The Shifting Nature of Literacy

by Victoria Fedorets 

In 1907, the following text appeared in Edwin C Woolley’s (1907) Handbook of Composition: A Compendium of Rules Regarding Good English, Grammar, Sentence Structure, Paragraphing, Manuscript Arrangement, Punctuation, Spelling, Essay Writing, and Letter Writing. This handbook was intended to provide guidelines for students to refer to while writing, and for teachers to correct the writing of their students. The handbook included a series of independent rules that were either followed or broken.

The handbook was an active effort to shift from the traditional grammar books of the time that focused on the parts of speech, clause modifiers, etc., to include 350 rules governing writing in the English language and style.

Below are some examples from the book (p. 4):

  1. The contractions don’t, isn’t, haven’t, etc. are not appropriate in formal composition. They are proper in conversation and in composition of a colloquial style that structured descriptive.
  2. Do not use high flow language for plain things.

Bad:  To keep the horsehealthy you must be careful of his environment.

Right: To keep the horse healthy you must be careful of his stable.

Note. Showy language, like showy dress, is in bad taste. The essence of artistic language, as of everything artistic, is not abundant ornament but appropriateness. Straining for high sounding expressions to replace plain English makes a style weak and crude. Call a leg a leg not a limb, book a book not an effort, call a letter a letter not a kind favor, call socks socks not hose, call a house a house, not a residence; say “I went to bed”, not “I retired”, “I got up”, not “I arose”

  1. The use of sentence (except a quoted sentence) as the subject of IS or WAS is crudity.

Crude: I was detained by business is the reason I’m late.

Right: “I was detained by business; that is the reason I’m late.”

  1. Double negative ( i.e., the use in sentence, of two or more negative words not coordinate, -as “I couldn’t find it nowhere”) is forbidden by modern usage..
  2. A composition should treat a single subject and should treat it throughout according to a self- consistent method.
  3. Use to the question mark after the direct question, but not after an indirect question.

Bad: He asked what caused the accident?

Right: He asked what caused the accident.

Right: He asked, “What caused the accident?”

  1. Italicize name of ships.
  2. The postage stamp should be attached in the upper right-hand corner. It should be right side up and its edges should be parallel to edges of the envelope. A postage stamp upside down or affixed in a haphazard fashion raises against the sender of the letter a suspicion of slovenliness.

Writing teachers today would be right at home with Wooley’s grammar. His rules were followed by various handbooks for a while- an immense range of rules to be referred to in order to distinguish the possible errors. His method was different from other writers, like Murray’s (22 rules to be learned by heart); however, Wooley’s 354 grammar rules were memorized and to be used for reference. As opposed to other writing/style guides of the time, rhetorical and spoken language was never mentioned.

Reinking, McKeena Labbo, & Keifer (1998) in their Handbook of Literacy and Technology: Transformations in A Post-Typographic World (p.14), refer to a post-typographic world as a time after the printers, typewriters, laser printers and fax machines. That post-typographic time is upon us as we are in the paperless age of television, IPods, Ipads, Tweets, TMS (text messaging services), internet sites, and apps. How do we, as educators, hold students accountable for knowing grammar and writing rules in order to teach literacy? Modern literacy is being merged with media literacy, where the ability to write (i.e., the ability to synthesize ideas and elements to create new text per the core competencies of the public schools) means being media literate. This media literacy is now a necessity for students and teachers alike, as it exists in and out of the classroom.

Referring to Wooley’s (1907) rules, does the metacognitive ability in children provide them with the set of “instruments” to follow the rules of writing as an innate ability while being exposed to the digital and media era? Can—and should— we trace children’s ability of learning a rule as they master their mother tongue? How about the cognate ability of the ESL/EFL speaker? Or that of the L2 and L1 bilingual child raised in the US? Do we have to refer to the “media” rules while educating the individuals K-12 and what are they?



Reinking, D., McKenna, M. C., Labbo, L. D., & Kieffer, R. D. (1998). Handbook of Literacy and Technology: Transformations in A Post-typographic World. New York, NY: Routledge.

