Tag Archives: cognition/learning/understanding

Nathan M. Pusey on Staying Abreast of Things

“We live in a time of such rapid change and growth of knowledge that only who is in a fundamental sense a scholar—that is, a person who continues to learn and inquire—can hope to keep pace, let alone play the role of guide.”

Nathan M. Pusey, The Age of the Scholar (1963)

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.

The Weekly Text, April 16, 2021: A Lesson Plan on the Largest Seas from The Order of Things

Here is a lesson plan on the largest seas along with its accompanying combined reading and comprehension worksheet.

Like the other lessons under the rubric of The Order of Things by Barbara Ann Kipfer, this is a short lesson with plenty of room (and formatted in Microsoft Word for just that purpose) for expansion and adaptation. There’s an excursus on this material, arranged as a unit of 50 lessons (for now–it will inevitably expand when at last I return to classroom teaching) on the “About Posts & Texts” page on this site. I conceived and engineered these materials to use with students with relatively low levels of literacy and/or numeracy; it gives such students some structured materials to practice operating with two symbolic systems at the same time, namely words and numbers.

Anyway, over time, I’d like to continue building this unit, and then develop from it scaffolded, topic-specific subunits that respond to student interest, work to build literacy and numeracy, and help students feel confident in their ability to deal with what might once have seemed like insurmountably complicated material to them. What do you think?

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.

18 Common Misunderstandings of Dyslexia

“1. Students benefit from waiting until after second grade to provide reading intervention (False). Early screening and intervention provide opportunities for targeting reading needs and reducing the the likelihood of long-term reading difficulties.

2. Dyslexia requires specific and unique screening and identification approaches (False) Psychometrically sound approaches currently used to screen and identify students with reading problems are useful for screening and identifying students with dyslexia. Layering additional screening measures onto already psychometrically sound screening approaches is an unnecessary burden.

3. Providing more opportunities to read books will resolve their reading problem (False). All students benefit from increased opportunities to read a variety of text levels and types. However, additional reading practice for students with dyslexia is an inadequate approach to improving their reading outcomes. These students also require comprehensive approaches to reading instruction that include decoding, opportunities to practice for fluency, and comprehension instruction.

4. Colored lenses or overlays help improve reading for students with dyslexia (False). Though the issue of colored lenses and overlays continues to appear in a range of professional guides, there is no evidence to support their effectiveness. Similarly, multisensory instruction is not necessary for students with dyslexia. However, there are many systematic approaches for improving reading outcomes for students with dyslexia.

5. Students with dyslexia primarily have reading comprehension problems (False) Students with dyslexia have word-level difficulties that are manifested in difficulty reading text accurately and proficiently. These word-level difficulties result in reading comprehension problems, but teaching reading comprehension strategies alone will not resolve the reading problems of individuals with dyslexia.

6. Many educators have not had opportunities to develop the knowledge necessary to provide evidence-based screening, assessment, and interventions for students with dyslexia (True). There is considerable research documenting the need for educators to have improved knowledge and skills for better identifying and teaching students with dyslexia and other reading problems. Many reading teachers perceived that they lack the confidence to teach students who are identified as dyslexic.

7. Dyslexia is rare, and most individuals grow out of it (False). Dyslexia is a universal condition that occurs across writing systems, not just the alphabetic system, with prevalence rates of approximately 5-15 percent depending on the threshold for poor reading. While the manifestations of dyslexia can dissipate because of effective instruction, most individuals with dyslexia who show intractability to effective instruction have slow and labored reading throughout their lives.

8. Dyslexia operates on a continuum in which the severity can be represented as mild to severe (True). Dyslexia does not look precisely the same for all learners, and the range of reading difficulties because of dyslexia also vary, but reading is normally distributed in the population (i.e. a small percentage of people are excellent readers, most are average or close to it, and a small percentage are very weak readers), and dyslexia is at the lower end of this distribution.

9. Many students with dyslexia display difficulties with spelling and handwriting (True). Students with dyslexia often have difficulties not only with reading words but also with spelling and writing words. Effective instructional approaches target word reading, spelling, and writing.

