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MAKING SENSE: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar, by David Crystal
281 pp. Oxford University, $24.95.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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—————————— a CHADD article
Question: I just read the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has just told schools they need to follow the 504 Plan rules better for students with ADHD. How does this help my child? Does the school have to follow this guidance, or is it just a suggestion? And will it help me when I work with the school to have a 504 Plan created for my child?
—Mom in Colorado
Answer: We brought your questions to two members of CHADD’s Public Policy Committee and asked them how this guidance was going to help parents and students affected by ADHD. We also talked about CHADD’s role in working with the Office of Civil Rights while it was preparing the guidance.
CHADD members have for a long time noted that some schools and administrators seemed to have difficulty following Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The law provides directives for the education of children with a disability and has been expanded to include children affected by ADHD. The CHADD Public Policy Committee commissioned a survey of CHADD members in 2014 asking for their experiences with 504 Plans for their children.
During CHADD’s Annual International Conference on ADHD, which took place near Washington, D.C., members of the Public Police Committee invited the OCR to present during the conference. Although, the OCR declined, CHADD and OCR representatives met to discuss their concerns for students affected by ADHD.
“It really grabbed them to see the information we gathered—to see the issues coming up around Section 504,” says committee co-chair Jeffrey Katz, PhD. “It started a conversation.”
The committee shared the results of the survey and the experiences of CHADD members, including those on the public policy committee with OCR. The OCR was very interested in the information, Dr. Katz says.
“We shared not only the data, but a range of concerns about the interpretation of the data from parents and our own professional experience,” says committee member Matthew Cohen, JD. “We helped to convince them of the importance of issuing the guidance. And we helped them identify areas that needed to be addressed.”
Mr. Cohen says the committee members discussed complaints made to the OCR from parents who have children with ADHD, along with highlighting the importance of academic accommodations as part of behavioral management for ADHD. They discussed best practices in treating ADHD, he says, and the importance of schools’ compliance with Section 504. The committee members stressed their concerns about inappropriate discipline for students affected by ADHD and how following Section 504 can help reduce the likelihood of students getting in trouble at school.
“We were particularly focused on ways that schools should be intervening and on ways schools could support kids with ADHD,” Mr. Cohen says. “It’s fair to say, because of us, many of the things we discussed are addressed in the guidance.”
Mr. Cohen says that the guidance, which must be followed by every public school in the United States, should help in three ways: it will educate and empower parents to promote their children’s rights; it will better inform schools about their responsibility and how to assist students affected by ADHD; and it will help OCR in how it responds to complaints brought by parents when there is a problem at the school.
“If schools are more aware of what can be done to assist kids with ADHD, there will be less frequency of kids not getting what they need,” Mr. Cohen says. “While the guidance is not the same as law, it will likely affect due process and court hearings regarding kids with ADHD.”
The guidance, he says, brings better clarity to the law and to both educators and parents when they work to apply the law to benefit students, he says.
“There have been many things OCR has addressed piecemeal in the last 25 years. The guidance pulls things together to provide a coherent statement and strengthen their position altogether,” Mr. Cohen says.
Dr. Katz is a clinical psychologist who has worked directly with parents and schools to help create 504 Plans. He has seen firsthand the frustration parents experience when a child who needs assistance is denied a 504 Plan or that plan is not properly employed.
“I always tell parents that I believe the school wants to do the best to help your kid, but they don’t understand your kid,” he says. “My feeling is that before (the guidance), Section 504 was up to interpretation.”
He frequently saw interpretation differences between school districts and even among principals and other educators within districts, he says. These differences led to students affected by ADHD not receiving 504 services or very limited services and accommodations. Many educators, he says, did not acknowledge that behavioral difficulties stemmed from a student’s ADHD diagnosis and could be addressed by a 504 Plan.
“This document says you have to consider that this child may have a disability if these behaviors are happening more frequently than other children,” Dr. Katz says. “There’s still room for the school to say, ‘We see this and we don’t think it happened because of ADHD,’ but they don’t have much to stand on for that.”
The document broadens the view of which students can and should receive 504 services or accommodations, he says. “We want to make sure we’re not missing the kids who need the 504 services.”
CHADD plans to continue the conversation with OCR and encourages parents whose children are affected by ADHD to also give their feedback to OCR, he says.
“I hope the document puts the pressure on schools to improve their services and improve their identification (of students) and accommodations and services to kids with ADHD,” Dr. Katz said, adding he plans to share his experience with the guidance with OCR when the new school year begins.
