kitchen table math, the sequel: 8/12/12 - 8/19/12

Friday, August 17, 2012

Karen H recommends a Gettysburg address lesson in rhetoric

re: Jen's Star Spangled Banner reading comprehension lesson, Karen H points out that the Gettysburg address offers a terrific example of parallelism. Check out the Teacher Resource Guide Karen pointed me to:
Parallelism Parallelism is a rhetorical technique in which a writer emphasizes the equal value or weight of two or more ideas by expressing them in the same grammatical form. Example, “that nation so conceived,” and “any nation so dedicated.”
List all the examples you can find.

Antithesis Antithesis is a rhetorical technique in which words, phrases, or ideas are strongly contrasted, often by means of a repetition of grammatical structure. In literature, the use of antithesis as a figure of speech, results in two statements that show a contrast through the balancing of two opposite ideas. Example, “the brave men,” and “our poor power.”
List all the examples you can find.

Alliteration The repetition of the same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables. Alliteration is fun to say and enjoyable to hear, and used to call attention to certain words. Alliteration is an important sound technique for mak- ing particular words stand out. It also connects the words to be emphasized. Example, “Fondly do we hope—fervently do we
List all the examples you can find.

Repetition Repetition is a classic technique in presentation and speech making. It helps tie the theme together and it creates clarity for the listener. Additionally, we remember words and phrases more readily when they are packaged in threes. Example, “We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground."
List all the repetitive examples you can find.


Address delivered at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives so that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow-this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far sp nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

November 19, 1863. ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Using speeches and other historical documents to teach reading comprehension and writing:
In the Event of Moon Disaster: parallelism, cohesion, the semicolon
Karen H recommends the Gettysburg Address for a lesson in parallelism
Jen on teaching the Star Spangled Banner to her 10-year old (and see Comment thread for more)
Glen on Daniel Boone's autobiography

Thursday, August 16, 2012

ktm Commenter on a jumbled sentence

Back in March (!) I posted a "jumbled sentence" from Carol Jago's book:
To just stop and look at things, ideas and even if you don't like them, or they scare you, stop and explore them you will be a knowledgeable person and make good decisions because you will know all the bad and all the good about the situation.
I am still trying to get a handle on these sentences. How do they come to be?

What are the rules?

These sentences so foreign to me that I can't imitate them, which annoys me to no end. We need a corpus linguistics of student writing. Either that or it's time for me to finally read Mina Shaugnessey.

In the meantime, this analysis by a ktm Commenter is very helpful:
The logical flow of ideas within that sentence is actually not too bad. It's the proper referents and transitions between the sections (is there a technical term I want here?) that are lacking. It can be fixed easily so:

"If you just stop and look at things and ideas, even those you don't like, or that scare you--if you stop to explore them, then you will be a knowledgeable person who makes good decisions because you will know all the bad and all the good about the situation."

I can easily imagine the original being perfectly understood as my above translation in conversation if "and" and "ideas" were swapped (probably the author's sad attempt to be literary).
Next challenge:
These two Charater have very different mind Sets because they are creative in away that no one would imagen just put clay together and using leaves to create Art.
Is Our Children Learning Enough Grammar to Get Hired?

email from Jen re: reading comprehension & the Star Spangled Banner

I love this lesson ----
I do SAT tutoring and closely followed the posts about reading comprehension (and the lack of skills given to build it in most HS English classes). I also have a 10 yo who mentioned that he didn't really know the words to our national anthem. I pulled up the lyrics to show him and, wow, there was a perfectly sized reading comprehension lesson for a 10 year old. It could be read for understanding, visualized, and then paraphrased and summarized. (As you might imagine, he was just delighted.)
While he may still not know the lyrics perfectly in order, it was a great reading comprehension lesson. It occurred to me that it would be an excellent lesson to have in my pocket as a sub as well.

And after all that, the point of the email! I'd love to see if others on KTM can come up with other similar length or up to a page or two in length selections that could be used as effectively for comprehension, paraphrase, and summary purposes (about age 8 on up). If the passage also hits on cultural/historical/scientific knowledge like this did, even better.

