A stewardess’s folk remedy

A few years ago, one of my sisters talked to a stewardess about viruses on planes. 

The stewardess said she and her colleagues fended off viral infections by using a cue tip to apply Ayr Saline Nasal Gel with Soothing Aloe to their nasal passages. My sister has been using that advice for flights ever since.

Our urgent care center told Ed that saline gels help prevent nose bleeds. I have no idea whether it also creates a barrier to viruses–or, if it does, whether it does so for COVID 19 specifically.

But I’m passing it along.

Duolingo progress report

This is pretty amazing, I think.

I now have a 2-year streak on Duolingo; plus I worked my way through the entire Lingvist French sequence.

I’m also 2000 words into a Memrise French vocabulary list and have done a few of the regular French lessons.

I can now read this tweet efficiently, without looking anything up:

For a while now, I’ve been studying both French and Spanish every day, so we’ll see how that goes. (Spanish is the language I studied when I was young — don’t want to “lose” it while I’m studying French…)

Nearly all of my progress comes from language apps. I’ve done a bit of reading — two graphic novels and some Twitter posts.

I’ve also, at times, delved into grammar explanations, primarily on French Today and Lawless French.

But basically I owe my progress to Duolingo & Memrise, both of which use “forced-choice” information-integration learning.

More homeschooling, please

I’ve been reading tweets about school closings as a means of containing epidemics. Turns out they’re highly effective.

Presumably, more homeschooling ought to mean slower contagion of whatever is going around. Another point in its favor!

Speaking of kids and contagion, my brother-in-law, who has been taking care of his new granddaughter one day a week, tells us he’s been chronically sick ever since his daughter went back to work. His granddaughter spends two or three days a week in daycare, and he gets every bug the children get.

This thread is good, too.

News you can use, Coronavirus edition

This week I went to the hospital (doctor appointment), visited a former colleague at the international ESL school close to my house (new group of foreign nationals arrives each week), then went to a jazz club Friday night (new germs, close quarters). 

Today I’m sneezing. 

Normally this would not be blogworthy information, but under the circumstances I’m using it as a peg to report that our household is planning to fend off Coronavirus using the powdered Vitamin C we take to deal with colds and flu. 

I became a believer in the anti-viral properties of Vitamin C three years ago, when my doctor treated my case of shingles with intravenous C. 

If I had my druthers I would be mainlining C for the next several months. Failing that I’m using BulkSupplements’ C because I’m pretty sure that powder is easier to absorb than a hard tablet. I can’t prove that, but I did become deathly ill in Paris two summers ago when Ed packed capsules instead of powder. Plus you can put powdered C in a bottle of water and drink it all day, which Ed has been doing since news of COVID-19 broke. I need to start doing the same. 

My former colleague told me a story re Vitamin C. 

A couple of months ago the director asked her to teach another class on top of the 3-class load she was already carrying.

When she said “yes,” he said: “Start taking Vitamin C now.”

Postcript: So far I’m turning to Marc Lipsitch for Coronavirus info & updates: Will COVID-19 go away on its own in warmer weather?

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

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.


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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