Tag Archives: professional development

H. Lynn Erickson on Coherence in Curricula

“…But a coherent curriculum also fosters through the grades, in a deliberate and systematic design, increasing sophistication in critical content knowledge, conceptual understanding, and complex performance abilities. The current emphasis on meeting national and state standards requires thoughtful planning in curriculum design. We cannot afford to do dinosaurs and rain forests at three different grade levels. We need to use the precious time in schools to maximum advantage. This does not mean that we cannot do thematic, integrated units or bring relevance and active student engagement into the learning process. But it does signal the need for coherent curricular plans that achieve the desired outcomes for students–outcomes that are based on the realities of living, learning, and working in the 21st century, as well as the mandates of discipline-based standards and assessments.”

Excerpted from: Erickson, H. Lynn. Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction: Teaching Beyond the Facts. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2002.

Term of Art: Individualized Reading

“An approach to reading instruction developed in the 1950s as an alternative to basic reading programs; emphasizes student selection of reading materials and self-pacing in reading. With this method, the teacher adjusts instruction to student needs during small-group work and in individual conferences.”

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

A Glossary of English Language Arts Terms

The other day, while rummaging around in a folder containing learning supports for English Language Arts lessons, I found this glossary of critical terms for use in English classes. I have no idea whence I excerpted this; the lack of citation troubles me. In any case, it is a list of conceptual terms mostly at the center of what English Language Arts teachers profess, and particularly, in many cases (aesthetic impact as a term of art comes immediately to mind) for advanced students.

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.

Professor Daniel Willingham’s First Demonstration of Memory

[Nota bene, please, that I originally posted much of this material in a Weekly Text from August 28, 2015, which would have made it one of the earliest publications on this blog. This lesson continues to evolve, so I have decided to publish it once more with a couple of supplementary materials. If you have used this in your classroom, and plan to use it again, you may want to check back here every so often to see if I’ve added documents. I’ve also given this post a new title so that it is easy to search and locate on Mark’s Text Terminal.]

Is there a way we can assist our students in remembering what we teach them in the classroom? More broadly, can we help students become stronger, more effective, and therefore more satisfied learners, particularly in terms of retention (de rigeur now for hyper-tested students), by showing them how memory actually functions? The answer, or part of the answer at least, thanks to Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, is yes. Professor Willingham writes a column called “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” for The American Educator, which is an excellent quarterly journal of research into pedagogical practice and educational policy issues published by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). I’m amazed at the consistently cogent and useful scholarly research the AFT presents in this first-rate publication.

Anyway, in the winter 2008-2009 issue, Professor Willingham published his column under the title–clicking on this hyperlink will download of PDF of the article–“What Will Improve a Student’s Memory?” This is a cognitive science experiment in three parts that demonstrates the role of thought and memory in the learning process. So far, I’ve developed for use in teaching a lesson adapted from Professor Willingham’s First Demonstration of Memory, will help you and your students conduct the first of these three experiments, then sort out its immediate results. Through this clever and concrete demonstration, students will learn that thinking is the parent of memory–as Professor Willingham emphasizes.  I like to start the year with this lesson; in fact, I teach it on the first day of school, before discussing classroom norms and expectations, as a way of setting the tone (i.e. your learning comes first) for the year.

To get to the instructional material in the PDF, you’ll need download the article by clicking on the link above, then scroll down through the document to page 26, “Demonstration of the Three Principles.” You’ll use Demonstration 1: once you’ve read through the procedure for the demonstration. Nonetheless, here is the unit plan for all three lessons that rationalize the use of these three demonstrations of memory with students. Eventually, I’ll write the other two lessons for demonstrations two and three, and post those here as well.

To the documents for this lesson: here is the lesson plan for demonstration one. Although the PDF posted above includes the procedures for all three demonstrations, here is a typescript of the procedure for the first demonstration in Microsoft Word, should should need or see fit to alter or adapt this material for your class. This structured and numbered worksheet might hasten the process of delivering this lesson, particularly for struggling students. Over time, working with a large and homogenous group or students, I developed two supports for concluding the work on this lesson. Students will need to determine, as part of this exercise, which kinds of words they remembered. This first version of the support give students the words in the order in which they were read, and asks them to find the words they remembered by searching the list. That requires focus and the ability to sort out information; some students I have served over the years struggled with this part of the activity. So I designed a second version of the support with the words read arranged by type in columns in a table, and therefore a bit less challenging to interpret and process.

I find this lesson, taught to a well-focused class generally takes less than the 44 minutes my school has deemed adequate for conveying new information and providing students with an opportunity to use it. After finishing the procedural work, and sorting out the results of that work to assess its meaning (it’s part of the procedure in the article), I like to ask students a few questions. The big question is, of course, Why did you remember the words you rated for pleasantness? Another query I use is What can students and teachers do to work together to study words in a way helps students remember their meaning and use them in their future discourses? (Do your students understand the concept of discourse? It seems to me it’s a word and concept high school students really ought to know.) I also ask questions that prepare students for some of the work we’ll do that is animated by Professor Willingham’s first demonstration: Is there something common to words that can help us understand them as families? which helps to rationalize the use of word root worksheets. Is there a way to learn words by thinking about what they might mean?  justifies the use of do now focus on one word worksheets.

In any case, through this clever and concrete demonstration, students will learn that thinking is the parent of memory–as Professor Willingham emphasizes. I like to start the year with this lesson; in fact, I teach it on the first day of school, before discussing classroom norms and expectations, as a way of setting the tone (i.e. your learning and the means by which it is accomplished are of paramount importance in this classroom) for the year.

Most  of the vocabulary building work I’ll publish on Mark’s Text Terminal derives directly from my understanding of the cognitive mechanisms Professor Willingham’s first demonstration exposes. This lesson, if nothing else, may help you persuade resistant students that this is a useful way to learn and master new words and the concepts or things they define.

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.

H. Lynn Erickson on Our First Priority in Education

“Our first priority in education is to develop sound literacy skills. All the career exploration in the world won’t compensate for lack of reading, communication, or thinking abilities. If elementary schools red-flag all students who are developmentally delayed in the basic skills, intervention programs making creative use of school personnel and programs can bring greater degrees of student success. When instructional programs are not working for some students, they deserve a more appropriate curriculum. If the amount of time spent on literacy development is not producing the expected level of mastery, then the time devoted to these areas needs to be expanded. Schools can no longer afford to let students slide through, even if outside reasons make the inside instruction difficult.”

Excerpted from: Erickson, H. Lynn. Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction: Teaching Beyond the Facts. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2002.

Phoneme (n)

The smallest distinct sound unit in a given language: e.g. tip in English realizes three successive phonemes realized in spelling by the letters t, i, and p.

Detailed definitions have varied from one theory to another, But, in general, two words are composed of different phonemes only if they differ phonetically in ways that are found to make a difference in meaning. Thus in English i and a  are difference phonemes since, for example, tip does not mean the same as tap, nor pit the same as pat. The individual phonemes are then the smallest units in each word that distinguish meanings and, in addition, are realized over distinct time spans. By the same criterion, i and a are single phonemes since they cannot be analyzed into smaller units meeting the criterion, each with its own time span.

Thence phonemic; e.g. a phonemic transcription of a word, etc. is its representation as a sequence or other combination of phonemes.”

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

Term of Art: Experiential Learning

“Education that emphasizes learning from firsthand, personal experiences rather than from lectures, books, and other secondhand sources. Experiential learning my take the form of internships, service learning, school-to-work programs, field studies, cross-cultural education, or training for leadership development.”

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