O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
update 8/17/2012: Karen H points out that the Gettysburg address offers a terrific example of parallelism and other rhetorical techniques.

Using speeches and other historical documents to teach reading comprehension and writing:
In the Event of Moon Disaster: parallelism, cohesion, the semicolon
Karen H recommends the Gettysburg Address for a lesson in parallelism
Jen on teaching the Star Spangled Banner to her 10-year old (and see Comment thread for more)
Glen on Daniel Boone's autobiography

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2 + 2

3 factoids:

  • The syntactic complexity of the texts children read increases each year, eventually becoming more complex than anything children hear in conversation. This point is reached in the 4th grade. We have Jeanne Chall to thank for this insight, too.
So, starting in 4th grade children are supposed to learn grammar by reading texts written in a grammatical register they have never heard in conversation and never will hear in conversation. Writing is not talking, no matter how smart your parents are.

And, also starting in 4th grade, children's rate of progress in reading comprehension collapses.

Nobody seems to have noticed the coincidence. The National Reading Panel doesn't talk about syntax, E.D. Hirsch doesn't talk about syntax, and the NCTE is interested only in the question of whether formal instruction in grammar improves writing. Not reading.

No one seems to have asked himself whether it was all those precision diagrams of yore that brought children to the level of syntactical fluency that allowed 4th graders to read McGuffy Readers and 10th graders to read Dickens.

Instead, it's been left to speech-language pathologists to discover the fact that if you want children to read, you had better teach them how to read sentences, not just words.

reform writing (Robert Connors on the Erasure of the Sentence)

The War Against Grammar: Chapter 1

It's online!

One of my very favorite books.

Happy Birthday, Andrew & Chris ---

18 years old today.

I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking about their birthdays. I thought about kitchen table math, too.

This morning I told Chris that now he's 18 and going off to college, I'm not going to be his frontal lobes any more. Siri's going to have to handle that.

Siri was supposed to remind Chris to wash the car after work today. So we'll see.

First College Visit

I thought people might like to hear about college visits. (BTW, our son is a rising junior.) Perhaps others would like to add their experiences. We stopped at Oberlin on the way back from Interlochen to see their music conservatory. A tour of the college is a separate tour. You can apply to either or both. You can be accepted to the conservatory but not the college. Only about 20 percent of the total 2800 students are in the conservatory, and of those, maybe 25 percent are doing dual degrees - in both sides. Oberlin is very comfortable. You can see everything in about a half-hour of driving around. The college tours take longer. There really is only one hotel (so-so) in town. After about 10 blocks in any direction, the curbs stop and the farms take over. It's a small school lovers dream. The best part of the college is the complete focus on undergraduates. The downside is that maybe it's a little bit too insular. What feels initially comfortable might end up feeling quite different later on. Then again, it was summer and the place was dead. Also, some non-music students like the idea of going to a college with a conservatory attached. My niece is one of those, and she also went to look at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. My brother-in-law really liked Lawrence. My niece liked Oberlin, but chose the College of Wooster. I think that a little snootiness slips out at times. My niece gave one example about Oberlin, and at a college fair, my son said the recruiter talked to him like a child. However, our tour host (student) was very nice. That variation is probably normal, but my brother-in-law talked about the Oberlin aura that exists in the midwest. We're from New England and Boston casts a bigger influence. I don't think my son sees himself in the very flat middle of farmland. We also did a drive by of Yale. We did their on-line virtual tour, but not the real tour. Our son liked their use of separate colleges and could see himself there, but what are the details? We don't know yet. It seems that one can make very little of any college. The question is what opportunities do you have if you try? How much do you have to compete for those opportunities?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Morningside error correction procedure

From my notes from the Morningside Academy Summer School Institute, in this scenario students are reading words on the board out loud:

Common error patterns
  • Guessing
  • Attending to shape of word
  • Attending to only part of the word

