Hello, hello, friends. After seven days of malingering and much self pity, I’m finally on the mend from the sniffly cold that wouldn’t end. I have a ton of work to do, including some basic maintenance of the book shop.
I’m feeling very pleased at the moment, because I found a first edition, sixth printing of Finnegan’s Wake in the stacks in the basement. A first edition, first printing is worth thousands, but this one is still a nice $200. I think I paid ten cents for the book. Yay!
For the blog, I am several half baked thoughts that need debate and eyeballs this week, but first let me share some links.
Growing buzz that Kamala and Joe aren’t getting along.
Ghislaine Maxwell is a dirtbag, but her prison treatment isn’t cool.
The press is totally on a Queen Elizabeth death watch. Grusome. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are in big trouble. Best articles are coming from the Daily Beast. I might have to do a post on this, because it’s all so tragic. It’s almost operatic.
Lots of chatter about the University of Austin. Megan McArdle weighs in. From Woke College to Woke Media: Andrew Sullivan talks about Media Gone Wrong. I’ll try to write about this more later.
Kids can’t read. The pandemic made it worse. Teachers are getting retrained from the ed school nonsense. It’s back to phonics.
Mental health among kids is ridiculously bad.
Career and Technical education is where it’s at. They’re building a huge new facility near us. When Ian’s done with this transition program, I would rather than he get his tech training at a place like this, than at the local community college.
Schools are in big, big economic trouble. I tweeted a bit about this over the weekend. I’ll do a post about it later.
WATCHING: Succession, Maid
26 thoughts on “SL 859”
I though this article from 538 was interesting
“buzz that Kamala and Joe”
Yah well, I like Ann Althouse, who has a similar conspiratorial turn of mind to mine. https://althouse.blogspot.com/2021/11/my-hypothesis-bidens-deliberately-froze.html
Laura wrote, “Kids can’t read. The pandemic made it worse. Teachers are getting retrained from the ed school nonsense. It’s back to phonics.”
I have some thoughts on that.
My youngest was a reluctant reader. My kids’ private school has a VERY serious phonics program, but while valuable, it wasn’t enough for my youngest. It took a lot of one-on-one practice, a lot of book purchases, and me working as her personal librarian for a year or two to get her to grade level. Never having had a reluctant reader before, I was really surprised how intensive a project it wound up being. (This was 1st grade and a chunk of 2nd grade.)
My older two kids have done a fair amount of time at the afterschool tutoring program at our sister public elementary school, which is in a low-income neighborhood near downtown. What I have heard from my kids a few times is that they keep running into kids who are guessers. These kids see the first letter or two in a word and then they guess wildly. I feel like my kids don’t really have the training to deal with this issue, but some practice is probably better than nothing.
Locally, there’s also a lunchtime reading buddy club where community adults come in and read with public school kids. I was thinking of joining this fall, but ultimately chickened out–I didn’t think I should take on the extra commitment. My version of giving at the office for now is just ferrying my 11th grader to help with the afterschool program.
Also related: My 11th grader has been thinking of winding down his participation, as the elementary school afterschool program is apparently absolutely flooded with volunteers from Hometown U.
I’m a bit ambivalent about the potential of afterschool tutoring, as kids tend to be pretty tired at that point in the day, and they aren’t necessarily capable of putting in another good hour of work.
I’ve also had the experience personally (as a high schooler and college student) of doing volunteer afterschool tutoring and finding myself not very useful. The kids don’t want help or don’t need help or I didn’t understand their assignment, and so forth.
I too am wary of untrained volunteer tutors. When I volunteered I found my main usefulness was similar to the dogs that children sometimes read to — I was a companionable mammal (human, unlike the dog) who was paying attention to an individual student who didn’t get that very often. I was non-judgmental in that role (like the dog) and had the additional benefit that I could read (unlike the dog).
But, this report suggests that trained, paid college students teaching assistants with a curriculum could be quite effective, and as effective as teacher. Unpaid volunteers weren’t as good: https://hechingerreport.org/takeaways-from-research-on-tutoring-to-address-coronavirus-learning-loss/
Also as a parent of a child who struggled to learn to read (and is still not a reader-by-choice).
