Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Using Crossword Puzzles for Increased Fluency, Spelling, General Knowledge

We have all probably heard about the benefits of doing crossword puzzles and similar mental exercises to stave off Alzheimer's and other disorders, but there are many other benefits to doing these fun word games. Crossword puzzles demand perfection in spelling -- spelling of not only common words, but also names and places. In addition to the demands of placing the correct answers into the grid, there are many mental demands to get to the correct answer in the first place. One must understand the cultural reference, popular quotes, crack a pun, and decipher which item is actually referred to (in the case of heteronyms). The puzzler will learn which letter combinations are the most common, possible, and probable. This will aid in not only their ability to do later puzzles, but also to spell in their own writing.

There is a great deal of "incidental learning" that takes place while doing crossword puzzles that can be very beneficial to a young, sponge-like learner. They may absorb new foreign terms that are common in their untranslated form. They may put names and events of history together. They may learn how to spell something they were previously unsure about. They will surely increase their vocabulary as they encounter words that are rarely encountered except as the synonym of a clue's answer. They will also surely pay much more attention to words that ambiguous without much context. This last point is extremely important. This new attention to detail and ability to sift through the various possible definitions of a word is an analytical skill that will aid them greatly throughout the life span.

Finally, as the puzzler looks up the items they are not sure of, they will surely come across other interesting material that will waylay them momentarily. If the puzzler asks someone else first, this is a great icebreaker that may segue into other interesting information, a "teaching moment," or just a great conversation that otherwise wouldn't have happened. So, consider adding a crossword puzzle a day to your curriculum or daily routine.

Using Aptitude and Admission Test Prep Materials for Self-Enrichment

Are you looking to increase your vocabulary or that of your student? There are many great resources out there besides simply the dictionary; try using the free resources available for the various admissions and aptitude tests out there. There are many tests out there: TOEFL, GRE, ACT, SAT, etc. Each of these tests has accompanying resource sites out there ready for you to download and access their resources.

If you are looking for high-level vocabulary words for self-enrichment, spelling bee preparation, etc., the college prep test materials are great (GRE, ACT, SAT).

If you are looking for materials to help for students who are struggling with the English language and who are still on the way to fluency, English as a Second Language (ESL) resources like the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) can be great to fill in those gaps.

Do a quick Google search to find a whole host of materials for free.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Using AVKO Materials for ESL

AVKO's materials are not only great for homeschooling, dyslexia remediation, and school systems, but they are also great for ESL (English as a Second Language) training. An ESL learner can really benefit from the common sense, low-cost, and quick methods that AVKO's materials offer -- from basal curriculum (Starting at Square One) to fluency exercises (Word Families in Sentence Context; Readings for Fluency) to focusing on those tricky homophones and heteronyms (The Tricky Words) or other issues that give grief to even fluent speakers (Apostrophes, It-ss and Too'ze, and I Before E Rule)

Starting at Square One and Word Families in Sentence Context are available for FREE with AVKO Membership.

See the complete list of AVKO Materials on our website.

Famous Dyslexics

There are many famous people with dyslexia. They have overcome the obstacles associated with dyslexia and gone on to become famous, beloved, and successful. These icons may help alleviate some guilt or negative self images associated with being dyslexic. Let your students know about these stars:

[These are only a few of the many, many celebrities with dyslexia.]

Ansel Adams
Muhammad Ali
Hans Christian Andersen
Orlando Bloom
Erin Brockovich
George Burns
Winston Churchill
Tom Cruise
Pierre Curie
Leonardo da Vinci
Walt Disney
Thomas Edison
Albert Einstein
Michael Faraday
Henry Ford
Danny Glover
Whoopi Goldberg
Earnest Hemingway
John Irving
Eddie Izzard
Andrew Jackson
Thomas Jefferson
Steve Jobs
John F. Kennedy
Robert Kennedy
John Lennon
Jay Leno
Charles Lindbergh
Gavin Newsom
Sir Issac Newton
Ozzy Osbourne
George S. Patton
Pablo Picasso
Keanu Reeves
Nelson Rockefeller
Auguste Rodin
Nolan Ryan
Charles Schwab
Tom Smothers
Britney Spears
Steven Spielberg
Ted Turner
Mark Twain
Liv Tyler
Vincent van Gogh
Andy Warhol
George Washington
Robin Williams
Woodrow Wilson
Henry Winkler
Loretta Young

Bill Cosby on The Fear of Failure

The great Bill Cosby weighs in on the fear of failure with this great quote:

"In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure."

The Importance of Breaks for Studying and Learning

We all know that cramming is not the best way to learn information. We all know that short, steady, and consistent sessions are the best way to go for studying and mastering material. AVKO has been preaching this method since its inception in 1974. In fact, all of our materials are designed to be used in daily, 15-minute sessions.

Read the New York Times article about new research on the importance of breaks and recess on learning.

Read what another education blog says about the article.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Reflections on Dyslexia vis-à-vis Dislecksia Movie

Recently, we briefly blogged about the new comedic documentary on dyslexia called "Dislecksia: A Documentary." In the "Director's Statement," he talks of his personal experiences with dyslexia. Unfortunately, the experiences he recounts are all-too common among dyslexics: having teachers unable to see the quality and intellectual merit of one's ideas for the spelling and grammar errors; continuous and fruitless testing; and becoming the class clown to mask the problems in reading and spelling.