Error correction
  • NAÏVE LEARNERS: Pre-correct by underlining part of word you predict will be an error
  • NAÏVE LEARNERS: Focus & change only the error portion (“I heard something else”) - DON'T write a whole separate word beside the word that was misread
  • Erase only part of word and write in what you heard
  • Erase multiple times – go back & forth between the word written correctly & the word written incorrectly
  • EXPERIENCED LEARNERS: Discrimination correction [see below]
  • Rule of thumb: 5 correct practices for every error
To explain, with naïve learners," which I take to mean beginners, if the word on the board is "tree" and a student read "tray," you would erase the double-e and write in 'ay.' You would not write the word "tray" beside the word "tree."

With experienced learners, you do write the word "tray" beside the word "tree," and then have students go back and forth between the two, reading each correctly.

Unfortunately, I no longer recall the reason for this distinction between beginners and more advanced students. I think it had to do with making sure beginners focus on the exact part of the word they are misreading.

update 8/13/2012: Children with developmental disabilities who have been taught to read with sight words may not be able to learn well from either of these discrimination procedures.

palisadesk on students reading different words than the ones on the page

I write this post to another board a few years ago to explain a major cause of these errors as in Catherine's example:

In fact there has been some solid research on this phenomenon. I can't cite chapter and verse off the top of my head, but it was done by Engelmann or perhaps others in the DI community, and investigated just that pattern you mention: children who consistently misread when for then, of for from, where for there, and similar errors of words that are usually both syntactically and visually similar. [Catherine here, interrupting for a moment: the problem I was asking about mostly involved substituting one preposition for another.]

I may not be summarizing the research 100% correctly, but the gist of it is that what we are seeing is the result of the learner having been presented with two very similar things at the same time (or almost the same time), and not having been taught either one to mastery, so that the two became fused in memory in an indistinct way, and one would be randomly substituted for the other. In the case of most of these word substitution errors, the child is correct some of the time and incorrect some of the time -- so s/he doesn't ALWAYS read "when" for "then" or vice-versa. S/he randomly says one word or the other whenever s/he is presented with either of the duo. Over time, this habit becomes a neural circuit and a learned response that is very resistant to change. It rarely is self-corrected, the way some other decoding errors are, because the misreading usually makes sense even if it is incorrect (it may not make the CORRECT sense, but it is not unintelligible). "Julia talked to Edith when she went to the mall" means something different from "Julia talked to Edith then she went to the mall", but the inaccurate reader is unlikely to notice. It's not like the horse/house instance, where if a child reads "The rider mounted his house" s/he will usually recognize that can't be right.

The DI research indicated that children easily learn what they called misrules (usually due to poor or misleading initial presentation) , and these word substitution errors fall into that category. The more the error is practiced, the harder it is to supplant it and engrave a correct response. It may take hundreds of corrections of when/then errors before the reader reliably gets those words right (has a new neural pathway). Many examples of b/d confusion are the same thing - they are not visual discrimination errors in most cases, but are simply instances of children not having learned one of the pair thoroughly before the other was introduced. When words *are* visually similar, the likelihood of confusion is increased, but the visual similarity is not the cause of the confusion. Some children, for instance, repeatedly confuse other letter pairs, or words, that bear no resemblance to each other -- r and g, for instance, and further inquiry usually finds these were introduced about the same time, the child was not provided with adequate practice to mastery, DID remember that it was either one sound or the other, and would randomly say either /g/ or /r/ when presented with either stimulus (leading teachers to say "he knew it yesterday!" when they don't appreciate the randomness of the response -- but randomness within a very narrow range of options, usually only 2 or 3). One student I had consistently confused the words "and" and "said" which had no relation or resemblance to each other, but were introduced the same week on his classroom "word wall."

One effective remedial strategy -- not the only one -- is to teach these pairs explicitly, but first one word at a time. With when/then, for instance, practice writing the word, dictating "when" sentences, reading phrases and sentences with "when" and stories with "when" (reminding the student at the outset that /when/ is the word s/he will encounter, and no discrimination between when and then will be required); then do the same with the other in the pair, then mix them up -- but have the student slowly and carefully sound out each word if necessary. The solution to those misrule/misreading learned errors is careful and targeted practice to mastery.

