Below you will find sample reviews of texts used in previous Summer Institutes:
Elbow, Peter. Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process. NY: Oxford UP 1981.
Elbow is the master at helping people learn that they can write. His earlier book, Writing Without Teachers, has been selling steadily for over thirty years now.
In this book, Elbow begins with an overview of how to get words on paper and how to revise quickly. Then in later chapters, he offers a number of assignments (ideas/strategies) for getting words on paper; one chapter in this section is called “Poetry as No Big Deal,” while another is “The Loop Writing Process.” In a third section, he focuses on revising, giving us some very specific techniques for doing so. The next two sections focus on audience and feedback. The feedback section gives ideas for both criterion-based feedback and reader-based feedback. The final section is called “Power in Writing.” Here Elbow discusses voice, again giving us specific exercises to find or strengthen the writer’s voice. The very last chapter is one called “Writing and Magic,” a paradoxical title, since the purpose of the entire book has been to convince us that writing is not magic.
This book is valuable for several reasons. Elbow’s directions are very specific. And his tone is very soothing, self-deprecating. His language is accessible. Having suffered from writing anxiety himself, Elbow understands the fear that many people have of writing, and he seeks to alleviate it. This book is also a great resource for teachers. I’ve required teaching assistants to buy it because it gives so many specific ideas for teaching invention, shaping (organization), revising, asking for and giving feedback, and so forth, that one can easily take into the classroom.
Fletcher, Ralph and Portalupi, Joann. Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8. Portland,
ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 1998.
The word craft, I think, was chosen by the authors to invite the reader to view teaching writing as an art, an ability or strength with skill in planning and making. In the early 1980's, Ralph Fletcher and Joann Portalupi began studying the craft of writing and teaching writing with Lucy Calkins at the Teachers College Writing Project in New York City.
The authors describe with friendly, teacher-useful language how we can move beyond the practice of teaching writing skills. Like us in KMWP, the authors present strong literacy connections to support and extend writing experiences. After several decades of teaching and writing and staff development the authors decided to describe and explain the essential skills that writers in grades K-8 need.
Over 80 lessons are designed in three ways: discussion; strategies for teaching it; resource material. Also included an alphabetical list of lessons that are grade specific; suggested children's literature titles useful in mini-lessons; and a format that lends itself to group study or alone while planning writing instruction. This resource for teachers is not, however, a simple "how to "book.
You might also like to know about the companion book, Nonfiction Craft Lessons: Teaching Information Writing K-8, by the same authors.
Gallagher, Kelly. Reading Reasons: Motivational Mini-Lessons for Middle and High School. Portland: Stenhouse, 2003.
Gallagher begins his text by telling of a recent experience with the ubiquitous reluctant reader unable to make a personal connection between a real interest and reading. Hence, the text grows out of an action research question that many of us have asked ourselves over the years: How can we help students to grasp the meaningful reasons why they should read? The author then addresses some of the building blocks for creating readers and then underscores nine reasons we should read. Chapter 3, the bulk of the text, presents forty mini-lessons that are tied to the nine reading reasons. The author recommends spending five to twenty minutes per lesson, and the lessons can be taught randomly rather than sequentially. Gallagher also recommends that each student have a copy of the text in which to do the lessons, but he gives permission for the lessons to be copied from a single text. Each lesson opens with a brief, conversational statement of the lesson’s purpose – much like a literacy principle – that presents the importance of the activity. Activities are explained in step-by-step detail so that they are easy to use in the classroom.
While the text grows out of the author’s own needs and experience, his ideas are grounded in specific research about reading. Yet this text never feels scholarly or overly theoretical. It is geared toward real teachers in real classrooms. Teachers can easily pick and choose among the mini-lessons and can, after grasping the author’s concept, invent lessons of their own. I specifically like the fact that Gallagher does not offer advice for how to grade the assignments. By not tying the activities to grades, he seems more interested in helping teachers to create lifelong readers rather than students who read only because it is a requirement in school. This is most certainly a must-read for middle and secondary teachers who favor the mini-lesson and who are looking for a way to boost reading interest in their students.
Kirby, Dan, Dawn Latta Kirby, and Tom Liner. Inside Out: Strategies for Teaching Writing, 3rd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2004.
This book includes chapters on the writing process, the classroom environment, journaling, voice, audience, responding to student writing, revising, poetry, writing about literature, and grading and evaluating.
The book is based on six beliefs: 1. Writing is social and is best taught in a collaborative and communal setting (4). 2. Coached practice is essential (4). 3. Work with fluency first (5). 4. The whole is more than the sum of the parts (6). 5. Assessment must support growth (8). 6. Growth in writing takes time (8).
This book is full of student examples, suggestions for the classroom, and wise counsel. The first edition was written in 1981, and it has been speaking to real teachers in real classrooms since.
Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools. New York: Harper Perennial, 1992.
