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Monday, December 9, 2013

Introduction to John Gatto

As a professional in the field of education, I was surprised that I am only just now learning about John Gatto.

John Gatto challenges our public school system in the best of ways.  He has a unique voice and some pretty 'radical' ideas. I believe his ideas are important for educated and active parents to meditate on, whether they agree entirely with those ideas or not.  

John Gatto came to public attention when The Wall Street Journal published his short resignation letter entitled, "I Quit, I Think."  After having taught for 30 years and received 'Teacher of the Year' for a third time, John Gatto was resigning from his position with disgust for his profession. 

Here is an excerpt from his letter.  Full version found HERE

David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can’t tell which one learned first—the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I label Rachel "learning disabled" and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won’t outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, "special education" fodder. She’ll be locked in her place forever.
In 30 years of teaching kids rich and poor I almost never met a learning disabled child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths, created by human imagination. They derive from questionable values we never examine because they preserve the temple of schooling.

That’s the secret behind short-answer tests, bells, uniform time blocks, age grading, standardization, and all the rest of the school religion punishing our nation. There isn’t a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints. We don’t need state-certified teachers to make education happen—that probably guarantees it won’t.

How much more evidence is necessary? Good schools don’t need more money or a longer year; they need real free-market choices, variety that speaks to every need and runs risks. We don’t need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it. I can’t teach this way any longer. If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know. Come fall I’ll be looking for work.

Oscar and I have started reading The Underground History of American Education online, for free.  It is verbose and a bit repetitive.  I'm not a fan of the writing style, but I am very much so of the ideas.  I am interested in learning more about the strategies he used as a teacher.

He is most famous for his book Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. 

The book that I am looking into reading is entitled, A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling.  At least by title, it seems the most interesting to me.
Friday, December 6, 2013

Marshmallow Math: Early Math for Young Children
Marshmallow Math by Trevor Schindeler is right up my alley.  Straightforward techniques to teach math in a big picture, real world manner.

The book provides 50 suggestions for teaching mathematical concepts to young children, toddler age and up.
NOTE - I see no reason not to start verbalizing these practices with Julianne right now.  If I can read to her and to talk to her, I can count with her and present math concepts just as well.
 These suggestions are easy to implement in a fun and every day manner.  The book is divided into 4 sections.

1.  counting, addition and subtraction
2.  sorting, telling time, spatial awareness, patterns, geometry, reading and writing numbers
3.  more addition and subtraction skills
4.  multiplication and division

We will probably be on counting for awhile. Unlike Doman style math, these strategies require little prep and are very easy to implement.  

I have just started the book and I already want to ship out copies to several of my students.  This is a no brainer for me.  By just changing our language a bit and presenting some opportunities, we can build up our children to have a solid foundation in math.

Math should be and can be fun. I feel very inspired.  Obviously, I am recommending this book.

If this book isn't at your local library, you can get it on your kindle (or completely free kindle for PC program) for only three dollars.

If you want a physical copy of the book, Amazon has it new for $15.75.

I read the sample text on kindle for PC, but think I will purchase the hard copy to easily copy pages for my clients. 
Thursday, December 5, 2013

Signing Time

My Intro to Baby Signs
I think the first video I watched on Baby Sign language was in 2007.  I had just received my four year degree in Psychology and started my first adult job as a Developmental Interventionist.  I sat in a big conference room with only three other women.  We pulled up chairs around an old fashioned TV on a rolling cart and watched an antiquated video (it may even have been on a VCR) about infant sign language.

Why Sign
I learned that it increases vocal language development, rather than hinders it and that it decreases frustration and therefore maladaptive behaviors.  We learned a few signs through the video, but during my work in early childhood education, I have only used 'more' and 'all done' and 'eat' consistently.  That is simply because they are the most functional.  Baby sign language is all about function. 

My Disappointing Experience
So, along comes my baby girl.  I am excited to be proactive, teach signs early and give her a way to communicate during that stage when they are opinionated, yet unable to communicate vocally.  My good friend's baby signed SUPER early, so I had a good example to follow.

Can we cue the womp womp sound?  Because..... my daughter is already frustrated.