We wanted to revisit this to talk about the non-specific components of AVKO tutor training and overall philosophy that can really make a difference in your student's academic achievement. When working with your dyslexic student, it's extremely important to objectively evaluate the merit of his ideas instead of simply taking his paper home, marking it up with red ink, and shoving it in his face without any constructive criticism or encouragement. Too many students become afraid to make mistakes because of the inevitable criticism; they simply shut down after a while.

Be sure to list the high points of your student's work, but be sure to not completely gloss over the weak points, either. It's often much more helpful (and less intimidating) to correct papers with your student; they will know what you are saying, they can explain what they meant, and you can give them immediate feedback so they can correct the errors. The students will be much less likely to take the comments as personal attacks if you can explain it in person and the comments will be much more likely to be heeded instead of having the entire paper crumpled up and thrown away after seeing the grade.

AVKO frequently spouts a few mottos that are more than trite platitudes; they are philosophies to live by:
  • Mistakes are opportunities to learn.
  • I can remember anything if I forget it enough times.
  • If it is to be, it is up to me to do it.
  • Be liberal with praise; be stingy with criticism.
These mottos are used throughout the AVKO materials to remind us all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Silly Factoid by Don McCabe

There's a funny "g" in king but not in kink.

Why is it we always say and hear that funny "g" or "ng" digraph in Bang, ding, king, flung, sling, Ming, ping, ring, sting, sing, and wing? But when we add the /k/ sound to spell these words, we drop that g when we change bang to bank, ding to dink, king to kink, flung to flunk, ping to pink, ring to rink, sting to stink, etc. Note carefully that we don't just add the /k/ to ban to get BAN'k. We say bang'k when we read bank. In the words that have a base of more than one syllable, the nk digraph (which should be a k after the ng digraph) becomes the nc digraph as in Lincoln, uncle, carbuncle, but not ankle.

In ordinary speech the sound "ing" in the word sing is enunciated, but when it comes to the word singing, only the first ing is always enunciated. Most of the time it's pronounced "singin'. The suffix ing is pronounced in speech as "in" more often than not.

Strange. You hear the ng digraph but can't see the g in the word drink. You can always see the ng in the suffix ing but you usually only heard the /in/ when it's spoken as drinkin'.

Read the Rest of the AVKO Blog | Visit the AVKO Website

AVKO Needs Volunteers

AVKO is always in need of energetic and passionate volunteers to help further its missions of eradicating illiteracy and problems associated with dyslexia. Visit our Volunteer page for more information on the various tasks with which we could use your help.

The roles that are most needed are:

- Marketing volunteers to perform Google searches to find new distributors and schools interested in carrying AVKO materials
- Supplemental curriculum writers (make worksheets, games, etc. out of the AVKO materials)
- Homeschool support volunteers to seek out current trends, new materials and resources, and current research that would be helpful to our homeschool clients.

Please contact Brian at for more information about becoming a volunteer or visit the Volunteer page.

Dyslexia Movie Coming Out Soon

AVKO just heard about a documentary coming out on the subject of dyslexia called "Dislecksia: The Movie." The movie's still in post-production with a predicted 2009 release according the film's website.

Share your own stories about dyslexia here -- the tears, the fears, the pride, and the laughs. What wisdom do you wish to impart to the younger generations after having gone through your own struggles?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

AVKO Turns 35 in 2009!

2009 marks the 35th Anniversary of The AVKO Educational Research Foundation. Don waxes nostalgic and shares a few of his thoughts on this great milestone:

I remember when I was a kid, I thought 35 was ancient. Well, now that I’ve reached the double lucky 77, I think 35 is very young indeed. Here I was barely 42, already ancient when I and some of my close friends and relatives founded the AVKO Educational Research Foundation. We knew, or at least thought we knew, what we were about to create. We hoped to start an organization that would do real research into the problems of why so many kids end up being very poor readers by the time they are old enough to leave school. That was the reason we wanted the words Educational Research to be part of our name.

We decided on going the non-profit route with the great expectations (Sorry, Charles Dickens) of being able to qualify for government grants and certainly charitable grants from large philanthropic organizations, such as the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Because we wanted the name to reflect our non-profit status, we thought the word Foundation, should be there somewhere. That gave us Educational Research Foundation, Inc. Although that seemed to describe what we intended to be, it seemed to need a name such as Ford, Mott, or Smith. The McCabe Educational Research Foundation was suggested, but I quickly vetoed that idea. I wanted the accent to be on what we were about, not on me. Then one of our small group suggested creating an acronym for the name, one that would help better reflect our multi-sensory approach to teaching, one that utilized Visual, Audio, Kinesthetic, and Oral methods. But that spelled out VAKO which sounded too much like wacko. But with a nice dyslexic reversal of VA to AV we got AVKO—The AVKO Educational Research Foundation.....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Welcome to the AVKO Blog on Blogger

AVKO welcomes you to its new blog on Blogger! This will be an open forum for the development of new ideas, networking of AVKO members, and learning from each other.

AVKO will post new ideas for articles or sections of the website and let them grow organically in this forum -- taking into account your comments, suggestions, and needs.

AVKO will post news (new research that has come out regarding dyslexia, education, homeschooling), AVKO events, updates to the websites, web specials, and more here too.