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Annotated Bibliography: Educational Influences


Atwell, N. (1998).  In the Middle (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

A few months prior to beginning the Masters program, I was given the first edition of this book by Steve Tattum, Program Director at the Denver Academy, and told that this book would be my bible when it came to teaching English.  He was right.  The book was referenced in every writing class I took and it has painted much of my education philosophy; specifically the whole language approach.  This book is the cornerstone of my high school English class.  From status of the class to the seven essential environmental structures, from mini-lessons to conferencing corners, I cannot imagine my classroom without this resource.  For me, Atwell best defines what the Writing Workshop means to me, “ (a place) in which the teacher is as active intellectually as her students” (26). 

Bach, R. (1970). Jonathan Livingston Seagull. New York, NY: Avon Books.

Richard Bach may not have known it when he wrote it, but to me he composed the idealists handbook for teacher.  When exploring and developing my own education philosophy I often returned to this simple text.  I believe, like Bach of his seagulls, that students are inherently good.  “You have to practice and see the real gull, the good in every one of them” (123).  This is an essential mantra to repeat in the classroom.  Teaching is difficult and these words remind me of what ultimately is important; teachers must bring out the good, the positive, the constructive side of each of our students.


Bator, P. (1980, December). Aristotelian and Rogerian Rhetoric. College Composition and Communication, 427-432.

No single article has ever had such a profound effect on me; when I first read it, I had been thinking a lot about the Meyer-Briggs personality preferences.  Bator’s article complimented this line of thinking perfectly.  Aristotle was the debator and Rogers was the relator.  We all have students that fit this general profile in our classrooms.  What I ultimately took away from this article was how my own personality preference impacts my teaching.  Rogers, with his emphasis on understanding and cooperation, mirrored my approach much more so than Aristotle’s .  “The Rogerian writer seeks to establish shared grounds of communication between himself (or herself) and the audience by pointing out plausible circumstances under which both the writer’s and reader’s positions could be valid” (430).  This is at the heart of the weekly journals I exchange with my students.  This is not just about leveling the playing field, but also showing the shared parts of that field and experience. 

Bomer, R. (1995). Time for Meaning.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

When I first read Time for Meaning I was honestly jealous of the awesome experience Bomer captured on paper and all the great ideas he wrote about; this was a book I wanted to write.  Jealousy quickly turned to admiration and led to a lengthy conversation with Bomer himself at the 1999 NCTE conference.  The forward thinking and redefining of the literary classroom environment is what I carry with me from this book.  Bomer makes the writing in his classroom real; he acknowledges that students have things to say about their lives that extends clearly outside of the four classroom walls.  He allows them to bring their stories into the workshop to craft, to shape, to edit, and to publish.  Bomer also list ways in which to create this environment; the tool he introduces that I like most is the observer’s notebook.  A technique I have adopted and called the twenty-four hour journal.  Students create small half page journals in class and then carry it with them for twenty four hours.  During this time they jot down words they hear, thoughts they have, emotions they feel, words they see; they capture that literary world that clearly extends beyond school grounds and carry it back to the classroom.  Through conferencing, sharing and modeling, Bomer and his students collaborate on the meaning of these words and in turn create their own. 

Bizzel, P. & Herzberg B. (2001). The Rhetorical Tradition. Boston, MA: Bedfords/ St. Martin.

This collection of essays provides an awesome and diverse overview of two thousand years of teaching.  From Plato’s Socrates walking in a field of tall grass expressing the importance of rhetoric to Gorgias to Burke’s language of Act, Scene, Agent, Agency and Purpose, these essays show the complexities and intricacies of even just the definition of teaching.  I was most moved and motivated by Gloria Anzaldua’s excerpt from her book Borderlands/La frontera.  Here a true academic was using a multi-genre approach to express the power of language and more importantly the impact of being multi-lingual in America in the 20th century; a topic I strongly relate to with Flemish being my mother tongue.  Anzaldua excerpt shows the importance the ingredient of voice plays in writing and in turn in the classroom.  “One of the reasons work like yours (Anzaldua’s) is so important to the future composition studies is that it gives concrete evidence of many voices in a text, many voices speaking out of who you are, many voices that you allow to speak” (1584).  And I take that as the wonderful challenge to bring back to the classroom and create opportunities for my students to do exactly what she has set in motion.  Find not just one voice in writing, but all their voices.


Britton, J. (1982). Prospect and Retrospect: Selected Essays. Montclair, NJ: Boynton/Cook.

