Thursday, October 28, 2010

PLENK2010 The Drowning Student

Tom Daly has given me permission to share this with you.
Before you can help your drowning student, you have to be honest and ask yourself some hard questions.

First, look at the relationship you have with this student.

If you're like me, your feelings about this type of student fit either of these two models:

1. The Mutual Truce
2. Mortal Combat

I know you're busy, so let's just look at the first one for now and I'll address the other one in my next email.

Okay, so the Mutual Truce is an unspoken agreement between you and the drowning student in which he ignores you and you ignore him. (Or "she" and "her" as the case may be.)
While engaging in the Mutual Truce is not effective or admirable, it's surely understandable. No one can blame teachers for wanting nothing but the most highly motivated and well-behaved students, after all!
But real life delivers us the occasional drowning student, and if you are using the Mutual Truce as a way of dealing with this difficult situation, then at least be honest about it so that we can find a better approach.
How do you know if you're locked into the Mutual Truce?

Well, the Mutual Truce often looks like this:
> You don't really demand much out of this student, except passive compliance to most classroom rules.
> The one classroom rule you don't really enforce for this student is, "Do your best work."
> This student doesn't produce much work, but he or she doesn't embarrass you either.
> The student goes through the motions of being a student without disrupting the class.
> His parents may not complain, nor do they blame you for his lack of effort. Indeed, they may not even be aware of the situation.
> You haven't called the parents to discuss this. So, in a way, you also have a Mutual Truce with the student's parents, too. You send home his three-week progress reports, just like you do for the other students, and on those reports you indicate that he may fail the class and that they are invited to come into the school any
time . . . but you know they won't come in.
If any of this sounds familiar, then you may be locked into a Mutual Truce with your drowning student.
As I've said, this is understandable, but if we're going to fulfill our most meaningful purpose as teachers, we have to come up with a more effective strategy.


Believe it or not, simply being aware that you are locked into a Mutual Truce is the first step in overcoming it.
The Mutual Truce is a sneaky dynamic that easily slips under our conscious radar. It's easy to write it off with ready-made explanations. Rationalizations such as:
"He's a good kid - he'll turn it around soon."
"There's not much more I can do, really."
"At least he's not bothering the other kids."
If you find yourself saying things like this, it might be time to reexamine your approach with this student.
In my next email, I'll go into the "Mortal Combat" scenario and offer some helpful suggestions.

PLENK2010 The Rappin Mathematician

Music helps us remember. This teacher made up raps to help his students rememeber math facts:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PLENK2010 A Very Important Blog

I listen to the CBC Radio 1. There is music, but there is more talk. A very good program is Spark. The feed of October 24 is available at the moment at
This week's show is about using technology to monitor, record, and store our lives. Are we being treated as under-performing technologies? Will robots find us useless parasites?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

PLENK2010 Being Original

#PLENK2010 When I was about 12, through many arguments and discussions with an immigrant neighbour and classmate, I realized that many of my opinions were hand-me-downs from my mother. From observing the paintings of another friend, I realized that our first model of 'people' is ourselves.
When I was 25, I had been studying origami. I had made all the easy figures. Now I was making the dog. That night before I fell asleep, I thought that if I did this and that I could make a donkey. The next day, I did. I realized that I was building on the genius of others, but I had had my own very original thought all by myself. Of course, I was not surprised to find the same design later on, but I was confident that I was capable of truly original thought because I too had come up with that idea.
When I was 10, I realized that the people in my dreams did not talk. As with many 'bossy' girls, I was directing the people in my dreams, telling them what to say, as though they were in a play. I asked Mother when the people in my dreams would talk for themselves. She didn't know, but she assured me that they would. I guess I was about 12 when they began to talk for themselves. Now it's talk, talk, talk all night.
At some point in my dreams, I found myself looking at a book. Unfortunately, the page was blank. A number of months or years later, the words on the page were there but I could not read them. Finally, a few years ago, I found myself actually reading the page. Progress!
You need a lot of input first before you can come up with that inspired idea.

