15 March, 2009

Ornithography - a poem by Billy Collins

Hubby and I spent the afternoon reading poetry to each other; one of our favorite things to do. Here's one of my favorites from the day's reading ~


by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate 2001-2003

(The legendary Cang Jie was said to
have invented writing after observing the tracks of birds.)

A light snow last night,
and now the earth falls open to a fresh page.

A high wind is breaking up the clouds.
Children wait for the yellow bus in a huddle,

and under the feeder, some birds
are busy writing short stories,

poems, and letters to their mothers.
A crow is working on an editorial.

That chickadee is etching a list,
and a robin walks back and forth

composing the opening to her autobiography.
All so prolific this morning,

these expressive little creatures,
and each with an alphabet of only two letters.

A far cry from me watching
in silence behind a window wondering

what just frightened them into flight —
a dog's bark, a hawk overhead?

or had they simply finished
saying whatever it was they had to say?

09 March, 2009

The Dreaded Subject of Math(!)

In my last post, I mentioned Gesturing and some research that indicates how it helps engage students in learning and memory retention. It does this by using a different part of the brain, and I'm thinking that engaging extra parts of the brain, other than simply short-term memory, has to be better, right? Research would tell us unequivocally and enthusiastically, yes!

I have sat on the following information for a couple of years, now, and have not shared them here, simply because I spent my time focusing on and prepping my Foreign Language philosophy and lesson plans. Now it has become more important to me to focus on a holistic approach to math, as our youngest needs something more tangible to continue his journey (read: "in order to have some successes in math as he enters high school").

Hopefully, you will be able to find useful ideas in the following articles, from James J. Asher of the Total Physical Response approach to learning. My friend Katie noted (through a FaceBook chat) when I shared one of Asher's articles, titled "The Myth of Algebra," he goes straight to "Living Math" just like Charlotte Mason recommended in her educational philosophy and writing back in the late 19th-early 20th centuries.

The first article, "Fear of Math," may describe one of your own children...or may describe you yourself. I relate to the disability completely! As evidence of this fact, you will notice that before this day, there was not one post in almost 4.5 years of blogging where I wrote about or labeled a post under any "Math" category.

The next few articles I'll share are:

"Some Mysteries of Arithmetic Explained: Secrets revealed that may help parents and teachers clarify mathematics for youngsters."

"Why students of all ages are failing mathematics and what can be done to turn it around"


"Learning Algebra on the Right Side of the Brain"

Now, that's plenty of "homework" for you to read, so take your time. Next, get back to me with your thoughts, observations, and what action you are prompted to take with your own children, if you decide to change anything at all.

For specific ideas and lesson plans to put this philosophy of "Living Math" to good use, visit this Living Math web site.

Ciao for now!


05 March, 2009

Talking With Your Hands is good for your family!

I am that person you'd think could not say a word if I was not able to use my hands and arms. Imagine my joy every time I read a new report about how good gesturing is for the development of societies. (Good, clean gestures, that is!) I have experienced this myself while teaching and/or while traveling in foreign countries. You've heard jokes or seen movies where people practically play charades to understand each other if they do not speak the same language. Or how they talk louder thinking that will help...(which is a whole other post all together)!

Remember the movie "Lilies of the Field with Sidney Poitier, where he helped teach English to the German nuns? (You really must rent this one if you have not)!

Well, Just out last month from researchers at The University of Chicago is a report on gesturing and language, something I am interested in as a foreign language teacher, tutor, and enthusiast.
Early Gesturing has important connections to language acquisition and school preparedness. The name of the study is "Differences in Early Gesture Explain SES Disparities in Child Vocabulary Size at School Entry," and was co-authored by Susan-Goldin Meadow and fellow psychologist Meredith Rowe.

They found that there is a significant language difference between children from families who gesture a lot, and those who don't. They also noted that the differences were divided between lower and higher income families, as well. How very interesting!

They wrote:

"Children who convey more meanings with gestures at age 14 months have much larger vocabularies at 54 months than children who convey fewer meanings and are accordingly better prepared for school, " for their piece in the journal Science on Friday, Feb. 13.

"The research showed that the differences particularly favored children from higher-income families with well-educated parents and may help explain the disadvantages some children from low-income families face upon entering school," said Susan-Goldin Meadow.

Other related articles can be found here.

There is significant research (The folks at TPR world) to support the benefits of gesturing in foreign language learning, but also in other subjects as well. There is another article about gesturing helping with learning/remembering math facts here.

The latest research which shows that early gesturing helps childhood development in their primary language (in the home) right from the start really makes sense to me, since I've had a little first-hand experience. I've seen how it can help older children and adults to learn/understand a second or more languages as we grow and learn.

Many of you have also had experience by teaching your own babies to sign when they are hungry, thirsty, want "more," etc.

Alright, now! Let the language acquisition begin! (Javamom asserts, waving her arms and hands like an Italian Momma!)