Tag Archives: cognition/learning/understanding

Term of Art: Soft Neurological Signs

“soft neurological signs: Any of a number of minor abnormalities that emerge in childhood and are used as diagnostic indicators of minimal brain damage.

Soft signs are subtle and difficult to detect reliably; they tend to run their developmental course with no clear cause and are not regarded as indicators of any specific neurological disease. The soft in the term comes from the difficulties of interpretation and the uncertain association with structural brain damage.

Certain soft signs, like those related to fine and gross motor sills, may be used to help diagnose learning disabilities. Neuropsychological evaluations and psychological evaluations for learning disabilities typically include soft signs assessments such as the ability to walk a straight line, the ability to tell left from right, and the ability to track objects horizontally and vertically.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

Term of Art: Spatial Orientation

“spatial orientation: The ability to maintain a sense of orientation in a physical space. Difficulties in spatial orientation may be part of a larger pattern of visual-spatial skills deficits that are linked with a learning disability in some cases. These problems may have a profound effect on an individual’s ability to follow physical directions or to locate information or objects within a space.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

Term of Art: Teacher-Directed Classroom

“teacher-directed classroom: A classroom in which the teacher is in charge and makes all the important decisions about the content and pace of instruction; also known as the teacher-dominated classroom. The teacher-directed classroom is sometimes used as a derogatory term compared unfavorably with the learner-centered classroom, where students are in charge of their own learning. See also teacher-centered instruction. Contrast child-centered education; learner-centered classroom.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

The Weekly Text, 9 September 2022: Common Errors in English Usage, Imply (vt), Infer (vi/vt)

This week’s Text is a worksheet on the use of the verbs imply and infer. This is a full-page worksheet with a reading of three longish compound sentences, and ten modified cloze exercises. The text derives from Paul Brians’ fine book Common Errors in English Usage–to which he allows cost-free access at his Washington State University website.

I myself was uncertain about the use of these two words until I saw the 1988 remake of the estimable 1959 film noir D.O.A. Dennis Quaid plays Professor Dexter Cornell (Edmond O’Brien played this character as Frank Bigelow in the original). At one point in the film, Professor Cornell is dealing with a preternaturally cheap hoodlum named Bernard. Bernard says to Cornell, “I don’t think I like what you’re inferring Mr. Cornell.” Cornell sneers at Bernard, “Implying. When I say it, that’s implying. How you take it, that’s inferring.” Bernard replies, “I see. Infer this.” Then true to form for a knuckle-dragger like Bernard, he punches Cornell in the mouth.

Lawrence Block, in his novel Small Town (page 301 in the William Morrow hardcover edition), which I believe was his last, Block has the august New York Times commit a similar error, using infer where imply is required. True to its form, the Times prints a correction the next day.

Why am I on about this, as they say in Great Britain? Because these are two important conceptual words which describe an extremely common, if elliptical, form of communication. In fact, if you want to teach literature at all, these are two words students must understand well, and therefore be able to use well–and, for heaven’s sake, accurately. One more time: so much of human communication occurs by implication and inference (to trot out the nouns) that it seems to me unlikely to overstate the importance of understanding these words and the concepts in communication they represent.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Term of Art: Spatial Judgement

“spatial judgment: The ability to judge spatial relationships, as between fixed objects or between a moving object and a fixed point. Spatial judgment is involved in activities such as driving a car or playing a sport. Individuals with learning disabilities may have problems with spatial judgment as part of an overall pattern of difficulty with visual-spatial abilities.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

The Weekly Text, 26 August 2022: Concrete (adj), Abstract (adj)

This week’s Text is a context clues worksheet on the use of concrete as an adjective. For the purposes of the context of the sentences here, students are looking for a meaning of “characterized by or belonging to immediate experience of actual things or events,” “specific,” “particular,” “real,” and  “tangible.”

Opposing concrete, both in this post and in meaning, is this context clues worksheet on the adjective abstract. The sentences in this document provide context for an understanding of the definition of this word as “disassociated from any specific instance,” “difficult to understand,” “insufficiently factual,” : “expressing a quality apart from an object <the word poem is concrete, poetry is ~>,”  “dealing with a subject in its abstract aspects,” and “having only intrinsic form with little or no attempt at pictorial representation or narrative content.”

These are obviously important learning words across domains of knowledge–and particularly in the humanities. I cannot imagine teaching poetry, to offer one obvious example, without students understanding fully the meanings of these two words–and what they represent in the use of language.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Term of Art: Spatial Ability

“spatial ability: The ability to imagine objects or symbols in space.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

Term of Art: Teachable Moment

“teachable moment: A confluence of experience and instruction that suddenly awakens student interest and gives life to what is taught. A teachable moment may occur as the result of a current event, of a school or classroom occurrence, or of something that happened to a student or a teacher. Suddenly, a concept that once seemed abstract becomes clear and important. Teachable moments may also occur between parents and children, as parents teach spontaneous everyday lessons about behavior, morals, ethics, and values.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

Term of Art: Structural Analysis

“structural analysis: A type of word recognition that identifies structural features such as syllables, prefixes, suffixes, and roots. Other structural elements include compound words (sunshine) and contradictions (do not).

A reader may use a combination of structural analysis and context clues to identify an unfamiliar word. Individuals with learning disabilities benefit from the explicit teaching of structural analysis skills in order to improve spelling and reading comprehension.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

Term of Art: Task-Oriented Learning

“task-oriented learning: A learning approach in which students are expected to complete specific assigned jobs, or tasks, to gain mastery. Advocates of task-oriented instruction laud it because it is experiential and hands-on, as opposed to instruction that relies on books and lectures.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.