10. Dyslexia has a familial and genetic association (True). There is a much higher rate of dyslexia in families with a familial history of dyslexia–as high as 45 percent in most studies.

11. Improving home literacy will resolve dyslexia (False). It is not useful to consider the home environment as the causal factor for dyslexia. While opportunities to read are beneficial to all learners, improving home literacy will not resolve reading challenges for individuals with dyslexia.

12. Brain training can improve reading outcomes for students with dyslexia (False). Many approaches to improving dyslexia falsely claim that they can ‘train’ the brains of individuals with dyslexia resulting in improved reading outcomes. Cognitive training in isolation of a reading program does not generalize to improve academic outcomes.

13. Only certified language therapists are capable of providing effective reading interventions for students with dyslexia (False). Educators with extensive knowledge of the science and practice of reading instruction who are using evidence-based practices are prepared to meet the needs of students with dyslexia.

14. Students with dyslexia see letters and words backwards (False). Perhaps one of the oldest and most persistent myths regarding individuals with dyslexia is that they see and write letters and words backwards or upside down. Many young children reverse letters when beginning reading and writing; with instructional practice and feedback, this issue is remedied.

15. Vision therapy is an effective approach for students with dyslexia (False). The faulty idea that dyslexia is a result of a vision disorder of some type has been very slow to go away. Many vision training approaches exist and have not been associated with any improvements in reading for individuals with dyslexia, including a recent randomized trial that showed no effect of optometric exercises on reading skills.

16. Dyslexia can be addressed with medications (False). There is no medication that will remedy word reading difficulties. While many students with dyslexia also demonstrate difficulties with attention and may be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, medications appropriate for these students are aimed at their attention problems, not their reading difficulties per se, and the medications do not lead to improved decoding.

17. Students with dyslexia are more creative, gifted, and talented than other students (False). There are many highly skilled and capable individuals with dyslexia who have gifts and talents. Just like in the population as a whole, not all individuals with dyslexia would be identified with extraordinary gifts or talents.

18. Classroom teachers can be a valuable asset to remedying difficulties for students with dyslexia (True). Classroom teachers may be the most important and valuable resource for students with dyslexia. Classroom teachers are their primary reading teachers as well as the educators who have the most influence on their self-worth. Classroom teachers can be a tremendous source of social-emotional and educational support for students with dyslexia. Armed with the knowledge and skills, classroom teachers can alter the learning and life trajectories of students with dyslexia.”

Excerpted from: Vaughn, Sharon, and Jack M. Fletcher. “Identifying Students with Significant Reading Problems.” American Educator 44:4 (Winter 2020-2021): 4-8. Print.

Term of Art: Afroasiatic Languages

“Afroasiatic languages formerly Hamito-Semitic languages: Superfamily of about 250 languages presently spoken by and estimated 250-300 million people ethnically and physically diverse people in North Africa and parts of sub-Saharan Africa and in southwest Asia. The major branches of Afroasiatic are Semitic, Berber, Egyptian, Cushitic and Chadic. Berber is a group of closely related languages spoken by perhaps 15 million people in enclaves scattered across North Africa from Morocco to northwest Egypt and in parts of the western Sahara. Cushitic is a family of about 30 languages spoken by more than 30 million people in northeast Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, and a few areas of northeast Tanzania. Omotic, formerly classified as part of Cushitic, is a cluster of perhaps more than 30 languages spoken by 2-3 million people, most of whom live near the Omo River in southwest Ethiopia. Chadic comprises about 140 languages, most poorly known to linguists, spoken in northern Nigeria, southern Niger, southern Chad, and northern Cameroon; except for Hausa, probably no individual Chadic language has more than half a million speakers.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Term of Art: Afrocentrism

“Afrocentrism: Ideology that promotes the study of history from an African point of view, viewing Africans as agents of history and not merely as subjects of investigation. One of its controversial tenets is that ancient Greek culture, especially philosophy, owes its accomplishments to Egypt, and idea brought to widespread attention by Martin Bernal’s Black Athena (1989). The debate on Afrocentrism has sparked charges and countercharges of racism, in part due to extremist pronouncements on both sides. A number of urban schools in the United States now offer an Afrocentric curriculum.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Term of Art: Year-Round Schooling

