Sunday, October 13, 2013
Down Country Presentations
Down Country Presentations
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Reading Fluency Practice Makes Perfect
Fluency Development Lesson
Both teachers and parents can use what is called the fluency development lesson to improve reading. These lessons focus on reading a story out loud until the story is read easily and with expression. The following is the process for a fluency development lesson.
1) First you and your child need to choose an interesting short story for reading practice. Choose a story that is not too easy or especially too difficult for your child to read. This story will be rehearsed and performed to develop smooth expressive reading. Since this story will be used frequently over a week, it is important to choose something that is interesting and motivating.
2) The first step is for you to read this story out loud to your child with appropriate expression. This means you will need to read the story to yourself several times until you feel confident about read the story correctly with good expression.
3) Then your child looks at the story while you read the story out loud a second time.
4) The next day you and your child look at the story and review the difficult words and practice saying them. You can ptalk about what the story means.
5) Then you and your child read the story together like a little choir. Read the story together as many times as it takes so your child does not make a lot of hesitations while reading. This can be made extra fun by exaggerating the emotional parts of the text. Some stumbling over words at this point is still expected. This may take several days.
6) Rereading is an important part of developing a smooth reading of the story. You and your child can now take turns reading the story to each other. Do this paired reading until your child is happy with how he is doing. Remember The process should be fun for each of you.
7) Your son or daughter can also practice reading on their own. They can read aloud to the family pet or to thier favorite stuffed toy.
8) Finally you can have a little theater where your child performs the story for the whole family. Perhaps your son or daughter can take the story to their school and perform for their class.
Through the use of the fluency lesson your child not only increases his fluency but will also increased his ability to read on his own. By participating in the fluency lesson your son or daughter will improve his or her word recognition, automatic word identification and comprehension of what is read. In other words fluency is not merely a goal in itself. But fluency helps to improve overall reading. With better fluency your child will become more confident in his own reading and also become more motivated to participate in more reading by himself.
In summary, here are some tips on fluency practice.
First read the story to your child. Then have your child read the story to you. If there are difficult words simply tell your child what they are. Now is not the time for a big phonics lesson. Practice saying the difficult words several times. Then try out some of these ways of practicing. Remember fluent reading takes lots of practice.
Choral reading. In choral reading you and your child read the story together. Practice the story together a number of times until you hear your child speaking the text with a strong voice and with confidence.
Echo reading. With echo reading you and your child take turns reading a line or sentence of the story.
Practice reading the same sentences until your child readers them confidently. Then change the sentences you and your child are reading.
Readers theater. Readers theater is making the story into a play. Usually a story has parts where the characters are speaking, the dialog. Other parts explain the action, the narrative. You can take turns first practicing the dialog or the narrative. Then later switching parts. Or you can read the dialog like a play. Once you have practiced, you can perform the play for your family and friends.
Reading to others. Your child can practice a story by reading it to others. Others can be a younger sibling, a friend and even the family pet. You might be surprised that your child really likes reading to the family dog. In schools there are programs in which students sign up to practice reading to dogs.
Read aloud often. Frequently read aloud to you child. The more you read to them the more they will want to volunteer to read to you. I frequently read to my stepdaughter. Soon she wanted to take turns. So we would read her middle school assignments together. When she was in high school she was one of the few students who would volunteer to read in class.
Sunday, September 01, 2013
A Book Can Change Your Life
The value of self selection in reading
I read a great article on the value of self choice when reading books. Unfortunately I'm not able to find that article. Now that I have my Nexus 7 tablet, I read do many articles. But the author makes the point that when children and adults self-select their books they frequently run into a book that will change their life. I remember reading a book that changed my life.
When I was a young man, I held rather traditional Christian views of life and eternity. But as I went to the university to be trained as a psychologist many of these views changed. There is a scientific hypothesis that thought is merely a by product by brain activity. This hypothesis is called reductionism. As a trained psychologist I had decided that the reductionist hypothesis was the only reality for human existence. As far as I could tell there was no God, heaven or life after death. All we could only know was what we saw before us in our daily lives. This is what I was taught in my graduate training.