Parents can learn more about CHADD’s role in the creation of the OCR guidance on the CHADD Leadership Blog and can read the Dear Colleague Letter and Resource Guide on Students with ADHD for more information on how this can affect their children.
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after a piece at Understood.org by The Understood Team
[O-G reading tutor in Columbus OH 614-579-6021: see below]
Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (NVLD) may be difficult to understand. How about a kid who is very talkative, but can’t hold a conversation? Or a child who can rattle off math facts but has no idea what they mean? A student who reads well, even spells without difficulty, but can’t remember what he’s read to talk about it?
Here are six points to consider.
TALKING, BUT NOT CONNECTING
Children with NVLD can have great vocabularies, quickly picking up words and phrases they read and hear. But then, oddly, they may struggle with casual conversations, especially if the topic isn’t interesting to them. They also may not recognize that another person is not interested in what they are talking about. In addition, they may not know about taking turns and giving another person a chance to speak.
ASKING ABOUT THINGS, BUT NOT EXPLORING
For example, a child may bombard teachers or parents with questions. They may demand information about a new toy, without playing with it to find out how it works. Kids with NVLD often have poor visual-spatial skills. They prefer talking rather than exploring the world around them.
STRONG READING AND SPELLING — BUT POOR COMPREHENSION
Frequently NVLD kids are very good readers; they are good at sounding out letters and words (decoding) and even reading sight words. They are frequently good at spelling. But reading comprehension can be a challenge, and also holding on to meaning. Finding the moral of a story, picking out significant details may be a struggle.
MEMORIZING MATH FACTS, BUT NOT UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPTS
Since math is based on visual-spatial concepts, kids need to picture how two, and another two, come together to create four. They memorize swiftly and may easily rattle off “two plus two equals four” without understanding how the words connect to the concept. They might also have difficulty understanding numbers in columns, and math problems that include “borrowing” and “carrying.”
MEMORIZING INFORMATION BUT NOT KNOWING HOW TO SHARE IT
These NVLD children have great rote memory skills. They can memorize lots of information without work. But explaining and sharing this information can be a struggle. For example, they might go around a classroom repeating the same thing to many students, even to those who aren’t interested. NVLD children can’t see nonverbal cues, such as posture changes, eye-rolls, sarcastic responses.
NVLD children have lots of strengths, but these strengths can hide underlying challenges. Teachers and parents who are aware of these contradictions have taken the first step toward helping their kids use their strengths, build social skills and improve their reading comprehension abilities.
Be aware that the difference between NVLD and autism spectrum disorders can be tricky. Visit helpful sites — especially the terrific Understood.org — to find out more.
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Louisa Moats on dyslexia:
“Quick fixes don’t work.
[W]e should abandon the expectation that serious reading disabilities can be fixed or remediated in a few short lessons per week over a year or so.
If evidence is going to drive our thinking, then all indicators point to this: screen the kids early; teach all the kids who are at risk, skillfully and intensively; and maintain the effort for as long as it takes.
Meanwhile, nurture the students’ interests, aptitudes, and coping strategies and trust that most are going to make it in real life.”
Orton-Gillingham reading tutor in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021; or email firstname.lastname@example.org
by Kyle Redford, Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity Education Editor
[O-G Reading Tutor in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021, see below]
A confession: I get a significant thrill from reading research that confirms my personal suspicions. This happened recently when I dug into some studies about reading and achievement. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), not only does the amount of reading “for fun” outside of school directly correlate to academic achievement, but there are numerous other studies to demonstrate that there is no better way to increase vocabulary than independent reading.
The NAEP study does not distinguish whether the higher achievement scores of students who read more reflected an increased exposure to more words or the specific act of decoding, but I would argue that it is the former. It is hard to imagine that the mechanics related to reading are responsible for these academic gains. We know that good thinkers need words, and reading is a gateway into the world of words and ideas. Therefore it would follow that how one gathers words is less important than how many words one gathers.
What does this mean for dyslexics? Reading is harder and slower for dyslexic students. Consequently, they typically read less. If they are to keep up with their peers academically, then it is imperative to find additional ways to expose them to as many words and ideas as possible.
This is a challenge. Dyslexics often encounter a gap between their reading level and their intellectual level. This can turn them off of reading altogether. They don’t want to read “baby books.” Some handle this by faking engagement with thick sophisticated titles while others decide that they don’t like to read at all and avoid it completely. Both can be disastrous responses. Fortunately, there are a few tried and true tricks for building word power for elementary students with dyslexia.
