Student Ecology Movement

I knew three of my students had formed a non-profit organization focused on ecology, but I didn’t know much about what they were doing. Frankly, it’s fairly impressive. The group’s focus is ecological activism. You can learn more about their organization, the Student Ecology Movement, by checking out the following:

Wow. I’m really proud of them.

Choosing Books for Students

Reading SiddharthaHow do you decide what your students read?

For many of us, which books we have available in the book room or which books are approved by the school system’s list may limit our choices.

I had a conversation the other day with an English student teacher I know, and she was telling me of her frustrations that her college is pushing her to integrate YA lit into her lesson plans, while the school where she is student teaching is advising her to limit her selections to the book room.  I remember taking a course in YA lit in college, and while I loved my professor, the venerable Dr. Agee, who has since retired from UGA, I was never able to use much of what I learned in the class in my high school teaching experience.  NCTE also pushes YA lit, to the point of recommending (or they did when I was in college, anyway) books like From Hinton to Hamlet: Building Bridges Between Young Adult Literature and the Classics by Sarah K. Herz and Donald R. Gallo — a book whose purpose is to help teachers learn which YA books might be paired with classics already in the classroom.

I actually really like YA lit.  I am reading New Moon, the second book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga.  I am a total Harry Potter nut.  For my money, The Giver is one of the best dystopian novels I’ve ever read (I love dystopian novels, too), and the only part of teaching middle school that I really enjoyed was teaching The Giver.  I don’t mean to discourage YA lit.  I think the agenda of our education schools and NCTE is clear — let’s present our students with age-appropriate literature that will grab them.  I agree that students should be encouraged to read YA lit, but I’m not sure that I agree we need to let it take over the high school curriculum, and I don’t agree with Teri Lesesne (in the article “Question for the Ages” below), who says that The Catcher in the Rye, The Scarlet Letter, and Beowulf are more appropriate in college.  I have successfully taught all three books in high school, and I would even argue that Catcher is best suited for high school — the symbolism is easy, making it a great introduction to symbolism, and students around Holden’s age relate to him.

Some more reading on the subject:

If you have more research or articles on the use of YA lit in the high school classroom and/or selecting age-appropriate books for students, feel free to share in the comments.

Image credit: Nick Today.

The Homework on Homework: Part Two

In my quest to enlighten myself as to the true contents of the studies cited by Robert Marzano, et. al. in Classroom Instruction that Works, a course of action suggested not only by Marzano’s detractor Alfie Kohn, but by Marzano himself, I found an article entitled “Synthesis of Research on Homework” in Educational Leadership written by Harris Cooper. Cooper’s work seems to be a major point of contention between Kohn and Marzano, and upon reading this article, I think I can see where both are coming from. The citation for the article appears at the end of this post.

Cooper begins with the acknowledgment that he undertook his study in order to make some sense of some wild swings in the public’s attitude toward homework. At the beginning of the twentieth century, homework was considered good exercise for students’ minds (85). When drill exercises fell out of favor and problem-solving homework became the rage in the 1940’s, homework fell out of favor (85). I found that interesting, considering modern attitudes toward drill (I see it often referred to as “drill-and-kill”) whereas problem-solving is viewed as an invaluable skill for students to learn. Of course, Sputnik changed all that, and once again, homework was popular (85). Concerns about “needless pressure” on students in the 1960’s caused homework to fall out of favor again (85). The impetus for homework’s “reemergence” in the 1980’s was the landmark report A Nation at Risk (NCEE 1983). The article was written in 1989 and thus does not examine homework attitudes over the last twenty years, but given the response to my post in support of homework, I think it is safe to say homework is currently unpopular once again.