PLENK2010 Temple Grandin

#PLENK2010 I watched Temple Grandin last night. I had read a lot about her and heard her speak, but the movie is stunning because it puts the whole story together for you. This is worth buying.
No matter how we do it, the best way that people remember is through stories. This is how we remember our own histories, and by telling our story we can distance ourselves from the trauma. Temple sees words as pictures. As with Medieval church art or the best children's books, her mental images tell the whole story.
I had a friend who was an artist. In her dreams, the people did not talk, but she saw them act and saw images. In my dreams, although I see vivid images, the people talk and talk. Some mornings I wake up exhausted from all the busy-ness of the night. For some students, music explodes with story. Keeping in mind these different modalities enables us to appreciate the expressive styles of the 'dyslexics' among our students.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

PLENK2010 A Wonderful Literacy Project

#PLENK2010 I want to draw your attention to a wonderful project of the Lieutenant Governor of BC. He is trying to encourage kids and adults to write stories. He has commissioned an artist to paint stories. The writer can pick one or more of the paintings to build a story. It's not an ordinary sequencing activity: the pictures are deliberately a bit vague so that the writer can make up his own mind. There is no perfectly right order. You could make up your own story from one picture so it is a writing prompt, not a test. Have a look. Check out the whole set of webpages. I believe His Honour appears in the pumpkin story.

It could be a tell-me-a-story activity in which the child discusses it with an adult. The adult could write down the dictated story to send in, but it could just be for fun. Oral literature is still literacy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

PLENK2010 A Bee in My Bonnet or Bugs in My Brain?

For those not familiar with the English idiom, "a bee in her bonnet" means having a particular idea or complaint on her mind, an obsession, an idée fixe.  Today on CBC1 I heard the All in the Mind program from October 9 on Parasites in Brains.
   It was about various viruses, flukes, and such that spend at least part of their lives in the brains of their hosts, affecting their behaviour.  In the case of people, apart from prions, about 30% of us are infected by Toxoplasma Gondii.   This protozoan creature needs to have sex in cats.  But cats excrete them.  Then mice eat the feces.  The Toxo gets into the brain of a mouse and makes it unafraid of cat urine.  The mouse even likes the smell of cat urine.  A cat eats the friendly mouse and, voilà, party-time for Toxo.  
   We like cats, and we handle cat feces and urine.  Well, we try to avoid actually touching it, but we do keep litter boxes.  Toxo gets into us, too.  If you don't like cats, you may be exposed because Toxo is also in undercooked meat and in meat products (but we don't know which ones).   In a small way, it causes us to be more neurotic: slightly more reactive, sort of dogmatic and rigid, and perhaps guilt-prone.  It is doing this by affecting the immune system and dopamine centres.  Apparently, this tends to make women smarter and men less so.  Also the women become more warm-hearted and more interested in shopping.  (I'm not making this up.)
   You can't measure this "more" or "less" in a particular individual, but over large populations there is a noticeable effect about 30% of the variation among countries in neuroticism.  The more neurotic cultures tend to have more rigid role-oriented societies.  They tend to be more risk averse and prefer very unchanging political structures.  They also tend to have strong gender definitions so that men do manly things and women do feminine things.
   Toxo makes chemicls that might be used to help control certain psychoses like schizophrenia.  On the other hand, it might be higher in people with Parkinson's disease.
   Note to parents: pregnant women in the first trimester tend to be aversive to particular foods and to be disgusted by certain smells.  So they don't want to clean the litter box.  Good!  Their aversion is protecting the growing baby.
  Here's an idea from a reader of the website:  Perhaps Toxo does make us more prone to like kitties.  If we are attracted to lions, tigers and cougars, and who doesn't think they are beautiful, we might be eaten by those big cats, thereby fulfilling the reproductive imperative of little Toxo.

