Category Archives: > Parent Interest

Review: David Crystal’s Book on Grammar

MAKING SENSE: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar, by David Crystal
281 pp. Oxford University, $24.95.
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Peter Sokolowski, NY Times: “The indefatigable linguist Crystal’s latest book, “Making Sense,” is a surprisingly entertaining historical and scholarly tour of the mechanics of English.
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Grammar can seem as technical and off-putting as math or physics to many people who nevertheless can speak, read and write very well, and while some books on language prey on readers’ insecurity with lists of word-choice peeves and classist language shibboleths, Crystal efficiently punctures such snobbery.
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His approach is to explain the points of grammar and their natural acquisition in the order in which a toddler develops language skills, a brilliant strategy that allows him to begin with the most basic concepts and build upon them while simultaneously exemplifying the descriptive nature of his work.
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He illustrates the lingering “pernicious” effects of trying to fit the square peg of English into the round hole of Latin grammar, responsible for centuries of confusing information about how English works.
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Discussions of semantics (what we are trying to say) and pragmatics (how we are trying to say it) give a more concrete nature to grammar, and are used effectively here to explain away the silly admonition against the passive voice in writing.
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A primer on corpus linguistics and a short explanation of how our language evolved from Old English help complete Crystal’s masterly telling of why a living language’s grammar, like its vocabulary, is not only unfinished, it is unfinishable. One could not have a more genial guide for such a tour.”
Reading/Spelling tutor in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021, or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com
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25 Ways to Ask”How Was School Today?”

by Liz Evans, Huffington Post

This year, Simon is in fourth grade and Grace is in first grade, and I find myself asking them every day after school, “So how was school today?”

And every day I get an answer like “fine” or “good,” which doesn’t tell me a whole lot.

AND I WANT TO KNOW A WHOLE LOT!!!!

Or at least get a full sentence. So the other night, I sat down and made a list of more engaging questions to ask about school. They aren’t perfect, but I do at least get complete sentences, and some have led to some interesting conversations… and hilarious answers… and some insights into how my kids think and feel about school.

2014-08-29-25ways.jpg

1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)

2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.

3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)

4. Where is the coolest place at the school?

5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)

6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?

7. How did you help somebody today?

8. How did somebody help you today?

9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.

10. When were you the happiest today?

11. When were you bored today?

12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?

13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you’ve never played with before?

14. Tell me something good that happened today.

15. What word did your teacher say most today?

16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?

17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?

18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

19. Where do you play the most at recess?

20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?

21. What was your favorite part of lunch?

22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

23. Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out?

24. If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?

25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.

*****

So far, my favorite answers have come from questions 12, 15 and 21. Questions like the “alien” one give kids a non-threatening way to say who they would rather not have in their class, and open the door for you to have a discussion to ask why, potentially uncovering issues you didn’t know about before.

And the answers we get are sometimes really surprising. When I asked question 3, I discovered that one of my children didn’t want to sit by a best friend in class anymore — not out of a desire to be mean or bully, but in the hope they’d get the chance to work with other people.

As my kids get older, I know I am going to have to work harder and harder to stay engaged with them — but I know it’s going to be worth the work.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-evans/25-ways-to-ask-your-kids-so-how-was-school-today-without-asking-them-so-how-was-school-today_b_5738338.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-evans/25-ways-to-ask-your-kids-so-how-was-school-today-without-asking-them-so-how-was-school-today_b_5738338.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

Reading/Spelling Tutor in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards, O-G Tutor 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

Teaching Students about Their Learning Strengths and Weaknesses

by Michelle Garcia Winner, Social Thinking

Over the years, I have observed so many students get upset by the fact they had “autism” or “Asperger syndrome” or “ADHD.” While they could verbalize these terms aloud, they still didn’t seem to understand what their learning challenges actually were.

I have also observed many adults explaining to students that the reason they were having difficulty socializing, studying, and learning was because they had “autism” or “Asperger’s syndrome”, or “ADHD.” I thought this was a really abstract way of explaining to students with limited abstract thinking how best to understand their own learning challenges. I also have observed that many of our smart but socially not-in-step students were using their label as an excuse for not working at learning new ideas; they interpreted the fact that they had a diagnostic label as a reason to not continue to learn.

