Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Wed, 09 Mar 2005 16:11:23 +0200 From: Luna Beard Subject: The Texts in Elementary Classrooms
EDITORS: Hoffman, James V.; Schallert, Diane L. TITLE: The Texts in Elementary Classrooms SERIES: A Volume in the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA) Series PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR: 2004
Luna Beard, Department of Afro-Asiatic Studies, Sign Language and Language Practice, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
In their preface to the volume, Hoffman and Schallert (vii) point out that they assume a more contextualized and less controlling view of the texts used in classrooms than that held by twentieth century educationists. The editors of this book take the stance that "the texts in classrooms offer students a range of opportunities to engage in literate activity".
This volume of articles written by researchers based in the United States is divided into four sections, namely: I Basic Processes and Text Features II Considering the Forms of Texts in Classrooms III Some Issues Surrounding Text Selection IV Assessing the Text Environment
The articles in section I relate processes such as comprehension, motivation, word recognition and fluency to features of texts. In the first article in this section, Purcell-Gates and Duke discuss significant dimensions of words, sentences, discourse and illustrations in texts for beginning readers. These include aspects such frequency, meaning/content, decodability, predictability, familiarity and genre. Each of these characteristics are defined and then its relevance to beginning reading is described. After that the way in which texts for beginning readers vary in terms of the given characteristic, is discussed. This contribution is concluded with suggestions concerning beginning reading instruction and text dimensions.
In the second chapter in this section Cunningham, Koppenhaver, Erickson and Spadorcia discuss the relationship between word identification instruction and the characteristics of texts that are most likely to support successful word identification learning. In terms of their discussion, the term 'word identification' consists of two subcomponents; namely, decoding and word recognition. They identify five reasons why word identification cannot be successfully taught to most children without meaningful and interesting texts that support the development of automatic word recognition and efficient decoding. They explicate these five reasons as five needs that children have during their word identification development.
In the other two contributions in this section, Stahl and Dougherty Stahl consider the role of text in the development of fluency, while Paris and Carpenter examine children's motivation to read, at school as well as at home.
Section II comprises five articles. In the first one Keehn, Martinez and Teale discuss appropriate literature for three aspects of an instructional program; namely, the read aloud component, independent reading and literacy instruction. The discussion focuses on making good book choices given the vast number available to teachers throughout the United States. In their exposition of the first component, they (87) refer to research in which it is claimed that there is no substitute for a teacher who reads good stories to children. Furthermore, research (88) shows that books that are read aloud to young children are frequently the ones they pick up to read themselves when they visit the classroom or school library. The following article by Hoffman, Roser and Sailors takes a critical look at the accessibility and instructional design of levelled texts - that is, texts aimed at nurturing early reading development. The third article, by Duke and Tower, is entitled Nonfiction Texts for Young Readers. They (128) point out that while "once there were few quality and engaging nonfiction texts for children, there are now countless such texts, many of high quality and great interest". Informational texts of this type are particularly important for building comprehension skills, according to the research quoted (126). Ample research still needs to be conducted in this regard, as well as about texts of the type identified in the last chapter of this section; namely, electronic texts. The penultimate article in this section provides a very practical approach to local texts, which the authors say (155) invariably bring about conversation, enthusiasm and depth of understanding. Section III expands on the previous section in its focus on the selection of classroom texts. Issues such as bilingualism, linguistic diversity and the role of teachers as censors are addressed in the two articles in this section. The section is concluded by a list of considerations or "ponderables" (205) for classroom book selection.
Section IV consists of one chapter only. Here the preceding ideas are tied to together and summarized. It also provides assessment tools such as checklists and inventories that teachers can use.
This volume of articles is well-organised and well-structured. It makes for captivating reading and also provides a wealth of references for further reading.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Luna Beard is a researcher in the Department of Afro-Asiatic Studies, Sign language and Language Practice at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa.