Friday, May 15, 2015

word lists...

Make a box from firewood. Split and season first.
A common thing is for teachers to take their vocabulary words that children are expected to know, and create spelling lists for them to look up and memorize. Kids are sent home with these lists and then given spelling tests. Seems pretty harmless, right? That every child in America could spell the same words seems like a good thing, on the surface of things, particularly as we use standards to make certain of homogeneity from one school to another.

On the other hand, what if our spelling lists were drawn from an engagement in real life? A new plan would be for every child to spell that which they could touch and do. In that way, spelling would be made more real. The words for each child's list would be those that each child could use from the experience of using it. In Pestalozzi's school, teachers too, had occasionally become trapped in antiquarian methods. I am once again reminded of this story about Pestalozzi:
Back in the late 1700’s a child in Pestalozzi’s school challenged his teacher, “You want me to learn the word ladder, but you show me a picture. Wouldn’t it be better to go look at the real ladder in the shed?” The teacher was frustrated by the child’s interruption and explained that he would rather not take the whole class outside the building just to look at a ladder. Later, the same child was shown the picture of a window and again interrupted the teacher. “Wouldn’t it be better to talk about the real window that is right there? We don’t even have to go outside to look at it!” The teacher asked Pestalozzi about the incident and was informed that the child was right. Whenever possible children should learn from the real world and the experiences it offers.
Learning is best when it comes first hand and from experience in the real world, not necessarily the schools that we contrive for them. And it seems perhaps some experts are beginning to agree. This article is attempting to share the wonders of Common Core, but in actual fact is simply telling how children really learn and Common Core has little to do with it. Students learn words by learning about the real world. The idea has been true since Comenius.
"People find the academic word lists and teach from them, not recognizing that what's hard about academic vocabulary is the way it's embedded in domains of knowledge," said Catherine E. Snow, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who specializes in language and literacy development in children.

Too often, teachers end up "teaching lists of words instead of talking to [students] about who Rembrandt was or what the Paleozoic Age was like," she said.
But even better than "talking to" students is to have them learn their vocabulary by doing real things. Touch first then spell.

Today I am getting ready for White Street Art Walk. My work is set up, but I've pricing to do. In addition, I have a teacher end-of-year luncheon to attend, and a third chapter to write.

Band sawn  box from a chunk of oak firewood.
My latest band sawn box for the book is shown in the photo above. It is cut from a chunk of red oak firewood and the only preparation was being seasoned from one year to the next. The lonely piece lying to the left is what's left over and can become another box.

I've added a photo of the almost finished box.

Make, fix and create...

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