Woolley, E. C., PhD. (1907). Handbook of Composition: A Compendium of Rules Regarding Good English, Grammar, Sentence Structure, Paragraphing, Manuscript Arrangement, Punctuation, Spelling, Essay Writing, and Letter Writing. Lexington, MNA: DC Heath & Company



Engaged Learning: Are We All on the Same Page?

A spotlight  interview with Victoria Fedorets (VF) and Marietta Bradinova (MB)

Listen to the full interview here:


Below is a transcript of the interview:

Victoria Fedorets (VF): We would like to welcome our guest speaker, Dr. Marietta Bradinova for our Spotlight interview prior to her talk on October 5th, 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm.  Could you give us a brief preview of your talk?

Marietta Bradinova (MB): The title of my talk is going to be Engaged Learning: Are We All on the Same Page? To do that, I pulled from the literature on good teaching as well as the expertise of teachers in colleges and universities around the country. For my presentation, I had to create a compendium of useful, practical ideas that participants will find enhances the classroom experience for teachers and students alike. My goal is to pull it together into a single resource and present it in a format accessible to busy, discipline-oriented faculty. I hope it will also be useful to faculty developers, department chairs, and other academic administrators interested in promoting teaching and improving learning.

VF: Thank you so much, Dr. Bradinova. We all are very much looking forward to your talk. Could you please tell us a little about yourself, including how the topic of your talk is important to you.

MB: My name is Dr. Marietta Bradinova and I teach various courses in the MA in TESOL and Gen. Education Programs at VIU. I chose my field of scholarly endeavor because somewhere along the line I developed a passion for it. Part of the attraction of a career in academia is the opportunity to share our enthusiasm with others and possibly recruit new disciples to the discipline.  In my early years as a college teacher, “engaging students” wasn’t even on my radar screen. I lectured, they listened; they studied, I tested – and that was that.  However, it was very disheartening to look into a classroom and see disengaged students who make little effort to hide their apathy. So, keeping students involved, motivated, and actively learning is challenging for many of us as educators. Yet, there is no single piece of advice [to do this]. The primary purpose of my presentation is to offer my teaching colleagues, current and aspiring, a wide variety of tips, strategies, and techniques that can help them transform what could be a daunting task into one that is stimulating and rewarding.

VF: Wonderful. Thank you again for devotion to your field and I am more than sure you went through so many experiences and have gained so much knowledge and expertise to reach this far.

VF: Are there any tangible misconceptions out there about the topic of your talk?

MB: Well, for me and I strongly believe that teaching can be tough, and probably one of the toughest professions on earth, but by sharing, we help each other in the problem analysis and solution construction we struggle with, consciously or unconsciously, each time we enter the classroom and attempt to engage students in learning.

VF: What is your source of motivation? How do you keep yourself motivated?

MB: Well, for me, motivation is the portal to engagement. An unmotivated student has checked out emotionally and mentally from the learning process. Students who are motivated to learn, however, will actively seek the information and understandings that constitute engaged learning. Just as a classroom filled with students who are genuinely motivated to learn can be a teaching-nirvana, it can be teaching-hell trying to work with students who are apathetic, bored, or even hostile. Understanding the complexities that underline motivation can guide us in our efforts to set up conditions that enhance students’ eagerness to learn. This is a first and critical step toward increasing student engagement.

VF: If you had to give some advice to pre-service or in-service teachers about the topic of your talk, what would it be?

MB:  As I said earlier, I am trying to provide some practical ideas through various strategists [that] I’m going to model for them throughout my presentation. I strongly believe as an instructor we not only have to explain something about theory, but to show it in action. I would encourage the pre-service teachers to join us on October 5th to get more ideas about how we can engage students in our classrooms.

VF: In general, how do you design instructions so your classroom reflects success? What is success to you?

MB:  You know, from day one, when I go into the classroom, I provide lots of examples from my own personal experience and I have been teaching and in this field for 25 plus years. So, I always try to bring real-life examples into my lectures because when you provide examples, the students can relate to them through their personal experience. We always have great conversations because, as you know, VIU hosts students from around the globe. We are fortunate to share ideas with them and they share ideas with us and I’m growing myself professionally through this contacts with my students.