I have also been inspired by the writings of other professionals who describe learning abilities and challenges within a framework of “multiple intelligences” (see Howard Gardner). Essentially this means that each of us have different types of intelligences and we each have our strengths and weaknesses with regard to our own brain’s design.

Strengths and Weakness Lesson

The lesson I developed is about teaching our students and adults how to understand their social learning challenges in the context of their overall abilities and then how they can use their strengths to learn more strategies related to their weaknesses. I have done this lesson with students as young as eight years old and as old as they come.

The lesson is very simple. To save explaining it all with words, see the chart below.

Strength and Weakness Graph

Here are some basic things I do as I develop this type of chart with the student:

  1. Each chart is completely personalized for the person I am developing it with. It is not about recording test scores that purport to show competencies. The chart is about how the student perceives his or her own strengths and weaknesses. For this reason, you create the chart using any areas that are individualized to the student.
  2. To determine the ideas/areas to post on the chart, take time to talk to students and listen to what they enjoy doing and what they feel they do well.
  3. Always start by graphing out their strengths. It is good to show many perceived strengths. Again, strengths are not about listing academic tasks exclusively. If a student says she is really good at playing a specific computer game or Legos then we make that a category and talk about what number to give it on the chart.
  4. It is also important to find some areas where students perceive they are just OK – their skills are not good or bad. They perceive themselves to be similar to the average person in that area of functioning, or a “5” on the scale. With kids, you can use language such as:
    • “First tell me what you think you are really good at compared to other kids you know.” After you and the student have listed three to five areas on the chart then say,
    • “Now tell me something you are just OK at – you’re like most other kids during playing or learning.”
    • “Now tell me some things that your brain doesn’t make easy for you…things you have noticed most other people can learn easier than you.”
    • Who talks a lot in your class?
    • Who doesn’t tend to do their homework?
    • Who is really good in math?
    • Who is super friendly?
    • Who is mean?If students aren’t used to thinking about how they function compared to others, I will shift gears to explore the idea that we all think about what others around us are doing. At this point, I will ask the student to tell me things like:

    By having this discussion, you help them notice that they are aware of others’ strengths and weaknesses. This often helps them put their own abilities in perspective.

  5. If students can’t answer the questions, I go back and suggest ideas similar to my earlier conversation with them. Ultimately I am doing this to help them put their learning challenges in context. Our students with social emotional learning challenges are usually not good at spontaneously describing what they don’t do well; this is not something people usually talk about. Some ideas I ask them to consider include:
    • How do you do with keeping track of your homework assignments and doing the homework?
    • How do you do with writing paragraphs or reports (writing short responses on paper may have been a strength, while writing longer information is often a challenge)
    • How do you do making guesses about what you are reading?
    • How do you do with playing in a group?
    • How do you do with getting into a group?
    • How do you do talking to other kids?
    • Or I may just ask them about their “social skills”

    It’s important not to overwhelm students when discussing things that are harder for them to do. This is uncomfortable for most of us! Choose some main idea to explore based on what concerns exist with a particular student. At this point, students are usually willing to list these as weaknesses compared to the other areas on the chart.

