looks at how three different teachers approach sharing time. These examples show how teacher’s language goals influence their teaching practices.

Chapter 12: Teaching Language to Linguistically Different Students – To teach students with different linguistic backgrounds, teachers need to understand the meaning of these differences and their effects. This chapter discusses the issues associated with linguistic differences that are most important to language educators.

Chapter 13: “But My Children Aren’t Like That!”
– All children know something about language and can use their knowledge to some degree. All children are different. The authors discuss the concerns teachers have with students who show developmental differences in their language growth.

Possible Uses of the Text

This text could be beneficial to teachers because:

  • it is a good introduction to using talk in the classroom.
  • it gives examples and discusses how to implement those ideas.
  • it provides a resource list with a brief summary if more information is wanted.
  • the chapters are broken up with main headings, making it easy to find a topic.

Cautions for Using the Text

The book gives an overview on how to use talk in the classroom. It does not focus on one aspect of talk. I feel that a teacher may become overwhelmed by all the information. You need to remember that change takes place over time. Just because you have read this book, it does not mean that you will have all the answers you need. You may need to use other resources.

Literature Circles
Voice and Choice in
The Student-Centered Classroom

By: Harvey Daniels
Stenhouse Publishers
York, Maine 03909
Copyright: 1994, Harvey Daniels
ISBN #: 0-435-08597-2


The author purports this text to be a practical guide for teachers with its main goals being:

  • To explain clearly what literature circles are.
  • To help teachers initiate literature circles with their students.
  • To solve the common management problems that may arise.
  • To offer variations that may suit the students, the teacher’s situation and the teacher’s style.
  • To help teachers extend literature circles into a wide range of studies across the curriculum.

In Chapter, I, Daniels defines literature circles with an introductory phrase that includes “our current definition”. This leaves room for the natural transition of the process which may occur in the future. Then he proceeds to list what he considers the distinctive features of the literature circles as he perceives them. He maintains that the twelve key features are necessary to determine the authenticity and maturity of the learning circles. Perhaps the most significant feature of the twelve is Daniel’s contention that the regular mixing of student groups results in heterogeneous groupings most beneficial to all students.

Chapter II delivers the premise that literature circles provide the opportunity for students to talk about meanings and how these meanings are achieved in written materials. It also includes a “thinking as research” model that illustrates the pre-reading, during reading and post reading proficiencies that skillful readers possess. Briefly touched upon are certain results of education that Daniels contends are more easily attainable through literature circles. Again, Daniels not only defines literature circles but also provides a rationale for use along with endorsement from teachers who have had success using literature circles.

Chapter III includes suggestions for teachers initiating the use of literature circles in their classrooms. Emphasis is placed upon preparing students for the roles for which they will be responsible in the circles. In this manner, he contends that the literature circles will be more effective. He provides a “quick student training” model but then provides a more in-depth model illustrated in a step-by-step description which is designed to assist students in using the literature circles more effectively.

Common management problems that teachers may encounter when using literature circles are addressed in Chapters IV, V, VIII and IX. Daniels begins with group size and formation then includes role sheets (role guidelines) defining student roles within the groups. He proposes scheduling samples drawn from elementary, middle and high school classes. Also included are suggested materials for teachers and examples of role sheets for students that contain form and format for students.

Suggestions for beginning teachers concerning record keeping, evaluation and grading are touched upon in a manner that provides sufficient resources to confidently initiate utilization of literature circles in the classroom. The more experienced teacher will be able to benefit from a wide variety of uses proposed by other professionals. Included are the effects literature circles may have upon the time factor in the classroom and the possible need for the reallocation of instructional time. Daniels also emphasizes the importance of educational themes (curriculum) necessary to bring shape, depth and continuity to the educational process.

Chapter VII, VIII and X provide insights into literature circle applications that encompasses the educational establishment from primary grades through post secondary classes. The differences in the levels of applications are supported by teachers from each level who agree on the importance of literature circles, the discussion which results and the creativity of their variations that enhance the viability of the literature circle.

Throughout the text are suggestions for the use of literature circles across the curriculum and these include endorsements from teachers who have extended the use of literature circles throughout the various curriculum content areas.


This text can be used by teachers:

  1. to enhance their knowledge of the functioning of literature circles.
  2. to gain insights necessary to begin the use of literature circles.
  3. to provide a “road map” for the use of literature circles by beginning teachers.
  4. to provide insights into the many, and at times, complex facets of literature circles.
  5. to aid teachers in the use of more varied approaches within literature circle.