Many Ways to Read
We all agree that children benefit from exposure to stories for their content, structure, and new vocabularies. But reading independently is not the only way to gain access to stories.
Read Aloud: There are few things as powerful for encouraging a love of reading as a well-read story. This goes for all children. It is never too early to start reading books to children (and, surprisingly, they are rarely too old to enjoy the act of being read to). In Naked Reading: Uncovering What Tweens Need to Become Lifelong Readers, Teri Lesesne cites Becoming a Nation of Readers, a study that was commissioned to examine reading in the United States, to make her own case for why teachers should not abandon reading to their classes once their students become independent readers. According to the study, reading aloud was the single most effective activity for building to eventual success in reading.
Listening to books read aloud allows students to have access to stories that are out of their reading range but within their comprehension zone. Even the most rigorous high school English teachers understand the power and potential of reading aloud to their classes. It also gives teachers an opportunity to model oral reading skills like fluency, proper pronounciation, and oral expression. These conditions serve all students, but they are critical to dyslexics. Dyslexics particularly benefit when they visually track with the reader as much as possible. “Reading along” gives the listening student an increased exposure to the look of words and makes explicit the process of converting letter combinations to sounds. In classrooms, using an “Elmo” gives the entire class a way to follow along with the text. In one-on-one situations, something as simple as sitting next to the child serves the same purpose.
Reading aloud also helps develop the building blocks of reading comprehension. Students are able to discover new vocabulary, formulate predictions, and make outside connections. When children are read to they usually ask questions. Their questions help to clarify what they are taking in and allow them to make meaning with someone else. It’s like having their own built-in book club. Having access to a discussion partner actually gives them an advantage over their silent-reading peers. Many more able readers will rip through stacks of books without pausing for reflection or questioning, thus reducing the potential for grasping many of the ideas or cultural / literary references in the story. Students who are read to actually have a unique opportunity to discuss and question along the way.
Things to think about with read aloud: Read aloud is powerful because of the opportunity to model reading fluency and expression. Consequently, the reader should be comfortable and familiar with the text. Previewing allows the adult reader to know the overarching architecture of the story and the personalities of the individual characters so that they can employ appropriate voice and tone. This is not a time to ask your child to alternate with you while reading. That oral practice is important, but at a different time, with a book that is leveled to his reading ability. This reading time is an opportunity for your child to really engage with a story that he could not read on his own.
Recorded Books: Listening to audiobooks is a way to deliver words and ideas to a child with limited access to an adult reader. Recorded books are wonderful, particularly when authors or professional actors read them. Listening to stories being read aloud by master storytellers goes a long way to cultivate a love of literature. The drawbacks are that the child cannot ask questions or engage with the recorded storyteller and it is more difficult to follow along with the words. Additionally, recorded books also make it more difficult to maneuver around the pages (relocating a passage or a reference requires skill and patience). Despite these drawbacks, recorded books remain a great supplemental way to keep a dyslexic reader well supplied with rich stories.
Bringing Dyslexic Children into the
Conversational World of AdultsBeing included in adult conversations at the dinner table, in the car, or while the family is discussing an important issue benefits all children. It is particularly valuable, however, to dyslexics. They are the hunters and gatherers of the oral world. Because it is harder for them to access knowledge by reading written information, they typically develop strong listening skills. Engaging in sophisticated discussions helps them build their knowledge and word banks while developing transferrable conversational skills. Talking with adults challenges children to use higher-level critical thinking skills and vocabulary. Dyslexics crave context. Conversations with adults offer children a context for ideas and words, two currencies that they will trade in throughout the remainder of their lives.
There are certain lines of questioning that are more likely to lead to rich conversations. Asking for a retelling of events, or a summary of a day or an event, can help children practice two things that are challenging for dyslexics: their word retrieval (remembering the best word to describe things) and sequencing (ordering events). But in order to teach critical thinking skills, children need to be also asked for their opinions. When children are asked how they feel about an issue, why they thought a problem occurred, or why they did or did not like something, they start to think differently. Formulating reasons for their opinions requires children to make connections between their life experience and the experience of others, make predictions, and organize their thoughts. Curiosity is another wonderful outcome. When children become accustomed to being included in adult conversations, they realize they need content in order to engage productively. That leads to questioning, increased awareness of their world, and an ambition to collect and absorb more information. Most importantly, talking with adults offers children an opportunity to practice their oral expression, clarify application of new vocabulary words, and ask questions in a safe environment. Teachers can always tell which of their students are included in family conversations. They have an oral agility, comfort and confidence that distinguish them.
