Logic of English and English as a Second Language Learners

Second Language Learners often struggle to make sense of written English. Students from Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, and other developed nations have typically learned their first language in a systematic manner and understand the code underlying written words. Second language students usually approach English by looking for patterns. They frequently ask questions about spelling. However, English speakers and teachers rarely know the answers; instead, they perpetuate the myth that English spelling is outdated and illogical and therefore must be memorized by rote.

Yet, this is not true. Ninety-eight percent of English words can be logically explained. The problem is that English is not a transparent code where one letter corresponds to only one sound. Rather, English is an opaque code and therefore the code is not easily distilled without explicit teaching of the sounds, their written representations, and the rules which govern them.

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Temple Grandin and Uncovering the Logic of English

I feel very honored that Temple Grandin agreed to read "Uncovering the Logic of English." Here is her full statement.

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Prefixes and Latin Roots

As I write the word lists for the curriculum, I have been exploring the derrivatives for each word. It amazes me how far knowing one root, whether it be an English, Latin, or Greek root will bring students in vocabulary development.

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Is Spelling Important?

Why is spelling important?

Spelling is the basic skill underlying writing. Without learning to spell fluently our train of thought is interrupted during writing. How many times have you had to change a word because you didn't know how to spell it? Have you ever had the problem where even spell check didn't recognize it? I know. Before learning the logic of English, I sometimes abandoned the perfect word because I didn't know how to spell it well enough to look it up.

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Creative Minds and Language Learning

One of the early curriculum testers is working with a highly creative child. This student wants to draw pictures of everything. She hates to spell and doesn't want to accept that her invented spellings are as good as the standard.

I spoke with her tutor and began to think further about this type of learner. They are our artists, creative writers, interior designers. They bring beauty, visual expression, and add such depth to our world.

How do we teach them to read and spell in a manner that respects their particular gifts and strengthens their weaknesses?

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Uncovering the Logic of English available for Kindle and iBooks

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W and WH

The phonograms W and WH are pronounced differently by some dialects.

Here is a fun link to a website where you can try to hear the differences. If your particular dialect pronounces them the same it can be challenging to hear. Listen for more air with the /wh/. This link includes Two pronuncations of when.

To hear other words, search for why, what, where, etc.

Learning Disabilities and Learning Styles

In The World Needs All Kinds of Minds, Temple Grandin shows the images of her brain and how her visual cortex is more highly used than in the control groups. She then demonstrates how this strength is what facilitates her work as an animal researcher and scientist. She believes that most tech geeks, scientists, and engineers fall on the Autism spectrum. Her point is well taken that there are a variety of minds and that as a society we benefit from this variety.

As I have worked with students that would be labeled with a variety of learning disabilities, I continue to wonder if it is not that there is something wrong with the child, but something wrong with the idea of standardization. We seem to value being at or above the mean in everything. But if we stop and think, this is not possible.

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The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

Last week I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Temple Grandin present on The World Needs All Kinds of Minds.

For those of you who do not know, Dr. Temple Grandin has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine. As a woman with autism she speaks powerfully about how her mind works and the strengths that she has been given. She is also clear about weaknesses and how as educators we need to consider the diversity of our students and inspire them. Dr. Grandin is an animal researcher and has used her gifts to change how we understand and treat animals. The above link to TED is the same presentation. I highly suggest all teachers and parents take time to listen to what Dr. Grandin has to say.

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What Makes a Great Reading Curriculum?

As I write curriculum, trying to provide a path for teachers, I have been thinking a great deal about the question, "What makes a great reading and spelling curriculum?"

Most of the solid reading methods based upon Dr. Orton's 70 phonograms require intensive and expensive training classes. Though I believe that all teachers will benefit from training of this sort, I also understand teachers' reluctance to spend the time and money.

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