Month: June 2012

All is not lost

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20120613-221853.jpg This story is so inspiring, I gotta share it. My take away message? Life is filled with lots of possibilities as long as you believe in yourself, and persevere. And it’s important for us teachers and parents to instill that in our children, our future.

Also, our brain is indeed one powerful tool. It’s one of God’s greatest gift to us, therefore use it wisely.

Here’s Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s inspiring story.

“It’s the kind of memory that stays with you. When she was in first grade, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s Ontario primary school teacher told her mother – in her presence – that she had some kind of “mental block”, and would never be able to learn. Now that she has helped more than 4,000 learning-disabled children overcome precisely that kind of diagnosis, of course, she can laugh at it. But she didn’t at the time.

Arrowsmith-Young, now 61, talks fluently and passionately and with great erudition. She has a masters degree in school psychology. She has just published a groundbreaking, widely praised and enthralling book called The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. But back at school – indeed, up until she was in her mid-20s – she was desperate. Tormented and often depressed. She didn’t know what was wrong.

On the one hand, she was brilliant. She had near-total auditory and visual memory. “I could listen to the six o’clock news, and reproduce it word-for-word at 11pm. I could open a book, read the first sentence, the second, the third, visualise them. I could memorise whole exercise books.” On the other hand, she was a dolt. “I didn’t understand anything,” she says. “Meaning just never crystallised. Everything was fragmented, disconnected.”

She disguised her numerous learning disabilities by working 20 hours a day: “I used to hide in the bathroom when the security guards came around the college library at night, then come back out and carry on.”

The breakthrough came when she was 26. A fellow student gave her a book by a Russian neuro-psychologist, Aleksandr Luria: The Man with a Shattered World. The book contained Luria’s research and reflections on the writings of a highly intelligent Russian soldier, Lyova Zazetsky, who had been shot in the brain at the battle of Smolensk in 1943, and recorded in great detail his subsequent disabilities.

The rest, as they say, is history. She founded her first school in Toronto in 1980; she now has 35 in Canada and the US, most run under strict licence. She and her staff have devised cognitive exercises that have proved spectacularly effective in helping 19 distinct cognitive functions essential to reading, writing, maths, general comprehension, logical reasoning, visual memory or auditory processing.

Here’s the full story.


Encourage reading

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Telling “Room on the Broom” by Julia Donaldson

Sorry for being MIA for so long. My hubby and I have been really busy. I had no idea relocating can be so exhausting! We aren’t even done yet. Our house hunting hasn’t ended. And once we’re done with that, we’d have to think about moving, etc.

Ok, back to a related topic. I’m a strong believer in building a strong foundation right from the start – be it reading or character building. John posted up this article on children and literacy on Facebook recently, and I thought it relevant, so am sharing this here:

McGinty, along with Piasta and a researcher named Laura Justice, designed a research studyto look at the effects of modest changes in the way preschool teachers read to children. McGinty and her colleagues decided to target disadvantaged preschoolers because they frequently end up with reading issues.

For the study, they gave two groups of preschool teachers books for an entire school year — 30 weeks’ worth of books. One group was told to read the books normally; the other was given weekly cards with specific questions the teacher could ask — really just small phrases — that might momentarily draw a child’s attention to the print on the page.

The teachers were told to read their books four times a week, and to point out the print in this way between four and eight times, so that together the small phrases hardly added extra time to their reading sessions — maybe 90 seconds per book.

It is hard to imagine that such a small adjustment would make any difference. It was a series of moments, questions and gestures. How much could that do?

So far, the kids have been followed for two years. They are now in first grade, and according to the most recent findings, which were published in the journal Child Development, even these small changes make a measurable difference.

“Children who focused their attention on print… had better literacy outcomes than those who did not,” says Piasta. “It was very clear.”

For the full story, click here.

Telling ‘The Magic Porridge Pot’

Personally, when I’m not in a classroom setting, I prefer not to use a book when I do my storytelling sessions with children. I want to instill listening skills and encourage imagination, something which I find, lack in children these days. After which I’d ask them to draw creatures/people/things they heard in the story. It’s fun to see what they come up with and the version of their story of the picture they just drew. But of course, methods used depend on your objectives. I guess it’s good to create a balance. What I’d normally do to encourage reading among my students (aged 7-10), is to tell them a story from a book, and ask them to guess the ending but not tell them what it is. Of course the suspense kills them. By the following week, some of them would come back and tell me they asked their parents to buy the book, or they borrowed it from the library, so that they could read the entire story 🙂 Oh gosh…I MISS THEM DEARLY!