Monthly Archives: August 2018

Helping Children Become Writers

Toni Bickart, author of WHAT EVERY PARENTS NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT  FIRST, SECOND,  AND THIRD GRADES  observed:  “The process of learning how to write begins at a very early age.  Young children, using crayons or markers, write with great enthusiasm and eagerness.  Toddlers and preschoolers think that all they have to do is pick up a pen and scrawl little lines and dots.

Gradually, they realize that writing is speech in the form of symbols on paper, so they talk and scribble away and expect you to read this scribble.  As their fine motor skills develop, children draw pictures and dictate words to accompany the pictures.  Sometimes they try to write words.  They may start with words they remember seeing somewhere, or they may attempt to write the sounds they hear when they say the words aloud.  For example, a child might write “d” or DG” for “DOG.”  From these modest but enthusiastic beginnings, writers emerge.”

The following advice will help your child develop strong writing skills:

First, encourage writing at home.  Bernard Ryan, author of HELPING YOUR CHILD START  SCHOOL  concluded:  “Children get a big kick out of writing their own stories and poems, even jokes and riddles.  Encourage your child to write by making sure he has paper, pencils, and pens. If you have a computer in the house,  introduce him to your word-processing program.  Writing also calls for listening to books read aloud, so your child hears ideas expressed in sentences that move along into narratives. Keep reading aloud.  You provide several messages when you read to your child.  You show respect for the written word.  You provide a warm, intimate experience that is particularly enjoyable, especially in the winding-down time before bed.  Keep the praise flowing.  Read your child’s stories, project papers, and book reports, but read conscientiously and praise honestly.  Point out what is well done before you belabor the weaknesses, for encouragement is vital food for the writer.”

Second, create a list of  at-home writing activities.  Bickart urges parents to include the following items on their list:

*message board- put up a message board family members can write messages to each other

*diary- give your child a diary or a calendar with space to write or word or two about what happened each day

*discuss writing- when interesting or funny things happen, talk with your child about how you could write stories about these events- begin by saying the first line, have your child say the next, and  keep alternating until you have finished the story

What everyone needs to know about education

The most striking thing about our public schools is that they have been in perpetual decline for many decades. Why?

The government has its own tests called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP); these tests regularly suggest that two-thirds of fourth-graders and eighth-graders are “below proficient” in reading. That’s what decline looks like. It’s guaranteed those two-thirds will never be literate as that term has been traditionally used. Some may learn to read in a painful struggling way but they won’t be reading a daily paper or curling up with a good book. And yet, a century ago, this country was said to be headed toward universal literacy.

A single anecdote can tell you more than years of statistics. College professors report that incoming freshmen often do not know, for example, what 7×8 is. This is totally fascinating. Ask yourself, could schools be this bad by accident? Or wouldn’t somebody have to carefully organize the school to be this bad?

Another fascinating kind of evidence is a dozen books written from the 1950s to the present, with titles like So Little for the Mind, Educational Wastelands, Quackery in the Public Schools, Brainwashing in the High Schools, Why Johnny Can’t Read, The New Illiterates, Ed School Follies,  Dumbing Down Our Kids, The Conspiracy of Ignorance, and many others.

These books are basically reports from the front lines, provided by the country’s smartest and most sensitive people; always they write from the same perspective of stunned, what-the-hell amazement. How, they wail, could the people in charge do such a horrible job?

Everyone who studies public education comes to that question very quickly. Then you have to deal with the two most likely answers: our self-anointed experts are grossly incompetent; or they are grossly subversive.

If the decline weren’t so pronounced, over so many years, you might want to argue that we should give these experts the benefit of the doubt. They’ve had some bad luck, they made some bad decisions, that’s all. A relative of mine insists, “They mean well. They just can’t get their act together.” This attitude is precisely the one that our Education Establishment hopes you accept. Please don’t.

Twenty years ago Charlotte Iserbyt, who once worked in the Reagan Administration, came up with this book title The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. When you first encounter this phrase and contemplate its implications, you are probably stunned. “Deliberate” implies conspiracy and Fabian termites (i.e., socialists) chewing away at the foundations.

Conspiracy is an unpleasant word, much like pedophilia when that scandal rocked the Catholic Church 30 years ago. People do not want to believe bad things about their authorities and their experts. But priests, in many cases, were in fact child molesters. Our Education Establishment, it seems to me, similarly works against the best interests of children. (Siegfried Engelmann coined the phrase “academic child abuse.”)

Professor John Dewey laid out a scheme more than a century ago: take over the ed schools, brainwash the teachers, send them out to brainwash the kids, and thereby radically transform the society. This remains the primal mission today. The result is a secret agenda that deserves the word “conspiracy.”

But how, you might be wondering, can they get away with it? They dumb down the country in plain sight…but nobody stops them??

Here is one sweet irony. The Left often speaks of their contempt for capitalists and ad agencies; these pests create appetites for things that nobody needs. I would counter that our Education Establishment has almost no skill aside from creating a market for educational theories and methods that are not only not needed, they are destructive. In order to keep all these gimmicks, as I would term them, in play, they have to keep the public perpetually befuddled. That is how they get away with it.

They have two principal techniques. First, they constantly change the names, the jargon, and the selling points. New Math, introduced in 1965 and quickly rejected by the country, was re-branded as Reform Math 15 years later. Despite all the minor differences, the common intent seems to be to prevent children from mastering elementary arithmetic. Mastery, in fact, was specifically denounced by Reform curricula. That’s why students in college don’t know what 7×8 is.