Schools and teachers focus exclusively on what they call here the ‘balanced approach’ (which is pretty much the reading through context approach) – which works for some kids, but is an utter disaster for kids who *need* a phonics-style decoding approach.
Education in NZ has been utterly captured by this – and it’s only plunging literacy rates which have finally dragged them reluctantly to consider incorporating phonics in the learning.
Hit Enter too quickly….
Also teachers have (reportedly) 90 minutes in their teacher training devoted to teaching kids to read. It seems unbelievable, but hasn’t yet been challenged by the Uni – so I think it must be accurate.
What finally worked for my kid wasn’t the reading recovery in-school program (pretty much useless), or the reading groups (what 6 year old is going to read aloud to another ‘better’ reader in their class and be corrected by them), or the after-school programme (we gave up after the first 2 weeks, he was much too tired after spending a whole day at school trying to keep up and compensating like crazy for poor reading skills), or me teaching him (he was hysterically resistant to me teaching him anything). What worked was a private tutor, a highly experienced ex-teacher, with a huge grab bag of skills and techniques to engage kids and figure out an approach that worked for them. She had 2 hours a week, in school time (and by god, that was a battle with the school), with him, and within 2 years he’d caught up with his peers reading level.
Could it have happened sooner? Maybe. But he really wasn’t ready to read at all developmentally until he was 7 – by which time the school had made him feel a failure. And they never repeated the early learning – year 1 decoding letters of the alphabet – in year 3 when he actually needed it.
School teachers constantly told me that he was ‘keeping up with his reading group’ (i.e. was in the lowest one in the class) – but seemed to have no idea of how to teach a kid who wasn’t being reached by the standard approach. My respect for primary school teachers (except for the 30-year veterans who actually understood what they were doing) reached a pretty low level. Most seemed to be glorified babysitters. Sure they present a lesson, but don’t test for either understanding or retention. They’re happy that some of the class have ‘got it’ – disregarding the fact that these self-starter kids would have ‘got it’ from a book, website or video – they didn’t need a teacher.
Once he had the basic skills – and a bit of practice – his biggest literacy boost hasn’t been from reading books (which are very low ranked on his preferred activities), it’s been through the online gaming manuals that he needs to read and understand (and now create) to game effectively. I hate it – but whatever works!
I apparently taught myself to read at age 3, and it wasn’t a phonics approach, but that’s my n=1, and I know some new readers benefit greatly from phonics approaches. I think the real problem is that we use standardized curricula for non-standardized, individual children, then the students who do not learn from these standardized approaches are stigmatized or left behind. I was just reading a post on a FB group for 2E children about a child who had been given a 4 page “worksheet” of math facts, one after another, something like 40 per page. For some kids that is a great way to reinforce math facts. For others, it is painful. The child apparently was asked to do this in class and started writing notes like “No, please no” all over the pages instead of answering. The teacher sent it home for the child to finish with their parent. For a kid with excellent memory of things like math facts, assignments like these are torture. Of course, there are often various “disabilities” involved: ADHD, visual or auditory processing disorders, etc. But I think it’s time we understood these not as disabilities but as differences and that we need to incorporate multiple ways of learning and producing evidence of learning in classrooms. And yes, I have been thinking about this a lot relating to my own teaching practices.
I taught myself to read fluently in a language I was still learning to speak (English) at six. It’s taken me along time to realize that can’t be expectation for everyone. My kiddo, who is into language and language learning thinks that maybe I benefited from having phonetics instruction in my first language (which has a very phonetic alphabet and thus is naturally phonetic).
I think it’s interesting that it was the 30 year veteran with the bag of tricks whose intervention helped your cihld. That’s something different from teacher training in ed school or boilerplate curricula. A friend who teaches 2nd grade, and is now a 30+ year veteran, said to me that she was at the end of rope teaching when her district was buying scripted curricula and trying to traiing and require all the teachers to use. I don’t remember which, but I remember thinking its main purpose was to standardize and minimize experience. The quote I’ll always remember is that she described the curriculum as “cutting of their legs and asking me to teach them to walk” (ie she wasn’t allowed to use important tools in her box).