After I graduated with my PhD, I had a good friend who liked to read the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. I found these books way too difficult to read myself. So my friend recommended that I should read the American philosopher Norman Malcolm. Malcolm was a student of Wittgenstein. He wrote about a lot of Wittgenstein's ideas. I read Norman Malcolm's book Thought and Knowledge.
In this book Malcolm sets out Wittgenstein’s argument that thought is not equivalent to brain activity. Malcolm sets forth a very cogent argument that thought is independent of the brain. Malcolm argues that the reductionist argument is not philosophically sound. Reductionism is what in philosophy is called a circular argument. If you have a circular argument, it means your logic is not good and your argument is not sound. His presentation literally made me drop my book. I sit stunned with my mouth hanging open. This is what can happen when you read a book!
With surprise I thought to myself, if thought cannot be reduced to mere brain activity, then thought can be more than brain activity. Our thoughts were not dependent just on our brains. So thoughts could existed outside of our brains. If that was true then human consciousness did not depend on our body alone. This meant that I could entertain the hypothesis that consciousness (our thoughts) could exist outside of our brains. In other words as humans we have something that is called a soul. This soul can exist beyond the physical body, since thought is not dependent upon the human body. This then lead me on a life long journey of reading scientific research about human consciousness, the human spiritual experience and the possibilities of human existence beyond physical death. So as you see simply reading one book can set a person on a life long journey of learning and investigation. So I encourage you to read and to read to your children. I hope your reading will lead you to your life's journey.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Every Student A Home Schooler
Every Student is a homeschooler. You say but my child goes to public school. Do they do homework? My grandson is in kindergarten. He has homework. Homework is school at home. Especially in the early grades, parents are expected to participate in homework. Sounds like homeschooling to me. Then, of course, there are those who do school at home instead of public school. This section looks at the strategies and examples of homeschoolers. Even though your child attends public school many of these principles can apply to your situation.
How much can be learned when learning is very focused? The Swann family is an example of what can be accomplished with a family focuses on education. Alexandra Swann tells her family's story and journey with home schooling in her book No Regrets How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen [Kindle Edition .99¢]. This family's journey was often motivated by their religious convictions about education. Other homeschool families I personally know have many reasons for choosing homeschool. I know none of them who regretted the experience. I followed the story of the Swann family over 20 years ago. I have use their example in my working with my step-daughter Stephanie. I was fond of saying we sent Stephanie to public school during the day for socialization. At night we did home school together. I the teacher and her my sole student.
The Swann family wanted a Christian education for their children. In 1976 when they started to home school such a movement did not exist. They were told that children could only learn from real teachers who were certified like those in public schools. So Mrs Swann decided to start teaching Alexandra who just turned 5. Mrs Swann figured if she could teach Alexandra to read then she could do home school. Alexandra quickly learned to read and was flourishing. The Swanns enrolled Alexandra in the Calvert private school. Calvert is located in Baltimore, Maryland. Calvert has a highly structured distance education program. The program was frequently used by missionary families from around the world.
The school day at the Swann's home lasted for about 3 hours per day. During the 3 hours, there was total concentration on school work. In education this is called 'time on task'. At the Swann's school time on task was 100% on task. In the best of traditional school situations time on task is 50%. Also unlike traditional school Alexandra and her brothers and sisters received a lot of personal attention from their mother who was the teacher. Mrs Swann did not have a college degree but she figured that she could easily comprehend and teach the daily lessons. Most homeschool mother-teachers I know do not have college degrees, but are successful teachers at home.
There was no homework at the Swann school. Homework in a traditional setting is to help provide one-on-one attention with parents at home. Individual attention is hard to obtain in the traditional classroom. A teacher often has 20 or more students in the room. With this many students to take care of teachers try their best to work with all the students. But time is just limited. My experience knowing homeschool families is that all school work is done during school time and help is immediate.