VF: Where do your students come from?

MB: In general, I would say probably between 15 and 20 different countries. You know, I work with students from Asia, from Latin America, from the Europe, from Eastern Europe, from former USSR, and they all amazing.

VF: In general, are there any principles that guide your own teaching philosophy? If so, what are they and do you have a groundstone for your own teaching philosophy?

MB: Well you know, as an instructor, I always try to share whatever I learned through all these years with my students, and as I said, I share my experience.  Whatever they read for my classes, we would have great discussions. I try to have classrooms in which the students work cooperatively using both small group discussions and whole group discussions. In a three hour long class, I have to break the time and have at least 10 to 12 activities for the students, and I try to engage them from the moment they enter the class until the moment they have to leave the class.

VF: Wonderful, so your classes are very dynamic and engaging.

MB: (And) they are student centered. I always try to be at the background, of course I’m the one who teaches them, will provide solid information to them either through my mini lectures and through the readings…but those discussions are to be led by the students. [The students] have to be the center of them actually.

VF: Are there any projects that you are currently working on?

MB: Actually, I’m working with Claire Gimble from ESL program on another presentation which is going to be at the WATESOL convention in October in Washington, DC. Our talk is going to be about using TED Talks in the ESL classrooms. We are working with Claire and different setups available on website to design different activities that ESL teachers can use with their students in the classrooms. So, that’s my next big project.

MB: And, of course, you know classes- I will be teaching for both on ground and online, so I will be very busy.

VF: Thank you very much for your time out of your busy schedule to share your experience and more than sure there is so much more to talk and I would spend hours and hours talking (with you) and learning from you. Unfortunately, our time is short thank you again for stopping by tonight by our podcast channel.

Please join us again October 10 at our location 4401 drive Fairfax, VA  22030 and the talk by Dr. Bradinova will be held from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm and the topic is, “Are We All on the Same Page? The presentation will offer college teachers a dynamic model for engaging students and will provide them with tips and strategies that have been proven to help teachers from a wide variety of disciplines motivate and connect with their students. Selected strategies will be modeled, in a ready-to-use format, through purpose, presentation, procedures, examples, online implementation, variations and extensions, and key resources. Faculty looking for ideas to heighten their student engagement in their courses will find useful techniques that can be adopted, adapted, extended, or modified.

Join us by going to our Facebook, like us; also, we are on twitter, word press, and we’re looking forward to our next spotlight interview by our next speaker sometime in September. Stay tuned and thank you again for your time today, Dr. Bradinova

MB: Thank you.

Experience the VIU Difference!

By Kevin Martin, Associate Dean, School of Education

When I describe what VIU is to outsiders, I often describe it as an educational institution that feels like a mini-United Nations. At VIU, we have students from all over the world who come to gain a degree in order to change the world.

With an ever-increasing pool of alumni scattered across the globe, we continue to increase our network of graduates who will affect positive change in their communities. This is by no means a small task, and it is something that we take very seriously in the School of Education.

An Engaging and Practical Learning Experience

At VIU, we recognize and work towards actively meeting the needs of our students by providing a quality education that balances both the theoretical and practical skills required of the modern job market. In the School of Education, we do this by having faculty who have real-world experience, representing a broad set of skills from practitioners to researchers.

Our faculty are really what make us distinct. It is through their efforts that we are able to provide a hands-on, practical experience that combines the latest in research and innovation. This is what makes our learning experience different that other institutions, as we focus on ensuring that our curriculum and classroom experiences meet the needs of all of our learners.

An Extended Learning Community

Within the School of Education, we offer a variety of learning experience that extend beyond the classroom as well. Our premier event hosted on campus is the Conference on Language, Learning, and Culture (CLLC). This event draws people from all over the world to learn about innovations going on in at the intersections of language, learning, and culture. It is a great opportunity to learn about what is going on in our field, and see what is being implemented in practice globally.

In addition to CLLC, we also offer a variety of events throughout the year centered on creating and promoting our broader learning community. Through these events, we strengthen our resolve to growing professionally, as well as network and learn from peers.

Have Fun!

