Monthly Archives: July 2015

Edmund Burke Huey

“And to completely analyze what we do when we read would almost be the acme of a psychologist’s achievements, for it would be to describe very many of the workings of the human mind, as well as to unravel the the tangled story of the most remarkable specific performance that civilization has learned in all its history.”

Edmund Burke Huey’s The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968), first published in 1908, is apparently one of the first serious, scholarly monographs on the how the brain performs during reading, and the methodology teachers might use to improve that performance. Mr. Huey was an early research psychologist, and he occupied the first half of this book with (as the title patently indicates) the psychology of reading. More useful, if one is a teacher, is the second half of the book on the pedagogy of reading.

Such books are abundant now, and some are better than others. What I find particularly interesting about Mr. Huey’s exposition of the pedagogy of reading is his integration of elements of the history of publishing (types of editions, typefaces, illustrations, and the like) into consideration in how a pedagogue can best assist his or her charges in learning to read. What might teachers improve in the design–in terms of type characteristics, design, syntax, forms of sentences, punctuation–of curriculum for struggling learners? Edmund Burke Huey opens that discussion here.

Given the amount of research into, well, the psychology and pedagogy of reading since this book’s publication (which was in 1908, after all), this is probably not the best book to read if you are looking to improve your teaching practice quickly. On the other hand, if you want a carefully researched meditation on reading, and an interesting piece of intellectual history, this is a book well worth examining.

One View of Language and Learning 

“Language is a tool by which people express their thoughts. Everything children are going to learn, they are going to learn through their ability to understand language and to produce language.”

Janellen Huttenlocher, University of Chicago (From: Galinsky, Ellen. Mind in the Making. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.)

Why Another Blog?

For almost a year, I’ve been sitting on this WordPress domain name, intending, eventually, to reconstitute Mark’s Text Terminal. Today, I finally sat down, started navigating this blog software, and wrote a couple of things. Each time I thought about taking on the responsibility of a blog or website, I wondered what I could possibly add to the 227 million blogs opened on Tumblr alone since 2011 (according to statista.com). This is actually the second iteration of Mark’s Text Terminal; the first ran for several years before I dismantled it after an incident at my school in which a teacher was persecuted–in what one of my colleagues has aptly characterized, I think, as a “test case on social media” in the New York City Department of Education. I’m back with a more secure site on which I can moderate comments and control access, something I never learned to do with the blogging software I was using in the original version of Mark’s Text Terminal.

I plan to link occasionally to Diane Ravitch’s blog. I confess to an interest in educational policy issues, but I propose neither to engage nor address those issues in this blog. American political discourse, of which educational policy issues are a subset, has become so squalid and ignorant that I simply find it repulsive. I’m not apathetic, but I find it difficult to participate in a discourse where facts and evidence are so little respected that they don’t play a role, in any meaningful sense of the concept, in it. Dr. Ravitch, in her analyses of policy issues, has on more than one occasion decried the lack of respect for evidence in the various discourses around educational policy. Here at Mark’s Text Terminal, I’ll reblog her posts on how policy actually affects classroom practice and practitioners–i.e. teachers. However, as far as I am concerned, in policy issues in general, she is the voice of reason. Go to her blog –which is excellent–for discussions of those issues.

Thus concludes my political manifesto. If we teachers “need” to do anything, it is to take back the discussion of professionalism and good pedagogical practice from functionaries and talking heads who have never set foot in a classroom, never planned instruction for a serious academic subject, never dealt with children in crisis, and never endured the pressures incumbent on a conscientious educator, but who apparently know all there is to know about teaching and, consequently, educational policy. It is time to seize the discussion of good practice from those who know nothing about it.

As a teacher, I am a practitioner who works with struggling learners in a Title I high school in Lower Manhattan. Therefore, I’m mostly interested in learning how teachers might aid one another in developing rigorous and compelling curricula for students with relatively low levels of literacy, attention and motivation–or relatively high levels of apathy, frustration or resignation. To that end, I have attached some literacy materials, to wit this math vocabulary lesson, I designed and developed for the high schoolers I serve.

I wrote this on the quick last fall when my school’s administrators asked me to develop some literacy materials to support struggling readers across the curriculum. This lesson is incomplete and is, in my view, insufficiently focused. Your thoughts?