The Swann school went Monday through Friday, twelve months a year with time off for holidays. There were no summer vacations, Christmas or spring breaks. My 6 year old grandson is experiencing his first summer vacation after kindergarten. He is quite upset. He keeps asking for school and wants to know if today is the day he will start 1st grade.
Although I will be mentioning how Alexandra did in school, it turns out her 9 bothers and sisters followed the same courses and pace of education. Calvert allows students to move at their own pace. As Alexandra completed a required unit, the tests were mailed to Calvert for grading. Alexandra completed 1st grade in 2 1/2 months and started 2nd grade. In fact after 6 months Alexandra finished 3rd grade. By 7 years of age Alexandra started 5th grade. The family moved to New Mexico where homeschool was a legal option.
By 10 years Alexandra started high school. Alexandra eventually had 9 brothers and sisters. . Mother was continually there as the master teacher. Children sat around a large dining room table working on their lessons as mother tutored one of the children. Alexandra finished high school in 18 months of study. Most of the homeschoolers I know often choose to go to school year round. Most are anxious to complete high school in 2 years if possible. There is no skipping any required courses or examinations. Most middle and high school students go to school and watch teachers perform all day lecturing. Homeschoolers, on the other hand, spend their days reading books, completing questions and writing papers instead of listening to lectures.
At eleven and a half Alexandra was ready to start college and did so with the Brigham Young University External Degree Program. This program allow 95% of the work to be complete at home. BYU still offers correspondence courses for the completion of middle school, high school and college. The course work at BYU is expected to take four years. The courses are college level courses and very demanding. At just 15 years old Alexandra was the youngest person to completed her bachelor's degree from BYU.
Mrs Swann was amazing. For all ten of her children, she read every book and every assignment to help her children. This meant reading every book, worksheet and written paper from 1st grade through a master's degree. No child was left out or left behind. All 10 children completed college at an age when most students are thinking about starting high school. My step-daughter, Stephanie needed help in school. I personally read every book, assignment and paper which was required from 7th grade through 12th grade. Although she attended regular public school, I worked continuously with her at night to ensure her success at school.
Alexandra at 16 years of age finished a master's degree from California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). CSUDH runs an external master's degree program in humanities. Again all work for this master's degree can be completed from home. After graduating Alexandra was hired by the local community college to teach history. Alexandra went all the way from 1st grade to a master's degree all at home. So at 17, she was teaching students who had just graduated from the local pubic high school.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Comments on Note Taking
Taking notes has a long history in education. At medieval universities students took notes while professors lectured or read from books. There was a good reason for this note taking practice. Books were exorbitantly expensive and rare. Books were hand copied by monks and only the monasteries, universities and the very rich had books. Note taking was a way of securing your own book. You were literally copying your own book to keep. What about note taking today. We are not hurting for books. Google estimates there are 130 million books in the world today. In the US there are over 3 million books in print. That is 3 million individual titles with each title being printed numerous times. So no one needs to write down a lecture to get a book.
As far as I can see there are only three reasons for taking notes. 1) Notes tell you what the teacher thinks is important to know. 2) Notes tell you what you should read in order to learn more. 3) Notes save you the time of looking up and reading lots of material. The teacher has done the reading for you. However, some students have problems with taking notes. I have two suggestions. 1) Read the section or the chapter of the textbook before the lecture. The lecture will then cement the concepts in your mind. Lectures will seem more like a review than something strange and new. 2) You can read an outside book. You can especially read one of those "For Dummies" or "Compete Idiot's Guide To" books. These books are easy to read and again will make lectures seem like a review.