The school saved her and kept her as a teacher because her principal recognized her success with her kids and said he wasn’t going to micromanage her. But, she’s reluctantly come to recognize that some of the novice teachers do better with the scripted curriculum, especially in their earlier years.
“The child apparently was asked to do this in class and started writing notes like “No, please no” all over the pages instead of answering. ”
I used to write in random numbers. Teacher brought me to the desk to explain multiplication/division again realized I knew what I was doing and stopped paying attention to my worksheets. We did the worksheets in class and I compliantly filled in numbers and was not disruptive. She did not send them home.
Ann wrote, “Schools and teachers focus exclusively on what they call here the ‘balanced approach’ (which is pretty much the reading through context approach).”
In other words–guessing.
I would also expect that the “reading through context” approach is even less helpful for a child with a limited English language vocabulary, as they don’t have a big stock of English words to guess from.
“Also teachers have (reportedly) 90 minutes in their teacher training devoted to teaching kids to read. It seems unbelievable, but hasn’t yet been challenged by the Uni – so I think it must be accurate.”
“She had 2 hours a week, in school time (and by god, that was a battle with the school), with him, and within 2 years he’d caught up with his peers reading level.”
I feel very strongly that the essential learning needs to happen between 8 and 3. And let’s be honest, past a certain time in the school day, kids are going to be less and less productive, even with recess and PE and lunch to pep them up.
“My respect for primary school teachers (except for the 30-year veterans who actually understood what they were doing) reached a pretty low level.”
Literally “You had ONE job!”
I had a thing with our youngest’s 1st grade teacher where (for some reason) she underrated our youngest’s reading skills. Youngest did have issues with reading, but I suspect that behavioral stuff was making it hard to get a good read on her increasing skill level as she made progress. (Her reading level wasn’t just my opinion–I had an educational psychologist test her after 1st grade and by that time she was at grade level.) I discovered this issue during the pandemic remote learning when (mysteriously) the teacher kept giving her books to read that were far below her actual level…which was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. She got much simpler books than her actual level, which meant that she did not improve as fast as she could have.
Wendy said, “I was just reading a post on a FB group for 2E children about a child who had been given a 4 page “worksheet” of math facts, one after another, something like 40 per page.”
I don’t know that that would be good for anybody. Most kids would find it really discouraging.
Most Kumon math workbooks have a lot of white space on the pages. I occasionally see one with (EEK!) 40 problems, but when I see that I normally just draw a line down the page and ask my youngest to just do half the page. (The Kumon is for home supplementation–we use the workbooks you can buy at the bookstore or on Amazon. We haven’t been doing as much supplementation lately, as our youngest is on track, but I will probably pull them out during long school breaks.)
Also, I have to say that Kumon materials are often really pretty: heavy white paper, lots of white space, attractive formatting, cute illustrations, etc.
They’re kind of famous for their extremely repetitive workbook problems, but their Geometry and Measurement series offers a very nice alternative to that, as you get a very nice mix of problems, very attractively presented.
When we were doing more math supplementation with our youngest, I would have a stack of 4 different workbooks (perhaps addition, clock time, geometry and measurement and multiplication) and I’d have our youngest do one sheet from one book, take a 5 minute break, do a sheet from a second book, etc., until we had worked through the 4 workbooks. And we’d do that every day. I believe that frequency is more important than sheer bulk, that breaks are important, and that variety is important–so we do a nibble of several workbooks every day, rather than doing 4 pages of a single workbook. (Our youngest also had math issues in 1st grade.)
“I used to write in random numbers. Teacher brought me to the desk to explain multiplication/division again realized I knew what I was doing and stopped paying attention to my worksheets. ”
E would get bored during spelling tests (great memory, always finished quickly) so he would draw little pictures illustrating the words.
“Growing buzz that Kamala and Joe aren’t getting along.”
Handing Kamala responsibility for the border wasn’t exactly a friendly move.