Friday, October 15, 2010

PLENK2010 Self-Assessment, a Story

#PLENK2010 One topic on the agenda today was self-assessment.  Let me tell you a story.
    Alice came to me with a report card that said she got an A in Grade 4.  Now, I happened to talk to her Grade 4 teacher about that A and this is what she told me: Children really know how they stand in comparison with the other children so I told them that they could choose their final mark for their report card.  Alice had given herself an A.
   In my class, Alice was restless and acted out, and the other children liked to tattle on her.  "Don't tell me, " I finally had to say.  "Unless Alice is standing on the window sill ready to jump three floors down, I don't want to know."  She was, as I had suspected, hiding in the cupboard again.  Alice came with a record and a label: childhood schizophrenia.  Not one teacher had liked her, and they had all moved her on as soon as possible.  Alice was a handful, but she really did want to please me.  Every assignment she started with zeal.  But Alice never finished.  Not anything, not even Art.
   At the end of the year, before I began writing the final reports, I had a private chat with Alice.  I told her that I knew how she had got that A last year.  I told her, though, that now that she was a Big Girl, she had to finish her seatwork to get an A.  And, I pointed out, she had never finished anything.  She would have to repeat Grade 5.  Alice cried, but I was firm.  She was not going to get a good mark on her report card.
   The next September Alice was surprised to find that I was her new teacher.  It had never occurred to me not to take her on again.  I knew her well.  We had an understanding that some seatwork had to be completed.  We were going to have another go at it together.  That year, the Board psychologist shared a bit more with me about Alice.  She was the only one of her family of normal intelligence.  Both her parents and her older siblings were intellectually challenged.  When Alice went home, she cared for her baby brother and slept with him in his crib at night or else he'd cry and cry.  Alice confided in me that she often worried about her older brother who was in jail.  At the end of the year, Alice passed Grade 5, just.
   Then I took that Grade 5 class forward into Grade 6.  Alice and I were together for three years.  Then they all disappeared, graduated to the Big School for Grade 7 and 8.  In June, Alice visited me during an Open House night when parents were invited to meet the teachers and explore the classrooms.  She thanked me for teaching her, and told me she was doing well in Grade 7.  She was not getting into trouble, "And I'm getting all Ds!"  That was good for Alice.  She was doing her best under a heavy burden.  Although she had been diagnosed by the Board psychologist, that diagnosis did not result in any help for Alice.  No Special Ed classes, no teacher's aide.  I was advised to be "understanding".
   So, can the student assess his own learning?  Self-assessment was not on the curriculum in those days.  But I tried to be explicit in what I taught so that the students would know what they had learned and that they had learned.  (And that's another story.)  Given the opportunity to grade herself, Alice leaped for that A.  Why not?
   In the real world, that is, where adults work together, teams collaborate on goals and assessment as well as on tasks.  If the students are to learn to self-assess, they need explicit lessons in team-work, in team planning and goal-setting and in team-assessment.  In school, they need to know the curriculum, that is the prescribed goals or deliverables and the permitted formats.  They need to learn how to set and achieve deadlines (very difficult for some).   They need to help determine where credit is due.  If the objective is to produce the independent  self-directed learner, they have to have explicit lessons and practice in this and to know that this is the primary purpose of the course, whatever the "product" or "final deliverable" might be.  It's not an impossible task to design such a course.  There is only the requirement that such a course be desired.  And then, whatever the final assessment of the learning has to be agreed upon by the learner.  If self-assessment is the objective, self-assessment it must be.
   Watch out for those Snakes in Suits, though.  (Robert Hare and Paul Babiak)  They're everywhere.