One of the essays in particular, “Shaping at the Point of Utterance,” embodies the essence of teacher as facilitator.  I have always been fascinated in learning where thoughts come from in conferences with students about writing.  Some of course we have scripted in our minds, but others parts of the conversation Britton suggests we “shape at the point of utterance” (139).  Britton acknowledges the power and importance of conversing with students about their writing.  It gave me great confidence when I read the next sentence, “How often have we had a student come to us with his problem, and in the course of verbalizing what that problem is reach a solution with no help from us” (140).  This does not always happen, but the spirit of the statement is what I carry with me during conferences.  I do not always know the answer, but, to borrow from Britton again, I must dare to push out the boat of conversation and trust it will come to shore somewhere (139).

Donelson, K. & Nilsen A. (1997). Literature for Today’s Young Adults (fifth edition).  New York, NY: Longman.

I consider this book my bible on Young Adult literature.  The most useful part is the focus boxes which list a theme and then a variety of YA titles that include that theme.  Chapter 12, “Censorship of Worrying and Wondering,” is a fantastic comprehensive and current perspective on the issue of censorship specifically as it relates to YA.  It was my primary resource recently when I taught Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  I copied the historical part of the chapter for my high school students and they were fascinated and truly motivated to read more challenged books. 


Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind. New York, NY: Basic Books.

This book should be required reading for all educators since at its very core it deals with the essence of learning.  Like so many educators before me, Gardner broadened my definition and perspective of the process of learning.  It is not just about one way of learning, but about the different ways that one can learn.  Within the writing workshop this book has demanded that I allow my students to show they are learning and understanding through a variety of ways: musical connections, journaling, artwork, presenting, acting/skits.  Gardner writes that every child has a gift; indeed it is the educators job to help illuminate it.


Glasser, W. (1986). Control Theory in the Classroom. New York: Harper & Row.

This books speaks to the often overlooked piece in the classroom, the managerial piece.  It explores why students behave (and misbehave).  This book has played a major part in my thinking about classroom teaching and has been the backbone of many presentations.  Glasser outlines five basic needs which he says need to be reasonable satisfied in order to be able to live productive and healthy lives; he then goes on to distinctly link these needs to the classroom.  For learning to occur, and I whole-heartedly agree with Glasser here, the basic needs of belonging, power, fun, security, and freedom must be addressed at some level in the classroom (23).  My experience has taught me that not only having an awareness of these needs, but also sharing the list explicitly with students, has created a classroom climate that allows for learning to occur more easily.  Chapter three alone has saved me from having hundreds of disciplinary problems in my classroom and in turn has allow more time to focus on instruction and literacy.

Graves, D. (1994). A Fresh Look at Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

When Kathy Bellin first suggested this book to me in Writing: Process, Development and Teaching (LLC 5720, a graduate course at the University of Colorado), I was already familiar with the name Graves; I read his foreword to Atwell’s In the Middle.  Like Atwell’s book, A Fresh Look at Writing, quickly became part one of my most frequently used books.  Graves helped me better formulate my own philosophy about writing.  “Learning a subject by immersion from someone who knows and enjoys it is a key approach in my teaching repertoire and teaching philosophy” (7).  This made perfect sense to me – the writing teacher’s primary role is to model the behavior  he/she wants from the students.  Teacher as writer, to put it simply, is a belief that has only gotten stronger over time.  Graves also provided a truly fresh look at conferencing in this book.  “A rough profile of a good conference shows the child speaking about 80 percent of the time, the teacher 20” (61).  In other words, listen to your students. 

Harvey, S. (1998). Nonfiction Matters. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.


Jolley, J. & Mitchell M. (1996). Lifespan Development. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

The typical job description of a teacher includes countless roles: advisor, listener, nurse, friend, cheerleader, editor, lecturer and counselor.  Although I’ve never felt totally comfortable with that last role, I’ve never denied its presence in the classroom.  This book provides multiple perspectives on the conditions that relate to being human.  From theories on human development to an overview of attachment, this book introduced me to new concepts and language that are essential to understand when working with students.  I found this book  specifically helpful in understanding my student with severe learning differences or emotional problems; it also assisted me, and continues to, in deciphering the often cryptic and lengthy psychological evaluations that accompany my students. 


Moffett, J. (1983). Teaching the Universe of Discourse. Montclair, NJ:  Boyton/Cook.

For me this book, and Moffett’s writing in general, brought new meaning to the word learning.  “Both reading and writing are at once shallow mechanical activities and deep operations of mind and spirit” (15).  The wonderful complexities of my new definition of learning; later in the same chapter Moffett states that reading does not equal comprehension and writing does not equal composition.  These words, although they seem so sensible and practical when I read them now, were a profound finding for me.  There are certain things about teaching writing that I simply was not able to put into words until I read Moffett. The greatest influence this book had on my thinking was in regards to the development of each and every single student we come in contact with; we will most likely find them at different stages.  Moffett implores that whatever we do we must at the very least encourage “movement from the center of the self outward…In moving from himself, the child becomes more himself” (59).  Profound. 

