A School for Life
Many students enter our classrooms with limited vocabulary and loads of catching up to do. I’ve seen teachers discouraged by the challenge they are faced with, and yet doing valuable things in their classrooms everyday to not only meet challenges but to exceed expectations. The good news is that the little things we do everyday can have a great impact.
Why Modeled Reading Matters
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald
Our students have a wide range of lap hours logged. For some, the idea of climbing up to listen as someone reads to them is more natural than putting on a pair of socks, while for others it’s a rare event. In classrooms, allchildren benefit from listening as we read.
Modeling fluent reading in our classrooms and displaying our love for the written word benefits every student, but it is essential for those students who do not get this benefit at home.
Older students can benefit as well. On this topic, Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook,says, “Every read-aloud is an advertisement for pleasure, every worksheet is an ad for pain. If the pain outweighs the pleasure, the customers go elsewhere.” When we read and showcase our love of reading we are advertising the very thing we want our students to buy.
Get Students Reading More, More, More (and More)
“There is ample evidence that one of the major differences between poor and good readers is the difference in the quantity of total time they spend reading.” – National Reading Panel, 2000
The best way to improve reading skill is through reading practice. If we’ve modeled fluent reading for students and chosen material that is a great fit for their ability and their interest, then we have set the stage for practice.
It’s no wonder that good readers read a lot and poor readers read little. If an activity is not pleasurable, devoting time to it is not desirable. However, as good readers read and poor readers do not, the gap in their ability grows. We must encourage all of our students to read. We must find ways to make reading pleasurable for all students.
*Note that I’ve indicated Children A, B & C are all reading at the same rate (100WPM). Though this scenario may be unlikely, it highlights the gains that are possible for all students. As their reading improves, their rate will increase along withmore words devoured.
For those with poor skills, the need to practice is critical—not only to improve their reading ability, but also to open their world. These “words” represent new vocabulary, new ideas, new topics, and new learning. By getting students to read more we are expanding their imaginations and building their background. When students read little they miss out on so much more than slow-growing reading skills.
A Deep and Continuing Need
One final note on quality. To incent students to read and to help them read well, we must also focus on motivation and help students choose reading material that will be inspiring and well suited to them.
“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. ” – Maya Angelou
I’ve always been struck by some of the reading material we put in front of our struggling readers. As I’ve worked with students on their assigned texts, I can’t help but find myself bored and listless. How can we expect students to develop a fondness for reading if what we’re asking them to read is not particularly good? Think about why you read and what you like to read. I’ve yet to find the well-read adult who chooses reading material based on their ability level alone. Instead, they read to gather information, to soak up a genre they are especially fond of, to escape and to dream. To foster this ‘deep and continuing need’, we need to provide our students with delicious, fantastic literature. They need rich vocabulary, exotic stories and variety. At times this beautiful content is beyond the reach of our students’ ability, but we are wise to help them reach, to scaffold, to encourage and to make every attempt to give them the good stuff.
“It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.” – Katherine Patterson
Have you ever tried to read your physician’s prescriptions? Children increasingly print their writing because they don’t know cursive or theirs is simply unreadable. I have a middle-school grandson who has trouble reading his own cursive. Grandparents may find that their grandchildren can’t even read the notes they send. Our new U.S. Secretary of the Treasury can’t (or won’t) write his own name on the new money being printed.
When we adults went to school, one of the first things we learned was how to write the alphabet, in caps and lower case, and then to hand-write words, sentences, paragraphs, and essays. Some of us were lucky enough to have penmanship class where we learned how to make our writing pretty and readable. Today, keyboarding is in. The Common Core Standards no longer require elementary students to learn cursive, and some schools are dropping the teaching of cursive entirely, dismissing it as an “ancient skill.”
The primary schools that teach handwriting spend only just over an hour a week, according to Zaner-Bloser Inc., one of the nation’s largest handwriting-curriculum publishers. Cursive is not generally taught after the third grade (my penmanship class was in the 7th grade; maybe its just coincidence, but the 7th grade was when I was magically transformed from a poor student into an exceptional student).
Yet scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization”—that is, the capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.
There is a spill-over benefit for thinking skills used in reading and writing. To write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed over the fingers. You have to pay attention and think about what and how you are doing it. You have to practice. Brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.
Much of the benefit of handwriting in general comes simply from the self-generated mechanics of drawing letters. In one Indiana University study, researchers conducted brain scans on pre-literate 5-year olds before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced self-generated printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters. The brain’s “reading circuit” of linked regions that are activated during reading was activated during hand writing, but not during typing. This lab has also demonstrated that writing letters in meaningful context, as opposed to just writing them as drawing objects, produced much more robust activation of many areas in both hemispheres.
In learning to write by hand, even if it is just printing, the brain must:
Locate each stroke relative to other strokes.
Learn and remember appropriate size, slant of global form, and feature detail characteristic of each letter.
Develop categorization skills.
Cursive writing, compared to printing, should be even more beneficial because the movement tasks are more demanding, the letters are less stereotypical, and the visual recognition requirements create a broader repertoire of letter representation. Cursive is also faster and more likely to engage students by providing a better sense of personal style and ownership.
Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington, reported her study of children in grades two, four and six that revealed they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.
There is a whole field of research known as “haptics,” which includes the interactions of touch, hand movements, and brain function. Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity. School systems, driven by ill-informed ideologues and federal mandate, are becoming obsessed with testing knowledge at the expense of training kids to develop better capacity for acquiring knowledge.
The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument. Not everybody can afford music lessons, but everybody has access to pencil and paper. Not everybody can afford a computer for their kids—but maybe such kids are not as deprived as we would think.