The premier example of perverse marketing appears in the Reading Wars. You had Look-say, Whole Word, Whole Language, Balanced Literacy, Dolch Words, Sight Words, and many other phrases. Surprise: they all mean the same thing, that is, phonics is no good. Instead, kids should memorize words as logos. This goofy idea creates the NAEP statistics mentioned in the second paragraph.

A second technique for befuddlement is to flood the nation’s psyche with dozens of alibis and excuses: kids are texting and taking drugs; the Internet is distracting; there isn’t enough money; teenagers are sex-crazed; parents don’t care; and many more. The intent is to take attention from the real culprits and to wear everybody out. Look at the typical education article in the newspaper or on TV. You probably won’t be able to discern what the article is trying to tell you or what you should do about it. Typically, our media report in great detail about surfaces.

These techniques—coordinated with great persistence—have been overwhelmingly successful. The average citizen understands nothing about education. Community leaders, the movers and shakers, the people who should be defending us against our home-grown barbarians are themselves as confused as the average mother of a first-grader. Nothing is solid. You don’t know where to find the truth on any issue.

I’ve never met a doctor, lawyer, etc. who knew anything about education. Their kids go to private school, what do they care? Further, the Education Establishment concocts jargon that neutralizes thought. Test yourself. What exactly are Whole Language, Sight Words, Reform Math, and Constructivism?

If you don’t know what they are and why they’re bad, then there’s no way to defend yourself against them (or against Common Core which wraps those old scams in a shiny new package).

As I’ve watched the Obama administration, I’ve often thought that to really understand it, you have to study education. Similarly, to understand education in our country, you should watch Obama. The unifying theme is constant deceit and deception to ensure that people don’t know what is being done to them.

I’m not particularly interested in grand educational visions, nor do I think we need them. I believe the answer to our dilemma is remarkably simple. Get back to what works. In a pinch, make a list of the best hundred private schools, pick a few at random and copy whatever they’re doing. You’ll be fine. Education ain’t rocket science. Smart people who love knowledge will invariably create good schools.

You want rocket science? That’s our Education Establishment keeping an entire society ignorant and befuddled. I think of these people as evil. But I never said they aren’t smart.

Significance of identifying different types of learners

There are three different types of learners – visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Visual learners have a photographic memory. They create a mental picture of everything they learn. Auditory learners are active listeners.  They learn best by listening and can memorize and recall things easily. Kinesthetic learners learn by doing. They want to be active all the time.

My experience of assessing the different types of learners in my classroom has indeed been an interesting one. I feel that it is very easy to classify some learners whereas it is extremely difficult to classify the others. The visual learners stare at me all the time while I am teaching. They draw flowcharts and maps in their notebooks. They enjoy watching PowerPoint presentations and short videos.

The auditory learners listen to me very carefully. They are disturbed by sounds in the corridor, the playground etc. They enjoy participating in group discussions. They could memorize things very easily.

The kinesthetic learners are hyper active. They don’t like sitting at one place for more than five minutes. Unless they are allowed to express themselves in some way in the class, they become very restless. Some of them even start day dreaming. They like learning through games and other activities. I feel that It is easiest to find the kinesthetic learners. However, there are many students who display the learning traits of both visual and auditory learners.

The auditory learners can be taught easily by using traditional teaching methodologies.  They are the conventional type (Indian) of learners. The visual learners improvise the teacher’s lessons on their own. They make mind maps, flowcharts, web-charts and drawings in their notebooks to understand whatever the teacher says in class. But kinesthetic learners are different. My knowledge about the various types of learners has helped me in a lot of ways. Earlier I didn’t know what to do with the kinesthetic learners. They seemed to be disinterested. They were easily distracted and disturbed everyone in the classroom.

After assessing the types of learners in my classroom, I realized that there must be something in my lesson to facilitate learning for every kind of learner.  I introduce a lesson by using PowerPoint presentations, short videos and photographs for the visual learners.  I recapitulate the content shown through the audio-visual media by explanation and questioning for the auditory learners. I ask children to draw something related to the lesson and make a flow chart about the theme for the kinesthetic learners.  While teaching the lesson, I allow the kinesthetic learners to express their opinions freely. I ask developing questions for the benefit of the auditory learners and I move around in the classroom for the benefit of the visual and kinesthetic learners. I also ensure that there is at least one group activity related to the lesson, so that the children learn through peer interaction.  Recapitulation questions are also asked to capture the attention of the auditory and kinesthetic learners. I make optimum use of the blackboard while teaching for the visual learners.  I also plan the post lesson assignments according to the needs of various types of learners.  The visual learners are encouraged to get pictures related to the lessons, the auditory learners are encouraged to gather information about the central theme of  the lesson and the kinesthetic learners are encouraged to interpret and analyze the lessons.

My knowledge of the different types of learners has also helped me plan the seating arrangement of the class. I ensure that the auditory learners sit at a place where there is minimum noise or disturbance.  The visual learners have been seated in the front rows so that they can see the teacher and the blackboard. The kinesthetic learners have been seated in places where free movement is possible. This has made the classroom environment very comfortable.

I think it is very important for a teacher to assess how every child in her classroom wants to be taught. Traditional teaching methodologies need to be improvised regularly to address the needs of different types of learners. Every child is gifted. It is the job of a teacher to bring out the best in her students.