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Reading, writing may help preserve memory in older age - CBS News

Reading, writing may help preserve memory in older age - CBS News | reading and writing |
CBS News
Reading, writing may help preserve memory in older age
CBS News
Being a bookworm, jotting down your thoughts and completing other tasks that keep your brain active may help you stay sharp in your later years.

Via Skip Boykin
Matt Stanger's insight:

Basically reading and writing can keep you from going crazy. While not 100% effective it's still better then nothing. The brain is just like any other muscle in the body, if it doesn't get used it becomes weak and suseptible to injury and sickness. But exercising your brain isn't something you can wait to do once your older and expect to not get any illnesses that old people get, you have to do it throughout your life.

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Rescooped by Matt Stanger from woman!

30 Kids Who Wrote The Meanest Notes Ever. I Should Feel Bad...But I Can't Stop Laughing!

30 Kids Who Wrote The Meanest Notes Ever. I Should Feel Bad...But I Can't Stop Laughing! | reading and writing |
Children are so brutally honest with their opinions, especially toward adults. I LOST IT when I got to the 5th one. (30 Kids Who Wrote The Meanest Notes Ever. <-- if you are a parent you might have gotten one like this!

Via Christine Hartmann
Matt Stanger's insight:

If kids knew how to spell and knew all the rules of writing they'd be the best writers out there. They haven't developed that sense of what they do and say may hurt someone else so they say exactly what's on their mind and wouldn't worry about what others thought. Unlike us who try for hours to write but can't because we think everything we think up sounds dumb.

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Rescooped by Matt Stanger from AdLit!

You Can't Learn Much from Books You Can't Read

November 2002 | Volume 60 | Number 3 
Reading and Writing in the Content Areas Pages 16-19


You Can't Learn Much from Books You Can't Read


Richard L. Allington


Many students in grades 5–12 struggle to learn from content-area textbooks that don't match their reading levels.


It seems so obvious—students need textbooks that they can actually read. But the young man who offered the observation in the title was a young man in trouble. He had always found reading difficult. Even with good classroom instruction and effective remedial interventions that continued through middle school and into high school, he still struggled with the textbooks that filled his backpack. In many respects, he was lucky because the instruction he had received kept his reading development near grade level, at least on standardized tests. Many students like him have no such luck. Too few schools offer effective remediation for older struggling readers. As a result, too many students don't learn much from textbooks that they can't read.


Recently, education policymaking has focused laser-like attention on improving reading instruction in the preschool and primary grades. Policymakers have targeted almost no attention or funding on efforts to improve the reading proficiencies of students in grades 5–12—the very grades that need improvement, according to recent international comparisons. Those comparisons indicate that the reading, science, and math achievement of U.S. 4th graders ranks among the best in the world, but by middle school, U.S. achievement levels hover around the international average, a substantial decline. And everyone knows how poorly our high school students rank (Allington, 2001; National Center for Educational Statistics, 2001).


Any number of causes might explain the dramatic slide of U.S. students in the international comparisons, but I will focus on two related factors: the mismatch between the demands of content-area texts and student reading proficiencies, and the limited instructional support available in grades 5–12.


The Problem of Mismatched Textbooks

Chall (1983) noted that the demands of reading increase dramatically for students in 4th grade as their learning begins to rely more on textbooks. The vocabulary they encounter is less conversational and less familiar, with more specialized, technical terms (delta, plateau, basin) and abstract ideas (democracy, freedom, civilization). The syntax of texts becomes more complex and demanding. The reasoning about information in texts also shifts, with a greater emphasis on inferential thinking and prior knowledge. (For example, what stance is the author taking on industrial polluters? Is there another stance that others might take?


Many students who have been making satisfactory progress up to this point now begin to struggle with reading, especially content-area reading. Many never seem to recover.


