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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

An Excellent Resource for Middle School and High School Teachers Who Want to do a Better Job of Teaching Reading.

Topping, Donna H.; McManus, Roberta Ann  (2010)  Stuck in the Middle:  Helping Adolescents Read and Write in the Content Areas. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

Okay, so normally in this blog I just review picture books, middle grade books, graphic novels, and adolescent literature.  Usually I try to avoid textbooks at all costs.  But this is a book that I am going to start using when I teach my Disciplinary Literacy class (instead of Jim Burke's Reading Reminders) as a supplemental text.

It is a well-written text with an intriguing voice, but what I like most of all  is that Topping and McManus get it.  Let me give you a couple of representative quotes and you will see what I mean.

"Demystifying reading is good for everyone.  Beginning is early elementary school, students have heard important messages about being a good reader, but it is ever so important that they see that the teachers of all their subjects understand, value, and enjoy reading as well. They need to know that their content-area teachers have the same knowledge and expectations regarding literacy as their English teachers do..." (p.11)

"What we advocate here is the kind of writing that adds up to a lot of learning -- a way of thinking, a way of figuring out what you think and what you know.  This writing is brief, but their is lots of it and most of it ungraded (did your ears just perk up?)....It is writing to learn, not to produce a finished product."  (p.67)

"We remember one teacher whose units all followed the same pattern:  Present the vocabulary list, read the textbook, outline the chapter, show a video, assign the questions at the end of the chapter, give a test.  Next unit?  Same pattern.  Although we believe in establishing routines so that students understand expectations, this is predictability run amok.  Besides being boring, this pattern plays to the natural strengths of only some of the students... "  (p. 95)

This just seems like a lot of sensible advice -- and I think it would be a good book for an established teacher to read -- they would likely find a lot in here that was affirming, but also some new practical ideas as well.  Good stuff.

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