You should develop a system of note taking that makes sense to you. Here are a few of my tips. It is best to use a separate notebook for each class. I also ditched the lettering or numbering of ideas while taking notes. I used an indenting system. Major ideas stayed to the left margin. Less important concepts progressed to the right. New ideas are identified by placing a dash (-) in front of them. A star is placed in front of a concept reserved for the "this will be on the test" remarks. If there is a long word which repeates itself, I make up an abbreviation for the word. Be sure to note what the abbreviation stands for, so you can decipher your notes later. Today there are also lots of additional resources on the internet. If your lecture covers a new topic go to Wikipedia and read an article on the topic. I often read Wikipedia when running into new topics. If you are really lost, see if the topic is covered on YouTube.
Friday, August 09, 2013
In this section I want to tell you about some exceptional readers I have known. Let me begin with L. W. Nuttall M.D., he was the first outstanding reader that I knew. He was my father. His mother was a one room school teacher in Utah. She frequently read to him as a preschooler. At four he had figured out how to read. By first grade he was reading at a fourth grade level. All through school his reading excelled. During medical school he routinely had to read medical books of 1,000 to 2,000 pages. Like most medical students he careful studied his books. However, he had an advantage. He could read 1,200 words per minute. The night before a class final he would read the entire 1,000 page textbook from cover to cover. Believe me these textbooks are printed with small print. He made straight A's in all his courses. Unfortunately, for me I did not inherit his extraordinary ability. Instead dyslexia rans also in our family. I inherited those set of genes. So my reading is exceptionally slow.
Reading and planning a canoe trip. As a dyslexic college student, I needed other students to read my textbooks to me. So each semester about 6 of my fellow students read my books to me. One of these students was Richard. He was exceptional in languages. Besides English Richard could read fluently in Greek, Latin, German and Hebrew. He could read over 200 words per minute aloud to me. One day we were reading a chapter on Russian history for my world history class. He was reading very quickly and very accurately. When the hour was up, I asked him if he got anything out of the reading since he was going so fast. He told me that in fact he was not paying any attention to what he was reading. Instead while reading to me, he was planning a summer canoe trip. In his mind he was thinking about where he and his friends would spend each night on the river. He thought about where they would buy their food and what camping gear to take with them. He was without a doubt one of the most exceptional readers I ever met.
Reading in true silence. I had a friend Bill. He wanted to read faster in order to complete his college work. So he signed up for a course at college which focused on increasing his reading speed. In this course there were machines that flashed words to him quickly to increase his word perception. There were projectors that scrolled the lines of stories quicker and quicker. Students practiced keeping up with the scrolling lines of print. Slowly this pushed Bill to read faster. Like Bill the other students in the class would hit a plateau at about 300 words per minute (wpm). At that speed Bill would still hear himself pronounce each word in his head. A number of students stayed at this plateau. But after awhile some students would breakthrough this plateau. All of a sudden Bill was no longer saying each word in his head. Words would be recognized totally in silence. When this happened Bill's reading speeds jumped to 400 wpm then to 500 wpm. The words now floated by in silence. Bill became only aware of the ideas in a book. He no longer focusing on individual words. Research shows that Bill's brain was still processing individual words but extremely quickly and silently.
Reading and seeing a movie. I meet Abigiel who was from Holland. She could speak four languages: Dutch, German, French and English. She was a very proficient reader. Like other proficient readers she could read with true silent reading. In fact, she said she loved to read fiction. While reading novels she would become oblivious to holding a book, turning the pages or seeing words on the pages. She said the novel would turn into a full technicolor movie in her mind. She would be totally absorbed in seeing her mental movie. All else disappeared.
Reading in more than one language. Mazin, one of my good friends, reads fluently in both English and Arabic. These two languages use very different alphabetic scripts, different ways to write words and different grammars. But yet he reads fluently and with true silent reading in both languages. He goes weekly to the library and brings home a large stack of books. His reading is extensive and covers education, philosophy, anthology, engineering, and botany. While spending several years in the Middle East as a professor, he followed his weekly practice of bringing a large stack of books home from the library. In this setting he read the same topics but exclusively in Arabic. Today he reads both languages fluently and effortlessly.