  6. What to do if students rate a weakness as a perceived strength?I routinely make a chart of my brain’s strengths and weaknesses so they experience their teacher/leader admitting to weaknesses. Then, I’ll write the area they mentioned as a strength on the chart and pause there to discuss it more in the context of the others’ strengths. More often than not, students decide it should be listed as a lower number on the scale. However, I have worked with students who are genuinely afraid to list something as a weakness. In those cases I reassure them that everyone has weaknesses, including me. On rare occasions, I have said to a student, “Actually, this is an area that you are not as good at and this is why you are here today.” Then I lower the ranking on that social area on the scale compared to the other areas listed, while explaining that it is expected and OK that people have learning weaknesses.
  7. If you are familiar with the teachings of Social Thinking® you will also be able to explain how socially-based learning weaknesses (organizational skills, written expression, social relationships, reading comprehension, etc.) are all related. Making this connection with our students helps them see how they don’t have all that many weaknesses. Instead, there is a weak root system that leads to different areas of weakness. (For more information on this please read about the ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking in the book Inside Out: What Makes Persons with Social Cognitive Deficits TickThis concept is also the focus of the article, Social Thinking – Social Learning Tree.”)
  8. You will find your students are usually pretty honest about themselves. It is often amazing how they are willing to talk about the fact they have strengths and weaknesses when it’s presented this way. When they have strengths in language and learning facts, we can then explain how these abilities will help them learn more information in the areas where learning is not as easy or natural to them.
  9. Once the chart is completed, I then go on to talk about what it means to have a learning disability: that the student has relative learning weaknesses compared to their strengths or even the “OK” areas of learning. Remarkably, many of our students don’t understand what learning disabilities or differences are, so they react to their weaknesses with anger rather than understanding they can usually use some of their learning strengths to help them in their weaker areas. I have worked through anger about learning differences much more successfully using this scale.
  10. You will find that your students/adults are much more willing to discuss how they learn, what they are good at, and what they are not so astute at learning in this context, compared to simply talking to them about the fact they have ASD, AS, ADHD, etc.
  11. Once you’ve reached this point with students, the next step is to discuss specific things they can work at learning to boost their area of weakness to a higher number on the scale. I also explain that they likely will never get their weak area as high as their strong areas, because their strengths are what their brain is naturally good at learning. But they can improve how they do in their weaker areas as long as they work at learning!

Once you make the chart you can refer back to it session after session. It is also a helpful tool when explaining to parents/caregivers what our students’ labels really mean in terms of their learning abilities.

A note on language: The language-based explanation, “Your brain doesn’t make this easy for you,” helps many of our students put their challenges in context. Make sure you regularly point out when they are doing things their brains do make easy for them, and not only talk about their areas of weakness or areas that need improving.

Final, final note: The “art” of teaching is critical in this lesson. Stay in step with your students emotionally while you go through this lesson. Spend some significant time talking about what they are good at and pretty good at, rather than rush to their weaknesses and then spend all your time on this area. Remember, our students are often really talented when we are not demanding they participate in socially-based situations. Take time to celebrate the many things they do well to give them the strength to talk about what they don’t do as well.

Source: https://www.socialthinking.com/Articles?name=Teaching+Students+about+Their+Learning+Strengths+and+Weaknesses&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article_teachingstudentsabout

[My note: Social Thinking is a terrific resource for families and professionals dealing with children who have socializing challenges.]

for Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and spelling help in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

Keep Up With Homework: Tips

for Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH, see below

At Understood.org, Amanda Morin makes these four suggestions (I’ve added a comment or two):

1] Catalog by Class: students can use different colored binders/folders for each separate class. Make headers on papers showing topic and date. Utilize file pockets; identify which pockets will keep ‘pages to be dealt with,’ ‘pages to hand in,’ ‘pages to be filed into a binder/folder.’

2] Have one dedicated space at home where student stores school materials: it’s difficult to stay organized if notebooks, notes, textbooks and writing utensils are scattered through the house.  Have a dedicated desk if possible, but if not, a shelf or cabinet where these can always be found.

3] Create a system for study materials: the system might be as simple as a shoebox filled with paper, pencils, highlighters, staplers, clips, scissors. After finishing work, you or your student restocks the supplies and sharpens pencils for next time. A lot of time is wasted searching for these things.

4] Type up class notes: if a student types notes, they are easier to read. But typing them also helps build memory.  In addition, if he emails them to himself he’s got them at school in case he forgets to bring them to class. Or: use a cloud service (e.g. Google Drive or Dropbox) to access school documents from anywhere with an Internet connection!

source: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/homework-study-skills/at-a-glance-4-strategies-for-keeping-up-with-studying?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=understoodorg

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate and former teacher, and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 (call or text).  Or Email: aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com.

Thanksgiving: ADHD Tips

By Lexi Walters Wright at Understood.org

[Reading tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

Interrupted Schedules

If your family is traveling for Thanksgiving, your child may be sleeping in a strange place and following an unfamiliar schedule. Even if you’re hosting, your family’s routines may be disrupted. That’s rough for kids with ADHD.