The world of public radio is an amazing wealth of information about politics, culture, and current events. Aside from the periodic story with a mature theme, children can start listening to public radio early on…and it helps. Listening to radio news stories allows children to build knowledge and oral vocabulary by offering up complex words in a meaningful context. Dyslexic children love being experts on content. Through listening, the same child who struggles with mechanical skills during a school day is also capable of strutting his knowledge about an election or a cultural debate during discussion time. NPR can be wonderful in this regard because it takes the listener deep into the subject and usually assumes very little working knowledge about most topics, making it a perfect introduction to many complex subjects for curious young people. Programs like Talk of the Nation, Science Friday, Morning Edition, or Fresh Air (depending on the interview subject) can provide children access to thoughtful content and current debate connected to real world issues and cultural events. Older children will be enriched by programs like All Things Considered, Wait, Wait; Don’t Tell Me, This American Life, and World News Reports from Public Radio International (PRI). Radio is also wonderful because it is a shared experience. Children who are listening at the kitchen table or, much more likely, in the car can engage with other listeners about the subject and ask questions or practice expressing their opinion. Like most things that are good for dyslexics, listening to public radio is something that would benefit all students, young and old, solid reader or struggler, but it particularly enriches a student who craves real world content but lacks easy access through independent reading.
Standardized tests, humanities teachers, and the culture at large reward those with a strong vocabulary. On a subtle level, vocabulary is often used as an unconscious gauge to determine someone’s level of intelligence. But much less subtly, having a strong working vocabulary helps one make meaning from the oral and written word.
It should be no surprise that dyslexic students struggle with written vocabulary. Often complex words are challenging because of difficult pronunciations. Dyslexic students may even know the written word when used in a context or read aloud, but on a written word list it means nothing. Teachers often deliver vocabulary in unimaginative and problematic ways, but the good news is that there are many ways to supplement vocabulary instruction that will help every dyslexic child get more out of word studies.
Illustrating New words: Vocabulary instruction is best when it involves having students draw a symbolic or realistic representation of the word. It requires them to make meaning from a word in a way that memorization of a definition does not. One can’t fake a picture. The first step in generating an illustration involves grasping the meaning or the context of the word. It doesn’t require artistic skill, but it does require thinking deeply. Creating the image also stores the word’s meaning in a different part of the brain, generating a visual association. Having students make pictorial flashcards can be a helpful strategy. Making a little drawing next to the word and its definition is another good practice.
Standardized Test Preparation: Publishers of test prep books are starting to catch on to the power of imagery to create additional associations for memorizing words. There are many vocabulary book/flashcards available now that are organized around images and cartoons. These tools can be helpful for dyslexic students preparing for standardized tests.
Acting Out a Word: Dyslexics also benefit from acting out words. Having to bring a word to life is a little like a game of charades. The beauty of the game is that is requires the actor to understand the word in a deep way. Acting out the meaning of a word is particularly helpful to a child who is a tactile learner (one who learns through using his body), but everyone benefits from creating additional associations for words.
Writing a story using vocabulary words: It is amazing what a random word list can do to spark a child’s creativity. When students are asked to use all the words on their vocabulary list to write a story, not only do they need to understand all the words in context, but students often come up with some very imaginative tales. Dyslexics remember things much better when the information has a context or a narrative attached.
Context, Context, Context
If there is an overall theme to building word power for dyslexics, it is this: context matters. Dyslexic students understand and remember information by relating facts to larger ideas. In order for information to be understood and remembered, it needs to be attached to an idea. It’s no wonder that studies indicate that students who read a lot do better academically and have superior vocabularies. Stories are wonderful for offering a context that supports memory and meaning for all students.
It is sobering, but not surprising, to know that how much time one spends reading influences academic achievement. However, it is also a great relief to know that there are many ways to gather words even when reading is not easy. Dyslexic children usually need additional support in their quest to find a way to gain access to the world of words, but in most cases, all that is required is an alternative path.
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- It’s common for parents to have trouble helping kids with math homework.
- Math is a process. It helps to walk through the process with your child.
- Having examples of a similar math problem can help your child complete tough math homework.
Your child needs help with math homework, but you’re not sure how to do the math problems yourself. Does this sound familiar? You’re not alone. This happens a lot to parents.
Keep in mind that showing kids with learning or attention issues that it’s OK not to know the answers can be a good lesson. Here are some suggestions for approaching math homework with your child.