“year-round schooling: A modified school calendar that gives students short breaks throughout the school year instead of the traditional three-month summer break. Year-round calendars vary, sometimes within the same school district. Some schools use the staggered schedule to relieve overcrowding; others use it because they believe the three-month break causes students to forget much of what they learned the previous year. Some schools are on a single-track schedule, in which all students are on vacation at the same time, whereas others operate according to a multitrack schedule, which allows students to take their vacations at different times during the year. Advocates of year-round schooling claim that it saves money, maximizes use of facilities, reduces vandalism, improves student retention of academic content, and reduces dropout rates. Critics contend that the intensive use of school facilities creates maintenance problems and extra expenses (e.g., air-conditioning in the summer); that multitrack schedules cause difficulties for family vacation schedules; and that scheduling extracurricular activities is complicated when team members attend schools in different cycles.”

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

Term of Art: Cognitive Style

“cognitive style: The preferred way an individual processed information, usually described as a personality dimension that influences attitudes, values, and social interaction. Unlike individual differences in abilities that describe peak performance, styles describe a person’s typical mode of thinking, remembering, or problem solving. Having more of an ability is usually considered beneficial, while having a particular cognitive style simply denotes a tendency to behave in a certain manner.

Field Independence/Dependence A number of cognitive styles have been identified and studies over the years; field independence/field dependence is probably the most well known. Individuals view the world in different ways. Those who are called “field-dependent” perceive the world in terms of larger patterns and relationships, whereas those who are “field-independent” perceive the world in terms of discrete elements–they look at the pieces that make up the whole.

Most schools in Western culture favor a field-independent approach, rewarding students who tend to work and organize information on their own. These learneer are objective in that they make what is being studies into an object to be analyzed and understood.

Studies have identified a number of connections between this cognitive style and learning. For example, field-independent individuals are likely to learn more effectively by studying by themselves, and are influenced less by social reinforcement.”

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

The Weekly Text, December 18, 2020: Four Context Clues Worksheets on Enthusiasm (n), Enthusiast (n), Enthuse (vi/vt), and Enthusiastic (adj)

This week’s Text, which will be the last for this benighted year, is four context clues worksheets on the nouns enthusiasm and enthusiast, the verb enthuse, and the adjective enthusiastic. If you want to make a point about words as they appear across the parts of speech–known in linguistics by the term of art morphology–these might help.

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.

David Hume

Like most of the material on philosophy you’ll find on this website, I wrote this reading on David Hume and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet for one of three students I served over the years who took a keen interest in philosophy. Hume is an important figure in the history of philosophy, which was the primary criterion as I labored to produce material that would keep said student or students engaged.

These documents, however, may be useful for professional development. Hume did, after all, write on issues of importance to educators, particularly in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. And for our own purposes, and perhaps for students with an interest in it, Hume’s work on skepticism is not only important to an understanding of teaching and learning, but also a cornerstone of the Enlightenment.

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: Expository Writing

“expository writing: A term that refers to informational writing typically given during the first year of college to prepare first-year students for academic writing. Generally, entering first-year students will take at least one semester of expository writing. Some colleges require a two-semester sequence of expository writing courses.

In some cases, students with writing problems may be required to complete developmental or basic writing courses before they can enter the expository writing course.

Expository writing includes description, comparison/contrast, definition, classification, argument, process analysis, and cause-and-effect. These types of writing or rhetorical strategies may be taught using models and examples, and as ends in themselves, or as strategies to use within informational essays that include a number of different patterns.

In general, the goal of teaching these types of writing patterns is to provide a foundation for the kinds of text-based writing required in specific academic disciplines.

Expository writing may be contrasted with expressive writing or the personal essay, in which students are allowed to focus on their own experience, perceptions, and memories. Much more than expressive writing, expository writing may pose problems for individuals with learning disability who may find it difficult to organize ideas, support main ideas with details, or apply paragraph and essay structures.”

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