One analogy I use (if someone thinks of a better one, please share) is to compare the student's experience confusing when/then to someone with a drawer full of socks -- let's say 30 pairs of socks, half of them grey and half of them black. If you pull two random socks out of the drawer, you will get a matched set half the time. It may not matter much that you get a mismatched pair the other half. Unless you have some reason to pay attention, you don't need to change anything. A grey sock and a black sock keep your feet warm, so what?

I had an experience a couple of years ago that made me aware of how this process works. I had to go around and do an attendance-taking chore first thing in the morning and check off two or three students in several classrooms (long story why -- not interesting). Most of the students I knew, and I would just look in the door and see if they were there and mark the attendance sheet. One Grade 4 class, however, had 2 girls on this list, both of whom were new to me. They did not look anything alike, really -- different ethnicities, one much taller, but both wore hijab and had very unusual first names. When I was first introduced to them, I failed to ensure I knew which one was which by solidifying identifying details in my mind. Usually, both were present, and I'd look in and say to myself, There's N. and there's F -- good -- but I could have N and F mixed up, I just noted they were both there. They would straighten me out when I met them in the hall, if I addressed them by the wrong name, but I continued to mix them up for months. I realized partway through the year that this was a similar error to the mislearning children sometimes do:

--I was introduced to 2 new items to learn at the same time, and they shared some common features but I did not spend time to adequately solidify recognition of the special features of each

-- I was frequently required to rehearse my mislearning but not in a situation where it mattered if I was correct or not, and where I rarely received corrective feedback so that I could stop myself and say, Wait a minute, N is the shorter one, or some other identifying factor.

-- The more times I repeated my random error (it was random because half the time I got their names right), the more likely I was to repeat it in the future.

-- the problem was solved by one girl moving, so after that I knew the remaining girl's name. Even so, a year later, I sometimes addressed that girl by the other girl's name. The experience did provide me with an insight into how these misrules/ mislearnings happen.

The DI research into this was part of their development of the Corrective Reading Program. They did a lot of empirical testing to find out how many times students needed to get those confusions corrected before they would master them and be error-free. The number of correction required varied with the age of the student -- the longer s/he had been making the error, the more correction required. Secondary students needed many more corrections than primary students. They have published some of this data, but it is not (probably) of that great an interest to most people. The principle of mislearning and misrules and how to correct them is of general interest, however.

So is the preventative measure, one of which is to introduce the items separately (sometimes separated by long periods, days or weeks or months), ensuring each is learned to mastery (in the case of word reading, by sounding-out all through the word, and segmenting all-through-the-word for spelling). At the upper grade levels, the DI programs also have students spell the words aloud in addition to blending and segmenting them. I've been meaning to look up the research on this (I know they included it because it improved results in large-scale field trials) but don't remember the details. Oral spelling of the words is not a feature of the programs for beginning readers.

Other programs I have heard of (not the DI ones) take the bull by the horns and DO introduce commonly confused items together -- but emphasize practice to mastery right at the start, so that the confusion and "practicing mistakes" does not have a chance to occur.

No doubt there are many other reasons why individual students get particular words wrong, but many of these common substitution errors do seem to share the same features and have similar origins. Many beginning readers are not expected to master correspondences or be accurate in their word reading (if they "make meaning" it is enough) so the Engelmann hypothesis and experimental data explain the phenomena I usually see.
I'm going to look through my notes from Morningside re: "close-in non-examples." I remember them having a distinct procedure for teaching two mixed-up words.

Jeff Hawkins: memory is intelligence, intelligence is memory

I've just read the transcript of Hawkins' talk, which is posted along with the video.

Maybe this is overstating matters, but on a quick read-through of the transcript my impression is that pretty much everything Hawkins says it as odds with pretty much everything constructivist educators believe:

Intelligence is not behavior.