With the many topics relative to literature circles in this text, there are more than several oblique and incompletely explained concepts that teachers must reconsider with the aid of further research to completely discover the full impact of these concepts upon learning circles. The reader must be aware that no one, singular approach offers a complete answer to an educational ill. In fact, the reader must be able to utilize the relevant bits and pieces of each approach and subsequently incorporate the relevant components into an educational scheme which best suits the needs of his/her students. The revised scheme must also yield results that improve the educational use of literature circles.

EARLY 3 Rs: How to Lead Beginners into
Reading, Writing, and Arithme-TALK

Authored by: Lee Mountain
Published by: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Copyright: 2000

Synopsis of Content:

The title, cover, and size of EARLY 3 Rs: How to Lead Beginners Into Reading, Writing, and Arithme-TALK lends itself as an attractive text for the educator of young learners. It has been designed with four units of focus with a summary included for each one; how to foster growth, how to help the learner take steps, how to expand and vary strategies, and how to smooth the transition into primary grades. It is written by a grandparent who acknowledges the audience as early childhood educators. My general impression is that it is geared comfortably toward parents who have little knowledge or intuition as to what naturally occurs in many language enriched homes. The book is an easy read and well laid out with overviews, subtopics and quality examples for the reader who may not already realize the value of such communications with children. It literally tells the reader what can be said at any given moment so as to create a language building lesson from any situation. The author reinforces the need for a phonology foundation for emergent readers and writers. This collection of literacy guidance has a constant thread of including the value of math skills awareness in all that we do with young learners. It could easily serve as a refresher to those who have been away from this level of learner. The book has roughly 150 pages of guided developmental skill building ideas and includes a detailed table of contents, an epilogue, a listing for further recommended readings, and an index. Its size makes it easy to hold, but the small print encourages the use of reading glasses for the older educator!

Unit I – How to Foster Growth Toward Reading Writing, and Arithmetic
Oral language is the basic focus for emergent learners and they need to be immersed in it daily. Conceptual language around arithmetic needs to be used repeatedly. The use of participation extras during read alouds are a way of hooking them in and making a connection with them. Games which encourage a focus on sounds are encouraged. An environment filled with many kinds of print will foster the connection needed from sounds to visuals. Always talk through your modeling of writing or reading. And finally, be aware of the teachable moments and watch for the promising signs.

Unit II – How to Help Early Learners Take Their First Steps into the 3 Rs
With short sessions each day you can teach early readers four personalized words; their name, Mommy, called, and teacher’s name. When personalizing their word choices, you encourage ownership of writing and reading. Emphasize the beginning sounds of each personalized word. Using the counting numbers 1, 2, 3, in story form will take the child into the first step of arithmetic and number concepts. Increase the child’s word bank upon their request using cards and helping to make more personalized books. Remember to focus on the letter-sound relationship of the child’s requested words for greater success.

Unit III – How to Expand and Vary Strategies for Early Teaching of the 3 Rs
Varying your methods and materials will help to keep learning active for the child through the use of audio, visuals, and computer literacy. Children’s books offer opportunity to explore math concepts. In a classroom setting, engage the group in an activity such as an alphabetical listing of students’ names. You should start using directional words in your word cards to help build their vocabulary beyond nouns and verbs. Children should now be ready for sound connections to all of the alphabet, ending sounds, and some blends. Relaying information and expanding sentences will promote their vocabulary growth and increase their skill in language use.

Unit IV – How to Smooth the Transition into 3 Rs in the Primary Grades
Parents and educators need to be sensitive to the ability level of children entering school. Some valuable concepts can be practiced through activities which tell where, and words that tell when, and number counting. Many games can be adapted to meet the ability level and also build on arithmetic skills including operations. The use of predictable story books helps the child to structure their own writing with your help in phonemic makeup of words. Establishing a foundation of identifying high frequently words will lead your learner into greater reading and writing. Introduce your child to the value of your local library.

Possible Uses of This Text

As stated earlier, this is a great resource for those interested in emergent literacy learners who may have been away from that level for some time. It could also serve as a resource for educators or parents who are unfamiliar with the value of oral language nurturing. The book is well organized with units and sub-chapters that it would be easy to locate any given interest. The examples are weaved throughout the sub-chapters and serve as great idea resources.