PLENK2010 Sharing the knowledge

#PLENK2010  I mention the Laubach Method of Teaching Reading.  Laubach was asked to teach reading in an isolated community.  He promised to do so if the students would promise to teach at least one other person.  He designed materials and used both phonetic clues and modeling to teach one person to read.  That person taught another.  That person taught another.  Those who could read went on teaching those who couldn't.  That was also the model of the rural school, in which the younger children were taught by the older children.
   One week I flew out to a remote school as a substitute teacher.  When I noticed that Albert had finished his work, I suggest to him that he help Bobby with his work.  The children were astonished.  They had never heard of such a thing.  "And Albert is Bobby's older brother," they said.  At the time, I did not know the significance of that.  Since then, I have learned that at Indian Residential schools, as they were called, the children were forbiddden to talk to one another, and family ties were cut very firmly. 
   I wanted to teach those kids about Vlad the Impaler.  There was nothing in the school library that I could find on the original Count Dracula.  The kids were interested in the topic.  They could have had a grand time learning history, science (blood diseases), painting pictures and writing stories.  There was no internet then so I could not do that project.  I stuck to what the teacher had left for me to do. 
   There is so much information out there in libraries and on the Web that there is something to excite the interest of the students.  If they are actively learning something, you can talk to them about how they are learning and how they are sharing and thereby teach them how to learn on their own.  That is the content: How do you learn and how do you share what you have learned?
   Most of what we teach as content can be learned by them as older students in a month of reading.  What we are in the business to teach, in elementary and secondary school, is the conventions of how we write and, therefore, how we read text books and blog pages and e-books and e-zines.   So much of the mathematics that boggles them at first is How do we write that in Algebra?  Once you know the code, you can say anything. 
   One student in Grade 10 was complaining to me that the exercises in the school texts were so typical.  "Yes," I agreed.  "In school we teach you the TYPEs of problems that are very common and for which solutions have been found and that you might find anywhere.  Once you learn those types, you can apply that knowledge to new kinds of problems."   He stopped complaining.
   And yes, I have written lessons on the nexus of English, Science and Mathematics and how they form the CORE of the subjects.
  P.S.  Although I was teaching Mathematics at the time, I was asked by the Science teacher to sub for him in Grade 9 Science while he went to the dentist.  It just happened that the lesson was on chemical equations and how to write and read them.  "Gee, Ms Grigor, you make even Science sound like Math," one said.  "Of course, I said.  This is Mathematics.  You are balancing the atoms in the molecules."  I don't think he believed me.

#PLENK2010 What I learned today (10/10/15)

What a lively bunch we were today.  We were on a topic that was very dear to our hearts.  This exchange totally astonished me.