Intelligence is not computation.

Intelligence is memory.

Memory is memory of sequence.

The point of memory is to predict what comes next.
"[T]he neocortex is just memorizing."
"You cannot learn or recall anything outside of a sequence."
"[I]ntelligence is defined by prediction."
"[P]rediction of future inputs is the desired output."
The education establishment has for many years denigrated both memory and sequence in favor of critical thinking, problem solving, spiraling and history taught as themes instead of narratives.

Meanwhile actual experts persist in knowing stuff and in organizing the stuff they know in coherent sequences.

On the other hand, constructivists have picked up on the idea of 'pattern' and 'prediction' in a way instructivists arguably have not....but the injunction that students must 'look for a pattern' (math) and 'make predictions' (reading) seems often to be a means of avoiding sequence (math) and the kind of ordinary nouns-come-after-prepositions-type prediction Hawkins is talking about.

I don't know whether Hawkins is right, of course. Reading the transcript, I wanted to hear him talk about cognitive illusions and the invisible gorilla. (I don't remember whether he discusses illusions in his book with Sandra Blakeslee.)

From the transcript :
So what is the intuitive, but incorrect assumption, that's kept us from understanding brains? Now I'm going to tell it to you, and it's going to seem obvious that that is correct, and that's the point, right? Then I'm going to have to make an argument why you're incorrect about the other assumption. The intuitive but obvious thing is that somehow intelligence is defined by behavior, that we are intelligent because of the way that we do things and the way we behave intelligently, and I'm going to tell you that's wrong. What it is is intelligence is defined by prediction.


The AI people said, well, the thing in the box is a programmable computer because that's equivalent to a brain, and we'll feed it some inputs and we'll get it to do something, have some behavior. And Alan Turing defined the Turing test, which is essentially saying, we'll know if something's intelligent if it behaves identical to a human. A behavioral metric of what intelligence is, and this has stuck in our minds for a long period of time.

Reality though, I call it real intelligence. Real intelligence is built on something else. We experience the world through a sequence of patterns, and we store them, and we recall them. And when we recall them, we match them up against reality, and we're making predictions all the time. It's an eternal metric.


You're all being intelligent right now, but you're not doing anything. Maybe you're scratching yourself, or picking your nose, I don't know, but you're not doing anything right now, but you're being intelligent; you're understanding what I'm saying. Because you're intelligent and you speak English, you know what word is at the end of this -- (Silence) sentence.


You still have that alligator brain. You do. It's your emotional brain. It's all those things, and all those gut reactions you have. And on top of it, we have this memory system called the neocortex. And the memory system is sitting over the sensory part of the brain. And so as the sensory input comes in and feeds from the old brain, it also goes up into the neocortex. And the neocortex is just memorizing. It's sitting there saying, ah, I'm going to memorize all the things that are going on: where I've been, people I've seen, things I've heard, and so on. And in the future, when it sees something similar to that again, so in a similar environment, or the exact same environment, it'll play it back. It'll start playing it back. Oh, I've been here before. And when you've been here before, this happened next. It allows you to predict the future. It allows you to, literally it feeds back the signals into your brain; they'll let you see what's going to happen next, will let you hear the word "sentence" before I said it. And it's this feeding back into the old brain that'll allow you to make very more intelligent decisions.


So what is the recipe for brain theory? First of all, we have to have the right framework. And the framework is a memory framework, not a computation or behavior framework. It's a memory framework. How do you store and recall these sequences or patterns?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jeff Hawkins TED talk

Haven't watched it yet, but it's probably worth the time.

Here's the blurb:
Treo creator Jeff Hawkins urges us to take a new look at the brain -- to see it not as a fast processor, but as a memory system that stores and plays back experiences to help us predict, intelligently, what will happen next.

Jeff Hawkins pioneered the development of PDAs such as the Palm and Treo. Now he's trying to understand how the human brain really works, and adapt its method -- which he describes as a deep system for storing memory -- to create new kinds of computers and tools.