Cautions for Using the Text

Anyone working with this level of learner will need to have some experience and training in more than just language development. Those interested will need to explore methods of working with the at-risk learner, social climate and classroom management issues, record keeping and assessment methods, and parental communication. The book is not a solo resource for educators, though it is an easy beginning.

The Boy Who Would Be A Helicopter
The uses of storytelling in the classroom

By Vivian Gussin Paley
Publisher: Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England)
Copyright: 1990
ISBN # 0-67408030-0


In The Boy Who Would Be A Helicopter, Paley demonstrates the benefits of story telling in her preschool classroom. She describes several of the children, but has a special interest in Jason, a loner and outsider, and his struggle to be accepted into the community of his classmates. Paley explains how children emerge as natural and skilled storytellers, uses her students to gain insights into the teaching process and offers detailed discussions about control, authority, and the misuse of punishment in the preschool classroom.

Jason’s Story:

The story of Jason begins at the start of school, from him being an outsider to his teachers and classmates, to one of becoming a valued member of his class by the end of the year. School takes place in an old house with three teachers and twenty four children. Jason plays alone, calls himself a helicopter, and when he is worried he says something is broken and does not participate in class. He does not allow any other child to touch him or his helicopter. Even Paley thought him unusual, but quickly realizes his potential: “to me, Jason seems different from the others, but it is clear that I am the one who is different, not Jason” (p.43).

Paley patiently watches and listens as Jason and his classmates play, noticing how his thinking mirrors his classmates and their images begin to creep into his play, though he doesn’t use the words he hears. Paley notices how the children try to help Jason. They understand Jason even if he doesn’t understand them.

As Jason progresses, so does Paley’s understanding of him. She notices that the children make Jason come into the social life of the class, that they are far more direct in their strategies, and it’s easier for Jason to examine and think about what they say and do, versus what she does. She says “play itself is the practicing of problems” (p.80). Jason seldom responds in casual conversation or formal discussion, but during play he is definitely advancing in this skill, making connections during his play.

As the school year progresses, Paley notices that Jason’s problem is that he seldom watches other children, though he is beginning to understand that his classmates are the ones who can show him the best ways to fix his moods and misgivings within the context of play. The children help Jason out more than the teacher, because they need him to play, thus he has to get out of his corner. Jason makes them laugh, they begin to like him.

From Jason’s play and interactions, we soon find out that he does have ‘normal’ conversations with his classmates, and that he probably converses in this manner all the time. We judge and evaluate Jason in a place where he has not been comfortable enough to engage in good conversations. But as he feels comfortable in play, school is beginning to feel like home for Jason.

By the end of the year, Jason has watched, listened, and experimented enough for him to feel safe in including others in his own play. He learns to open the doors of his helicopter house to others. We find out that he is not a slow learner; he is a cautious researcher.

Paley’s Insights:

From her experience with Jason and his classmates, Vivian Gussin Paley has gained many teaching insights. A few:

  • Labels don’t apply in a classroom that sees children as storytellers…to be known by your stories puts the child in a favorable light. Story tellers are not fast or slow. (p.54)
  • Punishing young children for what they have not learned is completely counterproductive. It creates no useful dialogue. “Drama will always replace purposelessness if given a chance”. (p. 86)
  • Children “think” by continuing to play and develop new roles; teachers “think” by observing the ways in which each child moves out of an untenable position and begins to make sense of the classroom”. (p. 86)
  • Children correct one another’s misconceptions all the time while they play and work and talk and act in each other’s stories. If the classroom isolates children, then the teacher has to make all the connections. (p. 126)
  • The children’s manipulation of one another’s play provokes a genuine self-awareness that the adult cannot emulate. The adult looks and responds to what the children say, but children lock or unlock the doors to their secrets as they play out their scenes. (p. 134)
  • Children are able to teach one another best if they are permitted to interact socially and playfully throughout the day. And as they get older they’ll continue to teach each other. (p. 138)
  • We must become aware of the essential loneliness of each child. Or classrooms must look more like happy families and secure homes, where all members can tell their private stories, knowing they will be listened to with affection and respect. (p. 148)

Possible Uses of the Test:

Some ways this text could be used by teachers include:

  • to gain insight on how to understand any child who has the sense of being alone and misunderstood in the classroom
  • to realize that the ‘outsider’ is the one who causes a teacher to analyze herself and everyone else in the classroom.
  • showing how the classroom is the model where the young discover themselves and learn to confront new problems through play.
  • defining how the culture of a particular classroom comes only from listening to and watching the children.