Graduates from our School of Education programs not only get to engage in profound learning experiences, they also get to have fun! Our students become very close to one another during their time together. This happens as a result of learning and growing together through shared experiences in and out of the classroom.

Building a Global Community of Educators

Dear SED Community,

Fall 2017 is already upon us! As with the commencement of a new academic year, we welcome new students, and we begin the final push for some of our students toward their graduation. Wherever you are in your studies, we wish you luck this semester.

As a learning community, we are committed to our short and long-term professional development.  With great pleasure, I can announce that our Voices from the Field Speaker Series will be in its fifth year!  Our fall lineup of speakers include:

  • Marietta Bradinova on Engaged Learning (October 5 from 3:30-4:30pm)
  • Joy Peyton on the Practicing Nonviolent Communication (November 2 from 3:30-4:30pm)

The Voices from the Field events are free and open to the public, so I hope that you will consider joining us.

I am also pleased to announce that, upon approval of the faculty and advisory board, we have established the School of Education’s motto: Building a Global Community of Educators.  This motto represents us in so many ways including the scope and intent of our programs, the diversity of our learning community, and it also reflects our growing network of alumni who are spread across the globe.

This semester, we also continue to develop strong relationships with partners across the globe. Over the summer, our academic coordinator Victoria Fedorets, helped to establish memoranda of understanding on her trip to Ukraine. We will work to continue establishing such relationships with partners that represent our mission and values of providing an accessible education with a global perspective.

What an amazing year we have ahead of us!

I wish you all the best this semester.

Kevin J. Martin

Associate Dean, School of Education

Virginia International University

Announcing CLLC 2018!

The School of Education is excited to announce that preparations are underway for the Conference on Language, Learning, and Culture (CLLC) to be held April 6-7, 2018 at Virginia International University.


The theme for CLLC 2018 is Making Research Matter: Motivated inquiry for actionable insights.

Some important dates for CLLC 2018:

  • Abstract Submission: December 4, 2017
  • Notification of Acceptance: Week of January 8, 2018
  • Early Registration Ends: March 5, 2018
  • Regular Registration Ends: April 2, 2018
  • Late Registration: April 3-7, 2018
  • Proceedings Submission: July 9, 2018

Questions about the conference can be directed to Kevin Martin, Associate Dean of VIU’s School of Education, at To volunteer, please contact Rebecca Sachs at

We welcome your participation in CLLC 2018! Please mark your calendars, submit proposals, and make plans to attend.

Interview with Dr. Rebecca Sachs: Lifelong professional development

The following is an interview between Victoria Fedorets (VF) and Rebecca Sachs (RS).  Victoria is the Academic Coordinator for the School of Education at VIU.  Rebecca Sachs is a full-time faculty member in the School of Education at VIU. 

Victoria (VF): What parts of your life led you to the field of Linguistics?

Rebecca (RS): Well, my family is very multilingual; all of my grandparents or great-grandparents are from other countries. My grandfathers were from Vienna and Montreal; I had a great grandmother from Puerto Rico whose husband was French and a grandmother whose parents were from Ukraine. I also have a grandmother from Romania who lived in Israel for a while and speaks French and German in addition to Romanian and English. I didn’t grow up speaking any of those languages, unfortunately, but when I was in seventh grade, we were given the choice of studying either French or Spanish. I took French throughout junior high and high school and into college and loved it; I think I just got a lot of intrinsic enjoyment out of learning and speaking a different language, so I started taking Spanish in high school as well, then added German on top of those in college, and also took a course in American Sign Language. Then I studied abroad in Niamey, Niger, where the courses were taught in French, and I learned some Hausa and Zarma as well.
When I went to college, my idea was to become a multilingual speech pathologist, so that’s what first got me taking courses in linguistics, including clinical phonetics and semantics, and a course on the anatomy and physiology of the speech mechanism, which I found really interesting. My work-study job involved tutoring immigrants in English as part of Boston University’s Intergenerational Literacy Project, a really valuable program that offers language and literacy classes for adults while also providing language enrichment activities for their kids in another room so that the parents don’t need to worry about childcare. While in Niger, I had the chance to meet some pretty amazing Peace Corps volunteers, and I think that’s when I started thinking that I might go into language teaching instead. I applied for an MA TESOL program so that I would know what I was doing, and my advisor in the TESOL program encouraged me to go on to pursue a PhD in applied linguistics.
VF: Sounds like a life-long process around languages; interesting. Thank you.


