Friday, January 27, 2012

An Internet story

An Internet story. Probably not true. But it's a great story.

There was a poor Scottish farmer named Fleming. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog.

There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.
'I want to repay you,' said the nobleman. 'You saved my son's life.'
'No, I can't accept payment for what I did,' the Scottish farmer replied waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel.
'Is that your son?' the nobleman asked.
'Yes,' the farmer replied proudly.
'I'll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.' And that he did.
Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools and in time, graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.
Years afterward, the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia.
What saved his life this time? Penicillin.

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill . His son's name?

Sir Winston Churchill.

Someone once said: What goes around comes around.

Work like you don't need the money.
Love like you've never been hurt.
Dance like nobody's watching.
Sing like nobody's listening.
Live like it's Heaven on Earth.

An Irish Blessing:

I hope it works...

May there always be work for your hands to do;
May your purse always hold a coin or two;
May the sun always shine on your windowpane;
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;
May the hand of a friend always be near you;
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.
and may you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you're dead.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Get the Most from the AVKO Sequential Spelling Program

How to Get the Most from the

AVKO Sequential Spelling Program

by Gloria Goldsmith

Follow the Directions

Sequential Spelling: Whenever a parent calls with a problem, I always ask them to tell me in detail how they are going about giving the lessons to their student.

Almost every time, we discover the parent/teacher has left out an important step in delivery. They aren't using sentences, or they decide to spell the word aloud instead of writing it out, or they forget about the use of color coding when writing the words on a dry erase or chalkboard, or the very worst is when they proceed through the words without giving immediate feedback, or allowing the student time to erase and make immediate corrections.

The AVKO process is about giving your student the opportunity to use four of their five senses to learn. (If we could think of a way for them to use their olfactory [sense of smell] with all words, we'd promote that too!) For the best opportunity for comprehension and recall, the student must have AVKO sensory involvement that Following-the-Directions provide.

Hear the word, as Parent says it, uses it in a sentence Auditory

See the word written in color coded described method. Visual

Feel the "muscle memory" helping to shape the letters Kinesthetic

Say the word, pronounce the word out loud. (student) Oral

Here is a short hand version of the directions:

Say the word, use in sentence, repeat the word, IN

The student says word. SIN

Student writes in SRB - Parent color codes it on board PIN

Student compares what he wrote with what you wrote: SPIN

if correct, on to the next word. SPINNING

if wrong - student erases IMMEDIATELY CORRECTS !

Immediate correction is the key to the most effective method to learn spelling.


How to REINFORCE Spelling Words

Check out the various writing assignments AVKO has developed in the Engaging Language Kits 1-7 meant to be used in tandem with Sequential Spelling 1-7 for students who respond to writing reinforcement.

Using the spelling words in a writing assignment is a great method for tucking them into long term memory. However, students can only do so many writing assignments. Real-life situations in game playing are the best, most eye-opening training camp. Playing Word Games teaches much more beyond correct spelling. It can teach sportsmanship, fairness, rules, strategy, planning ahead, playing with a partner, communication skills, how to have fun with a sibling and just plain ole' sharing laughter with friends and family.

How to REINFORCE Spelling Words

AVKO has several suggested links on our web site to Eons, Bible, Great Day, Secret Files and many other word games links are available.

Best Word Games: are FUN yet learning takes place

Wheel of Fortune: Overall Best word game to play- (
Teach strategies: 1. knowing the most common letters in English 2. thinking of the ending patterns - ing, -ness, -tion the -n has a different placement in each one. 3. letters that are commonly found together th, ex, qu, and at the ends of words –nd 4. watch the game on TV and practice figuring out the quiz.

Hang Man using the current spelling words... and some of the harder words from the past word families.

Scrabble - two or more players, based partly on the luck of the draw, plus requires strategy thinking.

1. Ask yourself, what can I add to the other player(s) word to lengthen it?

A prefix or suffix: so regular becomes irregular or respond becomes responded.

2. What new word can I create from one or more letters on the board, plus which of my letters will give me

the most points?

AVKO-Scrabble – 1 to 4 players. A player selects a word from current or past spelling lists and finds those letters from the Scrabble squares. Use a cup or plastic drinking glass to shake and dump the letters on a table. The other three players turn over the letters and work out which spelling word it is. First one to call out the word within 3 minutes gets the point. The first to reach 10 points is the winner.

Taboo - The idea of the game is to get your teammates to say a particular spelling word. You write down a spelling word, keeping it tucked in your pocket and try to get your teammates to say that word by using clues only, and not saying certain words that are too related to the word. For example, if the word was 'television' you could give clues such as "a thing that you watch shows on, something you watch NBC on" or other related clues, but not "what the letters TV stand for" The harder the word you choose, the more difficult it is to find the appropriate clues and get your teammates to guess.

Sidewalk Hopscotch - Give your student(s) each a piece of chalk and have them draw 12 to 16 LARGE rectangles in singles and doubles on the driveway or sidewalk. Fill in each rectangle with a different spelling word. Use a small rough stone with lots of edges and let them roll it toward their target word. The rectangle it lands nearest is their word. They hop to the word, pick up the stone, look up at the sky and spell the word aloud. If they spell it correctly they go forward from that word. If they spell it incorrectly, they have to come back to their last position.