Cautions for Using the Test:

Though Paley’s book has some wonderful insights into the progress of a child who is an outsider and his classmates, she does not give any information on her curriculum, or any practical applications, or details on how she accomplished this goal. We can read between the lines and speculate on how she conducts her storytelling, and how she observes and documents the play, but she does not go into any detail on how to achieve this kind of success in our own classrooms. We would need to read other works by Paley to find out the particulars.

Lauren Glueck
ERL 534, Summer 2000
Text Review

A Scientific Tragedy

Written by: Russ Rymer
Publisher: HarperPerennial-a division of Harper Collins Publishers (New York, NY) Copyright: 1993
ISBN # 0-06-016910-9

Synopsis of Content:

Genie offers us a glimpse into the tragic life of a thirteen year-old girl who becomes, through no fault of her own, an object of controversy. In the story of Genie, Russ Rymer has told, from an apparent unbiased perspective, a detailed account of unbelievable abuse, greed and selfishness. At the root of the selfishness and greed is the unending search for answers to the scientific question of language development. This is a story that should be read from cover to cover, as taking the chapters out of sequence would diminish the horrific events and the time frames in which they occurred. A detailed table of contents breaks Genie into five major sections that are further divided into forty subsections representing chapters. A brief synopsis of each section is provided to give prospective readers a glimpse into the life of Genie.

Section I: Found – In this section, Rymer first provides the reader with a brief history of linguistic studies completed on children who have not had “normal” linguistic contact. Then he proceeds to relate the events that lead to the discovery of Genie. She was a thirteen year old child that had been kept a prisoner in her own bedroom for most of her life, strapped to a potty seat with little to no visual, auditory or kinesthetic stimulation. Detailed histories of Genie’s parents are shared revealing much misfortune and grief; even including other incidents of possible abuse to children born into the family before Genie. Other chapters in this section introduce the reader to Noam Chomsky and his beliefs regarding language development as well as acquaint the reader with a few of the many individuals that would play a part in Genie’s life. Genie’s treatment at the Children’s Hospital is explained as well as her abilities upon arriving there. The seed is planted for the upcoming arguments dealing with moral concerns versus scientific opportunity.

Section II: Premonitions – Comparisons are made between Genie and Victor, the Wild Child of the 1800’s, and their similarities are examined. This section provides the reader with a very detailed account of Victor’s progress, once he was found. Also in these chapters, Genie is placed in her first foster home with a special education teacher who had worked with Genie, named Jean Butler. Bickering between Butler and other members of Genie’s team, mainly Susan Curtiss and David Rigler, becomes common place with accusations regarding the mishandling of Genie’s case. Butler begins to deny members of the team access to Genie and her application to be Genie’s foster parent is eventually rejected.

Section III: When Singing Was All For Her Benefit – Subsequent to Butler’s application being denied, Genie is placed with David Rigler and his wife and family where she stayed for four years. David Rigler was one of the chief researchers on Genie’s team. Chapters in this section describe Genie’s adjustment to her new home and the plateauing of her language progress. Also, for the first time, Genie was able to express some of the horrific events of her younger years. In addition, this section revealed that the grant proposed for continued research with Genie was denied. The back-stabbing and bickering is stepped up a notch with Jean Butler being the apparent, biggest instigator.

Section IV: Lost – As the dismal title of this section suggests, the chapters in this segment cover the downward spiral of events in Genie’s life after the Rigler’s relinquished their foster care. Unbelievably, she is placed back with her mother who had corrective eye surgery to restore her sight and had regular contact with Genie at her various foster homes. Her mother found the placement too difficult and Genie was placed in new foster homes. A significant regression was noted in her speech. Descriptions of court hearings are provided where the control of Genie’s “estate” was decided as well as questions discussed regarding testing and care that Genie had been provided throughout the time she was at Children’s Hospital and the various foster homes. An alliance between Genie’s mother and the bitter Jean Butler had formed. Genie is placed in a home for retarded adults at the age of seventeen.

