Tag Archives: professional development

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.

Cultural Literacy: Dark Ages

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Dark Ages.

In posting this document, I understand that I’m dealing with a contested term. In fact, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as the period became better understood, historians began restricting its use to the Early Middle Ages, generally the first few centuries following the fall of Rome. When I was teaching global studies in New York, one of the concepts that was chronically overlooked while my co-teacher droned on in a recitation of decontextualized historical facts was the difference between periods of intellectual enlightenment and intellectual repression–indeed, the active promotion of ignorance and superstition.

If one looks at intellectual history, this oscillation between lightness and darkness, as Petrarch framed it, recurs fairly regularly (in fact, we’re arguably in the middle of such a period as I write this). I always thought that in teaching global studies, we ought to use the trial and death of Socrates as an illustration of the contest between intellectual freedom and the superstition and ignorance which opposes it. Once we accomplished that, we can cite this phenomenon everytime it expresses itself in history. It would make introducing the Carolingian Renaissance, the Renaissance itself, and the Enlightenment (and its antithesis, Romanticism) a simpler and deeper conceptual endeavor at once. In United States history, this dynamic expresses itself, I submit, in everything from the First and Second Great Awakenings to the McCarthy Era.

And we end up with those big concepts in historical inquiry that Claude Levi-Strauss called binary oppositions: faith and reason, law and anarchy, science and religion, knowledge and ignorance, and so forth. Those pairs, I think, are what Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe had in mind when they talked about identifying (and helping students to understand) “big ideas” in instructional planning.

If you find typos in this document, 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: Abstract

“Abstract, (noun) A text summarizing the matter or principal points of a book, article, record, or speech, especially of an official or technical document; abbreviated or concentrated version; condensation. Noun: abstractor; Verb: abstract.”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Term of Art: Apposition

“Apposition: A syntactic relation in which an element is juxtaposed to another element of the same kind. Especially between noun phrases that do not have distinct referents: e.g. Lucienne is in apposition to my wife in Do you know my wife Lucienne? Thence of other cases where elements are seen as parallel but do not have distinct roles in a larger construction: e.g. Smith is said to be apposed to Captain in Do you know Captain Smith?”

Excerpted from: Matthews, P.H., ed. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Term of Art: Auxiliary

“Auxiliary (Aux): A verb belonging to a small class which syntactically accompanies other verbs: distinguished as such from a lexical verb, of full verb. E.g. could and have are auxiliaries, accompanying a form of write, in He could have written it. The first belongs to a class of modal verbs that can stand alone, as in a sentence I could, only if a following verb is ‘understood.’ The second is an auxiliary related to the past participle (written); distinguished accordingly from have as a lexical verb, e.g. in I have the answer.

Auxiliaries usually mark modality, tense, or aspect: e.g. the construction of have with a past participle marks the perfect. Hence the same term has been applied to other grammatical words that mark such categories, whether or not they are verbs.”

Excerpted from: Matthews, P.H., ed. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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.

Cultural Literacy: W.E.B. Du Bois

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on W.E.B. Du Bois. He is a world-historical figure about whom, I confess, I know less than I should.

Fortunately, I found my way to the rich public programming at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, where I have been attending particularly rich and edifying webinars on Monday afternoons. These are open to the public; if you’re on Twitter, simply follow the Beinecke, which regularly tweets about upcoming events. Otherwise, searching “Mondays at Beinecke” (or clicking on that hyperlink) will take you to a calendar of events at the Library.

In any case, the Beinecke possesses some of W.E.B. Du Bois’s papers, which came to the Library by way of one of the major collections at the library, the James Weldon Johnson and Grace Nail Johnson Papers, which is a treasure trove of materials related to Black History in the United States in the twentieth century.

If you find typos in this document, 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: 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.

African Music

“African music: Music of sub-Saharan Africa. Though a vast geographical area with diverse cultures, Africa’s music has a number of unifying traits. Its traditional music, including its ‘art music,’ is orally transmitted; thus, pieces do not exist as finished works, but are conceived of as recreated differently with each performance. Another general characteristic is the prevalence of ‘call and response.’ Aside from its spiritual and celebratory and dance-accompanying roles, African music has a distinctly political role; the griot sings the tribe’s history and creates songs of praise for the leader, or mocking songs when community feeling is running against the leader. The association of words with music extends to the existence of words to be thought while performing purely instrumental pieces. Being largely improvisational, African music employs only limited counterpoint (including roundlike imitation that may be an outgrowth of overlapping calls and responses), though melodies are often accompanied in parallel intervals, creating a chordal texture, and truly polyphonic music is played on the mbira, where the melodies performed by the two hands are conceived as separate. Rhythm is highly developed in Africa. Whereas Westerners tend to perceive simultaneous patterns as sharing a common meter, Africans think of such patterns as cycles with different starting points. Outside influences have played a role in African music, most importantly Islam. In recent times, compatible elements of Western music have mixed with indigenous elements, though in popular music these Western influences more likely arrived via Arabic and Indian examples. The music of North Africa represents a separate tradition.”

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

Terms of Art: De Facto and De Jure Segregation

“de facto segregation: Racial separation that occurs in a school or other public institution ‘in fact’ or ‘in practice,’ as a result of such factors as housing patterns or school enrollment and not because of legal requirements. See also de jure segregation

de jure segregation: Racial separation that occurs in a school or other public institution as a result of laws that require separate facilities for people of different races. De jure segregation was declared unconstitutional by the U.S Supreme Court in 1954, in the Brown v. Board of Education decision.”

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