Schools have typically exacerbated the problem by relying on a single-source curriculum design—purchasing multiple copies of the same science and social studies textbooks for every student. This “one-size-fits-all” approach works well if we want to sort students into academic tracks. It fails miserably if our goal is high academic achievement for all students (Baumann & Duffy, 1997).


Even worse, research shows that many classrooms use textbooks written two or more years above the average grade level of their students (Chall & Conard, 1991; Budiansky, 2001). Imagine what happens in those classrooms to students who are struggling to keep pace with grade-level reading development.


Even students who read on grade level may have trouble learning from their textbooks. Historically, a 95–97 percent accuracy level has been considered appropriate for instructional texts (Harris & Sipay, 1990). But texts of this level of difficulty are simply too hard for assigned content-area reading. Consider that a student reading a book at his or her “instructional reading level” will misread or skip as many as 5 words of every 100. In a grade-level high school science or social studies text, then, students will misread 10–25 words on every page! They won't misread if, runs, locate, or even misrepresent, but rather unfamiliar technical vocabulary specific to the content area, such as metamorphosis, estuary, disenfranchised, and unicameral.


Given the way textbooks are often used—what I have called “assign and assess” usage—we might profitably consider purchasing content textbooks written at students' independent level of reading proficiency (Budiansky, 2001), where students misread just 1 or 2 words in every 100. In other words, if schools use textbooks as the key curriculum content provider, then students need textbooks that they can read accurately, fluently, and with high levels of understanding.


Unfortunately, the idea of harder textbooks has captured the attention of educators and policymakers interested in raising academic achievement. But harder books won't foster the growth of content learning. Think about your own attempts to acquire new content knowledge. Imagine you want to learn about building a Web site. Do you reject many of the books you might use because they are too easy? Do you say to yourself, “Gosh, only 11 words on this page that I can't pronounce—not hard enough for me!”


Adults won't read hard texts voluntarily—not because we lack character, but because we've had too many frustrating experiences trying to learn from texts that were simply too difficult, had too many unfamiliar words, and had complicated sentences that seemed purposely tangled in an attempt to frustrate us. (Consider government tax manuals, any software manual, or even the directions for programming your VCR.) Adults use the easiest texts they can find when they want to learn about a new topic. Why do these same adults think that hard books are good for children and adolescents?


Assuming that we don't want to continue the tradition of using difficult textbooks and allowing large numbers of students to fail content courses, we have two possible solutions. We could search out texts that cover the topics at lower levels of reading difficulty (Beck, McKeown, & Gromoll, 1989). Or we can provide more instructional support to help students in grades 5–12 develop greater reading proficiency. Observations of exemplary teachers suggest that these teachers use both approaches to produce substantial reading, writing, and thinking growth in their students.


How Exemplary Teachers Avoid the Textbook Problem

Over the past decade, I served as a member of a scientific team working out of the Center for English Learning and Achievement, which carried out a large-scale research effort to understand how some of our best teachers teach. The research team studied teachers across the United States who had reputations for excellence and who produced superior learning levels in their students as indicated by a variety of measures of student achievement, including standardized test scores. These excellent teachers implemented classroom instruction that combined multiple-level content texts and additional instructional support for struggling readers (Allington, 2002; Allington & Johnston, 2002; Langer, 2001; Nystrand, 1997; Pressley, Allington, Wharton-McDonald, Block, & Morrow, 2001).


The exemplary teachers we studied were not typically familiar with the research that supported the sort of teaching that they offered. None had seen the findings of a recent study of success and failure in high school:

Research in adolescence suggests that students will be more successful at new tasks when the tasks they face are closely targeted to their academic skills, developmental stage, and the resources they bring to that task and when families and schools structure tasks in ways that provide appropriate levels of challenge and support. (Roderick & Camburn, 1999, p. 336)


Nonetheless, these teachers provided instruction that fit Roderick and Camburn's prescription perfectly.


Multiple Levels of Instructional Resources

First and most conspicuously, exemplary teachers created a multi-sourced and multi-leveled curriculum that did not rely on traditional content-area textbooks. They didn't throw those textbooks out but saw them as just one component of their total set of social studies and science curriculum materials.