Section V: The World Will Never Understand – In these five remaining chapters, Russ Rymer presents the reader with a sort of epilogue where he writes about paying a more recent visit to the individuals most closely involved in Genie’s case. He visited Dave and Marilyn Rigler, Jay Shurley and Susan Curtiss to obtain a perspective on their impressions of what happened to Genie. Jay Shurley was the only one who had knowledge of Genie’s present placement and had relatively recent contact with her. He showed Rymer pictures of Genie’s 27th birthday party that sadly revealed a miserable, haunted individual. All these people expressed profound, heartfelt sadness for what had transpired in Genie’s life but insisted they always had her best interests at heart.

Possible Uses of the Text

First and foremost, this text provides readers with detailed examples of what not to do as far as mixing the quest for knowledge with what is morally right for an individual. Maybe future readers/researchers can learn from the mistakes made by Genie’s team and work to ensure that nothing like that happens again. Furthermore, this text could be used as a resource for understanding theories of language development. The theories of linguists such as Psamtik, Chomsky, Snow, and Gleitman are discussed throughout the book.

Cautions for Using the Text

At times, the detail with which Rymer delved into seemingly superficial venues (describing the campus and room where he interviewed Noam Chomsky) was not particularly needed in telling the story of Genie. However, the reader is encouraged to get beyond that to the deeper meanings in the text.

In addition, while this book is extremely informative and easy to interpret, it is quite depressing and definitely would not be considered a “feel-good” read. Readers are cautioned that they are apt to put this book down feeling sad, disturbed and disheartened. This should not however, deter people from venturing into Genie’s life through the pages of Rymer’s book, as we can learn much about humanity from others’ mistakes.


Written by: Margaret E. Mooney
Publisher: Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc. (Katonah, N.Y.)
Copyright: 1991
ISBN #: 0-913461-18-0

Synopsis of Content:

The basis of the book, Reading To, With, and By Children, is the premise that what happens during reading time is affected by and affects everything that happens during the entire school day. It mentions the importance of how children view themselves and their world.

Chapter Two: Learning to Talk with Learning to Read

Children are considered to be talkers, makers, and receivers of meaning through talk, from the beginning. Children learn to talk by: being surrounded by people talking, people talking to them, talking with others, talking to themselves and to others. Children learn to read the same way: seeing and hearing others, listening to others read, reading with others, reading by themselves and to others. This chapter also discusses the five ways to read with children. The five approaches are: Reading to Children – helps widen horizons; Shared Reading – teacher invites children to “read along with” her/him; Language Experience Approach – a combination of reading and writing; Guided Reading children talk, think and question their way through a book and the last, Independent Reading – the child assumes full responsibility to select what s/he reads and knows how to make time to do so.

Chapter Three: Focusing on the Reader

This chapter describes the three stages of reading, Emergent, Early and Fluency. The Emergent Stage emphasizes enjoyment and enrichment. Children learn that text and illustrations give meaning. The Early stage clarifies plot and theme. Children pay close attention to the structure and meaning of sentences. And the Fluency Stage is when children are reading by themselves, integrating cues, maintaining meaning through more complex structures and adjusting and reading rate with the purpose of reading.

Chapter Four: Choosing the Appropriate Approach

This chapter discusses how the teacher bases his/her decision on which approach to use such as: experiences and attitudes of the children, ratio between supportive features and challenges presented, amount and type of teacher support and the purpose of reading. The amount of time on any one approach varies from child to child, group to group and grade to grade. All approaches have a place at every level of the school day.

Chapter Five: Reading to Children

This chapter shares ways to increase children’s interest in books and their desire to be readers through becoming familiar with ideas, events and feelings by being read to. This will help them to develop narratives and to create and record their own texts. This type of exposure encourages children to be readers and writers. It also helps them to discover new levels of meaning.

Chapter Six: Shared Reading

The teacher’s approach through attitude is important. Invitations to participate when reading aloud by a smile or nod of the head will encourage the child’s active participation. Suggestions are given for material selection (appeal of book, appropriateness of the structure, effectiveness of language, illustrations and proper format). The purpose of using Big Books to lead children back to the regular-sized publication is mentioned. It also mentions how to read Big Books in a shared setting to give children the feeling of support until they become so familiar with the story that they will be able to read it independently. (A sample lesson for Shared Reading is offered).

Chapter Seven: Language Experience

Language experiences enable the teacher to help children explore, record, consider, read about and share their personal experiences, feelings and ideas through talking, reading and writing. Story writing can be recorded in many ways, including collections by individual children, wall stories, diaries, charts, poems, songs, illustrations, letters and journals. This range of creativity provides motivation for independent writing.

