Tags: fun learning, motivational learning, motivational teaching
Although the title of this post sure looks like a set up for some boring educational acronym, it really describes making learning fun. More significantly, it describes using fun to teach. The purpose of the bureaucratic looking title is to please the administrative types that sometimes try to understand why it is often in the best interest of our students to use teaching methods that are actually fun. I could have called it “Goal Directed Teaching,” or “Learning for a Reason,” or “Why’s Before Whats,” but these other possibilities simply don’t seem to fit as well.
Achievement oriented instruction is when a teacher provides a goal that requires the student to use a targeted skill to accomplish something. This is not quite functional teaching, and its almost the opposite of drill. The goal itself provides the motivation, and for this reason the choice of the goal is critical. It is perhaps as or more important than any teaching method that may be used. And this is how achievement oriented instruction most differs from traditional teaching.
Here are some examples that may best serve to illustrate my overall point:
Achievement Based Teaching
teacher instruction/ text book/ worksheets
using jelly beans, pennies, etc. and asking motivating questions, such as “Would you like two more, or six all together?”, etc.
discussing prepositions/ worksheets
asking preposition laden questions while playing hide and seek, hidden pictures, Simon Says, etc.
parts of speech
sentence diagrams/ teacher instruction/ worksheets
Mad Lib style activities, separate students into different parts of speech teams and score points when correctly identifying parts of speech, etc.
internet typing games, practice typing labels, letters, etc.
As you can see, the achievement based teaching column contains more possibilities, and an “etc.” The only limit to one can go in the final column is the teacher’s imagination. The more creative and varied the activities, the more salient is the learning. This should not in any way disparage traditional teaching, however. Another way to put it is that traditional teaching relies on expectations. In achievement based teaching the learning is elicited. The student constructs his own expectations, and uses specific targets to achieve these expectations. Expectations and elicitations are both critical when teaching.
So when an administrator comes in and sees you playing a game with your kids, if you did this kind of teaching, you could say: “You caught me on my ABT day. Some days I do drill, some days I do direct instruction, some days worksheets, and about half of the days I do activities specifically designed to elicit my students’ target skills. It just so happens that fun motivates.”
Tags: complex sentences, conjunctions, Language Teaching
Conjunctions are an important method of extending sentence length and complexity, because they are a common method of joining words or parts of sentences together. Coordinating conjunctions join independent clauses (as well as words and phrases), while subordinating conjunctions can join both dependent and independent clauses (as well as words and phrases).
The acquisition and frequency of conjunctions have both been studied extensively. Among the findings are that the word and often initially takes the role of other conjunctions (Bloom et al., 1980; Scott, 1988; cited by Owens, 1996). The conjunctions but, so, or, and if soon are acquired in typically developing children to serve functions that and isn’t as easily able to achieve. Conjunctions like because then develop to express not only a relationship between sentence elements, but additionally a temporal sequence. According to one estimate, by the time a normal child’s mean length of utterances reach 5.0 (at an average age of 4 to 5 years), 20% of the sentences they use in spontaneous speech contain embedded or conjoined clauses (Paul, 1981).
Language itself doesn’t require conjunctions, but effectively communicating advanced ideas usually does. As with other language modalities, conjunctions exist because they assist. We use them to achieve a goal. Just try giving a reason for something without using the word because, or try describing the time relationship between two completed events without using conjunctions such as before, after, or then. It can be done, but much less effectively.
Generally, developmental order of conjunctions is determined by the complexity of the relationship the conjunction serves. Conjunctions appear frequently in assessments such as the CELF, CASL, OWLS, and SPELT. Also, Conjunction Junction is a timeless piece of art.
Tags: deductive teaching, Language Teaching, lizbeth finestack, marc fey
That’s the gist of a new study by Lizbeth Finestack and Marc Fey from the University of Kansas, published in the August ’09 American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Their study compared 6-8 year olds assigned to either a deductive training group, or an inductive training group. A computer program was used to teach a specific aspect of an invented alien language. The deductive training group received explanations, i.e. a brief description of the target. Both groups were made aware that the alien – “Tiki” – used many of the same words that we use, but this alien language also contained something different. In this case that was different word endings for male and female verbs. The kids in the deductive group were told that when it’s a boy you add -po to the end, and when it’s a girl you add -pa to the end. The kids in the inductive group were just supposed to figure it out on their own, another way of saying they were required to use inductive reasoning.
Finestack and Fey’s results showed that significantly more kids in the deductive group acquired the target. They concluded by asserting that generally, the most efficacious treatment may be one that combines natural language approaches with explanations. For those with access, here’s the link.
Tags: blog, cognitive revolution, Jerome Bruner, language acquisition support system, LASS, spiral curriculum
As a psychologist, Jerome Bruner has led much of modern thought among those labeled interactionists, constructionists, and cognitivists. As a professor and researcher, Bruner has taught and researched for over sixty years at Harvard, Oxford, and at his current position at New York University. He has been looked at as one of the instrumental inciters of the so called cognitive revolution, and his ideas have had great influence over the current states of psychology, education, and language.