O’Brien, T. (1998). The Things They Carried. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

I first heard about this book when Dan Kirby read from it during his presentation of “The Fourth Genre” with Rick Vandeweghe at the 2001 CLAS Spring conference.  Within the context that Kirby presented the book, it gave me a new definition of memoir that I immediately brought back to my classroom.  I already spent a considerable amount of time on the genre of narrative and this book allowed me to explore it even further with my students.  In between the paragraphs about O’Brien’s memory of Vietnam there is of course a story of man exploring the definition of memoir; as Kirby called it, the fourth genre – creative non-fiction.  I frequently quote from this book to my students claim that they can’t write about a certain event because they don’t remember it as it happened.  “The pictures get jumbled; you tend to miss a lot.  And then afterward, when you go to tell about it, there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed” (71).  Its not so important to write it as it happened, but capture it as you remember it.  The response from the students is almost always favorable.  “You mean I’m allowed to do that?” Yes.


Perkins, D. (1992). Smart Schools. New York, NY: The Free Press.

I carry a large part of this book’s main message with me every day in the classroom.  The following simple and seemingly obvious words have had a profound impact on my teaching; Theory One says this, “People learn much of what they have a reasonable opportunity and motivation to learn” (45).  When Theory One is combined with a setting like the writing or reading workshop, opportunities for learning are abundant.  When one of my students reaches a frustration level or is not reaching their fullest potential, I ask myself if this student had a reasonable opportunity and motivation to learn.  If not then it is incumbent on me to help facilitate such an opportunity.  Theory one is a term I share with both students and parents; at the very least it leads to conversations and dialogue about how each individual student learns best.  A valuable topic to explore at any level and in any setting.

Pollack, W. (1998). Real Boys. New York, NY: Henry & Holt Company.

This book is a call to action for all teachers who work with boys.  Due to more frequent diagnosis’ of learning disabilities in boys, the majority of my classes consist of males.  Many of the young men described readily fit the profile of my students.  The book is divided into four major parts:  Real Boys, Connecting to Boys,  When the Bough Breaks and Staying Connected.  Pollack states, and I agree, that the alienation, self-doubt and communication issues have reached crisis level.  He eloquently describes the twisted conditions and dysfunctional stereotypes that are associated with being a boy.  I wholeheartedly agree that boys, like any other living creature, desire to have meaningful and nurturing relationships.  I’ve brought this claim back to the classroom and celebrated the fact through journals, fieldtrips and family-like dinner table discussions with my students.  Pollack’s last section of the book reads like a mantra, “Stay connected.”

Rief, L. (1992). Seeking Diversity. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Following the lineage of Graves and Atwell, I found Linda Rief.  And like a groupie at a rock and roll show, I did stop her in the hallway at the 1999 CLAS conference and asked her to sign my book.  We talked about literacy too.  Rief’s book to me reads like a natural evolution of In the Middle: all reading the same book, bringing together the reader’s – writer’s project and allowing the visual/artistic element to enter the reading/writing classroom.  What I borrow, O.K. steal really, from Rief is the projects she creates with each of her classroom novels.  She creates opportunities for her students to display their understanding of a book through a variety of ways; she brings the multiple intelligences to the workshop classroom.  With each of my classroom novels, following Rief’s suggestions, I have assigned projects which allow students to show their understanding not only through writing, but also through visual and musical avenues.

Romano, T. (2000). Blending Genre, Altering Style. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Most of my teaching days are spent working with reluctant writers.  Writers who have had a history of negative academic experiences; students who have not experienced much success writing.  When I discovered Romano I found support for even my wildest visions of student writing.  I was haphazardly experimenting with allowing students to bring their own music and create soundtracks for books and writing projects.  In Blending Genre Romano gave me a blueprint and confidence to practice the blending of styles mindfully, thoughtfully and with purpose.  “We teachers – if we are paying attention to those whom we teach and expecting more of them than rudimentary thinking and memorization – see this common miracle of sense making all the time” (172).  Romano’s focus on the process of writing and the idea of teacher as writer have played an important part in my own thinking about what constitutes writing and literacy in the Writing Workshop and the Language Arts classroom.  I hope to meet Tom one day so I can thank him for this book.


Senge, P. (1990). The Fifth Discipline. New York, NY: Currency Doubleday.