Chapter Eight: Guided Reading

This chapter gives differences between Guided Reading and Traditional Reading. In Traditional Reading the teacher uses a basal series. S/he usually provides short-term help focusing on one detail in a predetermined sequence. The students appeal for help more. In Guided Reading the teacher questions and comments on the child’s reading to teach them how, why and which strategies to select in order for them to become independent readers.

This chapter also gives suggestions of desirable features in books for use at each of the three main stages; Emergent, Early and Fluency. Emergent Stage __________would have a strong story line for beginners to gain meaning, close match of text and picture, and directionality skills to lead the reader through the text without confusion. Books for the Early Stage reflect the children’s widening experiences, and match between text and print may not be as precise and increases the use of cues to search, check, and maintain meaning. Books for the Fluency Stage should consist of longer and more complex text, illustrations that reflect mood more than action and have specialized vocabulary. (Samples of Guided reading at each stage are given).

Chapter Nine: Independent Reading

Independent reading is a complement to the other reading approaches. Children assume the responsibility and control that has developed through the other approaches to reading. The teacher’s role changes from guiding too observing and responding. Suggestions for a variety of books and activities are included for the teacher to offer and introduce to the independent readers.

Chapter Ten: Continuing the Dialogue

Opportunities should be given for children to revisit texts on their own and explore new books. Post reading tasks should be through the desire to continue dialogue with the author, not to meet the teacher’s checklist. It should be a time set aside for learning and not testing. Blocks of time are suggested to allow children to work in depth with material but on the other hand not be left unsupported.

Chapter Eleven: Sharing the Responses

The classroom environment needs to reflect “to, with and by” of the children’s responses. One way to do this is through displaying children’s work. Displays invite children to respond to others work. They add purpose to the children’s responses and reward their effort. It also enables them to observe each other’s work and learn from one another.

Chapter Twelve: Keeping Learning Alive

Responsive teaching means the teacher supports the children and illuminates their goals so they can enjoy success and achievement. Children and teachers become models for each other so the classroom becomes a learning community.


Some ways this text could be used include:

  • Requiring it as a reading text for students in the field of education
  • Introducing and defining the three main stages of reading
  • Giving a variety of sample lessons for the three approaches
  • Synopsis of all current reading approaches
  • Easy access specific topics by using its table of contents.


Possibly a chapter or excerpt on the kinds of questions and comments used by the teacher to help children gain independence in reading would be beneficial. As well, a list of the types of strategies children need to know in order to become fluent, independent readers could also be an added asset.

Teaching Children to Care
Management in the Responsive Classroom

Written by: Ruth Sidney Charney
Publisher: Northeast Foundation for Children (Green, MA)
Copyright: 1991
ISBN #: 0-9618636-1-7

Synopsis of Content:

In Teaching Children to Care, Ruth Charney shares personal experiences from her classroom as she provides a framework for establishing a responsive classroom all year long. She strongly stresses the need for children to be taught self-control and self-discipline. Charney offers techniques and methods for teaching children to care about themselves, others, and the world. This book is divided into three sections. The first section deals with teaching discipline, the second focuses on listening and respect between teachers and students, and the third section stresses the importance of teachers understanding their ideals, their reasons for teaching. Each chapter has a summary to restate the author’s ideas. A sentence about each chapter is provided to give an idea about this text.

Section I: I See You, I See Everything

Chapter 1: Intentions- This chapter provides reasoning for why Ruth Charney feels it is so important to teach children self-disciple and self-control as well as a feeling of community.

Chapter 2: I See You, I See Everything - This chapter is about classroom management and establishing routines and skills for children working by themselves, in groups, or with a partner.

Chapter 3: The Rules - Ruth Charney points out the importance of creating the rules with the children to set the tone of the classroom. They should provide positive directions.

Chapter 4: Using Logical Consequences - Since you set the rules in the previous chapter, she offers ideas of what to do when a rule is broken.

Chapter 5: Problem-Solving Class Meetings - This chapter is broken down into the specific components of a problem-solving class meeting; the purpose, the rules, the skills, the procedures, and the steps.

Chapter 6: Small Things – Time Out- Charley focuses on one part of a system of logical consequences in this chapter, the “time-out”.

Chapter 7: Power Struggles – This chapter discusses the reality that a power struggle takes away from the community we are working so hard to build. She offers suggestions for dealing with them.