DO This: Stick to your child’s routines as much as possible. Try to arrange travel or guest schedules so that he eats and sleeps when he usually does. And prepare your child in advance for any disruptions you foresee. Give him an overview of what will be happening beforehand, and then remind him at each stage what’s coming next.

Waiting for the Meal

When the whole holiday is centered on a single meal, the hours beforehand can feel like eternity for children with attention issues. The anticipation may make them bored or cranky, which can lead to squabbles—or tantrums.

DO This: Before Thanksgiving, enlist relatives’ help to line up some morning activities. Could a grandparent or uncle take your child to the park? Might some older cousins set up a family game for the younger kids? Let the kids know in advance what’ll be happening when. This way dinner won’t be the only thing for them to look forward to.

Company Commotion

If your Thanksgiving involves a lot of people, your child may feel upset by the noise and activity. And kids with attention issues may get frustrated if they’ve settled down to read or work on a project and the hustle and bustle distracts them.

DO This: Whether you’re home or away, find your child an “out” spot. Agree on a place where he can go for a set period of time to be alone and listen to headphones, play a game on his phone, or read.

Preoccupied Parents!

Young kids with attention issues often need constant direction from adults. That’s hard when you’re trying to finish making Thanksgiving dinner and can’t stop to play with your child.

DO This: First, try to get as much as possible done before Thanksgiving Day. Make what you can in advance, buy the pies, go potluck for side dishes. That way, you can set aside time to check in periodically with your child. And delegate. Is there a relative who’d be happy to oversee your child for the morning? Give him coloring books, art supplies, puzzles or a new DVD so he can keep your child occupied while you’re busy.

Take Turns Talking

Kids with attention issues may talk nonstop before, during and after dinner, annoying guests. If your child is impulsive, he may interrupt family members’ stories to tell his own. If a grandparent challenges him, he might say something rude.

DO This: Before Thanksgiving, role-play appropriate ways your child might start, join and end conversations with guests. Consider coming up with a code phrase or signal you can use to clue him in if he starts taking over the conversation.

Sitting Still through the Long Meal

Lengthy holiday meals are especially tricky for children with attention issues, who may find it hard to sit through “grace,” let alone a multi-course meal. Add unfamiliar foods and grown-up discussions, and you’ve got the makings for a meltdown.

DO This: Relax your expectations. Thanksgiving isn’t the day to expect perfect behavior, so seat him at the kids’ table. He’ll do best with some parameters, such as not interrupting the adults. But let him wander between courses. If he’s a teen, see if he wants to be “in charge” of keeping dinner fun for the younger guests.

~thx Understood.org

https://www.understood.org/en/family/events-outings/holidays-celebrations/common-thanksgiving-challenges-for-kids-with-attention-issues?view=slideview

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ eNotes Quick Study Tip: Solving Chemistry Equations

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From eNotes, which provides study guides for students (and resources for teachers as well) here are some tips for solving chemistry equations.

Solving chemistry equations isn’t easy for most students.  But practice and determination will give you confidence.  eNotes asks you to keep these three tips in mind as you do your chemistry homework.

  1. Take a moment to organize the equation before you pull out your calculator to do the math.
  2. Pay close attention to the units to make sure they are canceling correctly.  If units aren’t canceling correctly, then your answer won’t be correct.
  3. If you do a question multiple times before getting it right, make sure you look at the incorrect attempts to see where you went wrong.  Did you invert a conversion factor?  Forget to convert from kJ to J?  Miscalculate a molar mass?  This will help you make a mental checklist of potential problems in other equations.

eNotes want you to know that if you get really stuck, Editors are standing by and ready to help.  You have options for access to this help, you can choose monthly or yearly subscriptions.

eNotes is giving away an Amazon Kindle Fire every month in 2012.

Like them on Facebook as well!

Visit eNotes at http://www.enotes.com/lit/study-guides?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=december

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Linguists Say Girls are Pioneering Vocal Trends

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Douglas Quenqua in the NY Times reports that linguists are far from calling the “Valley Girl” trend called uptalk and the use of “like” in sentences as markers of immaturity and stupidity.