Off topic: if you haven’t already stocked up, you should. Although this affects Canada more than US, it will have an impact. Floods and mudslides have knocked out roads and rail lines out of the Port of Vancouver.
It’s bad https://globalnews.ca/news/8374331/bc-flooding-mudslides-highways-evacuations/
A friend texted me -expect weeks to recover.
We just had the same weather system; I-5 was closed about 30 miles south of the Canadian border overnight, but the northbound lanes are open again. I think they can clear those mudslides if they aren’t slammed by more bad weather.
I was outside in my town and saw a propane heater blow over and get crushed at a restaurant and a non-oblivious friend decide we shouldn’t stand around outside. Then the sun came out. we’ve had more rain so far than in we do in an entire November and everything is soggy.
But, I still don’t know how these closures (including BC’s port) would affect supply chains in NJ. A fascinating subject I want to know more about.
Was at a local drug store and could see the shelves look emptier. They weren’t missing anything vital, but there was less selection and missing items. No empty toilet paper shelves, but the spray on funky hair color was empty and there were no fruit and nut Cadbury bars.
Theo’s chocolate (local company) was well stocked. They still had lego starwars sets.
I think there will have to be some shifts in choices and do think those who shop for Christmas should be planning early and considering local options.
bj said, “Was at a local drug store and could see the shelves look emptier. They weren’t missing anything vital, but there was less selection and missing items. No empty toilet paper shelves, but the spray on funky hair color was empty and there were no fruit and nut Cadbury bars.”
My college student and I were at the store yesterday and we noted about 4 shelves in the bottled coffee drink section where the store had artfully arranged single rows of packages of Little Debbies on the otherwise empty shelves.
Little Debbies are normally stocked about 6 aisles away…
The shortages have been really random. I was once in the store when all of the spray whipped topping section was empty–which was interesting given that multiple companies make spray whipped cream.
At least toilet paper, paper towels, soap and cleaning supplies seem OK for now!
“I think there will have to be some shifts in choices and do think those who shop for Christmas should be planning early and considering local options.”
Unfortunately, the more we talk about this, the more panicky people will get!
I just sent an Amazon order of birthday and Christmas stuff to my parents (they both have Dec. b-days). It was ridiculously early, but I didn’t want to run into some sort of logistical jam.
Yup, I was seeing a lot of artful arrangement, too, and randomness.
I was just checking in with my sis, and apparently my hometown on the Olympic Peninsula got cut off, due to road problems. (The Olympic Peninsula is mostly served by a single loop of highway with some choke points, like the narrow road winding around Lake Crescent, so it’s really easy for traffic to wind up seriously disrupted.)
Sis says our parents got stuck in town and cut off from their house. But town is where the grocery store is, so it’s not all bad.
OK, pulling out hobby horse!
This is a really expensive and perhaps impractical idea, but I think that if a kid is failing any subject in elementary school, that should automatically trigger educational testing and perhaps vision and hearing testing.
I honestly thought it did, that vision and hearing were checked first with reading/language difficulties. Are they not?
bj said, “I honestly thought it did, that vision and hearing were checked first with reading/language difficulties. Are they not?”
Now that you mention it, they probably are.
I do know that psychoeducational testing doesn’t seem to be something that happens just because a kid is failing.
bj said “I honestly thought it did, that vision and hearing were checked first with reading/language difficulties. Are they not?”
Not here, they’re not.
If you pass your “well-child” pre-school hearing/vision check (usually at around 4.5 years – though may be a bit later in these Covid times) – that’s it.
There is no further testing offered. You can choose to do this yourself – go to an optometrist (vision) or your family doctor for hearing checks. And there is no charge for kids under 14.
But that’s only where the *parent* notes that there’s a problem. Schools do nothing about it (well, a particularly switched on teacher, might – but there’s no systemic process).
And, while there *is* a process for educational testing (to identify specific learning difficulties), it’s enormously difficult to get into – and takes years (years that primary kids don’t have!)
There’s a reason that specifically identified learning difficulties in kids are a middle-class phenomenon, here in NZ – it’s only the middle-class families who can cough up $1K to get the assessment privately.
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