What Cooper found in his study was that research on homework tended to “fit the tenor of [its] times” (86). In other words, “[t]hrough selective attention and imprecise weighting of the evidence, research can be used to muster a case to back up any position” (86). Beginning in 1986, Cooper sought to change all of that with a new study. Cooper states that he “began the project with no strong predisposition about whether homework was good or bad” (86). Cooper’s research took two years; the end result was his book Homework, which Cooper says was the “first full-length book on the subject” of homework (86). I have had some trouble getting my hands on this book, as it is out of print. A few nearby university libraries have it, but none of my local public libraries do. I may be able to get it through inter-library loan, but as I am not currently a student or staff-member on any university, I’m not sure. However, “Synthesis of Research on Homework,” as its title suggests, seems to be a fairly good synthesis of the study.

I love the way Cooper began his study; it should have been how we began our debate about the issue at The Faculty Room: Cooper defined homework as “tasks assigned to students by school teachers that are meant to be carried out during non-school hours” (86). I’m going to assume he means the tasks are carried during non-school hours and not the teachers, but the English teacher in me couldn’t let that go without clarification. We spent, I think, the better part of several days just figuring out what we all thought homework was!

Cooper goes on to describe several positive effects of homework (quoted mostly word for word from figure 1 on p. 86):

  • Immediate achievement and learning, including better retention, understanding, and critical thinking
  • Long-term academic effects, including better study habits and attitude toward school
  • Nonacademic effects, including better self-direction, self-discipline, time management, and independent problem solving
  • Greater parental appreciation of and involvement in schooling

As well as some negative effects:

  • Satiation, including loss of interest in subject and physical and mental fatigue
  • Denial of access to leisure-time and community activities
  • Parental interference, including pressure and confusion of instructional techniques
  • Cheating
  • Increased differences between high and low achievers

Both sides have valid points, as Cooper discusses in his analysis. Cooper’s conclusion was that “homework probably involves the complex interaction of more influences than any other instructional device” (87). But does it work? Well, as it turns out, Cooper’s research says both yes and no.

Cooper organized his research into three sets of studies: 1) comparisons between students who were given homework to students who were not; 2) comparisons between in-class supervised study and homework; and 3) analyses of time spent on homework and student achievement.

The first set included 20 studies. Cooper found that 14 studies “produced effects favoring homework while 6 favored no homework” (88). However, and most importantly, Cooper found dramatic differences on the efficacy of homework when the factor of student grade level was considered. In fact, he found that “if the teacher is teaching high school students, the average student in the homework class would outperform 69 percent of the students in the no-homework class” (88). To reach this determination, Cooper hypothesizes that in two classes, one of which receives homework and one of which does not, all other factors being equal and each comprising 25 students, that the average student — the one who ranks 13th in the class — would be equivalent to 8th in the no-homework class (88). In junior high/middle school, the effect of homework is still present, but not as great. Cooper found that using the same scenario would slightly increase that student’s standing from 13th to 10th in junior high/middle school. However, in elementary school, homework produced no such effects. Assigning homework did not increase elementary school students’ achievement at all (88).

Cooper’s second set of evidence, a comparison between in-class supervised study to homework, showed in-class study to be superior. However, Cooper acknowledges that the issue is “how best to use children’s time and school resources” (88). I take that to mean that with elementary students who spend most of a day with the same teacher, student time and school resources might be better spent on in-class supervised study; however, in secondary schools when students might spend only 50 minutes with a teacher, it might be a wiser use of student time and school resources to assign homework. Again, grade level was critically important to Cooper’s findings: “When homework and in-class study were compared in elementary schools, in-class study actually proved superior. In junior high, homework was superior, and in high school, the superiority of homework was most impressive” (88).

The third set of studies is more difficult to interpret due to a chicken/egg problem. Are students achieving more because they study more? Or do students who achieve more naturally study more? However, Harris found that of 50 studies, 43 “indicated that students who did more homework had better achievement while only 7 indicated the opposite” (88). Once more, grade level made a huge difference. Studies on students in grades 3 to 5 showed a weak correlation between achievement and amount of homework. For students in grades 5-9, a stronger correlation could be found. Of course, in high school, the strongest correlation could be found (89).