Section II: Voices of Teaching

Chapter 8: Teachers as Mirrors: Using Social Conferences - This chapter defines the steps of a social conference and the importance of noticing individual students.

Chapter 9: Empowering Language: Say what You Mean & Mean What you Say – In this chapter, Ruth Charney offers guidelines “for using language to affirm meaning and action”.

Chapter 10: Stress The Deed, Not the Doer
– This chapter describes a technique Charney uses called “Center Circle”, a way to get the children to express their feelings and to listen to the feelings of others in a respectful and safe way.

Chapter 11: The Changing Voices of Authority – Charley shares the three voices of authority she uses in her teaching; the golden rule, rules for safety and order, and personal rules.

Section III: Clear Positives

Chapter 12: Teaching By Clear Positives – In this chapter, Ruth Charney shares her ideals, her reasons for teaching, and how she uses the process of Clear Positives to guide her decisions in the classroom.

Chapter 13: Choosing Social Arrangements and Expectations – This chapter stresses the importance of teaching habits of friendliness which will help children to become better caretakers and friends.

Chapter 14: Introducing Clear Positives to Groups – In this chapter, Charney goes into detail to explain how Clear Positives explain to the students why we do what we do in school.

Chapter 15: Clear Positives for Individuals – This chapter is about identifying clear positives for an individual through a written or oral contract. There are examples for creating contracts.

Chapter 16: The Critical Contract – Charney says she called this a Critical Contract because it answers the most critical questions, “What do you want to work on the most this year in school? What is most important to you?”

Conclusion – Authentic Teaching
– In this concluding chapter, Ruth Charney touches upon the realities of teaching.

Appendix A: a story to illustrate Ruth Charney’s beliefs
Appendix B: she addresses problems and solutions in a social conference format
Appendix C: a list of issues reflecting age characteristics of children between ages 5 – 11
Appendix D: the process of using a Critical Contract
Appendix E: goals, guidelines, and formats for Guided Discovery
Appendix F: a social curriculum checklist

Possible Uses of the Text

Some ways this text could be used by practitioners include:

  • Serving as a resource for specific ways to develop classroom management skills
  • Providing a resource for new teachers to turn to for ideas

Cautions for Using the Text

The only caution I would give is one which Ruth Charney talks about in her foreword. This is only her experience, one teacher, although she gathered a lot of ideas from others. Her ways may not be the ways for you. Take from it what you want, but don’t follow her suggestions if they go against what you believe. Do what works for you.

Grand Conversations

By Ralph Peterson and Maryann Eeds
Publisher: Scholastic (New York, NY)
Copyright: 1990
ISBN 0-590-73422-9

Synopsis of Content

In Grand Conversations, Peterson and Eeds expound upon the merits of using real literature to promote literacy. There are eight sections in the book. Each of the first six sections point out a different reason for using real literature by using excerpts from typical trade books that would be read at various grade levels. The underlying theme in each of these sections is the importance of using dialogue to enhance interpretation. The last two sections are lists of references and books that were either referred to in the text or would be helpful if a literature-based reading program was to be implemented. What follows is a brief summary of each of these sections.

Teaching with real books – In this section Peterson and Eeds discuss the value of a reading program based on reading real books as opposed to one that uses textbooks or basals. They believe that reading real books encourages the reader to create her own meaning. Whereas reading basals or textbooks fosters the reader to learn the mechanical aspects of reading.

A literature-based reading program – A literature-based reading program has four components in the topic that Peterson and Eeds share in section two. They are: story in the home, sharing story with a group, extensive reading and intensive reading. It is their opinion that each of these components must interact in order to have a reading program that fosters literacy.

Beliefs and practices – Dialogue is used in section three to demonstrate how the four beliefs about reading that Peterson and Eeds hold can be put to use. Their four beliefs about reading are: story is an exploration and illumination of life, interpretation is a transactional process, children are makers of meaning, and dialogue is the best pedagogy.

Literacy elements – Despite objections from some teachers that were consulted while writing this book, Peterson and Eeds feel that a reader needs to be aware of the literacy elements if they are to understand story. It has been their experience that even the youngest reader can understand and respond to: layers of story meaning, structure, character, place, point of view, time, mood, symbol and extended metaphor.

Teachers at work – The emphasis in this section is on teachers developing literature studies. Peterson and Eeds go back to the four components discussed in the second section that they feel make up a 45literature-based reading program. By using a story that might be read at an appropriate grade level, the authors demonstrate how each of these four components might be implemented.

