kitchen table math, the sequel: Arthur Whimbey web site

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Arthur Whimbey web site

Have I ever mentioned I'm a fan of Arthur Whimbey's?

Possibly not, apart from the 6 posts I see I've written on text reconstruction.

Analyze, Organize, Write

I've just discovered (re-discovered?) an Arthur Whimbey web site

I'm ordering one of the Thinking Through Grammar books.

Page samples here.

Thinking Through Grammar: Senior


RMD said...

I liked Whimbey too .. . until I found out about Michael Clay Thompson books . . . much simpler for my younger kids . . .

Crimson Wife said...

We have Dr. Whimbey's Thinking Through Grammar: 5th & 6th Grade book and I have to say it was a disappointment. I'm not planning on using it again with my younger kids.

The grammar sequence I've decided upon for my kids is Jessie Wise's First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 1/2 then alternating Michael Clay Thomposn's books with Don Killgallon's.

Crimson Wife said...

I just realized that I gave a 4 star review on Amazon to the book back in March. Obviously, that was a bit premature- oops!

TerriW said...

We are currently using First Language Lessons interspersed with Queen Homeschool's Language Lessons for Little Ones. I find them to complement one another nicely, particularly at the age/ability level we're working. (Precocious 6 year old that can read anything you put in front of her but is slow to write.)

FLL Grade 1 is primarily oral, which works out perfectly for reluctant writers and there's a lot of emphasis on memorization -- not only of grammar, but also poetry.

Queen's LLFLO is Charlotte Mason-based, so they are very short lessons with copywork, narration and a lot of poetry appreciation and picture/art study, to boot. We went way back on this one to the earliest phonics level to ease her into copywork, starting with just letters.

The two approaches work quite nicely together, I find.

I don't quite know yet what we'll use later on, but I keep hearing about those Thompson books, so they are on my radar.

palisadesk said...

I'm a big fan of Arthur Whimbey, starting with a book I read about 15 years ago, entitled Intelligence Can Be Taught. It was an early work, co-authored with his wife Linda, but challenged my preconceptions at the time. He did not maintain that you can turn an anencephalic into a Nobel Prize winner, but marshalled a great deal of evidence that cognitive skills, reasoning, and much of what we consider "intelligence" is susceptible to instructional intervention. I followed up on some of the separated-identical-twin data he cited (among other things) and it did support his contention that environmental effects could make a huge difference.

Whimbey also had a good sense of how to engage and motivate low-ability students. He characterized their cognitive behavior as demonstrating a great deal of what he described as "one-shot thinking." The student would take one stab at a task, or make one improbable guess, and if that didn't work, s/he would give up. They had to be taught to generate hypotheses, consider alternatives, weigh evidence, and so on, but they could do this if carefully taught.

I followed up on Whimbey's work by studying Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment which comes at the same idea from a different direction. Some of my very low-ability students did quite well when I was able to work with them over a period of two or three years and get not only foundation "rote" skills in place, but also cognitive habits.

Anyhoo, this past year I broke out Whimbey again when I was given a group of low-performing sixth graders who were not classified Sp. Ed. and did not have IEPs, but who were doing poorly on the standardized (holistically-scored) reading test. They all decoded quite well (a surprise), talked intelligently, were fairly motivated and co-operative, but seemed not to THINK about what they read. I tried old standbys like reading some O. Henry stories and cliff-hangers like "The Right Kind of House" and "The Lady or the Tiger" and trying to get discussions going on what was happening in the story and the likely outcomes......zzzzzzzzz. They had an outstanding class teacher so I saw no reason to try to replicate what she was doing.

After a few weeks I dug out Whimbey's Mastering Reading Through Reasoning and we did selected chapters together. It encourages students to work in pairs, to model thinking aloud and problem-solving as you go along, and teaches some specific strategies for making sense of different types of text. Much of the material is engaging, even "fun" in spots and the kids really enjoyed it. I don't know if their reading scores went up, but their engagement with text certainly did.

If I had had them long enough I would have broken out Analyze, Organize, Write! also, because I could see that their written responses were of poor quality because they lacked systematic reasoning, verbal expression and understanding of how to lay out an argument or a position on an issue. They had done nothing but journals and touchy-feely "all about me" writing before.

Catherine Johnson said...

I LOVE Analyze, Organize, Write - though I haven't been able to force Chris to work through it. Nevertheless, I am a huge fan.

Is Arthur Whimbey still alive?

Catherine Johnson said...

fyi: I'm going to be teaching composition at a local college this fall. So I'm poring over all my books & resources -

Any advice you all have to offer, I'd love to hear!

I'm in touch with the precision teaching list, too. They've been great.

palisadesk said...

Doesn't Western Canada fund parents to send their kids to Catholic schools?

Not exactly. Each of the 10 Canadian provinces has its own system of K-12 education (there is no federal involvement in education). Until recently all the original founding provinces had religion-based public schools, Catholic and Protestant in Ontario and Quebec, Catholic, Pentecostal, Anglican and other denominations in Newfoundland, I'm not sure what denominations for Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick. This was in the constitution, aka the British North America Act, which had to be amended by the Parliament in the UK. After Canada repatriated the BNA Act they added a Charter of Rights and passed some amendments, among them amendments to allow Quebec to change from a religion-based system to a language-based system (English and French), and allowed Newfoundland to have a single public school system for all religions.

Ontario still has a system of K-12 public schools and K-12 Catholic schools which are also public (tax supported). The western provinces provide partial funding to private schools, but only one or two have public Catholic schools, and I am not sure which ones. I do know that Alberta is the only province with charter schools, and some of those are religion-based. They are fully publicly-funded. The Edmonton (Alberta) School Board is the poster child for school choice, as it offers all kinds of specialized schools.

