Monday, February 27, 2017

Reading skill development and transferring learning.

‘ In research primarily dealing with beginning readers, Samuels and other ( Samuels, 1967 , Singer et al., 1973-1974) have looked at the role of pictures in learning new words. In general the studies show that presenting words without pictures resulted in better learning, especially for poorer readers, then presenting words and pictures together. A ‘ focal attention hypothesis’ has been developed to explain these results. According to the hypothesis, the word-alone condition works better because it forces the child to focus on the word itself. The word-with-picture condition makes initial learning easier, but makes transfer of the learning more difficult, since the child focuses on cues that will not be present in the transfer task.” 
Bowker, R. (1980B). Vocabulary instruction. The state of knowledge ( Tech. Rep. #1980-4) Boston. Human Engineering Laboratories

This is a telling and interesting quote. I would add to this that there are focal distractions AND vocal distractions. 

In my previous post, I talked about the need for the group interaction, as being in the orchestra/classroom AND the lesson/private-lesson AND that individual practice with the self, just like a musician must practice the small self generations all by themselves. It is both, or all, that build to mastery. 

Learning language, the means humans use to communicate, is no different. I learned a foreign language as an adult. I practiced with a group, in a class. I did lessons in a class. I also went home, and all by myself, practiced sounding the words, practiced spelling the words, practiced RELATING the words to reality. I did not ONLY practice this ‘ music’ as the words, in the group, in the world, in the lesson. I had to do that practice of generation and fine tuning MYSELF. 

Imagine if one ALSO practiced words, just like practicing an instrument? It is the same, it is exactly the same! And it is not as difficult or overwhelming as one might initially think. Many children have mastered an instrument when given the opportunity within a seven year period. After all, our cells regenerate every seven years. Thus, to do this is not difficult. 

Most people use only about 10,000 words. If we were to break down this number of words we could learn, and practice all by ourselves, within a year, that would be - in a seven year period - about 1430 words a year. This is about 4 words per day.  Imagine doubling this and taking twenty minutes or so a day and slowing down and practicing 8 words/notes a day? Imagine practicing spelling and speaking and relating 8 words a day, for a period of seven years, by one’s self, to fine tune one’s use of words? This would be like knowing the instrument so well, one could play ANY FORM one came to interact with. ( of course here are always new forms one encounters, and sometimes, just like learning to walk, something new comes that one must slow down and learn to ‘ sense’)  In all, it would not even need to be 8 words a day, as most of us already know one aspect of many of our words, it is more that we have not practiced the spelling and speaking and defining in clarity to a self directed relationship as clearly as we could. It would not be a starting point from ground zero for many of our words, and the simple corrections would move faster than we can imagine.

We are not one-sided instruments.  We lose the joy of performing in full capacity when we do not master the sounds we generate. The real joy is becoming a master of self, which means practicing the smallest of things. Each must ALSO practice the small, learn to SELF generate words, building direct practical spatial relationships between the word and practical movement. This is the art and practice of mastering sounding and spelling the word, and defining the word as having a direct relationship to reality. The absence of this causes vocal and focal distractions because not only have we not practiced the word ourselves, alone, the words are in a singular relationship within the context in which they were learned ONLY. Of course, we do sort this out in time, yet one can realize the varying degrees of confusion this creates in classrooms, in lessons, and in personal relationships. 

Thus, in relation to words, what practices are we doing that compound over time into self generation when there are attention distractions because of a lack of individual practice?

In all, if we want to master what we communicate as words, what we sound, that individual practice with the small, as the word, and its relationship, must be clear and direct. We must be able to spell the word, speak the word, and build a direct relationship with the word and reality.  This overall, is developing self control within self focus. After all, what is self act-ualization? Anyone who has truly mastered an instrument, knows the joy of mastery. The practice of the small, by the self, is also necessary, to experience the joy that comes with self mastery.

As human beings, when we really know something, we are happy. When we are uncertain, unclear, we become anxious and insecure. Anxiety and insecurity are the markers of attention disorders, or attention transfer disorders, or inner unsorted, focal and vocal distractions. There is great joy in mastering the small, it is the means to clarity and self confidence! 

In my next post, I will talk about how effective vocabulary development, with careful direct relationships improves efficiency. 

Thank you for reading.

If you want a tool to help in that small practice of word recognition on an individual scale, send me a note.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Vocabulary and spelling development is no different than learning an instrument.

“ The findings for the subarea of the study reveal that the observational research indicates that less than 3% of classroom time is devoted to vocabulary development. Surveys of teachers disagree with this finding giving much higher percentages for word meaning development, Teachers say they use a limited variety of methods whereas the reading texts describe a wide variety of both direct and context methods. Many reading investigators believe that there is a lack of classroom attention to systemic vocabulary development “ ( p. 10 )
A historical examination of vocabulary development in the schools,
1900-1985 Matsuda, Lynn Goodwin, Ed. D. University of Hawaii, 1987

This is an important understanding in relation to what is happening in our schools and why there are opinions and contradictions in relation to vocabulary development. Having taught in a school, it was understood that teaching vocabulary is very difficult, and  why there is little time spent on vocabulary. There are weekly spelling tests, yet this practice is more for the student to do by themselves, as teachers must move through a set curriculum. For this reason, there is a focus on defining words using the text, as this is a valuable skill,  although it is not systemic vocabulary development. Teachers cannot be this systemic development, nor are they meant to be as the very design of public schools.

If I look at taking music lessons, what happens is one goes and has the lesson, and one may go and perform in an orchestra or music group. The lesson and the group interaction is not a time for the small details to be worked out by the self. They offer opportunities for insight, yes.  Thus, it is true that we learn from interaction and from lessons, yet that space is not the necessary individual practice that builds mastery on the small scale. It cannot be, by design.  

It is a situation where the classroom time is the lesson and the group interaction, yet it is not that practice done by the self, that is ALSO necessary. Learning language, words and spelling, must also have that careful practice, by the self, alone, building greater recognition of words, and speaking them; spelling them out, sounding them, knowing the parts, and defining them. It is the same as having music lessons. One must interact with the whole, use the whole to expand understanding AND also do that careful self directed and detailed practice. The benefit of this necessary practice is really knowing something, it is that wonderful and necessary discipline of integrating something so that self can generate with confidence. 

Overall, the above quote is correct that teachers do not do that systemic practice, because by design, they cannot. They also teach to use the text, and they model words, but they ultimately cannot go home with the student and be the necessary individual practice that leads to real mastery. 

Teachers, parents and administrators, must realize the practical nature of this. Our bodies are just like an instrument. We have lessons and we have group interactions. The practices of the group is actually being what it can be and do. Overall, nothing can replace that individual careful practice of integration. Children, or adults that have not walked this, must practice sounding the words, generating them without copying, spelling the words and placing the words into living contexts. When one practices the individual  discipline of moving with an instrument, momentum builds and one is able to process more with greater ease. Working with words is really no different. 

There are tools that organize and automate this practice for the child. What is awesome about this, is that this gives the child the sense that they are doing this themselves. How empowering would this be for a child to realize they can learn and develop with practice? What greater lesson can we give to a child?

Overall, it is important to realize the benefit and limitations of a public school. How we learn an instrument ( or a physical discipline)  is a cool analogy in relation to developing the skill of effective communication. 

If you are interested in such a tool send me a note! 

In my next blog, I will talk about vocal and focal distractions, and how within that necessary individual practice, learning the word by itself, mastering the sound and the spelling, how important it is to build a definition that is directly related to one’s living environment. 

Thank you for reading.