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Les Parsons

Markham (Ont.), Pembroke Publishers, 1991. 112pp, paper, $12.95
ISBN 0-921217-61-7. CIP

Reviewed by Gail K. Lennon.

Volume 19 Number 3
1991 May

Les Parsons has taught young children, adolescents and adults in Toronto area schools for the past twenty years. As English consultant, he worked with thousands of teachers and imple­mented curricula in language arts. He is the author of a previous publication, Response Journals.

Writing in the Real Classroom investi­gates the ideal and the actual situations concerning the writing process in actual classrooms. There is no doubt that the writer empathizes with teachers who are trying to implement the writing process and are caught in the constraints of classroom pressures. Thus, he sets out to show what can be done within the realistic setting of the classroom environment to "write the wrongs."

These wrongs include the following: teachers appreciate that writing is a personal and individual process yet continue to insist on specific topics and themes from all students as well as a specific number of drafts; teachers understand the recursive nature of writing but still organize writing programs and schedules on a linear basis; teachers talk about the value of ideas but stress surface features such as spelling and neat handwriting during marking; teachers ask students to collaborate but assign marks on an individual and competitive basis; teachers acknowledge the benefits of diagnostic and formative evaluation but spend most of their time gathering grades for summative purposes; teachers have students keep writing folders to supply evidence of a process over time but assign grades only to individual pieces of writing; teachers encourage self and peer evaluation but, in fact, demonstrate that, in the final analysis, it is the teacher's evaluation that counts!

Having outlined the "wrongs" that are occurring in the writing process in schools throughout Ontario, Parsons then devotes the rest of the book to helping teachers better understand the process and implement it in their classes. He offers examples of student writing for various purposes and provides detailed directions for utilizing and evaluating the writing folder as a working part of the writing process. Procedures for editing and revising and for employing peer editors are outlined and demonstrated.

The book is a clearly written hand­book for teachers who are struggling with understanding or applying effective writing procedures in their classrooms. Ready-to-use evaluation tools are provided for the writing folder and for the specific evaluation of narrative, expository and poetic writing. Finally, for those who want more direction, Parsons has furnished a current and concise annotated bibliogra­phy and practical glossary of writing terms.

I would highly recommend this book for the professional libraries of all teachers. It is a must for new teachers and for department heads who are assisting new teachers in the implemen­tation of the writing process in their subject areas. This book would serve as an excellent practical text for courses in Primary, Junior, Intermediate and Senior additional qualifications courses. As well, it would prove an invaluable aid to instructors in Special Education, Reading and Pre-service Teacher Education courses.

Gail K. Lennon, Lambton County Board of Education, Sarnia, Ont.
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