What about the kind of homework? Surely that should be a factor, right? Cooper did not find that subject matter influenced achievement. I found this conclusion surprising, as I had assumed practice of math problems to be essential to understanding math concepts when I was in school. Cooper also concluded that homework “works best when the material is not complex or terribly novel” (89), which makes sense to me as students would have trouble completing it without help. In addition to subject matter and complexity, Cooper also examines the factor of time. Again, with elementary students, the amount of time spent didn’t matter much because homework didn’t impact achievement. Junior high students’ achievement “improve[d] with more homework until assignments lasted between one and two hours a night” (89), after which the efficacy of homework diminished. “For high school students, on the other hand, the line-of-progress continued to go up through the highest point on the measured scales” (89)! Cooper believes there must be a point at which homework is no longer effective in high school, but also states that the studies show that “within reason, the more homework high school students do, the better their achievement” (89).

Interestingly, Cooper also found that “it is better to distribute material across several assignments rather than have homework concentrate only on material covered in class that day” (89); that parental involvement, even when parents are given a “formal role” make no difference in the efficacy of homework either way; and finally that individualizing assignments had such small benefits, given their additional “burden” for teachers, that Cooper recommends it shouldn’t be done. Given contention that feedback is important, it is interesting that none of the studies Cooper analyzed examined the effect of feedback. I should think, as Marzano found, that giving feedback most likely demonstrates the homework has some importance; therefore, it has a greater impact on student achievement.

A final caveat: Cooper complains that “many of the studies used poor research designs” and feels that we really need to construct “some well-conducted, large-scale studies” (89). Second, all of the focus on the efficacy of homework is on its correlation to achievement. Few studies examined “homework’s effect on
attitudes toward school and subject matter,” and none examined “non-academic outcomes like study habits, cheating, or participation in community activities” (89).

Cooper concludes his article with an excellent recommended homework policy for teachers, schools, and districts. Despite his findings, Cooper recommends elementary students be given homework, even though it will not change achievement. I found this recommendation baffling in light of the evidence he presented; however, he insists that it will enable students to “develop good study habits, foster positive attitudes toward school, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes places at home as well as school” (90). While I concede it might do the first and the last, I’m not sure it will do much to make students like school. Further, he recommends elementary homework be “short, employ materials commonly found in the home environment, and should lead to success experiences” (90).

Cooper believes junior high students should have a “mix of both mandatory and voluntary homework,” which he defines as “tasks that are intrinsically interesting to students of this age” (90). High school students should receive homework that is an “extension of the class,” which includes “[p]ractice and review of lessons” and “simple introductions to material about to be covered” as well as “assignments that require students to integrate skills or different parts of the curriculum” (90).

Cooper emphasizes that “[h]omework should never be given as punishment,” which sends the message that “schoolwork is boring and aversive” (90). He also recommends “parent involvement be kept to a minimum,” but that parents of students in earlier grades be more involved than parents of students in secondary grades. Perhaps most interestingly, Cooper recommends that “grading should be kept to a minimum” because “[h]omework should not be viewed as an opportunity to test” (91). Cooper believes that checking for completeness and giving “intermittent instructional feedback” is better than discriminating “among” different levels of achievement on homework (91). He believes that students will still learn that homework “should be taken seriously and has a purpose,” which is to “diagnose individual learning problems” (91). This approach makes sense to me if we’re talking about math or grammar exercises, but not out-of-class writing assignments or projects, both of which fit Cooper’s definition of homework.

