kitchen table math, the sequel: 9/29/13 - 10/6/13

Friday, October 4, 2013

How to study

Look what I just found!

Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology by John Dunlosky1, Katherine A. Rawson1, Elizabeth J. Marsh2, Mitchell J. Nathan3, and Daniel T. Willingham4

Now I need to drop everything & spend the next two days a) reading "Improving Students' Learning" and b) employing "Effective Learning Techniques" so I can remember how to Improve Students' Learning....which is sounding a bit circular as I write.

I'll get to that as soon as I finish annotating Tony Wagner's 2008 "Rigor Redefined," which our new $400K superintendent distributed to the board of ed last week.

The board is now deciding the future direction of the district, so naturally it's time to roll out a vintage piece of warmed-over, pre-crash Tony Wagner:
Daniel Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind, observes that with increasing abundance, people want unique products and services: “For businesses it's no longer enough to create a product that's reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful.”1
Remember those days? The days when "increasing abundance" could simply be assumed?

That was then.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Have I mentioned lately that I am not a fan of credentialism? (and Word is not for writers)

Edel went to a college in Pennsylvania and Melinda to one in New York. Both have undergraduate degrees in elementary education, yet they both recalled how lost they felt when they first stood in front of a classroom. They hadn’t done nearly enough student teaching, they felt, and, in any case, the student teaching they had done hadn’t prepared them to deal with issues, as Edel put it, “like poverty, drugs, crime, and hunger” that she was seeing on a daily basis.

In desperation, Edel sent a note to one of her college professors asking for help. (He gave her a few pointers.) Melinda recalls thinking that even the most basic elements of her job — classroom management, organization, lesson planning — were things she had to figure out on her own, after she had begun teaching. When I asked them what they had learned in college, they shouted in unison: theory! (Denise went on to get a master’s degree in education, which she laughingly described as “not exactly hands-on.”)

Three Sisters (Not Chekhov's) by Joe Nocera | NY Times | Published: September 27, 2013
Speaking of classroom management, organization, and lesson planning, I am trying to figure out how to make my computer act like Google.

Katie Beals told me, a while back, that computers were not designed with writers in mind, and that is soooooo true. I have dozens of copies of exercises, lessons, class readings, handouts, fables, folktales, fairy tales, myths, etc. scattered all over my hard drive, and I can't tell which ones it's safe to throw out because I can't tell which copies really are identical copies and which are different.

Of late, I have taken to dating every single thing I write, create, or duplicate (making duplicates is the real problem)....but that doesn't work, either, because duplication produces multiple copies with the same date in the filename, which doesn't help.

Word does tell me, in the Finder window, which of several documents I opened most recently, BUT if I forget to read the date and open the document without thinking -- which I inevitably do--the history is gone.

I need my computer to do its own personal Google search.

I need it to go find every single copy of a document AND every single near-copy of a document (and I'd like it to find things it thinks may be related to the documents I'm looking for).

Then I need my computer (this part is nothing like Google) to tell me which copies are exactly the same, which ones are not the same, what exactly is different among the four or five copies of the same file, and when I last revised what.

I've tried to develop a habit of including a "Last Revised" notation inside every document I create, but I create hundreds and hundreds of tiny documents -- exercises and lessons and brief passages for my class -- and at any one time I'm juggling so many of them that I have not become a person who automatically and without having to think about it includes a "Last Revised" line in every document.

I will keep trying, but why should I have to become that person, anyway?

Word could easily enter a "Last Revised" line in every document I create, so why doesn't it?

As far as I can tell, Word was created for students, not teachers.

Students and student types.

Word was created for people who were going to write something ONCE, put it out there, then never look at it again.

Word was not created for people who write something once, then revise it after class, then re-revise it one year later, then re-re-revise it after that class, then re-re-re-revise it one year after that, etc.

It's a problem.

Skunk at the party

From Grammar Alive! A Guide for Teachers By Brock Haussamen with Amy Benjamin, Martha Kolln, Rebecca S. Wheeler, and members of NCTE's Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar:
A Broken Subject

At the start of this new millennium, throughout much of the K-12 English curriculum, grammar is a broken subject. If you find yourself just not knowing what to do about grammar-how to teach it, how to apply it, how to learn what you yourself were never taught-you are not alone. Grammar is often ignored, broken off altogether from the teaching of literature, rhetoric, drama, composition, and creative writing. Grammar is the skunk at the garden party of the language arts. Perhaps you've set aside time for labeling parts of speech, correcting errors, and modeling effective use of punctuation, but you may feel unmoored: you wonder whether the grammar you learned in school (what little there may have been) is sufficient or if the methods you learned by are up-to-date. And you certainly wouldn't be alone if you were embarrassed to reveal to your colleagues all that you don't know about grammar. Grammar feels like a frowning pedant reproaching you for not knowing enough about subject-verb agreement, for blithely ending sentences with prepositions, for splitting infinitives without even understanding what that means, for promiscuous use of commas and flagrant case violations. And, even if you speak and write with a confident tongue and well-schooled hand, you may tremble at the thought of trying to get your students to write complete sentences.
This is a remarkable passage.

It takes as a given the fact that English teachers know nothing about grammar. Worse, not only do English teachers know nothing about grammar consciously, they (apparently) know little about grammar unconsciously (procedurally), either. Their own writing is distinguished by "promiscuous" use of commas and "flagrant" case violations.

Why are these people paid to teach writing?
You are not alone. The obstacles to revitalizing the teaching of grammar are several. One is that our profession has lost sight of the connection between studying grammar and learning to read and write. As Robert J. Connors recounted in "The Erasure of the Sentence," our interest in analyzing sentences has faded since the 1970s. Today it is the process of writing, along with originality, authenticity, and personal writing, that we value. The change has left sentence-level work--even such proven approaches as sentence combining-in shadow. We're not comfortable encouraging students to be original and authentic one minute and then assigning them exercises in sentence structure the next. Many English departments, and highly respected English teachers, argue forcefully that sentence-level work is mechanical, behavioristic, antihumanistic, and, most scorn-worthy of all, boring.
I'm sorry.

An English teacher who has no interest in analyzing sentences is not an English teacher.

Writers write sentences. That's what writing is: it's writers writing sentences. The raw material of writing is the sentence, and a sentence is an essay in miniature.

The structure of every sentence is a lesson in logic.
John Stuart Mill (1773-1836)

The essential structure of the ordinary [English] a noble thing.
Winston Churchill