One frequently cited idea of Bruner’s is the LASS, or Language Acquisition Support System, a term coined in response to Chomsky’s LAD, or Language Acquisition Device. The LASS refers to the importance of a child’s social support network, which works in conjunction with innate mechanisms to encourage or suppress language development. Every child has one, and particularly during the years of the language explosion (roughly ages 2 to 5), differences in the LASS significantly explain differences in language acquisition, according to Bruner’s model.
Part of the LASS is another key component of Bruner’s explanation of how the most effective learning occurs – the “spiral curriculum.” Bruner used the spiral curriculum to argue against the modes of teaching that deem some subjects too difficult for learners to grasp before they’re ready, which was partially in response to Piaget’s strict stages of cogntive development. Many have come to accept Bruner’s view that learning is more successful with early exposure and subsequent scaffolding of more complex concepts that occurs over earlier developing ones.
So how does a spiral curriculum differ from a traditional one? Traditionally subjects are taught in big chunks to everyone at the same time. Spiral curriculums are broken up into smaller chunks which are revisited, moving from exposure to more in-depth understanding with each revisit. Optimally,this gives greater flexibility for learner’s individual differences, while providing the more opportunities for challenge, creativity, and advanced mastery of subjects.
And, it mimics how we naturally learn language. A child doesn’t learn his first words in one day sections devoted to each word. A “Today we’re going to learn the word, doggy.” day would not be as effective as how kids naturally learn the word doggy. Initial exposures are added to with repeated revisits, increasing a word’s understanding with each revisit. The most effective learning of subsequent words occurs in the same manner.
Tags: categories, category learning, examples, teaching
Information that can be organized in some manner is most easily retrieved (Nippold, 1998). The organization of words into categories provides effective neural “hooks” for retrieval and an effective “filing cabinet” for storage. Many words fall neatly into categories that help this storage and retrieval, while many other words require more linguistic manipulation to find category relatives. The philosopher Immanuel Kant’s claim that categories are essential in understanding the world has both influenced and withstood generations of philosophical debate. The notion that things exist independently of human categories which are then imposed upon those things in order to better understand them has deeply influenced metaphysics, language, psychology, and education.
Examples are the opposite of categories. For example, spring and summer are examples of the category of seasons. The term “superordinate” is frequently used in linguistic circles to refer to categories. “Subordinates” is used to refer to category members. For example, trumpets and flutes are subordinate members of the superordinate class of instruments.
The use of categories is especially relevant to memory (McCormick and Schiefelbusch, 1990). Short term memory relies on techniques such as chunking, while association is key to long term memory. Chunking and association both use categories. The use of categories also aids us in describing related words, allowing us to more effectively communicate our knowledge of these words. One of the most widely seen features of semantic language impairment is the deficient use and understanding of categories.
As with any word, or word group, some categories tend to be learned before others. Below is an abbreviated list that I’ve used in my language teaching.
Tags: foils, foils and choices, language assessment
In teaching and assessment a foil is simply an incorrect alternative. Any time a choice is given the foil itself can make or break a response’s accuracy. As an example, consider this picture:
Now, here are four questions designed to determine your knowledge of the picture’s subject.
1) What is this?
2) Is this uranium, pyroxite, or feldspar?
3) Is this plagioclastic-orthonograph feldspar or uranium?
4) Is this a type of fruit or uranium?
Much can be ascertained about one’s uranium knowledge depending upon which questions can or can’t be answered. We can learn that somebody that can answer the question without foils (labeling, in this case) knows his rocks. Conversely, when using bad foils nothing may be discovered at all. Most second graders could answer the fourth question correctly which, of course, tells more about the child’s knowledge of fruit than uranium. The third question’s foil is almost as bad. If someone answers “uranium,” how do you know it’s not simply because the foil was so hard to pronounce? While these examples may be extreme, they illustrate the significance that seemingly simple framing and foils can have on good assessment.
Tags: click factor, cues, data notation, measuring progress
We often seem to teach something for a long time before progress is made. Then, it all seems to click, and suddenly the target is achieved. In language, after this “click,” there is usually no need to continue teaching the structure. The click factor encompasses two frequently observed phenomena: 1) a student will use a target structure at a low percentage for some time, then suddenly use it at a high percentage. 2) a student will not use a target structure at all, until being taught, after which time the student will suddenly use it at a high percentage. There seem to be two reasons that this occurs. One is that children may go awhile without a real world need for a target structure. For example, Joe has been exposed to the word “she” in speech therapy, but with no sisters, and inconsistent correction from his parent on other occasions when the word “she” has been needed, he has continued to use “he” time and time again. One day he refers to his grandmother as “he,” and is corrected by his grandfather. Suddenly, it all clicks! He realizes the reason for previous frustration, he knows how to eliminate this frustration, and he begins using “she” correctly. If we’re all lucky, there’s quick generalization to other structures, and the goal of pronoun usage can be soon crossed off the SLP’s list. Continue Reading The Click Factor…
Tags: flynn effect, matthew effect, mozart effect, partial reinforcement effect, perceptual magnet effect, spacing effect
The Matthew Effect - Named after a parable in The New Testament in which Jesus speaks (in fancier biblical words) of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. While the term has been bandied about in multiple fields, it’s special significance to special education was expounded by psychologist Keith Stanovich. Because those who learn linguistic foundations, such as phonology, grammar, and reading, have the things they’ve learned, they then learn more. Those without these foundations fall further behind. A strong body of evidence supports The Matthew Effect’s common sense notion that the gap that exists in early language learning widens in part because of the very existence of the gap itself.
