________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 4 . . . . October 19, 2001

cover A Project Approach to Language Learning: Linking Literary Genres and Themes in Elementary Classrooms.

Katherine Luongo-Orlando.
Markham, ON: Pembroke Publishers, 2001.
160 pp., pbk, $18.95.
ISBN 1-55138-128-1.

Subject Headings:
Language arts (Elementary).
English language-Study and teaching (Elementary).
Project method in teaching.


Review by Deborah L. Begoray.

** /4


A Project Approach to Language Learning offers teachers many ideas in the organization and implementation of project units in language arts. The projects discussed at some length include writing picture books (and having a "publisher's fair"), constructing a newspaper (and celebrating with a "newspaper release press party") and telling stories from around the world (and conducting a "storytelling festival"). While none of these projects may seem fresh and innovative to experienced teachers, they will be of assistance to many new teachers who need ideas for planning language arts units. As further discussed below, teachers will have to choose and shape the ideas in this book carefully to match curricular mandates in their own provinces.

     Luongo-Orlando's book has seven chapters. Six of them outline in some detail six projects suitable in elementary classrooms (but probably most suitable in grades 4 to 6). Each of these chapters contains a connection to a literary genre, such as myths and legends, poetry, newspapers, and oral stories. Introductory activities and closing celebrations are included for each project. Chapters also include reproducible black line masters (always popular with teachers). For example, a sheet called "Creating a Mythical Character" guides students to decide on a name, physical appearance, personal history, area of responsibility, and so on for the main character of a story.

     Chapter 7 contains information on assessment and evaluation. Twelve pages of assessment rubrics and other reproducible evaluation sheets follow a three-page introduction. The book is well organized with a clear pattern of headings and sub-headings to guide the busy teacher through each project. Illustrations of student products are small and reproduced in black and white. This approach is unfortunate as they are largely unhelpful in such a format. The index, on the other hand, is detailed enough to be useful. Also noteworthy are the book lists of text-sets and professional references.

     Readers should be warned that A Project Approach to Language Learning follows a philosophy of genre-focused teaching no longer followed in most regions of Canada. The Western Canadian Protocol, for example, uses an outcomes-based curriculum model. In the Manitoba curriculum, teachers are expected to build units around children's inquiry questions and ensure that they address outcomes mandated in the "managing information" section of the English Language Arts document. Luongo-Orlando's work looks instead at newspapers as a genre - identifying the sections of a newspaper in preparation for writing a newspaper. While she suggests that these skills are useful ones for presenting the results of research information, most students I know would rather be learning about how to share their findings in a variety of ways so that they can choose according to personal interests and styles of learning. Recognizing a diversity of learners means also offering students many ways to shape and represent ideas. For example, some might produce a web site, others a videodocumentary, and some might produce a newspaper!

Recommended with reservations.

Deborah L. Begoray, formerly an associate professor in Reading/Language Arts in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, became, as of July 1, 2001, an associate professor of secondary English in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364