In state history, for instance, the textbook provided a general organizing framework, but students acquired much of their historical content from tradebooks of multiple genres. In addition, original source materials, Web-based information, and local historians (professional and amateur) all supported students' study of state history.


Student Choice

Second, the exemplary teachers offered students what we labeled “managed choice” as they learned content and demonstrated what they had learned. In a global studies unit, all students didn't study and color the identical map of Europe. Instead, students selected regions or nations to study on the basis of their family history and personal interest. Each student or cluster of students was responsible for learning and then teaching their peers important content about their region.


When they studied insects, each student had to capture an insect and develop field journal data on its habitat and habits. Each student drew and labeled diagrams of his or her own insect rather than all students labeling the same ditto of an insect. They chose from several methods of presenting their insect to peers: a two-minute Be-the-Bug activity (Hi, I'm a dragonfly. Let me tell you a bit about me and where I live . . .); a HyperStudio presentation; or a written report. Giving students several options helped match assignments to students' abilities and learning styles, and enhanced their motivation (Allington & Johnston, 2002; Baumann & Duffy, 1997).


Individualized Instruction

The exemplary teachers offered instruction tailored to each student's individual needs. Their classes experienced more personalized teaching and discussion and spent less time on whole-group lecture and recitation activities. Other researchers studying effective teaching at both elementary and secondary levels have reported similar findings (Langer, 2001; Nystrand, 1997; Taylor, Pearson, Clark, & Walpole, 2000).

These teachers provided students with models and demonstrations of the strategies that effective learners use when confronted with unfamiliar words or with difficult text. But they demonstrated these strategies in the context of the text that the student was reading or composing. In other words, none of the exemplary teachers used scripted one-size-fits-all instructional materials. The teachers taught students, not programs. They worried less about student performance on state-mandated tests and more about engaging students with reading and writing in the content areas.


The Continuing Challenge

Improving learning in the content areas will require a substantial rethinking of what curriculum and instruction should look like. The exemplary teachers in the Center for English Learning and Achievement studies used practices that fostered improvements in student learning across the curriculum. But for now, most teachers who want to teach effectively have to teach against the organizational grain. Too often, teachers must reject the state and district curriculum frameworks and create their own curriculum packages, often spending their own funds to do so.


Good teaching should not be so difficult. But until more states and school districts dramatically modify their existing one-size-fits-all instructional resources and curriculum frameworks, many students won't receive the support they need to succeed in content-area learning.



Allington, R. L. (2001). What really matters for struggling readers: Designing research-based programs. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Allington, R. L. (2002, June). What I've learned about effective reading instruction from a decade of studying exemplary elementary classroom teachers. Phi Delta Kappan, 83, 740–747.

Allington, R. L., & Johnston, P. H. (Eds.). (2002). Reading to learn: Lessons from exemplary 4th grade classrooms. New York: Guilford.

Baumann, J. F., & Duffy, A. M. (1997). Engaged reading for pleasure and learning. Athens, GA: National Reading Research Center, University of Georgia.

Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., & Gromoll, E. W. (1989). Learning from social studies textbooks.Cognition and Instruction, 6(2), 99–158.

Budiansky, S. (2001). The trouble with textbooks. Prism, 10(6), 24–27.

Chall, J. S. (1983). Stages of reading development. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Chall, J. S., & Conard, S. S. (1991). Should textbooks challenge students? New York: Teachers College Press.

Harris, A. J., & Sipay, S. R. (1990). How to improve reading ability. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Langer, J. A. (2001). Beating the odds: Teaching middle and high school students to read and write well. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 837–880.