Right out of the womb - frustrated.  When she wants something, her eyes instantly fill with tears, her back arches and she is not in any way paying attention to my hands.  I also never seem to be facing her when I give her milk.  And it is not always easy for me to tell when she is all done.  As I write this, I am thinking of ways to work around these challenges (like signing once I know what she wants and she is partially satiated, also turning her around to face me while I sign it).  Moving on...

My Dream
I forgot to tell you one thing.  While baby sign language is all about function, I had a tiny hope that she would go on to become fluent in ASL.  As a toddler or small child we could make play dates with others in the deaf community - start her training young on appreciating all types of people.  We could look for ways to help her use her skill and give back to the community.  It was a nice hope.  Well, this hope is not over.

Signing Time
I spent my morning watching the first 7 minutes of Signing Time over and over and over again.  Actually it was really just minute 6-7 that was on repeat.  I've decided to introduce ASL to Julianne through songs.  Julianne thoroughly enjoys songs and is very intent on my hands while I make the appropriate movements.  What in the world am I doing teaching her pointless things such as 'The Itsy Bitsy Spider' instead of actual information she can use?  How great would it be to have 5, 8, 12 plus songs to rotate in circulation that actually teach useful information.

I am beyond excited.  This is our first circle time with our first ASL song from Signing Time.


Where to watch Signing Time
Currently, the adult Signing Time videos are available on Netflix. If you don't currently have Netflix, you can check out Signing Time for free through a free trial. 

We have been flirting with the idea of ending our Netflix subscription.  We haven't been watching it as much.  If they got more educational material, we would probably keep it.  As for now, we will probably cancel.   When I think of the ongoing price of Netflix, it is just cheaper to buy it from Amazon at $23.99.

Amazon also rents it on a weekly basis for $1.99.  This is not an option I would take advantage of.  If you want to try it, go with Netflix or your local libary.  If you want to buy it, Amazon, ebay or the manufacturers website.

Enjoy your signing. 
Although I'm not letting my little one watch this quite yet, it is entertaining for me and I imagine would be for a child as well.  For the songs itself, it is worth the investment.  I now know 'my name is,' 'old,' 'new,' 'friend,' 'today,' 'fun' and 'what's your name.' 

Smell the Onions

~ Teaching Tip: Smell the Onions ~
Explain EVERYTHING. When you're in the car, at the grocery store, respond to their questions with questions and explain when you fill your tank with gasoline WHY it needs gasoline to run.....and what does a human body use for goes on and on.  When you cut an onion at dinner, let them smell, touch, and taste it? Where do onions grow? On trees, bushes, in the ground? Look it up online later with pictures and videos. Point out words everywhere you go and encourage curiosity, if you don't know, find out together. This is the part of EL that permeates into every facet of your life and can be incorporated into existing activities, taking little to no extra time.

By BrillBaby Username: TeachingmyToddlers, posted 6/24/13

Answering questions with questions is called self discovery in the world of tutoring.
In my tutoring practice, we utilize self discovery.  This empowers the student, increases intrinsic motivation and builds confidence.  Many times the student can answer his/her own question by applying background knowledge correctly.  It's all about asking the right questions.  Children feel respected and capable when we challenge them to answer their own questions.  If they can't seem to find that answer, they can brainstorm a way to find the answer (look on google, the library, find an expert, etc.)

My students amaze me everyday with their ingenuity.  I'm looking forward to my daughter doing the same.

How Do You "Smell the Onions" with a Baby?
#1 provide opportunities to engage multiple senses
#2 narrate these experiences
"I'm going to write a letter to my sister with this pen." 
:::parent holds pen in front of baby's face::: (visual)
"Pen" (can show flash card with word pen if teaching reading)
"The pen is smooth.  Feel it."
::parent takes baby finger and guides it across the surface of the pen::::
"smooth" (tactile)
"The pen doesn't really smell like anything.  Smell it" 
::parent smells it with exaggerated sniffing, holds out by babies nose::
"Do we taste the pen?  Nooo.  But, I'm going to write with the pen, see what happens.  First the page is blank, then it has words on it.  Watch."
::depending on the age, the baby can try using the pen::
Now that is just a mundane activity, but if your baby is happy alert he/she will learn so much in that interaction and you will have a lot of fun experiencing it with him/her. 
Your baby will learn what a pen is regardless, but what good practice for you to slow down and appreciate the wonder of the world with your little one.