Ultimately, what I take away from this article is that both Marzano and Kohn may be somewhat selective in what they concluded from Cooper’s study and subsequent recommendations. It is clear to me that homework may have little to no benefit for elementary school students, but is critical for high school students’ achievement. However, in my view, it seemed that Kohn seemed to think the benefit for even high school students was not great, and Marzano seemed to think the benefit to elementary students was greater than it is. Cooper suggests that the effects of homework on achievement in early grades may be small, but that some homework will instill study skills students will need in order to do homework in upper grades. I suppose if that is our goal, it is a worthy one, but on an anecdotal level, I can’t remember having much homework (if any) until middle school, and I have fairly good study habits. Then again, who is to say it’s not because I’m a pretty good student? Would lower-achieving students benefit from developing compensatory study skills? I’ve seen it happen — a student who may not have the natural ability achieves nonetheless because of hard work.

Cooper, Harris. “Synthesis of Research on Homework.” Educational Leadership. 47.3 (November 1989): 85-91. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Weber School Library, Atlanta, GA. 29 March 2008. <>.

Week in Reflection: March 24-28, 2008

The end of this week leaves me feeling somewhat exhausted. I was rear-ended last weekend, and I have been dealing with the problems that entails — reporting the accident, waiting for the police report so I can file a claim with the other guy’s insurance, getting an estimate for damage (nearly $1300), and worrying about the fact that no one knows I’m signaling with my left turn signal, thereby making changing lanes and turning left more awkward and stressful.

My tenth grade students handed in the final draft of their research papers. I know it felt strange to be handing that assignment in after working on it for so long. I can tell that my students learned a great deal from the process.

My freshman are learning all about phrases and working on The Catcher in the Rye. I am not 100% satisfied with how phrases are going because my students come from such disparate backgrounds, depending upon the teachers they have had before. Students who ordinarily catch on quickly and do well on other aspects of my class are feeling awkward about their knowledge and understanding through no fault of their own. I agreed to meet them for some review at lunch some day next week, so I hope that will help.

My seniors are engaged in an assignment I called “Flat World Willy.” After reading Death of a Salesman, students looked at the play’s continuing relevance to our own society through an examination of outsourcing and globalization. They read an excerpt from The World is Flat (the chapter entitled “The Untouchables”), viewed Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod’s “Did You Know?” (which they really enjoyed), viewed part of an episode of The Simpsons called “Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore” (which examines outsourcing in a humorous way), and viewed a Discovery Times special “The Other Side of Outsourcing” (Thomas Friedman). They are creating handbooks for either high school graduates or college graduates that will help the grads navigate the job pool in the age of globalization and outsourcing, ensuring that a) the grads will always have a job, and b) the grads won’t end up like Willy Loman. I think they are having fun with it, and what I have seen so far of their planning looks really good.

I’m so tired. Lots of stuff going on right now, and it’s sapping my energy. This is the time of year when it’s easy for teachers to get burned out. The first rule is to take care of yourself. You can’t be an effective teacher if you don’t.

Update, 3:41 P.M.: I keep forgetting to mention my 9th graders’ Romeo and Juliet diaries have been appearing bit by bit at the Room 303 Blog. It helps to scroll down because the entries are posted chronologically.

A Usage PSA

OK, I can’t hold it in anymore.  The time has come for a public service announcement regarding some alarming usage problems I see in the blogosphere.

The past tense of the verb lead is led, not lead.

I know why you’re confused.  The past tense of read is read, so it is natural to assume that the word lead, which looks so much like read, must work the same way.

Here’s a handy guide:

If I lead, will you follow?

I led the team to victory.

Lead, pronounced like led, refers only to the heavy metal, making the name for the band Led Zeppelin an interesting pun, I suppose.  For example: That idea will go over like a lead balloon.

That is all, but I reserve the right to interrupt this blog for future PSA’s should they be necessary.

Week in Reflection: March 17-21

This was a crazy week.  Monday was a teacher workday; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, our schedules were different from “normal”; and Friday was Purim — we didn’t have classes and spent the day celebrating.  The students were pretty good considering all the schedule disruptions.  I had a really good discussion with my senior class about a piece I asked them to read from Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat as well as two short videos we watched — Karl Fisch’s “Did You Know?” and an excerpt from The Simpsons — “Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore.”  We are making connections between Death of a Salesman and the plight of Willy Loman to modern issues of globalization, outsourcing, and living in “exponential times.”