--Yes, a Catholic school can require voucher students to take a religion course.

In what state in the US?

Milwaukee has a well-developed voucher system and many voucher students go to Catholic schools and yes they do take the religion class but if they are not Catholic they are exempt from some activities. In D.C. some of the voucher students went to religious schools as well. After al, no one is forcing the student to go to the Catholic (or other religious) school, so they can be expected to participate in the regular life of the school.

The question of whether this violates the separation of church and state is a different question.

And as for Allison's rhetorical question about Islamist Sharia schools, I would have great difficulty with that. So, think, would most people, even ones who consider themselves pro-equity and diversity. There might need to be some strict guidelines about where vouchers could be "spent" so as to exclude cults, religious extremism of any brand, or schools whose curricula did not meet a standard of some kind.

Note to ChemProf: Ontario phased out Grade 13 by the end of 1993, but university degrees still are a 3-year affair. They always admitted U.S. kids with Grade 12, not requiring an extra year; I checked it out for a nephew and niece, because the tuition costs were incredibly less than in the USA and the university programs (at least the best ones) extremely good.

Linda Seebach said...

The pitch on Whimbey's website offers as an example of sentence combining,
four possible ways of combining

The pool was drained.
The bottom was repaired.

One is

After draining the pool, the bottom was repaired.

Ack! If this is their best-foot-forward presentation, run away as fast as your feet can carry you.

Anonymous said...


Why? I know nothing about writing, including why you'd care about combining or what is to be achieved from it, but what is so terrible about the above example?

Barry Garelick said...

I'll hazard a guess at what irritated Linda about the combining of the sentences. A participal (i.e. "draining") in the first part of the sentence requires the word that follows the comma to be the subject of the sentence. So "After draining the pool" should be followed by who did the draining, i.e, "he/she/it/senor Mendez/etc repaired the bottom." But the passive construction makes it hard to do that, so a better way of combining them might be:

"After the pool was drained, the bottom was repaired."

Anonymous said...

So, either the sentence should be consistently passive, or it should be consistently active, but don't flip between the two?

Linda Seebach said...

Barry is right about the grammatical point, although it's usually phrased slightly differently. If a sentence begins with a participial phrase, the subject of the main sentence is assumed to be the agent of the action implied by the introductory clause. That is, their sentence appears to result from combining

The bottom drained the pool.
The bottom was repaired.

Obviously, it can't mean that.
It's not so much that one can't combine active and passive in the same sentence, as that the combining switched the original sentence, "The pool was drained," from passive voice to active without making corresponding changes to "who did what." The sentence

After the pool was drained, the crew repaired the bottom.

is perfectly fine; but "after the pool was drained" is not a dangling particple that has to go looking for its subject in the rest of the sentence; it already has a subject.

(Actually, using those two passive voice sentences as an example is bad pedagogy, since it introduces a confusing additional complication. And displaying bad pedagogy on your website, when you're trying to sell what you represent as good pedagogy, strikes me as a pretty poor marketing strategy.)

Linda Seebach said...

Oh, this is the other way to combine a passive participle with an active main sentence:

After being drained, the pool was ready to have its bottom repaired.

(The main verb in the sentence is "was ready," which is active, even though the infinitival clause, "to have its bottom repaired," is passive.)

Crimson Wife said...

Catherine- my kids aren't old enough to use it yet, but I've heard lots of raves about Michael Clay Thompson's Advanced Academic Writing. You can learn more about the program here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Linda.

I did not remember the rule that the if you start with a participle phrase, the subject should match the actor for that participle, if I even learned such a rule.

I just defaulted to my own rule that if it sounds awkward in my voicing, something must be wrong. I'm glad to know there are actual rules. What do you recommend for teaching writing? Do many writing courses for students teach grammar alongside, or do they assume grammar was taught in prior years?

Linda Seebach said...

I think the teaching of grammar, if it survives at all, is largely confined to a few isolated enclaves, having mostly become collateral damage in the Reading Wars. And that's not entirely regrettable, as much of what was once taught as English grammar is wrong or irrelevant and the people who taught it were unaware that the rules as presented in Warriner's grammar books had little to do with the ways they and their students learned or used their native language. You only learn about such things when you start formally studying a second language where the rules are different.

As a grad student in linguistics (Minnesota, 1988-1992), I took a two-quarter course in English grammar intended for prospective English teachers. But it didn't teach me any rules I didn't already know; it merely made them explicit, and gave me technical terminology to talk about them intelligibly. Very useful for a writer, especially for a writer wishing to dispute her editor's suggested changes, but not a course in writing.

I've never taught writing, I was a math professor before I happened to turn into a journalist. A good book on writing is Joseph Williams' "Style: Toward Clarity and Grace," but I don't know how it works as a text. Someone on the Direct Instruction list, which I think you also read, wrote, "I had to take a writing class because i had failed the writing entrance exam to CSULA School of Education. I had the fortunate experience of an excellent teacher. He used 2-3 sentence excerpts from novels that we were required to model and he graded." That sounds like an excellent way to design a beginning writing course, but it would require immense amounts of preparation to find a suitable selection of examples. Williams' book has lots of such examples.

Crimson Wife said...

I had the fortunate experience of an excellent teacher. He used 2-3 sentence excerpts from novels that we were required to model and he graded." That sounds like an excellent way to design a beginning writing course, but it would require immense amounts of preparation to find a suitable selection of examples.

Don Killgallon's Sentence Composing series takes this approach. Big "thank you" to Catherine for introducing me to them!

Anonymous said...


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