Me: The model of the ideal teacher is the factory foreman: setting enough work (not too much or too little) and making the workers (students) do it, and docking the slackers.
:@Skupik -- you are not serious, are you?
: Govt. wants a 70% success rate for students!
: @Skupic - Oh dear!
: Gotcha.
: @Skupik that is the industrial model
Of course, that is the industrial model.   It is the model of the 19th century concept of public (for all economic classes) education that Ken Robinson talks about in his video at
   It is the one described in Overschooled But Undereducated by John Abbot et al.  It is the model of the school in which I was educated, and in which most government leaders were educated, and it is the model that many parents recognize.  It is the school of Charlie Brown and of Bart Simpson.  
   When I was teaching Grade 5 in Toronto, I asked my class: What makes a good teacher?  They told me: Someone who gives us the right amount of work, not too much or too little, and sees that we do it.  That's not a teacher, I thought.  That's a foreman.  And, of course, it was.  But from their point of view, they needed reasonable expectations that they could achieve, and their parents, who worked in the factories of industrial Toronto, would have expressed the idea of the fair foreman in just those terms.  
   When I was teaching in a remote village in the Chilcotin, the children complained to the bus driver that I was "so mean".  The  bus driver, who was my friend and who told me this story, really wanted to know how nasty I was.  He was afraid that maybe I was, after all, one of those sad teachers from the days of residential schools who hit the kids and punished them unmercifully.   "What does she do?" he asked.  "She makes us do our seatwork!" That is the authority of the experienced teacher.  The head of the maintenance department remarked to me, "You must be doing something right in here because I haven't had to replace that window once this year."
   There are some very good things about the traditional schools when they function well, and those successes need to be examined and retained or modified to suit the new situation of the wired world.  And the hinterland needs to be brought into the wired world for sure (but that's another discussion).
   I have observed that many people try to reproduce the conditions of their childhood when they become adults a) because that was when they lived in a world that was safe and nurturing (their personal Garden of Eden) or b) because they are imprinted with a model they must work out.  Gabor Maté in Hold On To Your Kids describes how the culture of a well-functioning community supports the parents and helps them raise their children, citing Rognes, Provence as an example (40).  And when the powers that be consider the ideal school, if their experience was satisfactory in their terms, they design their expectations and funding accordingly.
   One new feature of the "modern" school is that a huge number of the students, who are still children, are not oriented for attention to the adults around them.  They have no respect for parents and teachers because those people have not given them the attention they needed when they needed it.  The modern student is oriented to their peers who do give them the attention they crave.  Of course, the attention of their peers is not a nurturing one because the majority of children don't have the capacity to nurture others.  (The brain does not finish growing until about 25 when the 'wisdom' teach begin to hurt.)  That peer world is run by bullies and their hangers-on.  It is the world of "flaming", harassment and suicides.  As with a flock of birds, the different one is pecked to death, because difference will draw the attention of the hawk.
   I met one of these "lost boys".  She was 8 years old, going on 18.  She told me she didn't want to learn to read and to do well in school because then she would not appeal to the "in" group of (16-18 year-old) males.  Smart, manipulative and beautiful, she was in a hurry to become "queen" of the party-gang.  When she was 12, on a slippery road at night, she drove into a tree. 
  It is true that in elementary school and in high school, the teachers are very conservative.  Some are conservative because, frankly, they are not with it and don't know what wonderful applications are out there.  But some fear for the students who don't have a solid emotional grounding or are naive enough to be seduced by predators on the make in the cyber-world.  In loco parentis is taken very seriously by those who watch over our children.
   At least, in the industrial-style, bricks-and-mortar school, the kids were kept within sight of the teacher and the teacher knew what they were doing within those four walls.  
   I am really enjoying this course, and while we are thinking about assessment, grades and authentic thought, let us not forget that many of the students coming into the universities are still children no matter that they have left high school behind them.

To return to this comment : Govt. wants a 70% success rate for students!
  If 80% of the possible "correct" answers is taken to mean mastery, and it is, on standardized tests, can we expect that 80% of the time, the teacher is "successfully" teaching?  Is the student learning 80% of the time?  If the student is learning 80% of the time, and the teacher is teaching 80% of the time, can we say 80% of 80% is equal to 64%?


PLENK2010 Off Topic?

#PLENK2010  Part of our PLE exploration is networking with others.  In my discussions, I have been sharing some of what I am reading about the connections between the roots of addiction and ADD in the lack of parental attachment/attention (read: ADD means the child has had a Deficit of Adult Attention.) and how to reverse it and in the lack of parental support by our stand-alone society that creates an opportunity (and need in the child) for peer-attachment and gang-culture.  I recommend reading Gabor Maté: Scattered Minds (ADD), In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and Hold on to Your Kids.  Also re-read about the lost boys in Peter Pan and the peer culture in Lord of the Flies.  Also consider Tom Brown's School Days.
   Why do you need to know about this?  Well, many of our drop-out students who re-appear in community college and even in university as adult students are the walking wounded, and they require new methods of teaching. 

