There’s More To Learning the Alphabet Than Letter Names

Apr 3rd, 2012 | By

By Dave Krupke During four decades of service as a public-school speech-language pathologist in the mid-west, I have been in many preschool program settings – both regular education and special education. I have seen many focused attempts to teach letter names to 3, 4 and 5 year old children, ranging from making letters in sand tables, in shaving cream, with Elmer’s glue, with chalk, with large crayons, with markers, and by tracing a letter made from sandpaper. There were many teacher attempts to associate these letters with student names in the class and with common objects, but it dawned on me just a few years ago that there was one thing missing – there was little or no purposeful attempt to associate the letter sound with the letter name! As a result, I began asking teachers about why they did not specifically facilitate letter-sound knowledge and the typical response was that they thought that letter names needed to be taught first and the children would learn the sounds later. It struck me that this was a stark example of an unintentional instructional mismatch – the adult concept that letter names should be taught first in a systematic, linear way in [...]

The Gift of Inner Knowing

Dec 31st, 2010 | By

At the beginning of July, 2010, I spent a week with a group of educators from Ontario Canada – what an enriching and inspiring experience! We were there as Performance Learning Systems (PLS) instructors to share and learn more about collaborative inquiry, differentiated instruction and classroom management. When a group of experienced and passionate educators gather, discussions are never limited to the specific topics on the agenda . . . and such was the case at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario. Much of the discussion in the sessions and beyond involved teaching and assessment. To a person, the consensus was that real change needs to happen in education in Canada and the US in the ways we engage students in learning and in the ways we assess their learning. For our students to survive and thrive in a global society, more emphasis needs to be placed on thinking vs. regurgitation of information . . . and the assessment of thinking needs to move beyond “paper & pencil” methods. A traditional teacher role has been to impart knowledge as the expert and to have students parrot back information as “proof” of their learning . . . usually in “paper-pencil” assessments [...]

Counting On What Counts

Nov 24th, 2010 | By

As was so aptly put by Albert Einstein, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted”. Those of us in education are very good at counting and keeping track of student performance with numbers and data. We notice every error in spelling, math, writing, reading accuracy, quizzes, chapter review questions, unit tests, and standardized tests. Scores often reflect what is left after all of the errors are subtracted. I have even seen spelling and math tests returned with the “score” in red ink and a minus sign in front of the number. Wouldn’t it be better to put +17 instead of -3? Teachers rarely miss inappropriate behaviors in their classrooms, the hallways, the cafeteria, the gym, at recess or on the bus. Outside of school, parents notice when children are misbehaving much more often than when they are being “good”. That seems to be adult human nature – notice what is “bad” and frequently make a comment. How would we, as adults, like it if the only comments we heard from our boss were about our mistakes? What kind of message would result and how would we feel? Consider this thought from Dr. [...]

The Shower Doesn’t Work

Aug 28th, 2010 | By

Back in May, our niece from California graduated from the University of Iowa, so her family stayed at our house for a few days pre and post graduation. As is the case in most households, having company means cleaning things and rooms that aren’t usually included on the regular schedule. While there is a bathroom on the main floor in a spare room addition, the shower hasn’t been used for over a year. One of my jobs was to clean the stools, sinks, and showers. I left the spare room bathroom for last . . I cleaned the sink, the stool and then turned my attention to the shower. Hmmm . . . water to the sink, water to the stool . . . no water coming out of the shower. I checked all of the water shut-offs and everything was as it should be. Too late to call a plumber, since everyone was arriving that night! We got through the week of company by using other showers and things returned to normal. No hurry in figuring out what was wrong with the shower, right?  Wrong . . my wife announces that  a good friend is coming from out East [...]

Valuing or Devaluing – The Choice IS Ours

Jun 21st, 2010 | By

In any relationship, all parties have choices involving whether to value or devalue others. When we consider Emerson’s thought that “the ancestor of every action is a thought”, we realize that it is our thoughts that determine our actions and our words . . . and that we do have a choice about what we think. Conventional wisdom tells us that actions are stronger than words. Yet we also know that words can be delivered “out of sync” with the actions that accompany or follow.  In addition, it is commonly known from research and practical experience that undesirable behavior can be stopped by negative comments, but changed in a lasting way only with positive ones . . . delivered frequently. There was a study many years ago (source unknown) that involved tallies of comments between parents and their children in their homes for a period of time. Results indicated that parents comments were more negative than positive – a ratio of 13 negative to every positive comment. The data gathering then shifted to a school setting, with tallies of commentary between teachers and students in a typical classroom revealed a 3:1 ration of negative-to-positive. Much better than in the home [...]

Tim’s Moment of Brilliance

Feb 27th, 2010 | By

A number of years ago, I worked in a school with an Early Childhood Special Education Program. Tim, one of the students in the class, was a very quiet and happy boy. He didn’t have a lot to say but had an ever-present smile, so we called him “Mr. Smiley”. As a speech pathologist, I worked with Tim on a variety of skills, including the classification/sorting skills of inclusion & exclusion. Tim progressed in his speech & language skills through the years and appeared to be ready to “graduate” in 1st grade, so I decided to give him an exclusion task just to see how well he could group, sort and explain his reasoning. I chose 4 pictures: a duck, a turkey, a bear, and a penguin . . . thinking that he would pick the bear because the rest of the animals were birds. A very valuable lesson awaited me when Tim made his choice for what didn’t belong. I asked the question, “Which one doesn’t belong with the others?” Tim thought a moment and replied “the penguin!” as he smiled broadly. Since I had a preconceived thought about what the correct answer should be (the bear), I was [...]

It’s All in the Noticing

Jan 16th, 2010 | By

Over a century ago, there was a great piece of scientific wisdom from the Dore Lectures on Mental Science by Thomas Troward, who stated: “The law of flotation will not be determined by the contemplation of the sinking of things but by contemplating the floating of things which floated naturally, and then intelligently asking why they did so.” Moving that same line of thinking into education, a universal wisdom about learning results – “The law of successful learning will not be determined by the contemplation of the failure of things, but by contemplating the learning of things, and then intelligently asking why.” A great deal of successful teaching has to do with what and how teachers “notice” the outcomes of their well planned lessons and carefully chosen words (sometimes not so carefully chosen words). Educators must “notice” and comment on what is “right” more than noticing and commenting on errors and mistakes. This also applies to parents. We must be mind “full” of what “is” . . . and mind “less” of what “isn’t”. Many years ago, research shown that the ratio of negative-to-positive comments in American homes was greater than 10:1, which is 10 negative comments for every positive [...]