The goal is to go to the end and come back first. The winner should get some sort of prize. I like a home-made Crown for the King or Queen of the Hopscotch! Of course the King or Queen get to do a Victory Dance, making it all the more fun!

Table-Top Hopscotch - played in-doors for winter games or if you have no sidewalks

or paved driveways. It is played the same way except using paper. (Tape two pieces or more together.) Use a small piece of paper wadded into a ball as your stone. And instead of hopping by foot they hop their fingers over the course, slapping their hand over the target word they are to spell. Without peeking, they spell the word to you. If correct, put a bingo chip or paperclip there to mark it while the next player has his turn. If not correct they go back to their previous position. Be sure the winner gets a Crown and Victory Dance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Whole Language

Whole Language

What It Is, What It Isn't


Mary Bowman-Kruhm, Ed.D.
Faculty Associate, Johns Hopkins University
School of Professional Studies in Business and Education

Whole language back in the 1960s and 70s was called the psycholinguistic approach to reading. Thankfully, that name gave way to the term whole language, which more accurately describes it, as well as being a lot easier to spell. What is whole language? Whole language is

  • an approach;
  • a philosophy;
  • a framework;
  • a theory;
  • an orientation.

It is not a program for teaching reading.

Some people long for whole language to be a program. "Tell me how to teach whole language," they beg. These are rigid people who delight in having educational methods spelled out. You know them:

  • the teacher who follows every line in a basal reader teacher’s guide;
  • the teacher who equates nirvana with having a manual that says, "Next tell the students to…"; or
  • the parent who is positive his or her child will learn to read only if X program is religiously followed.

Some people, such as those described above, will never embrace a whole language approach. And they shouldn’t. They will be most comfortable with a structured program which lays out short-term objectives concretely and gives specific activities for first testing, then teaching, and then re-testing those objectives. And they can best teach that with which they are comfortable.

Some students also benefit from such structured programs. Many students, especially those identified as having learning problems or for whom other strategies have not worked, need this type of sequential and orderly program. But, unless they are teaching such students, many teachers like to do their own thing. They are adept at adopting and adapting strategies and techniques and plans to meet the needs of their students. For these creative souls, whole language is an approach to teaching reading that provides them with the orientation to reading they seek. And many students thrive in reading the varied materials that are part of a whole language approach to reading.

Advocates for phonics and skills (i.e., teaching by objectives) models continue to criticize the whole language model as having caused reading problems for many students. An aside that seems relevant here, even if I am being very foolish to get into the middle of the whole language/phonics/skills debate: Prior to whole language many, many students had reading problems. Some critics of whole language make it sound as if whole language created an atmosphere in which students haven’t learned to read. Not true. The phonics and skills models did not work for everyone. While some students may not learn to read through a whole language approach, whole language initially gained support because the phonics and skills models did not work for large numbers of students.

Then, as now, a good teacher must look at his or her students, assess need, and make appropriate recommendations and instructional decisions. Basically, most aspects of the three models are similar. The differences are in degree and in how teachers carry them out in the classroom.

Example One: Whole language people believe a reader makes minimal use of graphics, using the visual array on the page only enough to get meaning. In a phonics or skills model, the print is of major importance and meaning is pretty much assumed.

Example Two: In teaching, say for instance character development in a story, the whole language teacher might use a story map, a web, a reading guide, have the students act out parts, write a paragraph, etc. The skills teacher would have the students answer questions about the characters and perhaps have a class discussion after reading the story.

Experienced teachers are way beyond the stupid argument of whole language vs. other models. While the beginning teacher may need to resort to orthodox, time-honored, and safe teaching techniques, the experienced teacher feels free to pick and choose from a varied menu of teaching strategies, according to student needs. Experienced teachers, both elementary and secondary, regular and special education, use so many whole language-oriented activities that the argument is a moot one. One need only look at the basic components of a whole language model and see that whole language not only can be but is indeed translated from theory into substance in many of today’s classrooms.

What are the characteristics of a whole language model? Here are the basics and, in brackets, a few examples of the ways teachers translate them into classroom activities:

Meaning is at the core of the reading process; one reads to think and to comprehend. [trade books, Internet, games]

  • *A reader uses three cuing systems:
  1. the graphic (printed visual array);
  2. the syntactic (conventions and consistencies of the language’s structure);
  3. and the semantic (meaning or comprehension, including background information and personal previous experiences). [graphic organizers, Language Experience Approach (L.E.A.) and Directed Reading-Thinking Activity (DRTA), writing books and stories]
  • Reading is an interactive process which requires the reader to use his or her prior knowledge to make sense of the author’s words. [DRTA, reading, reflection, and listening guides]
  • Reading materials must be authentic, real life, meaning-centered. [core books, varied reading materials, including magazines, plays, functionalmaterials]
  • Writing, the flip side of reading, is equally important. [journal writing, word processing on a computer]
  • Reading involves an array of reader strategies, such as predicting meaning and using metacognitive skills, and these strategies should be taught beginning when a child enters school and continuing throughout school life. Inherent here is the strong view that reading is not a hierarchy of skills, with more advanced skills taught as a child progresses through the grades. [textual organization, reciprocal teaching, being aware when one doesn’t understand and using fix-up strategies]

Who is a practitioner of a whole language approach? A teacher who, based on the above characteristics, develops lessons which have sound goals and objectives and uses meaningful activities that motivate and involve students to reach those goals and objectives.

How do you now assess yourself and your teaching?