Afterward – traveling with Dominic – Here Peterson and Eeds sum up their beliefs about the benefits of reading real literature by quoting from a book called Dominic written by William Steig. What the authors were hoping to point out, via this quote, is that teachers need to trust their students. When students are given the opportunity to discuss what they read and to understand that their interpretations are valued, then they will make sense of what they read.

References – The references section consists of two lists. The first list is of children’s books that Peterson and Eeds referred to when pointing out various aspects of a literature-based reading program. The second list is of professional books that the authors made reference to throughout the text.

Book Lists – This is the last section of the book. It is a list of books that the authors thought were outstanding. The list is divided into books appropriate for kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, third and fourth grade and fifth and sixth grade. Each section of the list is in alphabetical order.

Possible Use of the Text

Some ways this text could be used by practitioners include:

  • Providing an overview of a literature-based reading program
  • Serving as a resource for one way “talk” can be implemented in the classroom
  • Serving as a resource to help convince others (teachers, principals, school board members, parents) of the benefits of a literature-based reading programs
  • Providing a list of professional books that promote literature-based reading program
  • Providing a list of children’s books that would enhance a literature-based reading program

Cautions for Using the Text

Practitioners that have a limited prior knowledge of literature circles will need to do additional reading before they will be able to effectively implement the ideas presented in this text. Also practitioners, with an adequate knowledge of literature circles, who are searching for actual conversation that students have had while reading various books will find very few in this text. This reader got the impression that the authors, although well versed in the merits of a literature-based reading program, were not well versed in the actual implementation of grand conversations with groups of students about books they had read.

Making Assessment Elementary

Written by: Kathleen Strickland and James Strickland
Publisher: Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH)
Copyright: 2000
ISBN #: 0-325-00200-2

Synopsis of Content :

In Making Assessment Elementary, Kathleen and James Strickland provide a constructivist approach to learning and assessing for the elementary grades. Throughout the text, the authors stress that assessing student learning is a process of making meaning. They advocate that teachers apply a constructivist lens to the selection of materials and practices which support authentic, meaningful learning. Their constructivist approach is grounded in cultivating classroom communities in which an atmosphere of trust and risk-taking exist. The Stricklands stress that not only must students and teachers trust each other, but they must also trust themselves. This trust is required in order for students and teachers to risk being honest in their reflections of their own and each others’ learning.

The eight chapters of the text can be easily broken into three major categories of information pertaining to assessment. The first category (chapter 1) presents an overview of constructivist theory, develops a case for the differences between assessment and evaluation, and defines types of assessment, such as alternative assessment, performance assessment, and reflective evaluation. The second category of information (chapters 2-5) describes specific assessment tools for literacy. Attention in these chapters is devoted to observational tools, analysis of oral reading and comprehension, writing and spelling assessments, and portfolio design. The final category (chapter 6-8) pertains to use of assessments to evaluate student progress (i.e. progress reports, grades, special education referrals) as well as methods for communicating student progress to various stakeholders (i.e. students, parents, administrators, communities.) In addition, the Stricklands present a strong case for the collaboration among the various stakeholders to support a constructivist approach to assessment.

In addition to the content presented in the body of the text, Making Assessment Elementary contains two other helpful features. At the end of each chapter a section entitled, “Thoughts for Further Inquiry” is included. This section contains useful prompts and questions for individuals or discussion groups to reflect upon. The text is also accompanied by a user-friendly CD Rom that contains copies of many of the assessment forms described in the text. These tools can be printed and modified as needed.

Possible Uses of the Text

Some ways this text could be used by practitioners include:

  • Providing a overview of constructivist theory
  • Providing an introduction to basic assessment definitions and concepts
  • Providing an overview of basic literacy assessment tools
  • Serving as a resource for additional assessment tools
  • Serving as a resource for pre-made assessment forms
  • Providing a discussion text for school staffs
  • Encouraging examination of various stakeholder perspectives

Encouraging collaboration among stakeholders invested in literacy assessment

Cautions for Using the Text

The text supports a strong constructivist perspective that may not be readily understood and/or accepted by all readers. Readers may need some instruction in Constructivist Theory prior to reading. Also, layout of the text is dense, making it difficult to scan quickly. The text does include a detailed table of contents and index to assist in locating specific information.