Monday, June 10, 2013
Android Tablet for Writing
I am thoroughly enjoying my new Nexus 7 tablet. Now that I am able to write on my Nexus 7 tablet, I no longer use my iPad for writing.
One of the great things about Android and the Nexus 7 is the ability to choose the keyboard you like to use. The iPad doesn't have that option. Most of all I am liking the Swype keyboard for writing. The Swype keyboard is from Nuance and is only 99¢ at the Google Play Store. Once installed the Swype keyboard can be used in any program that requires typing.
Swype has word prediction and next word prediction. But I most of all like the 'Swype' action for input. At first swiping is a little confusing. But you can adjust your speed of swiping. A slower swipe gives you time to think about how a word is spelled.
You do not need to be that accurate when swiping. In fact I find that any general outline of the word gives the correct word. Swype generally guess the correct word on the first try. The fact is that you can put in all kinds of wrong letters and Swype will still guess the right word.
When I misspell a word. Swype also automatically corrects my spelling. I especially like that Swype adds double letters automatically. This again helps me to spell correctly. I would highly recommend the Nexus 7 for students who need writing assistance.
The Swype keyboard is also linked to Dragon Dictate. Dragon Dictate is the most accurate speech recognition for tablets. You need a WiFi connection for speech recognition to work. You just hit the dictation key and speak. What you speak is then turned into text.
In addition I am using apps for accessibility.
Most of my writing is in Google Drive with Google Docs. With Google Drive I can share my writing across platforms and also with others. In Google Drive the font size can be easily adjusted for easy viewing. I wrote my first book on the iPad. Dyslexia and the iPad is available at Amazon for 99¢. Now I am writing my second book on the Nexus 7 tablet. This book is a book for parents on promoting reading with their children and using tablets to help with reading. The book will also be valuable for teachers.
QuickOffice allows for the Swype keyboard and also lets you use text-to-speech to read what you have written. QuickOffice also connects to Google Drive.
I am reading my Bookshare books with the Darwin Reader.
When I look up things using the Chrome browser, I use the Voice Aloud Reader to read me the web pages aloud. PDFs can be downloaded to Moon+ Reader and read aloud.
All in all I am liking my Nexus 7 tablet.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Positive Feedback Positive Learning
Learning is best when it is positive. Even brain research indicates that when the brain is in a positive mood learning is more effective. Thus every student should receive positive feedback. Every paper, quiz, assignment or test should contain positive feedback. Even papers with an 'F' should have remarks such as "good try keep working hard", "I'm pleased you turned in a paper.", "You are brave for turning in a paper today."
It takes bravery to turn in a paper you know is not what it should be. Or worse if everyone is turning in a paper when you don't have one, you are filled with anxiety and dread. When you have tried hard, you turn in papers and assignments with a positive feeling and pride. Believe me as a dyslexic student, I know this from personal experience.
Positive comments encourage students to work and try harder. This is called positive reinforcement. The opposite negative reinforcement makes a student dislike learning and causes him to avoid doing assignments. The teachers we remember with good feelings were those who were positive and encouraged us to try hard and to do our best. They are teachers who said positive things and smiled a lot at us. They radiated warmth and kindness.
Brain research shows that positive feedback releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neural transmitter which helps nerves to communicate with each other. When dopamine is released by the nerves the student feels better and learning occurs much better as well. So positive feedback is a basic part of our ability to learn and remember new things. Thanks for reading my blog. :-)
Friday, May 24, 2013
Nexus 7 First Impressions
As most of you know I am an avid iPad user. For some time I have wanted to try an Android tablet. The other day a friend of mine came by and gave me a new Nexus 7 tablet.
Here are a few first impressions.
— For accessibility I've mostly used the speech output. The accessibility features are not as tightly integrated as on the iPad. For Android, accessibility seems to be an after thought, not an integral part of the experience..