VF: Thinking back to graduate school, what part of it did you enjoy the most? What do you remember as a significant moment of your life as a graduate student; what was your most memorable time?

RS: The most valuable aspect of my MA TESOL program, I think, was my teaching assistantship. I taught ESL classes for international students in MSU’s IEP (Michigan State University’s Intensive English Program) every day while I was also taking a full load of courses in the MA TESOL program, so from the very first semester, I was in charge of my own classes, and everything I was learning in my coursework I got to try out and apply and reflect on every day while teaching. It also helped me learn to prioritize and manage my time because every single day (well, except Wednesday since that was the day we were supposed to take students on field trips) I had to show up in both of the ESL classes I was teaching with new lesson plans and materials and graded assignments and everything. Then, of course, I had to do all of the readings and assignments and papers and projects for my own TESOL courses, plus serve on the curriculum committee, proctor and rate placement tests, participate in discussion groups with other TAs and mentor teachers, and so on. The challenge of juggling all of that was a great preparation not only for my PhD at Georgetown, but also for life as a teacher.
What made the MA TESOL program even more special and memorable was that there were several other graduate students in the same situation, so we were going through that tough but rewarding time together, and we built strong connections with each other. The more experienced instructors in the IEP were also an enormous help. They met with us regularly to help us problem-solve issues that were coming up in our classes and shared tons of creative and tried-and-true activities that we could use in our classes. So from the very beginning of our graduate coursework, we also had opportunities to form close collaborative professional relationships with mentors who were generous with their time and talents. That support and the experience as a whole was really transformative and helped to give me a lot of confidence early on in my career as a teacher.
VF: Wonderful. Thank you for sharing.


VF: You currently serve on the board of professional organizations such as WATESOL as well as Co-Chair of VIU’s IRB. So, what do you think it means to be a Teacher Leader today and are you a 21st-century English teacher? How would you envision and rate your approaches?

RS: A major part of being a 21st-century language teacher, whether you’re teaching English or any other language, is being multilingual and having international experience yourself (or at least knowing about other languages and having an international orientation). I have to say, I’m a bit envious of the students we have in our TESOL and Applied Linguistics programs here at VIU because they navigate so well between languages and cultures; it’s impressive and admirable! They come from so many different countries – Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, China, Mongolia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Poland, Brazil, Colombia…. I’m sure I’m missing a few – but anyway, they interact with each other so fluidly, with such great cultural sensitivity; it’s uplifting to witness.
Speaking of the WATESOL Board and leadership, we have an NNEST Caucus which is working to raise awareness of the importance of professional expertise and the valuable benefits that so-called “Non-Native English-Speaking Teachers” can offer, including the fact that they can serve as relatable role models for their students – people who have been through similar processes and experiences and have succeeded. I’m excited for our students to graduate and start teaching or go back to teaching because I think they epitomize 21st-century English teachers better than I do!
VF: Thank you for sharing your vision on that. You are a wonderful teacher and being in this field for so long, and more than sure all your students nowadays look up to you as a role model.


VF: What do you primarily teach nowadays?

RS:  There are about 7 or 8 courses that I teach regularly at VIU. Some of them are introductory courses in linguistics and language acquisition, whereas others are more practically oriented, such as a course on language curriculum and materials design and a course on pedagogical grammar for communicative classrooms. Among the more advanced courses I teach are a seminar on individual differences in language acquisition, a research methods course, and the TESOL practicum. I also serve as a mentor for the thesis course.
VF: Do you have any suggestions or initiatives in mind for the graduate students for the future, something you would like to wish them all.