They are now explaining that young women use these embellishments in much more sophisticated ways than people realize.

Says Penny Eckert, professor of linguisitcs at Stanford

A lot of these really flamboyant things you hear are cute, and girls are supposed to be cute.  But they’re not just using them because they’re girls.  They’re using them to achieve some kind of interactional and stylistic end.

In December, researchers from Long Island University published a paper in The Journal of Voice.  From an admittedly very small sample — recorded speech from 34 women ages 18 to 25 — they found evidence of a new trend among female college students: a gutteral fluttering of the vocal cords they have called “vocal fry.”

Vocal fry is best described as a raspy or croaking sound injected (usually) at the end of a stentence.  Says Quenqua, it can be heard when Mae West says “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime;” or when Maya Rudolph on Saturday Night Live imitates Maya Angelou.

Nassima Abdelli-Beruh, a speech scientist at Long Island University, says we shouldn’t scoff.  “They use this as a tool to convey something.  You quickly realize that for them it is as a cue.”

And another linguist, Carmen Fought, professor at Pitzer College, says “If women do something like uptalk or vocal fry, it’s immediately interpreted as insecure, emotional or even stupid.  The truth is this: Young women take linguistic features and use them as power tools for building relationships.”

“It’s generally pretty well known that if you identify a sound change in progress, then young people will be leading old people, and women tend to be maybe half a generation ahead of males on average,” according to Mark Liberman, linguist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Why Women?

Some linguists suggest that women are more sensitive to social interactions and hence more likely to adopt subtle social cues.  Others feel women use language to assert their power in a culture that has asked them — in days gone by — to be sedate and decorous.  A third theory is that young women are simply given more leeway by society to speak flamboyantly.

“Uptalk”

It is well established that female vocal fads eventually make their way into the general vernacular.  Starting in the 1980s in America (after possibly emigrating from Australia), “uptalk” was common among Valley Girls. 

In the past 20 years, uptalk has traveled up the age range and across the gender boundary, according to David Crystal, a longtime professor of linguistics at Bangor University in Wales.  “I’ve heard grandfathers and grandmothers use it.  I occasionally use it myself.” 

The same can be said for the word “like,” when used in a grammatically superfluous way, or to add cadence to a sentence.  It has found its way into Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, which explains that people use ” like” in a sentence “apparently without meaning or sytactic function, but possibly as emphasis.”

“Like” and uptalk often go hand in hand. There are studies that show uptalk can be used for many purposes, and sometimes to dominate a listener.

Cynthia McLemore, linguist at Penn, found that senior members of a Texas sorority used uptalk to make junior members feel obligated to carry out new tasks. (“We have a rush event this Thursday?  And everyone needs to be there?”)

Vocal fry, also known as “creaky voice,” has some history.  Dr Crystal cited it as far back as 1964, when he noticed it was a way for British men to denote their superior social standing.

In the United States it has been gaining popularity since 2003, when Dr. Fought detected it among the female speakers of a Chicano dialect in California.

Actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon have used creaky voice when portraying contemporary American characters (“Shallow Hal,” “Legally Blonde”). 

What does it denote? Ikuko Patricia Yuasa, lecturer in linguistics at UC Berkeley, calls it a natural result of a woman lowering her voice to sound more authoritative.

But it can also be used to indicate disinterest, which teenage girls are fond of doing.

According to Dr. Liberman,

It’s a mode of vibration that happens when the vocal cords are relatively lax, when subvocal pressure is low.  So maybe some people use it when they’re relaxed and even bored, not especially aroused or invested in what they are saying.

Dr Eckert says that language changes very fast, however.  Most people — particularly adults — will almost surely make mistakes when they try to divine the meaning of new forms of language used by young women.

“What may sound excessively ‘girly’ to me may sound smart, authoritative and strong to my students.”

For Douglas Quenqua’s article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/science/young-women-often-trendsetters-in-vocal-patterns.html?_r=1&ref=science

Note: Every Tuesday the NY Times has a Science Times insert, chock full of great reports from the world of research as well as little known facts to intrigue any student!

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com.