Monday, March 31, 2008

The Time Warp of Dyslexia

Through out my life I have been blessed by the ability to forget what I was just thinking. Some of you will no doubt think that this ability is a curse – a reality that has no silver lining. Well, I am here to tell what a gift it is to be so clever and creative that in every moment I can go wondering off into circles upon circles of new thoughts. I know that this is a gift because I have been to many workshops and seminars where people study how to be in the present moment.

This is not my problem.

My gift is to be always in this moment with out remembering what I was intending to do with it. I am “gifted” with fresh starts inserted randomly into my day. Fresh spellings, fresh ideas or fresh projects all I have to do is change locations and the major overhaul I was working on in the next room is forgotten while I blissfully fold laundry. Dyslexia to me is a statistically likelihood that I will have any ability to tie these moments together. The gift of dyslexia is that I can spend the morning with great focus and concentration on a project only to realize with surprise that I am in fact ten minutes late to another appointment.

I don’t need another workshop to be in the hear and now. My path is the path of all dyslexics – I am a student of the note to the future, the list to do or the five part plan. But here is the catch twenty-two I don’t like to make lists because they constantly interrupt my random flow of ideas. Stop laughing at me – if I can’t remember what I was gong to do, then clearly I am surprised when I look at my list. How dare I limit my startling creativity with a list of things to do!

But the mind is a fragile instrument and starting from scratch every ten minutes is not a good way to run business. So on my good days I give myself a little charity and forgiveness and do what’s on my list.

By the way – I think it’s time for me to start my list for the day.

Item 1) Finish Dyslexic Blog post ---- X
Item 2) Post Dyslexic Blog post ---- X
Item 3) Write the rest fo the list ---

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Teaching Storytelling

The best way I have found of getting children to tell stories is by creating a daily place of respect for storytelling and modeling good listening to the young storytellers. Build on the daily culture of your classroom, home, camp or daycare to include a sharing of the children’s and your stories. Young people learn best through modeling of the behavior you wish them to learn. If you wish to be surrounded by storytellers who are authentic, exciting and respectful of other tellers then all you have to do is to consistently model those storytelling standards.

Simple, but true...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cultural Inertia in Teaching

I read about the Video format wars at length last night. For you young people that's was back in the day when the superior Beta format was done in by the popular VHS format. Not because the market saw the much better qualities of VHS (Beta was better), but instead because a few middle level mangers didn’t do such a good job at marketing Beta and well just bad luck for the Beta manufactures. Many people were left with Beta machines and no tapes.

Witch reminds me of an ancient Chinese proverb I read years ago…

Student:  Why does a river flow that way?
Master: Because of the water that came first.

Well – really I made it up – but it sounds like an ancient Chinese proverb.

Culture can be like river and sometimes it is just a matter of getting there first with your flag, standard or point of view. Then improving upon what you are trying to do to make it work. The problem comes if your basic concept is flawed – because you can’t build on shoddy foundation no matter how much money, resources or time you have. The whole thing is just going to fail again and again.

Modern teaching is like that – in the middle ages monks created a standard mythical ideal of the busy copyist who is a learned scholar and this mythological ideal has stayed with us through years of reform and rethinking.

Imagine for a moment that you are sitting in a monasteries copy room, Stacks of books and scrolls fill the room. The atmosphere is hushed and quite. In one corner is monk who busy working on maps. In the main section are two or three monks working on books. There ink bottles are full and their feather pens are busy. Sun light filter into the room from distant windows and the sound of birds can be heard, but the monks do not raise there heads from the books.

The head monk is sitting on raised platform in the middle of the hall. He is keeping track of the other monks work overseeing their production and quality of there work. The chief monk is not cruel , but neither is he really interested in the personal development of each of his monks. He is more concerned that the books, maps and scrolls being copied are accurate.
This mythology lies dormant in the mind of every teacher in the world. A successful classroom is seen as hushed and quite with scholars quietly working on there separate projects. Even though being a successful copyist has little too do with any connection with the word learning.

