Tennessee Tech Professor's New Book Provides Guide for Elementary Teachers

A Tennessee Technological University professor's new book provides elementary school teachers a comprehensive guide for teaching reading and writing through a student-centered workshop format.

Elinor Parry Ross, professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Tennessee Tech, explains this rapidly spreading teaching method in her new book, "The Workshop Approach: A Framework for Literacy."

The book, published in November by Christopher-Gordon Publishers of Massachusetts, serves as an aid to K-8 teachers. The method, first described in 1987, encourages students to read published literature and to take a process-oriented approach to writing. Ross says the method differs from other techniques because it gives students more choice and control over what they do in class.

In the workshop approach, students choose their own reading, discuss their choices with their peers and teachers, keep a log of their thoughts on the books they've read and choose writing projects based on those ideas. The writing process includes conferences with peers and teachers as well as revising and editing stages.

"In many classrooms in the past," says Ross, "children hardly wrote at all. They used basal textbooks for their reading and answered questions or filled in blanks. There was little opportunity for creative writing.

"With the workshop approach, children spend more time reading real literature and interpreting it. They also spend more time writing. Because it gives students more control, they're more motivated and more interested in reading and writing."

Ross has been teaching reading for elementary education and library science courses at Tennessee Tech since 1971. "The Workshop Approach" is the first book she's written without a co-author. The project originated with an encounter at a professional conference. Hiram Howard, the president of Christopher-Gordon, saw Ross' presentation of the topic and asked her to consider writing a book on the subject.

One second-grade teacher who read "The Workshop Approach" called it "a terrific resource for those applying the workshop approach theory for the first time or for those attempting to refine a program already in progress." The publisher writes, "This innovative resource is ideal for all teachers seeking new and better ways to boost student literacy."

Ross has co-authored numerous educational texts with Betty Roe, also a professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Tennessee Tech. The two recently collaborated on the sixth edition of their widely used book, "Teaching Reading in Today's Elementary Schools."

The publisher of "Teaching Reading," Houghton Mifflin, describes it as a "market leader." The text, rich in classroom activities and practical suggestions, examines whole language, emergent literacy, learning comprehension and a host of other reading concepts.

Ross and Roe are the authors of "An Introduction to Teaching the Language Arts," published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston; "Developing Power in Reading;" published by Kendall/Hunt; and "Student Teaching and Field Experiences Handbook," published by Charles E. Merrill.