PLENK2010 A Matter of Authority

#Plenk2010  In reviewing the readings for today's Elluminate session, I ran across this statement:

In all our work, we support openness, sustainable technology and making innovative choices. In this spirit of progression, JISC publications will only be available in digital formats in the future. Printed copies of Effective Assessment in a Digital Age can be ordered free until end of October 2010.
  My son, who is attempting to discuss politics with his fellow gamers, is running up against the issue of authority.  If he suggests that they watch a particular video on the 'Net, they reject his information because it isn't accompanied by a bibliography of references. 
  While Universities may be taking a look at e-education, they must struggle with the issue of authority as well as assessment.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away (4)

This morning, the rain gauge was at 7 cm.  And then the sun came out.   There is snow on top of the mountains again.  The day was warm.  We saw an Amarita muscaria, just like this one, but orange.
    And all of the Chilean miners made it out of the mine.  Praise the Lord, and thanks to all who helped.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away (3)

Tuesday, about supper time.  Rain is up to 5.5 cm.  The road to Williams Lake is connected—if you have a tall truck with 4-wheel drive, and if you are willing to be escorted by a Highways car with special CB, and if you are willing to wait for the escort times either early in the morning going up The Hill or at 4 pm coming down The Hill.   The road along the Valley and on The Hill and along the Chilcotin Plateau is very fragile in places so the big transport trucks are not allowed on it yet; food and goods will be coming in by barge to Bella Coola, and by small trucks from Williams Lake to the small towns along the Chilcotin Plateau.   All along the coast there are storms.  All over the world it is monsoon season.  Soon the snows begin.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away (2 later)

It's supper time, now, and it has rained another centimeter: up to 5 cm.  The approach to Saloompt Bridge is restored so you can drive into and out of that valley, but repaired spots are washing out a bit here and there along the roads.  Fortunately the road crews are still working through the holidays, putting in 12-hour days.  These entries are not really for the PLENK group; they are a diary of this trying time for me.  I am curious about how much or how little rain creates havoc.

Rain, Rain, Go Away (2)

My home-made pickle-jar rain gauge was at 4 cm this morning, Monday.  Happy Canadian Thanksgiving.  We're grateful to be dry and to have food and heat (as long as the power is on). 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

So, it begins again.  Seven more days of heavy rain.  I put out the pickle jar last night when it began to come down hard.  There were 3.5 cm by 9 a.m. just now.

#PLENK2010 And Another Thing ...

I think every teacher-in-training needs to take a course on how to teach reading and writing because, I contend, that all subject assignments need to be guided reading lessons if the text is written at the Frustration Level of the Students.  Then, too, I think every teacher-in-training needs to take courses in basic special education because possibly one-third of every class may have ADD.  In a time when people with special needs are not excluded from society, children (and adults) must learn to share politely with everyone.  That means that teachers are going to have to know how to make adjustments and accommodations because they cannot count on the special child being taken aside by another teacher or aide. 
   I have seen classes where the 'different' child is well cared for by all and other classes where the child is bullied or ignored.  It depends on the teacher and the teacher's philosophy of education and of society, and those of the Principal and Superintendent.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Educational Triage

Battlefield nurses are trained to triage waiting patients for the doctors: operate immediately, wait awhile, gonna die.  Teachers, traditionally, triaged too: university, business/trades, labour.  Some teachers also unconsciously teach in such a way as to prove "I am better than you because I know and you don't." and they make it difficult for those others to achieve what they have achieved. 
   My aunt wanted to be a nurse.  She went to the Principal to plan her courses.  She asked about Latin, but he said she wouldn't need it.  At the end of Grade 13, when she applied to nursing schools, they turned her down because she didn't have Latin.  Back she went to ask the Principal, "Why did you tell me not to take Latin?"  His answer: "I thought you'd never make it.  I thought you'd go into the factory."  He had triaged on the basis of her working-class father, not on the basis of her intelligence and character.
   Be mindful of your biases and assumptions and how they filter your theories and methods.  Be mindful, too, that they will be revealed.

Friday, October 8, 2010

PLENK2010 One reason why learners shut down.