The problem of course, is that copyists are busy copying down important facts and figures, they are not engaged in effort to study or learn something.   Also the role of the copyist has been replaced by the printing press about four hundred years ago…

Institutional teaching has had a couple hundred years to be improved, but the basic mythological ideal keeps getting in the way. It’s time we killed the copyists off – it’s time for us to cut loose the idea of that teaching is the transfer of knowledge too the ideal that teaching is the inspiration of culture.

The river flows on – why master does the rive flow that way and how do we change it’s course?
Perhaps you know the answer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Strip Mining Our Children

Recently I watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED speech from 2006. He was of course brilliant and I was very impressed with his ability to connect with his audience and speak with in time. He addresses one issue and he covered it in depth. For once I am proud to say that I have a MS in Education. Sometimes it seems like people the most educated people never learned how to express information eloquently.

I highly suggest that you take the 18 minutes to watch this video if your in education today or if your just a parent of a child, It really does put a nice spin on things.

One of the key ideas that Sir Robinson talks about is that we are running our schools with the idea that college professor is the perfect human being. That are educational instutions wreck the life path of anyone who is not on that particular path in the name of higher ed. I personally don’t think the wreckage is worth it having been a piece of the mess myself.

Who are we – that we live such sort sighted lives? The only time that anyone was cared if I had a high school degree was when the government was regulating my employment as director of an after school program. Never in the last fifteen years of storytelling has any teacher asked me if I have a high school diploma or a college diploma. They just wanted to know if I was a good storyteller(yes) and if I had committed any felonies. (no)

So why did I spend all those years in school anyway? Personally it was to defeat the demon of somebody told me I can’t finish this and I’m a failure if I quite now. But I should point out that some of the greatest artists flunked out (Susana Vega) of the greatest schools (Columbia University) – not that it matters.

Inertia is such a powerful force in human culture. Why is the ham cut short ma, because grandma cut it that way. Oh – Grandma why do you cut the ham short? Cause your great grandma cut it that way. Great Grandma why – o be quiet boy – back in my day the oven was smaller – could fit the ham in with out cutting it into pieces!

School as a representation of government is such powerful sources of inertia – how do we as individuals reform or even understand these powerful mythological figures?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My remidation report - 1985

Hilary K. Waldinger, M.A.
Riverdale, NY. 10463

Remediation Report: Eric James Wolf


Eric James Wolf is an extremely bright, thoughtful and creative student who demonstrates great capacity in thinking creativity. Understanding mathematical, scientific and historic facts and concepts, and reading literature perceptively. Eric has learning problems which can and are being remediate and which can be compensated for through small adaptive techniques on the part of Eric and his teachers. Eric had made some strong points in writing skills and will continue to do so this year in his tutoring program. Continued practice, motivation, and hard working, and dedicated to improving.


While highly intelligent, Eric has perceptual difficulties in the
areas of visual perception and visual memory. Eric also has problems in language processing, that is, in organizing and sequencing letters, syllables, words and sentences in written and oral presentations.

These perceptual and processing problems are manifest in Erics written work, his difficulties with a foreign language, and his occasional problems in organizing oral presentations. In terms of writing and organizing, these problems are manifest in several specific behaviors.

1st Eric Must and does need to spend much time and effect in organizing himself; his papers, notebooks, books.
2nd Eric has some trouble organizing his essays effectively under time pressure. He needs time to organize these concepts in the expected and clear sequence.
3rd This sequence problem exists in his sentence structure. Sentence fragments or run-ons that appear in class work produced under time limits are not an indication of mental laziness or indifference. Eric merely needs a bit more time to proofread and make corrections for those errors. While Erics sentences structure is steadily improving, Eric cannot yet discriminate between correct or incorrect sequences with 100 percent accuracy.
4th Sequence problems are very obvious in Erics spelling patterns. His reversals and misspellings, are all symptoms of visual perception and processing difficulties. Contributing to his problem is Erics handwriting, witch reveals his processing problems in the motor area. This is not intentional sloppiness or carelessness.


