After reading Fox’s article, I wanted to learn more about issues concerning African-Americans and literacy. The APA citation for the article I chose this week is: 

Frey, B., Lee, S. W., Tollefson, N., Pass, L., & Massengill, D. (2005). Balanced literacy in an urban school district.The Journal of educational research98(5), 272-280. Retrieved from

I think this article is appropriate for two reasons First, it addresses the push-pull relationship between reading and writing that Elbow touches on in deciding what to privilege in the composition classroom. While doing this, it also contributes to the conversation that Fox participates in regarding African-American students and literacy, though this article applies the idea of literacy to urban communities diverse classrooms.  


In this article, the authors are studying one Urban school system’s approach to implementing balanced literacy, which according to this article “should (a) emphasize reading, writing and literature by providing long, uninterrupted periods of successful reading every day; (b) create a positive, reinforcing, cooperative environment in the classroom; (c) set high but realistic expectations for all students and (d) integrate reading and writing thoroughly across the curriculum (Asselin; Pressley & Allington, 1998)” (Frey, Lee, Tollefson, Pass, & Massingill, 2005).  To do this, the researchers collected data from elementary school students in 32 elementary schools across a “high-poverty, urban metropolitan area” (Frey, Lee, Tollefson, Pass, & Massingill, 2005). The city was approximately 43% white, 42% black, 10% latino and 5% other ethnic groups according to the 2000 census (Frey, Lee, Tollefson, Pass, & Massingill, 2005). For their study, their sample included 67 elementary teachers and 23 group interviews of students in 21 schools. They also noted the classroom and school building’s physical state and available resources. 


The result of the study was that independent writing accounted for 20% of the literacy instruction time, followed by “read-alouds” at 18% and independent reading at 17%. “Conferencing occurred during 34% of the observed literacy instruction time and accountable talk occurred during 18% of the time.”


They noted that teachers appeared to be fairly satisfied with the number of books in their classrooms, though the teachers did not generally identify a favorite reading spot in the classroom. Furthermore, the school buildings did appear to have libraries and visual displays to support literacy, as well as a balanced literacy instructional coach.


The area that did lag behind the others in the balanced literacy approach was teacher-directed instruction. The researches stated that “seatwork” was used as a classroom management technique, which gives the appearance of an orderly classroom over the noisiness of group work. The study found that actual teaching was deemphasized.


I chose this article even though it surveyed elementary students because I think it is important to understand some of the foundational issues that students entering college composition courses may face, especially those from non-privileged backgrounds (language or otherwise). This article highlights an interesting issue, and that is how instruction is secondary to the appearance of an orderly classroom in urban areas. As composition teachers (and as a somewhat-sociolinguist) I think that it is important to be aware of the vast disparities between our learners’ backgrounds and be thoughtful of how we might approach our diverse students.