The general public, and some teachers, believe 1) that teachers at higher grades must know more than teachers at lower grades, that if you taught K last year, and now teach 4 or 7, you must have studied to move up in level; and 2) teaching K/1/2/3 is, and I quote, “playing with the babies”.  The reality is that it is very much harder to teach children who do not know how to read than it is to teach those who do. 
   But once you get over the Phonics and the Dolch list of Sight Words, that is once the children are de-coding successfully, you come up against the skills of Mindful Reading.  The teacher must know the principles of SQ3R, Guided Reading, and share with the student “Now we are going to look at how you read for information and how you locate the facts you need.”  If you are giving helpful grammar lessons that focus on reading for meaning, and the children have been used to applied parsing for locating key concepts, this is not a problem.  If the teacher is hazy on parsing and composition, and there are more than a few, the students are going to go through school depending on “I always do it that way.” and “Does it sound right?” 
   When you took your teacher training, did you examine curricula so that you can match Grade 4 reading writing skills and match them with texts written for the learning student.  Do you know that Grade 4 reading level means that “the student has passed Grade 4”.  A student in Grade 4 cannot read a Grade 4 text on his own—Grade 4 is his Instructional Level; the teacher must treat every ‘subject’ lesson as a Guided Reading lesson.  He might stretch to Grade 5 level from time to time with the teacher’s help for that will be at his Frustration Level.  If he is to read the text on his own, it must be at his Independent Level of Grade 3 or lower.
   Did you know that the text book may be written about two grades reading level higher than the Grade Level.  For instance, the Grade 5 Social Studies text is written at Grade 7 reading level.  The student sent home with the text and an assignment, unless he reads above grade level, will be FRUSTRATED.  No wonder so many kids are turned off learning. 
   Do you know how to determine the reading level of the text you are using?  There are a couple of formulas.  Microsoft Word will use the Flesch-Kincaid formula.  Click on Tools in the toolbar.  Click Spelling and Grammar.  At the bottom of the pop-up click Options.  Click Show readability statistics.  Select the text you wish to test.  Click on Spelling and grammar.  When it asks if you want to it to check the rest of the document select No.  Then it should show you the readability scores.
(this paragraph: passive sentences 0% Flesh readability 73% Flesch-Kincaid reading level 4.7) 
   The more passive sentences, the more expository sentences there are and the less narrative.  Expository is harder to read.  Writing passive sentences effectively is a Grade 10 lesson.   In readability, 100% is the easiest to read.  Rudolph Flesh admitted that the Reading Age Level formula is not terribly accurate below Grade 4/5 level as primary books depend on pictures to tell much of the story.
   It will make more sense to you if you try a few examples by hand.

# of words/sentence

# of syllables/word



- 15.59

   If you wish, you can buy programs on the Internet that will calculate the most popular formulas for you.

A colleague commented to me: "This [the formula] is also useful for researchers who are performing research amongst people whose 1st language is not English - helps them ensure that their survey forms, disclaimers, consent forms, etc can actually be understood."

PLENK2010 All teachers need to know how to teach reading and writing.

Today, in the Elluminate meeting I remarked that my theory of education is that all teachers need to learn how to teach reading and writing.  I speak from the experience of finding that it is not the subject matter that defeats the student, but the gaps in reading and writing skills of the learner.  It does the student no good for the teacher to repeatedly say "Try again.  The answer is in the book."  The student does not know how to locate the information.  That is not stupidity on the part of the student--at some point in time for some reason there was a failure to communicate or to practise.  There is no sending the student back to Grade 5 or Grade 7 when that lesson was first "taught" but not "caught", so simply use the teachable moment to show the student now how to find the data.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

#Plenk2010 Remembering What It's About (2)

Some of the learning/teaching theories may be proved right by neurology or by observable classroom practise. In one class on child development theory there were students from other courses. One young women remarked to me, "This is the first subject I have ever taken that was about me." In all the years she had attended school and university, this was the only course that touched her real life. We need to tread softly because lives depend on what we believe and how we apply those theories. Mindful teaching is the way.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

#Plenk2010 Remembering What It's About

In looking for another thing, I found this quote by Sydney J. Harris:

  • The most worthwhile form of education is the kind that puts the educator inside you, as it were, so that the appetite for learning persists long after the external pressure for grades and degrees has vanished. Otherwise you are not educated; you are merely trained.