Erics learning difficulties can be remediated effectively with appropriate instruction or they can be circumvented with appropriate adaptive techniques for classwork. Currently, an individualized tutorial program has focused on remediating Erics organization problems and his sentence structure. Tutoring has also developed some techniques for organizing essays, answering short answer questions, and writing paragraphs. Eric has made very good progress in using correct sentence structure. We have been working intensively on identifying and using subordinate clauses, identifying subordinate clauses used as sentence fragments, and combing sentences by using subordinate clauses. A successful instructional program for Eric should stress the practices listed below…

1) For teaching language arts or language, a multisensory approach is most successful. Eric needs to hear speak, see and write any new vocabulary word, spelling, grammar, preferably using all these senses in the same lesson. Using all the learning modalities in one lesson reinforces each area of perception.
2) Structured sequential instruction is most effective for learning a language skill. Eric learns best when he is presented with one new skill at a time, through a multisensory approach, and given copious practice in saying, writing, and reading that skill. For example, in learning subordinate clauses and subordinate conjunctions, he was taught one category of conjunction at a time. (e.g. time, then cause the result then condition ). He read, wrote, spoke and heard subordinate clauses suing that one category until he knew each of the subordinating conjunctions automatically. Only when he knew all the conjunctions in a category automatically did we move on to the next.
3) Continual reinforcement and review of previously learned items is crucial because these new language skills are not natural for Eric. For example. Even after moving onto a new category of subordinate clauses, Eric must be given a brief review of the categories previously learned. Each new skill must be built on an old one, which is reviewed and reinforced as that it is not forgotten.
4) In teaching essay writing, Eric must learn a Skelton of the pattern of organization required. Once he has the overall organization delineated for himself, he can express his ideas more fluidly and coherently. Thus, Eric must always prepare an outline for himself, organizing a thesis or topic sentence, his main ideas and his supporting information.
5) When writing a first draft, Eric should skip lines so that he can go back and correct errors in sentence structure or spelling. This would be god practice for in-class essay examines or writing exercises.

There are some adaptive strategies witch Eric can use that will allow him to better demonstrate his true abilities while not giving him any unfair advantage over his classmates. These are listed below

1) When writing an in-class essay or exam, Eric could use a skeleton outline, which does not have any content at all: rather, it is just a visual reminder for him of the overall form an essay should have. IT will just outline the ingredients of the essay – thesis statement, main ideas, and supporting details. Currently, Eric carries such a skeleton in his notebook, which can be used for any and all essays because it has no content. If he could use it, he would write more coherently and produce far better exams and papers.
2) If Eric could carry a spelling dictionary with him to school (such a dictionary shows only the correct spellings of words, no definitions), he could turn in some better work with more accurate spellings. Again, to use this in a testing situation is no extra advantage, because only information in such a dictionary is the correct spelling.
3) In learning gramner, Eric needs more structured practice than do other students. However, Eric will learn and use concept once it is taught to him. Therefore, one method of approaching the problem is to notify Eric’s tutor or parent of the areas covered in the term. The tutoring program can then focus intensively on these skills so that Eric will know them by the end of the term or in time for the unit presentation in class. Another approach might be to engage a student tutor for Eric who can give him extra practice on a skill.
4) For learning vocabulary words, particularly in a foreign language, Eric needs much practice with flashcards, with writing, and listening to tapes or dictation.
5) Eric should be given the opportunity to take essay essay exams on an untimed basis, so that he can have a little extra time to organize his thoughts and make some corrections in mechanics, if this is at all possible. This is not at all necessary for multiple choice or short answer exams where Erics learning difficulties do not hamper him. Perhaps he could just have could just have an extra five minutes a the end of class. If extra time is impossible, perhaps Erics work can be looked at attentively for its content rather then its form (spelling, etc).

April 15, 1985


Today in 2008 this report seem obvious, but remember when it was written it was, by man by many who read it, considered cutting edge or out side the box thinking. Times change.

Eric Wolf