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March 1, 2010
Vol. 67
No. 6

EL Study Guide

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Instructional Strategies

Readers for Life

  • If you are an English or reading teacher, how do you approach the teaching of literature? Compare your strategies to Gallagher's descriptions of overteaching and underteaching. Do you see yourself following either of these patterns? What effect do you believe it is having on your students, and how might you adjust your strategies?
  • How much time do you give students to read in class? How might you find more time for students to read in class? Miller suggests eliminating warm-up and "when you are done" activities. How well do you think this would work for your students?
  • Do you ever teach whole-class novels? What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks of this approach? How might you improve your whole-class novel units? Or would you consider following Miller's advice and eliminating them entirely?
  • How much choice do you give your students in their reading? How do you respond when they are reading something that, in your view, lacks merit or is insufficiently challenging? How might you guide students to make wise reading choices?

Getting Grouped

  • Have you ever been grouped by ability? What effect did it have on your motivation?
  • Why do teachers group students by ability? What benefits does ability grouping offer the student? The teacher?
  • Read over Tovani's four insights about grouping (pp. 26–28). Do you agree with her thoughts? Do these drawbacks of ability grouping offset the potential benefits?
  • If you do group students by ability, how would the elimination of ability grouping change your instructional practices?
  • One common argument for ability grouping is that it enables advanced learners to work at their own level instead of using their time to help their classmates. Tovani acknowledges that this can be a problem but notes that advanced learners "are more confident than strugglers. They tend to be more impatient when their needs aren't met, and this impatience can force them to take a more active role in their learning" (p. 27). These learners often ask targeted questions that can help the whole group. Does this jibe with your experience? How can teachers ensure that the needs of their advanced students are met without separating them from the rest of the class?

Learning from State Tests

  • What has been your experience with standardized tests? What kinds of thinking do the tests in your state seem to assess most thoroughly?
  • Wiggins states that an "examination of the released tests shows that most of the questions on the math and language arts sections are both appropriate and revealing" (p. 51) Read over the sample questions in Wiggins's article (pp. 49, 50, 51). What kinds of thinking do these questions measure? How "appropriate and revealing" are they? How do these questions compare to those on the standardized tests used in your state?
  • Florida, Massachusetts, and Ohio release detailed test results and analysis to the public. According to Wiggins, "there simply cannot be greater accountability unless state assessments provide such transparent feedback." What kind of feedback do you receive about assessments in your state? How helpful would it be to receive more information? What kind of feedback would you like to receive on state assessments? How public should such results be?

Teresa K. Preston has contributed to educational leadership.

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