Have you ever complained when the copier on your side of the building is jammed; the cafeteria didn’t make enough fresh salads; the copy person didn’t show up for work, and you can’t get your stack of 100 state practice assessment packets that you sent to have printed; the heat or air conditioning is out for a couple of hours; the laptop carts or computer lab are checked out when you need it; the campus lawn is a bit overgrown; your students don’t appreciate simple treats, such as a compliment, a hug, or a piece of candy; your system purchases new texts no sooner than you familiarize yourself with the old ones; or parents are too pushy, demanding, or involved?
Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools exposes the reality of too many of America’s schools and school children. These are the schools with one (or no) copy machine – never mind a “copy person” to make the copies for you; schools with no grass, no heat, no air conditioning, and cafeterias that have to be shutdown because of sewage backups; schools with bullet holes in most windows and drug paraphernalia littering the grounds; schools that are cold in the winter and hot in the summer; schools whose teaching staffs are made up of predominantly long-term substitutes or first-year teachers; schools where kids suffer from long-term malnutrition, asthma from local industry emissions, and deadly diseases like AIDS; schools with chemistry classes, but no labs; elementary schools with no playgrounds; students who can’t afford clothes, shoes, pencils, and paper; schools where parents are too weak from disease or working multiple low-paying jobs to get involved with their students’ learning; schools where teachers and students feel as though the world has forgotten that they exist.
Told through narratives and personal interviews, Kozol reveals his life’s work of divulging the disheartening verities of America’s “other” schools. He exposes the grim existence of many of our colleagues – teachers and administrators who “stay for the kids” and fight a never-ending battle to channel the bureaucracy that plagues many poor, predominantly minority urban and rural schools. While there is still a long and tedious road ahead, Kozol has brought to the attention of the nation and world the savage inequalities of America’s schools.
Lane, Barry. After the End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision. Portsmouth,
NH: Heineman, 1993.
Drawing from personal experience as a teacher of writing for all levels from elementary through college classes and using a number of well-chosen quotes, Barry Lane proposes many activities to promote the student’s ownership of his writing and ongoing revision during the writing process. In Part One, Lane introduces specific terms that identify the stages of writing basic to his philosophy (while acknowledging that there are many different ways to begin). He urges the use of questions by the writer and teacher to provoke specific details, especially those that contribute to the focus of the piece. “Snapshots” intensify visual details while “thoughtshots” concentrate on the thoughts of the characters (the described writing is largely narrative.).
Teaching writers to “explode a moment” and “shrink a century” illustrate the writer’s choices concerning the use of time. Lane recommends encouraging students to try different genres to discover the one that enables them to discover which works best for their story. The writing teacher is encouraged to empower the student to approach conferencing with specific needs and questions, and to discover his own voice.
Lane offers specific exercises and directions for developing a language of writing. In the final chapter of Part One, he encourages the teacher to praise specific features of drafts, to ask questions that will promote change, and to offer comments and express concerns. Having no solution to the challenge of grades, Lane concludes, “learning is an ongoing personal process that can be both frustrating and fulfilling; learning is its own reward” (129).
Part Two addresses revision as part of the writing process. The exercises connect revision with the process so it is ongoing rather than a final step. Lane offers many suggestions for activities that make revision a vital part of writing. He describes ways to help the writer discover his voice, consider his audience, and develop tone. Additional issues include work choice, editing, improving grammar, and using groups to address problems.
In the last humorous chapter, Lane addresses some common writing problems with a humorous description of the symptoms and a prescription for the cure. Although Barry Lane’s book After the End does not provide an easy solution for the revision challenge, he does provide many exercises for teaching revision as part of the writing process and ends the handbook (probably most useful for elementary through early high school) with 12 rules for “Revising Our Concept of Revision.” Concluding with recommended readings, Lane invites the reader to respond to his book as even his own writing is an “evolving process” (221).
Tovani, Cris. I Read It But I Don't Get It: Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent
Readers. Portland, ME: Teahouse, 2000.
I Read it But I Don't Get It is a reader friendly book on how to motivate non-readers. Written by a person who was a non-reader until her adult years, Tovani explains “fake reading” and then offers tips and strategies to get a person, young or old, to become a reader. She provides many "Fix-up" strategies and “Talk-Back” and “React” prompts to help non-readers connect with what they are reading.
This book is fast-paced with many great suggestions and ideas; easy to adapt to the classroom.
Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?
And Other Conversations About Race: A Psychologist Explains the Development
of Racial Identity. New York: Basic Books, 1997.
In the introduction, Tatum explains that she wrote the book not only to answer questions like the title question but also "to help others move beyond fear, beyond anger, beyond denial to a new understanding of what racism is, how it impacts all of us, and ultimately what we can do about it" (p. ix). For persons of standard average European background surrounded, for the most part, by others who share this delineation, race is often the elephant in the living room; everyone knows it is there, but nobody is talking about it. Reading this book forces us to look at the elephant; however, not everyone will agree upon what it is they are seeing.
This book is an excellent start toward achieving the goals of cross-racial understanding and dialogue, provided white readers push past their initial reluctance to accept the sociological definition of racism as an institution. Beverly Tatum's straightforward discussion of race gives readers a knowledge base from which they can spring confidently into conversations. While no book can, in and of itself, remedy societal ills, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" does the next best thing; it inspires and empowers change agents.