RS: Sure! I would encourage them all to get involved in professional development opportunities outside the classroom. The School of Education offers so many PD opportunities, from our yearly Conference on Language, Learning, and Culture in April, to our monthly Voices from the Field speaker series. Local professional organizations such as WATESOL (the Washington, DC-area affiliate of TESOL International) also provide a variety of events throughout the year, many of which are free for members or volunteers. All of these are excellent chances not only to gain knowledge and exposure to different perspectives and practical tools, but also to network and build connections with other language education professionals in the community.
VF: You mentioned that in addition to inservice, inhouse conference like CLLC, Voices from the field, you also participated in such events as SLRF, AAAL, WATESOL, and GURT. It is difficult to enumerate how many times you’ve shaped the community in profound way- but can you share your experience about what is the most exciting part of being a presenter at the events mentioned.

RS: Well, besides the excitement of getting exposed to cutting-edge research and having the opportunity to share my work and receive valuable feedback from others, it’s great to form new connections with people who attend my talks and whose talks I attend. It’s also a chance to reconnect with colleagues and friends from grad school who have since moved on to other universities across the US and around the world. We still collaborate on research, so we email each other and discuss our projects over Skype, but it can be so much more enjoyable and productive to meet in person. Plus, in the midst of a million other responsibilities, it’s very motivating to be able to take a step back, devote time to finding out about recent developments, get re-energized with excitement about the field, and make plans to explore new ideas.
VF: What are you currently working on, on some sort of research or project knowing you are always so busy while working on your professional development?

RS: I just finished drafting a chapter on reviewing manuscripts for academic journals that I was invited to write for an edited collection whose goal is to provide advice for graduate students and early-career faculty in the field of applied linguistics. During the school year, I gave conference presentations at SLRF (the Second Language Research Forum) and AAAL (the American Association for Applied Linguistics annual conference) on some research I have been doing on the relationships between individual differences, depth of processing, and language learning in instructional conditions that provide different types of feedback. I measured a variety of learner characteristics, including working memory capacity, visual short-term memory, grammatical sensitivity, metalinguistic knowledge, sensitivity to linguistic ambiguity, enjoyment of grammar, motivation, and others; asked half of the participants in each experimental group to speak their thoughts out loud while they were interacting with a computer-mediated language learning activity; and had all of the participants complete retrospective reflection questionnaires. Then, some colleagues and I transcribed and coded their comments to characterize the thought processes they were apparently engaging in, such as looking for patterns, testing hypotheses, formulating rules, drawing on prior knowledge, trying to memorize, and so on. We analyzed the data to see which individual differences predicted what sorts of cognitive processes, and which cognitive processes were associated with greater learning.
VF: Is that the new data that you are working on or you are collecting the prior available one?

RS: It’s all based on data I collected before I started working at VIU. But I’m collaborating with some colleagues from other universities on designing an experiment that we hope to conduct this summer. In studies of implicit learning, researchers sometimes use subjective measures to assess whether participants have become aware of a particular linguistic target – essentially just by asking them to indicate whether each response is based on a guess, intuition, memory, or a rule. Then, to see whether there’s evidence of implicit knowledge, they check whether participants’ accuracy is at a level that’s greater than chance when they report guessing. We have some doubts about the validity of that approach, and specifically also about whether participants are really guessing when they say they’re guessing, so we’ve come up with a way to try to test that and will also be measuring individual differences in locus of control to see if that’s related to how often participants report guessing, both in a condition where subjective measures are used in the traditional way and in an experimental condition where we try to improve on the method. We’ll also be interviewing the participants about their approaches.
VF: Thank you so much for sharing, Dr. Sachs, and for your time to share your professional experience and other ideas that you have worked and work and good luck on that.

RS: My pleasure! Thanks, Victoria.
VF: Thank you!

CLLC 2017 was yet another year of success!

Thank you to everyone who participated and contributed to the success of CLLC 2017!

The 2017 conference focused on the professional identities, communities, beliefs, and practices of educators and how they can all be harnessed to enhance and advance the lifelong learning we recognize as the ideal meaning of the phrase “teacher education.” Our goal was to involve pre- and in-service teachers, teacher educators, administrators, researchers, and other professionals at all stages of their careers in a multidirectional sharing of expertise and experiences that would contribute to future exploratory practice and professional growth.

Photos are available here:

Be sure to check out our CLLC page for updates: CLLC 2018 information is coming soon!