My tenth grade class will turn in the final draft of their research papers tomorrow.  One hard worker has written something like ten drafts!  I am proud of all their hard work and have a suitable celebration in mind.  This week is a much more normal week, thank goodness.

We have 12th grade and 10th grade trips coming up in the next couple of weeks.  Spring break isn’t far off, either.

Week in Reflection: March 10-14, 2008

This week, one of my ninth grade classes finished The Catcher and the Rye, and we began discussing it in class.  We also studied adjective and adverb phrases.  The students really enjoyed the discussion of the novel, and I think they liked the book a great deal.  That novel always seems to be popular, especially with boys.  It brings up a good point.  A lot of what we read in school isn’t necessarily appealing to boys.  I think my male students enjoyed Romeo and Juliet and The Odyssey.  I really do try to think about how to draw boys in when we study literature.  The discussions this week went very well.

My tenth grade writing students watched The Freedom Writers.  I know a lot of people don’t like the movie, but I do, and the students were rapt.  We had a really good, insightful discussion about the movie on Friday.  One student in particular really seemed to be able to understand the motivations of Erin Gruwell’s department head.  He said he was playing “devil’s advocate,” but his points were all well taken — why shouldn’t the students move on to a new teacher?  Wouldn’t that be the ultimate test of how ready they were?  Is it really good to have the same teacher all four years?  He also wondered about the issue of seniority.  Was Gruwell getting a “promotion”?  The department head certainly considered it to be one.  Laying aside the assertion that she deserved one (I think she did great work), she had only been teaching two years.  Another issue that concerned the students was the practicality of what Gruwell did — in the movie, her marriage falls apart due to neglect on her part, and she has to take two extra jobs to pay for what her students need.  My students saw the good that resulted from these choices, but they were, I think, right to question the cost.  I thought the students had some really good insights into what they were seeing.

My seniors finished Death of a Salesman.  I wasn’t sure how they would like it, but I think discussing how it is the story of many people today really hooked them, which isn’t terribly easy to do with seniors at this time of year.  I am really excited about this unit, so it could be that my own enthusiasm showed.  I also spent a lot of time planning it — thinking of questions for discussion, assessments, etc. — and that always pays off.  It was remarked by someone who shall remain anonymous that I had put a lot of work into the unit, and I think the insinuation was that given the climate (seniors just ready to graduate and move on with the next stage of life), I probably wasted my time.  I don’t think so.  I think we have to work even harder as teachers to engage students when they are distracted by this future that’s just out of their reach.  They can’t help their feelings — and I had the same ones when I was a senior.  It’s a really exciting time.  I envy them getting to go off to college for the first time, learning so much, figuring out who they are.  I had a great college experience, and I wish I could do it again.

I obtained permission from one of my ninth grade classes to post their writing at a blog I have admittedly only occasionally used for student writing.  The last posts are reflections of the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn done a year ago.  The writing I will be posting is collected from creative writing diaries from characters in Romeo and Juliet.  I plan to post one diary entry a day beginning on Tuesday.  If you are interested in reading them, you might want to pop over to the Room 303 Blog and subscribe to our RSS feed.  I don’t have e-mail subscription set up on that blog.

I have been approached to do a blogging project with a teacher in Hawaii, and I am really interested.  I would like my students to have their own blogs for written reflection, but sometimes I feel like I should have established that early on, and how do you do that?  I should think it would be great for interaction, discussion, exploration, and reflection.  Does anyone know if I can do that with Moodle?  I hesitate to put students in the position of public reflection if they feel uncomfortable about it, but if we can do it just within our community, I don’t think there would be a problem.

