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    31st May 2013

    Mermaids real? My students think so…

    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-animal-planet-mermaid-hoax-special-record-ratings-20130530,0,3088708.story

    Apparently some of my students watched a fakeumentary last night on Discovery, and they – as well as many other members of the general public – were tricked into thinking it was a real documentary. The subject of the show was mermaids, and the show produced “evidence” for mermaids, including a skeleton that appeared to be half human, half fish.

    Well, that show was not actually a documentary, but a work of fiction. According to Ed Stockly, LA Times editor:

    “While this production won’t fool many skeptics (at least I hope not), I can only imagine that the same audiences that lap up shows about Bigfoot, ghosts, psychics, etc. will miss the disclaimers and buy into this one too. Mermaids could be the new Nessy.”

    Yeah, my students definitely missed the disclaimers!

    30th May 2013

    Is teaching reading harder than teaching math? Studies say yes.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/education/reading-gains-lag-improvements-in-math.html?hp&_r=0

    From the New York Times:

    “Math is very close-ended,” Mr. Peiser said. Reading difficulties, he said, tend to be more complicated to resolve.

    “Is it a vocabulary issue? A background knowledge issue? A sentence length issue? How dense is the text?” Mr. Peiser said, rattling off a string of potential reading roadblocks. “It’s a three-dimensional problem that you have to attack. And it just takes time.”

    Studies have repeatedly found that “teachers have bigger impacts on math test scores than on English test scores,” said Jonah Rockoff, an economist at Columbia Business School.

    Teachers and administrators who work with children from low-income families say one reason teachers struggle to help these students improve reading comprehension is that deficits start at such a young age: in the 1980s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley found that by the time they are 4 years old, children from poor families have heard 32 million fewer words than children with professional parents.

    By contrast, children learn math predominantly in school.

    “Your mother or father doesn’t come up and tuck you in at night and read you equations,” said Geoffrey Borman, a professor at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin. “But parents do read kids bedtime stories, and kids do engage in discussions around literacy, and kids are exposed to literacy in all walks of life outside of school.”

    So I’m not crazy when I sometimes think it would be easier to teach math than reading?…

    The above mentioned issues are just part of the challenge of teaching reading to 9th graders who have been falling farther behind every year. Students aren’t used to reading, so they struggle with keeping attention while reading for more than a few minutes. Students might be unfamiliar with vocabulary or background knowledge necessary for comprehension. Students mistake not understanding a text for thinking the text is boring and so they give up easily when the text is difficult or low interest. Students who are struggling to read and/or get off task end up distracting students that are trying to read.

    I’m not sure if I’m happy that this article validates some of my feelings about teaching reading being quite difficult, or if it makes me frustrated, wondering how to change the way things currently work. Either way, it’s nice to know I’m not crazy for thinking teaching a reading class is difficult.

    4th May 2013

    My ex-roommate/friend is riding across the country… and he needs your help.

    My friend Luke, who was living with me in Long Beach, recently moved out because I live far away from the main stopping points in his life at the moment (and he has limited cash flow as he just finished the USC MAT program and is now looking for a job).

    Luke and I did a lot of riding together because he’s been training to do a charity ride for the American Lung Association – a ride from Washington State to Washington, D.C. I’m both excited for Luke and a little jealous of the ride he gets to do!

    Anyway, I’ve contributed to his fundraising, and if you have a few extra pennies, maybe you can, too. Here’s the link: http://action.lung.org/site/TR/Bike/ALAMP_Mountain_Pacific?px=4619973&pg=personal&fr_id=6630

    One cool thing to note – and maybe I shouldn’t note this, but I will anyway – is that Luke’s girlfriend’s mom works for Tom Hanks, so if you go to the link and look at the list of people who have donated, you’ll see yours truly, and then wait til it scrolls down and you’ll see that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson also put a few dollars in the hat. I’ve heard nothing but the best about Mr. Hanks – truly a gentleman and a scholar, and a supporter or Luke and the ALA.

    2 comments

    1st May 2013

    99 degrees of frustration…

    Today my students were supposed to turn in their descriptive essays and field journal pages detailing what pieces of nature they observed here in Los Angeles. My students had a low turn in rate all day. Most still needed to print their essays out, so I helped many of them do that.

    By the time 6th period arrived, I was tired and frustrated. I didn’t want to deal with noisy, whiny students, but the students came in noisy and whiny. Several students kept harping about the room being too hot and how I needed to turn on the AC, but I never change the thermostat because students are always complaining – it’s too hot or it’s too cold, sometimes both at the same time!

    After hearing one loud student complain for too long, I sent him to the hall where I discussed overcoming difficult situations and personal responsibility with him. Was the heat really making him loud or did he have a choice concerning his own behavior? Was he in control or was the heat? And how was he supposed to react to challenges? By complaining about it? Or be getting the job done anyway?

    He didn’t like the line of reasoning I presented but agreed to come in and attempt to work quietly, so we both returned to the classroom.

    The thermostat in my room is on the wall by the door. I felt fine wearing a short sleeve dress shirt, but I was curious so I checked it on my way in. Some rapscallion had turned it up to 99 degrees and the temperature was already at 78. I quickly turned it down, trying not to let any of my students know that they had, in fact, won the battle over the AC for the day.

    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.