Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ability Grouping?

     In recent years, it had become taboo in schools to group children according to performance and ability. There is no Minnow math group for struggling students, nor is there a Shark math group for those students light years ahead in their math skills. Grouping has become a thing of the past...and full of negative connotations to boot.

     The overwhelming view among educators is that assigning groups degrades children and prevents growth out of said group. Instead, non-grouping allows struggling students to learn from their peers.

     According to an article by Vivian Yee in the New York Times (Grouping Students by Ability Regains Favor in Classroom), teachers have begun speaking out in favor of grouping. Without establishing proper groups, teachers say, only the middle of the road students have their needs met. Essentially, teaching is aimed to the middle 1/3 of the class and leaves both the high achieving and struggling students to fend for themselves.

     It seems that grouping by ability allows teachers to address specific needs of each student and to provide positive feedback for all levels of achievement across the board. This results in increased self-esteem for all students which in turn leads to greater ambition and performance.

     Change simply for change sake is not beneficial to our students. Listening to teachers about what works and is practical in a classroom is essential and not to be overlooked in favor of educational theorists who have never taught a group of students.

     No wonder so many of our nation’s students are now being homeschooled where their individual needs can be met and the praise and positive reinforcement doled out freely and frequently!


Monday, March 28, 2016

SAT Word of the Week: OBSCURE

The word obscure used as a verb means to conceal or hide something. Used as an adjective, obscure indicates something hidden or difficult to understand or find. If you use an obscure reference in a paper about George Washington, it is a fact that few people know.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Keep Calm and Study...Latin?

Veni, Vidi, Vici.

I came. I saw. I conquered.

Julius Caesar’s famous words of victory to the Roman Senate still hold meaning for many students of today.

The ancient language of the Roman Empire has long been studied by academic scholars. But in recent years, Latin is seeing a resurgence among students of all ages and walks of life—and for good reason! The study of Latin can make learning across all curriculums easier and more fluid.

1. Latin improves vocabulary and the ability to decipher words in day to day reading.

2. Latin improves grammar through understanding the way sentences are put together and subject/verb agreement.

3. Latin is understood much like a puzzle...it improves logic.

4. Latin provides a precursor to understanding current scientific and legal terminology for future study.

5. Latin provides a foundation for understanding history and the philosophy of government and art.

Monday, March 21, 2016

SAT Word of the Week: HERESY

The wrod heresy refers to something that is profoundly out of the ordinary or that which is acceptable by most people. Heresy is also a religious term when referring to a term at odds with a particular religious doctrine. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

End the Cycle of Reluctant Writers

We’ve all heard the old adage that “children learn what they live.” Children learn to be kind when they are shown kindness. Children learn to be honest, when people are honest with them. In the same way, children learn to read when they are read to. This is precisely why parents read to their children before bed and why preschool teachers read to their class on a daily basis. Children are read to and therefore children can read. We, as a society, don’t accept any less for our children.

Why then do we accept it when our children are less than proficient writers? Why do we not write with our children daily? Why do we not write TO them daily? Why is this not part of our family habit? If children model what their parents do, we need to show our children that writing is not painful or boring. We need to embrace writing as an opportunity for personal expression and meaningful communication.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate writing in to a nightly habit:

1. Each week write a letter or card to an elderly person or service man or woman. Once you have a pile of cards, deliver the stack of cards to a nursing home or military organization. Make it a family affair by getting out the construction paper, markers, and dictionary. Challenge each other to write the most meaningful message.

2. Write notes to each other and leave them around the house. Let your children see you leaving notes for other adults and express your own joy at receiving them.

3. Write a poem together as a family and frame it. Hang it somewhere prominent where visitors will see and enjoy it.

4. Enlist the help of your children in writing lists for you. Keep a grocery list on the fridge and encourage everyone to add to it during the week. For dad’s birthday, ask everyone to make a list of what they would like to get him and then compare notes.
It doesn’t matter what you are writing, the important thing is that children see writing as an integral part of your family life. If you break the cycle of reluctant writing and pick up a pencil, chances are they will too!

Monday, March 14, 2016

SAT Word of the Week: ELUSIVE

The word elusive indicates something that is difficult to catch or find. It is something difficult to attain. If you are a student who is always getting B+ grades no matter how hard you try...you might say that you are chasing that elusive A: it keeps getting away from you!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Music as Inspiration

Music moves me.

It doesn't have to be a certain genre or a particular artist, but the right song with the right lyrics can really inspire me. Perhaps it's because a good song is really just poetry set to music. So for me, great music is kind of like reading a best seller while driving the car or making dinner...

When I was in the middle of my first novel, I happened across my husband's James Blunt CD in the car and, being too lazy to change the setting (or maybe just too pregnant!), I discovered the songs that would be my motivation each day. As my story began to delve into topics that were often dark and painful...childhood abuse, suicide, loss of a parent...it was a daily challenge to find my heroine's 'truth' as a real person with a heart and mind of her own.

But there on that James Blunt CD, I found the "theme songs" of my hero and heroine and I played them religiously on the way home from dropping my kids off at school each day. I'd listen to the songs (tracks 4 and 5 respectively...) and instantly reconnect with Andie and Tony and know what they would do next. It was largely this music that let me see my characters in my mind's eye as real and human.

I still listen to the CD, though less often, with a certain wistfulness of days gone by.

So now, I'm currently stumped at 8000 words on my latest work and wonder if maybe I'm just missing the requisite music. I've heard of method acting: maybe this is my "method-writing". But finding that just right piece of music that particularly moves me is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. I'm driving myself crazy!

I'm sure it's like anything else and when I stop looking - or listening - I'll find it. Until then, I'll plod along getting to know Sadie, my new heroine, by what she chooses to do today...and tomorrow...and the next day...

As a writer, the process just keeps amazing me! I love feeling like I'm reading the book even as I'm writing it!

Monday, March 7, 2016

SAT Word of the Week: CONSUMMATE

The word consummate when used as an adjective describes something of superior quality. It represents completeness or perfection. You might say that a person is a "consummate athlete" meaning he is of superior skill.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

So Good...

Not only is Gone With the Wind a staple American classic novel, but Margaret Mitchell wins the award for my favorite quote of all time:

"In a moment of weakness I have written a book..." 11-19-1935

Me too, Ms. Mitchell, me too.

Photo of my favorite magnet hanging on my refrigerator!