— The Chrome browser supports a large adjustable font. So I can see most of the things that I want to read. Unfortunately Chrome does not support read aloud. I wish Android supported select-and-speak like the iPad. Such a feature would solve a lot of problems for me.
— I like the swipe keyboard. You don't have to be all that accurate for it to get your words correct. I have longed for a system-wide swipe keyboard for the iPad or iPhone. Do I hear jailbreak? I also like the back keyboard with white letter — so easy to see.
— I find the speech recognition to be very good. After some use I found that simply using the built-in microphone worked best. In fact the Nexus is my go-to device for dictation now.
— Writing is so very easy to do with the Nexus. I now do all my writing and note taking in Google Docs on the Nexus 7. The Google Drive app goes a long way in making that possible. Additionally this means my writing is now cross-platform and available to colleagues.
— On occasion the built-in word prediction has saved me from spelling mistakes.
— I have read some books using the Google Play Books app. The read-to-me mode uses the accessibility settings for speech output. I wish the settings for rate had more options. The normal speed is too slow and the fast is way too fast. More rate options would be very helpful.
— Unfortunately the Kindle app does not support read aloud.
— I like the Moon + Reader but it only supports DRM-free books that I can tell.
— I like the 7-inch form factor. A 7-inch tablet feels better for reading books. I just got an iPad mini. The iPad mini is definitely my go-to device for reading, since the read-aloud reading rates are much better. If I could solve the reading rate speech output problem on the Nexus 7, it would be a serious contender over my iPad mini.
Overall I am very impressed with the Nexus 7. If the accessibility was more integrated and the reading aloud was easier for me, I could switch from my iPad mini to the Nexus 7 as my main device. For people or students who don't need as many accessibility features as I do, I can highly recommend the Nexus 7.
Monday, May 20, 2013
The value of self selection in reading
II read a great article on the value of self choice when reading books. Unfortunately I'm not able to find that article at the moment. But the author: makes the point that when children and adults self-select their books they frequently run into a book that will change their life. I remember reading a book that changed my life.
After I graduated with my PhD I have a good friend who liked to read the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. I found these books too difficult to read myself. So my friend recommended that I should read the American philosopher Norman Malcolm. I read Norman Malcolm's book Thought and Knowledge.
In this book Malcolm sets out Wittgenstein’s argument that thought is not equivalent to brain activity. The sciencentific hypothesis that thought is merely generated by brain activity is called reductionism. Malcolm sets forth a very cogent argument that thought is independent of the brain. Malcolm argues that the reductionist argument is not philosophically sound and is circular logic.
This argument literally made me drop the book while I sat stunned.
As a trained psychologist I had decided that the reductionist hypothesis was the only reality for human thought and existence. With surprise I thought, "If thought existed out of the brain then human existence did not depend on our body alone." This meant that I could entertain the hypothesis that thought could exist outside of the human body. In other words we as humans have something that is called the soul. This soul can exist beyond the physical body, since thought is not dependent upon the human body.
This then let me on a life long journey of reading scientific research about human consciousness and the possibilities of human existence beyond physical death.
I read scientific research. I wish to repeat that I read scientific research on the following topics telepathy, remote viewing, near-death experience, mental healing, reincarnation, the impact of the mind on physical processes and the impact of prayer on human affairs.
This life long reading has convinced me that thought is independent of the human brain. The brain is a switchboard or first responder between our extended mental capacities and the physical world. I am convinced that our consciousness or soul exist beyond bodily death. The scientific research is still inconclusive as to where our human consciousness goes after death. I prefer to think that the Hindu believe that there are thousands of heavens is a nice hypothesis to entertain. The Hindu believe is that the individual goes to the particular heaven which matches their personality. That is an intriguing hypothesis.
So as you can see simply reading one book can set you on a life long journey of learning and investigation. So I encourage you to read and I hope your reading will lead you to your life's journey.
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