Smith, M. (1992, December). From Expressive to Transactional: A Case Study. English Journal, 42-46

This article address all my concerns and worries about conferencing with students in the writing workshop.  I wholeheartedly agree with Smith when he says, “I’ve found conferences to be the most effective means of helping students with their writing” (45).  Smith lists the techniques that were unsuccessful with his student: telling the student what to write, distributing the syllabus, whole-group instruction and showing examples.  It was not until a conference with the student that the writing entered the transformative phase.  What I take from Smith piece is not to worry too much about students formulating a specific thesis or outline, prior to writing a first draft.  To borrow from Smith, just encourage them to write and write and write (46).  Then use the writing as the starting point for the conversation, transaction and evolution of the writing.

Strickland, K. & J. (1998). Reflections on Assessment. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

There are words in this book that I never dared express because I simply thought they were so far of base of the traditional model of education.  The Stricklands take on assessment fell perfectly in line with my education philosophy of respect and responsibility.  “Grading has little purpose and surely no positive effects on learning unless there exists, between teacher and learner, an understanding of what both parties are responsible for” (144).  This perspective echoed throughout the book inspired me to involve students more in the assessment and evaluation stage of specifically their own writing.  After reading this book I changed my various writing rubrics to include a self-evaluation part for the students.  Then after both teacher and student evaluations are complete, the points are averaged; this provides a current grade.  The student then has the opportunity to make improvements.  This was heavily influenced by the reading of this book.  It seems clear to me now that only on the basis of a respectful assessment system will students truly care about “their own excellence” which can then lead to “an intrinsic drive to improve, to continue to be better for themselves” (141).


Snyder, G. (1983). Axe Handles. New York, NY: North Point Press.

Since no single week has passed during my years of teaching that these poems have not been read or thought about, it is impossible for me not include this magnificent book. Snyder is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and currently a professor at the University of California at Davis.  When I first started thinking about how to answer the question of why teach, it was the poem Axe Handles that provided the most lucid answer.  Snyder holds the role of poet in the same high regard that I hold the role of teacher.  His poem implore that as poets, potters or teachers we are mindful of our actions.  Everything we do has consequences.  As a teacher I am acutely aware of this reality. 

…I am an axe

And my son a handle, soon

To be shaping again, model

And tool, craft of culture,

How we go on (6).

Tsujimoto, J. (1998).  Teaching Poetry Writing to Adolescents.  Urbana, Il: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills and the National Council of Teachers of English.

My brother, a published writer, sent me this book when I was in the middle of Rick Vandeweghe intense summer writing class.  Tsujimoto’s book was exactly what I was struggling to write, a narrative writing by a classroom teacher while teaching.  An account from the frontline if you will.  How did he find the time? As Tsyjimoto tells his own story of discovering teaching and writing, he provides useful examples of actual poetry lessons he did with his students.  Chapter three is a rich resource of eighteen specific poetry lessons complete with numerous student examples that I currently use every April during National Poetry Month. They easily fit in the Writing Workshop format as his assignment give the students lots of freedom to explore their own subjects within specific styles:  found poem, two-word poem, circle poem, change poem, transformation poem, list of twelve, animal poem, visual response poem, extended metaphor, memory poem, bitterness poem, paradox poem, awe poem, teacher poem, form poem, self-portrait, invitation poem and end poem. 

Tomlinson, C. (1999). The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Villanueva, V. (1993). Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color. Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English.

When I met Villanueva, first in print then in person at the 1999 NCTE conference, it was like meeting an old friend.  It was really like meeting the revolutionary I had secretly been looking for.  Although we came from radically different backgrounds, I found the things we had in common to be very strong:  second-language learners, an educational experience of many different schools and an outsider’s perspective.  Villanueva really inspired me to look at my classroom not just as a classroom, but as a microcosm of the world outside.  The changes you can create in your classroom have a direct effect on the educational and social climate outside the classroom walls. 

Wilhelm, J. (1997). “You Gotta BE the Book”. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Wilhelm is the educator who best aligns theory and practice for me.  This book is a great example of his ability to make the abstract more practical.  He grounds the theory of Britton, Rosenblatt and Vygotsky in his very real classroom experience.  As I met his students, Tommy, Walter, Kae and Cora, I saw my own students’ struggles and successful.  Creating opportunities for students to have successful and rewarding literacy experiences is at the heart of Wilhelm’s message for me.  I am constantly trying to move the practice of journaling and conferencing toward the places that he was able to achieve; a place of true appreciation, transformation and literacy.  The appendixes he includes can easily compliment the typical workshop and help move students toward utilizing more critical thinking skills which I very much value in the classroom.  The questions he suggests teachers use in the classroom are great; this is an excellent resource.

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