The Flynn Effect – The research of James Flynn and others like him has demonstrated that IQs have gone up between 5 and 25 points among those in the general population during the past century. While some have stated that this is proof positive of our ever increasing intelligence, explanatory opinions have ranged from more expansive schooling, to better nutrition, to better problem solving abilities due to the greater accessibility of puzzles and video games, as well as the greater complexity of society overall. While a general consensus has remained out of reach, Flynn’s own hypothesis is that IQ testing correlates with intelligence more than it actually tests it. Click here for a well balanced explanation.
The Partial Reinforcement Effect - This is the one that keeps building those large Las Vegas hotels. Responses acquired after intermittent reinforcement (such as gambling wins) last longer than those acquired after continuous reinforcement. Simply put, spacing rewards is the best way to reinforce desired behavior. Despite it’s power, this one seems underutilized in education and teaching. I think it just needs a catchier name.
The Spacing Effect - Repeated spaced presentations naturally aid our memory in learning, much more than presentations that occur bunched together. If you read my earlier post, the spacing effect may be helping you learn about the spacing effect.
The Mozart Effect - Does listening to classical music actually improve intelligence? Probably not, but click here to read about why this effect has been so easy to believe.
The Perceptual Magnet Effect – According to this theory, this enables us to more easily learn differences between sounds that exist in learned language. We perceive a sound as its intended exemplar, even when not produced exactly as that exemplar. Here’s more info.
Tags: developmental order, teaching vocabulary, word lists
Estimates exist that vocabularies can consist of 60,000 to 80,000 words or more by graduation from high school (Bloom, 2005; Miller and Gildea, 1987). We can’t possibly teach this number of words. Fortunately we don’t have to. This is due to the fact that teaching vocabulary relies on three equally important modes. 1) Discovering which of the words that are considered appropriate for a child’s age and abilities have not been learned; 2) Meaningful exposure; 3) Providing opportunity for meaningful use. Formal language testing may uncover some words within specific areas that are problematic, but criterion testing is important to determine a significant quantity of these words. Discovering these words may be more important, if not equally important, as actually teaching these words. This is because of the sheer quantity of words that children are expected to learn. We can’t teach them all, but we can provide exposure, opportunity, and critically – acceptable expectations.
For use in my own teaching, I’ve compiled lists of words for each of various language areas that SLPs typically address. The words that I’ve chosen are considered high impact and foundational for further learning. The key “curriculum” vocabulary words are almost entirely nouns and verbs. Other words are usually addressed when specific language deficits are addressed. The order comes from developmental data, state goals, benchmarks, and often educated guesswork. There is a variable developemental order for each linguistic unit. A preponderance of unknown words equals a deficit area. A preponderance of known words equals an area thay is likely not considered deficient. Many language categories are divided into basic, early elementary, later elementary, and advanced. Here is how this looks with adjectives, as one example:
Basic: ahead, alike, afraid, bad, behind, big, fat, funny, good, great, etc.
Early Elementary: angry, better, best, beautiful, bright, closed, covered, dizzy, etc.
Later Elementary: crooked, dull, equal, exact, gorgeous, grumpy, handsome, level, etc.
Advanced: backward, precise, rectangular, slanted vast, etc.
Division into linguistic units such as adjectives is done merely to facilitate teaching. This facilitation is possible because of tendencies in children’s unassisted learning. Without help, a child with a few errors in one area tends to have errors concentrated in that area. Because there’s a potentially infinite number of adjectives, the grammatical class of adjectives is considered open-ended, which is the reason for each division’s “etc.” ending. Once it is discovered which words a child doesn’t, but should, know, this information can be passed on to parents, teachers, and to the students themselves.
Tags: Language Acquisition, Language Teaching, theories, theory
The current knowledge of language development includes a large amount of theory, research, and debate from a variety of fields. These include linguistics, psychology, philosophy, sociology, medicine, computers, biology, neurology, speech and language pathology, and education. What is known about language has come far in recent decades due to a recent flurry of activity in these disciplines, and as a result of the interdisciplinary sharing of information between the groups. Still, there are many questions. The nature-nurture debate rages, as do arguments regarding the pros and cons of specific theories of language acquisition. The search for autism’s elusive cure has gained unprecedented heights of popularity. And, how has language evolved? Or has it? To what extent, if any, does language precede thought? These and similar quests have sparked considerable debate but little consensus. And one large question still looms: Is it possible to devise a systematic way to teach language?