The Most Important Tip for Math Homework
It’s important not to spend more than 10 to 20 minutes working through math homework that neither you nor your child knows how to do. Spending more time than this will probably just be frustrating for you and your child without providing much benefit.
Try the steps outlined below. If they don’t work, it may be better for your child to get more instruction from a teacher in order to complete the homework.
5 Things to Do When Helping With Math Homework
Here are things to keep in mind when helping your child with tricky math homework.
- Start by acknowledging that not understanding what to do can be stressful.You can also say something positive to acknowledge that your child is trying. For example: “I’m proud that you know what the homework is and brought home the proper materials.”
- Ask your child to show you an example. This could include a math problem he did in class or a sample math problem from a textbook that includes the answer.
- If your child can’t find an example problem, try typing one of the homework problems into an internet search. Your child’s worksheet, textbook or notebook might have a title or math term to search for online. Your search will bring up a list of websites designed to help with math. Try a few sites if the first one doesn’t help.
- Once you’ve found a sample problem either from your child or online, ask how the teacher said to do the problems. Having a completed example in front of him can help your child recall any instructions and class discussions.
- Use the sample problem to figure out the process to follow to solve the problem. Make notes of each step your child remembers as you work your way through the first problem together. This reminds your child that math is a process. The list you create also gives your child something to take to the teacher to show his efforts, even if he doesn’t come up with the right answer. The teacher can use the list to correct the process so that your child can solve the problem in the future.
3 Things to Avoid When Helping With Math Homework
Here are three things to avoid doing when your child asks for math homework help.
- Try not to begin by asking your child what the teacher said to do. If your child remembered that, he likely wouldn’t be asking for your help.
- Try not to contact the teacher right away. Kids with learning and attention issues might give up easily or get angry if they’re not sure what to do. But it’s important for them to try to think of ways to approach the situation before going to the teacher.
- Try not to write a note that just says your child didn’t understand the assignment. Give the teacher information about what your child has trouble with, such as adding fractions. This can help find the “missing piece” to solve math problems.
- Try not to spend more than 10 to 20 minutes working through math homework that you and your child don’t know how to do.
- It’s good to take notes while you’re trying to help solve a math problem.
- If the process helps your child solve the math problem, great! If not, he can show these notes to his teacher for more instruction.
Orton-Gillingham reading tutor in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards, 614-579-6021. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
source: Erica Patino at Understood.org
[O-G tutoring in Columbus OH : see contact information below]
Understood.org offers these nine terms you should know if you are a parent of a child with “dysgraphia.” Dysgraphia is a brain-based condition which causes difficulty with the physical act of writing. The word is often used interchangeably with the term “disorder of written expression.”
Below are nine terms your school or your doctors may use when speaking about writing skills.
“Orthographic coding” means the ability to remember how to form a letter or word and then write it accurately. If a child struggles with orthographic coding they may forget how to form letters; they may have difficulty spelling.
“Disorder of written expression” means a condition in which a student’s writing abilities fall below expectations, based on age and intelligence. Often used interchangeably with “dysgraphia.”
“Sequencing problems” means difficulty ordering letters and numbers. Your child may struggle with directionality when writing letters, or place them out of order. Sloppy handwriting may result.
“Working memory” means short-term memory, which occurs in the part of the brain that stores information temporarily until you can react to it. A student with writing difficulties might have trouble retrieving information from working memory; one possible reason is much of their energy goes into the physical act of writing.
“Graphic organizer” means a visual tool the illustrates or maps out ideas before writing. Other terms for this are “concept maps” or “mind maps.” Students with writing challenges often find graphic organizers helpful to outline an assignment before writing.
“Fine motor skills” means small muscle control: those muscles needed to deftly move fingers and thumbs. A child with writing challenges typically has weak fine motor skills; they may manipulate pencils and scissors awkwardly.
“Visual-spatial difficulties” means trouble understanding what the eye is seeing. A child with dysgraphia frequently has visual-spatial problems and so finds it hard to read maps, or to differentiate left from right.
“Language processing” means making sense of what is heard. Students with language processing issues need time to understand what they hear. When this happens in tandem with writing issues, it is a huge challenge to translate what’s heard into writing.
“Sequential finger movement” means moving fingers in a particular order. An example would be touching the thumb to the pinkie, then to the ring finger, and so on. This is why many dysgraphic students do better using a keyboard than writing by hand.
Author Erica Patino publishes on Understood.org. She is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.
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