National Center for Educational Statistics. (2001). Outcomes of learning: Results from the 2000 program for international student assessment of 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Nystrand, M. (1997). Opening dialogue: Understanding the dynamics of language and learning in the English classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Pressley, M., Allington, R. L., Wharton-McDonald, R., Block, L. C., & Morrow, L. (2001). Learning to read: Lessons from exemplary first-grade classrooms. New York: Guilford.

Roderick, M., & Camburn, E. (1999). Risk and recovery from course failure in the early years of high school. American Educational Research Journal, 36(2), 303–343.

Taylor, B. M., Pearson, P. D., Clark, K., & Walpole, S. (2000). Effective schools and accomplished teachers: Lessons about primary grade reading instruction in low-income schools. Elementary School Journal, 101, 121–165.


Via Lynnette Van Dyke
Matt Stanger's insight:

If it's possible to have multiple books for 6th grade history or 9th grade biology that can get out the same info. then do it. A student shouldn't have to suffer through a class because their reading level isn't up to par yet. Of course you'd have to make sure that some high level reader wasn't playing to system and reading the easy book. Maybe if school officials weren't trying to push 11th grade level books on freshmen then our school ranking wouldn't be so bad. It seems like school officials are pushing education that's too high for a particular grade all across the board. Not all students are exceptional and can learn algebra 2 in 7th grade, or read and understand a high school level psychology book in 6th grade.

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Rescooped by Matt Stanger from Metaglossia: The Translation World!

Ten (Plus) Tips on Humor Writing

Ten (Plus) Tips on Humor Writing | reading and writing |

I've had the pleasure of incorporating humor into several of my books, most notably Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms and Let the Crow's Feet and Laugh Lines Come. Funny enough, humor i...

Via Charles Tiayon
Matt Stanger's insight:

Last semester was I was writing about serious stuff, this semester, hopefully I can get a little more, creative. Anyone can be serious and rant about what they think. But to inject humor into something, can be difficult but when done well can make an average paper outstanding. And I'm not big on Diet Coke either, I prefer Monster.

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Rescooped by Matt Stanger from Worder Woman!

8 pronunciation errors that made the English language what it is today

8 pronunciation errors that made the English language what it is today | reading and writing |
David Shariatmadari: Think hyperbole rhymes with Super Bowl? Don't worry, it could be the start of something beautiful

Via Maria Pia Montoro
Matt Stanger's insight:

This language can be a pain sometimes. You wonder how words like "though", and "thought" got there spelling. Shouldn't it be "thoe" and "thot"? Maybe these just didn't look pretty enough (enuff). And unfortunatly I think things are just going to get worse because now we have computers to correct everything for us so people don't have to pay as much attention to spelling.

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Rescooped by Matt Stanger from Once Upon a Time!

Why Kids Hate Reading: An Addict's Perspective - Huffington Post

Why Kids Hate Reading: An Addict's Perspective
Huffington Post
I was lucky. By the time school had started requiring us to read this or that novel, I had long been hooked on reading for purely leisurely enjoyment.

Via Ms Webster
Matt Stanger's insight:

I know as a kid reading really wasn't my thing. I don't think I read one book outside of class just for fun. That's not to say I hated all the books I had to read in school though. And I did read a fair amount of books outside of the classroom, but they were for book reports, but it's better then nothing.

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Rescooped by Matt Stanger from Worder Woman!

10 Facebook-Coined Terms That Changed the English Language

10 Facebook-Coined Terms That Changed the English Language | reading and writing |
Breaking down the terms Facebook has added to our everyday vocabulary.

Via Maria Pia Montoro
Matt Stanger's insight:

It's amazing how words can change meaning in an instant. A friend use to be someone you actually knew and hung out with. Now it can be someone half a world away that you've never seen before. People say they have 500 friends and 75% they probably don't know at all. And words like wall, poke, and unfriend mean different things now as well. You can unfriend someone but still like them as a friend, makes sense. Wall is your profile not an actual wall and poke is simply clicking the poke symbol to send a notification saying pay attention to me, it's not actually touching them. Who knows what other word changes will occur over the next 10 years.

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