What is 2%?

I’m back in touch with Carolyn Johnston! (Carolyn and I started the original Kitchen Table Math together.)

Carolyn used to write about the fraction issue in math education. When they hit fractions, students fall off the math cliff.

(How well do I remember the summer after C’s 8th grade year, or maybe it was the summer before, when we discovered he couldn’t figure a 10% tip!)

I remember Carolyn talking about nursing students who had washed out of their programs because they couldn’t do fractions.

So I thought of her yesterday when I saw this:

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Is Structured Word Inquiry the answer to America’s reading woes? Part V

At this point, with five recent SWI critiques from Greg Ashman, writing yet one more myself feels like beating a dead horse. In terms of SWI publications, much of Ashman’s criticism has focused on a paper that has come out since I started this series: Bowers’ recent paper “Reconsidering the Evidence That Systematic Phonics Is More Effective Than Alternative Methods of Reading Instruction“. Ashman’s criticisms are quite thorough, and I have nothing to add to them.

Instead, I’ll return to the older Devonshire et al (2013) paper—a paper that discusses efficacy data that supposedly favors SWI over phonics. This paper compares 1st and 2nd graders who spent 6 weeks exposed to 15-25 minutes daily of SWI as opposed to those got “standard classroom” phonics instruction, and finds that the SWI intervention improves word reading scores. While this is reasonable grounds for further investigation, it’s far from the kind of study needed to justify a replacement of systematic phonics with SWI. For one thing, all of the students in the study received phonics instruction in addition to SWI. For another, the comparison involved an instructional time frame of only 6 weeks. Finally, the “standard classroom” phonics being compared to SWI can mean just about anything, including watered-down, unsystematic phonics instruction of the sort that has failed many kids over many years.

To answer the question of whether systematic phonics should be replaced with SWI, Continue reading

Tuning in, tuning out

What is the longest period of time a student can focus on a lesson without his/her mind wandering?

Probably 15 to 20 minutes, max.

I sat in the back of the classroom, observing and taking careful notes as usual. The class had started at 1:00 o’clock. The student sitting in front of me took copious notes until 1:20. Then he just nodded off. The student sat motionless, with eyes shut for about a minute and a half, pen still poised. Then he awoke, and continued his rapid note–taking as if he hadn’t missed a beat.

[…]

Adult learners can keep tuned in to a lecture for no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and this at the beginning of the class. In 1976, A. H. Johnstone and F. Percival observed students in over 90 lectures, with twelve different lecturers, recording breaks in student attention. They identified a general pattern: After three to five minutes of “settling down” at the start of class, one study found that “the next lapse of attention usually occurred some 10 to 18 minutes later, and as the lecture proceeded the attention span became shorter and often fell to three or four minutes towards the end of a standard lecture” (pp. 49–50).

The “Change–up” in Lectures bt=y Joan Middendorf & Alan Kalish. TRC Newsletter, 8:1 (Fall 1996).

This makes sense to me.

I think a lot of teachers intuitively deal with the fact that student attention waxes and wanes by a) repeating points, b) asking multiple questions (which repeats points), and c) using the blackboard/whiteboard (also repeats points).

That’s why Powerpoints are a problem: if you miss a slide you’re sunk. Nothing stays on the board.

Is Structured Word Inquiry the answer to America’s reading woes? Part IV

When I left off last November, I ended Part III of this series with this note:

When it comes to the viability of SWI, particularly for novice readers encountering unfamiliar printed words, the devil is in the details. Stay tuned for part IV.

So how does SWI teach basic written words to novice readers? How does it teach a reader who is encountering the word “cat” for the first time in print how to sound it out?

The guiding principles of SWI, according to Pete Bowers, suggest that sounding out a word is, in fact, not a good way to identify it.

Rather, students should start by looking at the word’s meaning and morphological components.

SWI_4_questions

But if you’ve never seen the word in writing before, how do you know what it means or how it’s built? And how does figuring out how it’s built get you anywhere in the case of basic words like “cat” that are built out of a single morpheme?

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Ghost teachers again

The district said it had added a new phonics sequence…But it stands by its broader balanced literacy approach…

That’s not enough for parents like Diane Dragan. An attorney who has three children with dyslexia, Ms. Dragan noted that well-off parents in her area regularly pay thousands of dollars to have their children taught intensive phonics at private tutoring centers.

“The irony to me is that the public-school teacher who teaches balanced literacy during the day moonlights to do science-based tutoring for kids who fail to learn to read,” Ms. Dragan said.

An Old and Contested Solution to Boost Reading Scores: Phonics BY Dana Goldstein 2/15/2020

Why is the ghost teaching force such a well-kept secret?

Everyone who’s raised kids in these communities knows it: the reason progressive education “works” for affluent kids is that they’re getting traditional ed delivered by parents and tutors at night.