The Homework on Homework: Part One

As I promised earlier, I am reading the studies cited by Robert Marzano Classroom Instruction that Works. The first study I picked up is “The Effects of Homework on Learning: A Quantitative Synthesis” from Journal of Educational Research, November/December 1984 (full citation at end of this post).

Alfie Kohn’s claim in his rebuttal of my post at The Faculty Room was that none of the studies cited by Marzano, et. al. in the chapter “Homework and Practice” showed that “homework was beneficial for students.” Kohn accuses Marzano of misrepresenting the research on homework.

The focus of the Paschal, Weinstein, Walberg, 1984, which is not one of the five studies Kohn mentions in his criticism of Marzano, is a synthesis of “empirical studies of homework and of various homework strategies on the academic achievement and attitude of elementary and secondary students.” In the abstract of the study, Paschal, et. al. state: “About 85% of the effect sizes favored the homework groups. The mean effect size is .36 (probability less than .0001). Homework that was graded or contained teachers’ comments produced stronger effects (.80).”

As I said, this meta-analysis does not appear to be one of the five studies Kohn mentions in his post when questioning Marzano’s research, but it is in a chart on p. 61 of Marzano entitled “Research Results for Homework.” Perhaps it is not considered by Kohn because it is a meta-analysis or synthesis rather than original research itself. I do think it has interesting things to say about the effects of homework, however. Paschal, et. al. note that “[e]xtensive classroom research on ‘time on task’ and international comparisons of year-round time for study suggest that additional homework might promote U.S. students’ achievement.” However, the authors also note that writing on the subject of homework has largely characterized homework as “unwholesome, professionally unsupervised, or allow[ing] the children to practice mistakes.” Paschal, et. al. acknowledge that attitudes regarding homework seem to change depending upon a variety of factors.

Paschal, et. al. examined “15 studies that compared students with various qualities and amounts of assigned homework. These included the most frequent comparison, of students who were assigned and those who were not assigned homework.”

The authors conclude that “[t]he corpus of evidence shows a moderately large average effect size [0.80] of assigned homework that is commented upon or graded.” However, the authors also acknowledge that “much of the voluminous, 70-year-old literature on homework is opinionated and polemical, and surprisingly few methodologically adequate studies have been conducted.” I can attest to the veracity of the first part of that statement, given my own recent experience. Kohn was the only respondent to my original post who even brought up research.

Obviously, I want to read the five studies cited by Kohn and Marzano, as those studies seem to be at the heart of the contention between the two, but I felt this meta-analysis made it fairly clear that some homework was better than no homework. Marzano’s conversion table on p. 160 translates a 0.36 effect size to a percentile gain of 14. In other words, the average student who does homework (at least, according to my interpretation of the meta-analysis) will have score 14 percentage points higher on a standard bell curve measuring student achievement.  An average student who does homework that is graded and receives feedback on that homework will have a score over 28 percentage points higher on a standard bell curve measuring student achievement.  Sounds good to me.  I encourage you to read the study yourself and draw your own conclusions, too.  Feel free to leave them in the comments.  I will be reading other studies and sharing my conclusions here, so if you are interested in the great homework debate, check back.

Marzano, Robert J., Debra J. Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock. Classroom Instruction that Works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2001.

Paschal, Rosanne A., Thomas Weinstein, and Herbert J. Walberg. “The Effects of Homework on Learning: A Quantitative Analysis.” Journal of Educational Research. 78.2 (1984): 97-104. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Weber School Library, Atlanta, GA. 7 March 2008. <>.

A Writing Teacher’s Pet Peeves

In my ten years of composition instruction, I have developed a set of pet peeves associated with the body of student writing I have read.  Any of my students reading this should keep in mind that I do not direct this at any particular student — this list is a synthesis of common writing errors that I often find in student papers at every grade level 6-12 and every academic level, including Honors or AP.

  1. Referring to an author by his/her first name only in a literary analysis.  It sounds too much like they’re writing about their old pal Walt instead of the poet Walt Whitman.
  2. Not using proper format.  I require MLA format.  I provide samples.  I correct it. I don’t know how much plainer it gets.
  3. Punctuation of titles.  I admit that I am probably harsher on students than is warranted because punctuation of titles comes so easily to me, but I cannot figure out why students cannot remember that short works go inside quotation marks and longer works are italicized or underlined.
  4. Use of second person in formal composition.
  5. Apostrophes used to designate words as plural.  Why?  Think of the poor overworked little punctuation marks!  Don’t they already have enough to do with possessives and contractions, not to mention quotes within quotes?
  6. Run-ons, comma splices, and fragments.  Subject+verb+complete thought=sentence.  Commas cannot join independent clauses.  Independent clauses cannot simply be mashed together either.  Let me introduce you to the semicolon.  He is your friend.
  7. Strange format decisions.  It is my experience that many young writers do not feel comfortable turning in work unless their own title is somehow different from the essay — a different font, font size, bold font, etc.  Why can’t it just be plain size-12 Times New Roman?
  8. And while we’re discussing titles, how about this attention grabber: “Essay”; or if that doesn’t grab you, how about “Scarlet Letter Essay.”  The title of the novel, of course either in quotation marks or not punctuated at all.
  9. Not reading feedback.  I spend anywhere between 15-30 minutes reading every paper.  Students flip to the grade and ask why they earned that particular grade before reading the half-page to full-page of written or typed comments I attached to the piece.  When this happens, a part of me dies inside.  And I think God kills a kitten, too.
  10. Commonly confused words and nonstandard usage: “loose” for “lose,” “then” for “than”; the whole to/two/too and there/their/they’re.  “Alright.”  “Alot.”  “Can not.”  “Irregardless.”

Professional writers are not exempt.  I had to quit reading the work of a popular writer whose plots I enjoy because I couldn’t stand the fact that she, and apparently her editor, can’t identify a comma splice.

Please don’t think I take a red pen to comments and correspondence.  I don’t think twice about it.  Formal writing, especially published writing, has to meet a different standard.

Google Reader

I have been using Bloglines to keep up with my RSS feeds for as long as I can remember.  I decided to play around with Google Reader today to see if I liked it better, and I have to say I liked it a lot better.

I like the way Google Reader enables me to click on a feed and see all the posts in that feed, even if I have already read them.  In Bloglines, I had to go through an extra step (selecting from the drop-down menu next to “Display items with the last x”) to view feeds I had already read, and even then, I couldn’t figure out how to review just one feed instead of all the feeds in a folder, which I frankly didn’t want to do.

My feed subscriptions all imported properly in the folders where they were on Bloglines.  Navigating was a snap.  The look was pleasing to the eye — it seems like a small thing, but the display looked so much nicer.  For example, pictures, embedded audio, embedded video, and the like all seemed to “behave” better in Google Reader.  Subscribing to new feeds and organizing them into folders was easy.  If I click on a feed to read the post on its blog, it opens in a new tab in Firefox.  This is nice because in Bloglines I had to right-click (control-click) on the feed, select “Open in New Tab,” and then I could look at the feed.  If I didn’t take this step and opened feeds in same window, then hit the back button to go back to Bloglines, I became confused about which feeds I had read already and often missed some I hadn’t read yet.  I always found this very frustrating.

I like the shared and starred items features.  The discover feature is nice, too.  It’s fun to be able to keep up with how many subscribers follow a feed, and a new feature in Google Reader enables users to do this; however, in Bloglines, you can also see the names of the public subscribers, which was nice.

Check out this comparison of Bloglines Beta and Google Reader for more information.  I should point out I was not using Bloglines Beta, but rather the older version of Bloglines.  I think Bloglines Beta has more features.  I’m not sure Bloglines compares as well with Google Reader as Bloglines Beta does.