Take heart: Some schools celebrated National Handwriting Day on January 23. Cursive is not dead yet. We need to insist that it be maintained in our schools.
 Slape, L. “Cursive Giving Way to Other Pursuits as Educators Debate Its Value.” The Daily
News, Feb. 4, 2012.
 James, Karin H. an Atwood, Thea P. (2009).The role of sensorimotor learning in the perception of letter-like forms: Tracking the causes of neural specialization for letters. Cognitive Neuropsychology.26 (1), 91-100.
 James, K.H. and Engelhardt, L. (2013). The effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate children. Trends in Neuroscience and Education. Article in press.
 Berninger, V. “Evidence-Based, Developmentally Appropriate Writing Skills K–5: Teaching
the Orthographic Loop of Working
to Write Letters So Developing Writers Can Spell
Words and Express Ideas.” Presented at Handwriting in the 21st Century?: An Educational Summit, Washington, D.C., January 23, 2012.
 Mangen, A., and Velay, J. –L. (2010). Digitizing literacy: reflections on the haptics of writing.
In Advances in Haptics, edited by M. H. Zadeh.
Original article published by ‘Psychology Today’ at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/memory-medic/201303/why-writing-hand-could-make-you-smarter?fbclid=IwAR1qSYoljETue_hjoEya_A3q6nYGYkikxCHiSVggPG3_kmyAnv6FLE0McTo
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 11% of American children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as of 2011. However, if you ask the American Psychiatric Association (APA), they maintain that even though only 5% of American children suffer from the disorder, the diagnosis is actually given to around 15% of American children. This number has been steadily rising, jumping from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007.
Big Pharma has played a significant role in manufacturing the ADHD epidemic in the U.S., convincing parents and doctors that ADHD is a common problem amongst children and one that should be medicated. However, many countries disagree with the American stance on ADHD, so much so that they have entirely different structures for defining, diagnosing, and treating it. For example, the percentage of children in France that have been diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than 0.5%. This is largely because French doctors don’t consider ADHD a biological disorder with biological causes, but rather a medical condition caused by psycho-social and situational factors.
French child psychiatrists use a different system than American psychiatrists to classify emotional problems in childhood. Instead of using the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the French use an alternative classification system produced by the French Federation of Psychiatry called Classification Française des Troubles Mentaux de L’Enfant et de L’Adolescent (CFTMEA).
Not only does this significantly differ from the APA’s system, but it was actually created with the intention to “offer French child psychiatrists an alternative to DSM-III” because it didn’t complement French psychiatric practices. The CFTMEA encourages psychiatrists to identify the underlying issues that cause a child’s symptoms and to address them using a psychopathological approach.
By Elisha McFarland
According to Euromonitor, the average person in the United States consumes more than 126 grams of sugar per day. That’s equal to 25.2 teaspoons, or the equivalent of drinking a little over three 12 ounce colas.
Soda can cause a decline in kidney function. In an 11-year-long Harvard Medical School study, including 3,318 women, researchers found that diet cola is linked with a two-fold increased risk for kidney decline.
2. Soda increases diabetes risk. High levels of sugar in soda places a lot of stress on your pancreas, potentially leaving it unable to keep up with the body’s need for insulin. Drinking one or two sugary drinks per day increases your risk for type 2 diabetes by 25%.
3. Soda cans are lined with BPA. Soda cans are coated with the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to everything from heart disease to obesity to reproductive problems.
4. Soda dehydrates you. Caffeine is a diuretic. Diuretics promote the production of urine, causing you to urinate more frequently. When the body’s cells are dehydrated they have difficulty absorbing nutrients, and it also makes it more difficult for the body to eliminate waste.
5. Caramel coloring in soda is linked to cancer. The artificial brown coloring in colas is a chemical process, it is not made from caramelized sugar. It is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures. These chemical reactions result in the formation of 2-methylimidazole (2-MI) and 4 methylimidazole (4-MI), which in government-conducted studies caused lung, liver, or thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice and rats.
6. Caramel coloring in soda is linked to vascular issues. Dr. Nehal N. Mehta, director of Inflammatory Risk Cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania states that there is a link between vascular problems and caramel-containing products.
7. Soda is high in calories. A 20 ounce can of Coca Cola contains 17 teaspoons of sugar and 240 calories…empty calories devoid of any nutritional value. It would take the average adult over one hour of walking to burn off¬ the 240 calories in a 20-ounce soda.
8. Caffeine in soda blocks the absorption of magnesium. According to Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. Magnesium is essential for more than 325 enzyme reactions in the body. Magnesium also plays a role in your body’s detoxification processes and therefore is important for minimizing damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins.
9. Soda increases obesity risk in children. Each additional soda or other sugary drink consumed per day increases the likelihood of a child becoming obese by about 60%. Sugary drinks are connected to other health problems as well.
10. Soda increases heart disease in men. Each soda consumed per day increases the risk of heart disease by 20% in men.
11. Acid in soda wears away dental enamel. Lab testing on soda acidity shows that the amount of acid in soda is enough to wear away dental enamel. pH levels in soda can be as low as 2.5, as a frame of reference battery acid has a pH of 1, water has a pH of 7.0.
12. Soda contains high amounts of sugar. The average 20-ounce can of Coca Cola has the equivalent of 17 teaspoons of sugar, it’s not hard to see that soda can be bad for your teeth and your overall health.
13. Soda contains artificial sweeteners. While many people opt for artificial sugar to lower caloric intake the tradeoff for your health isn’t so sweet. Artificial sugars are linked to numerous illness and diseases including cancer.
14. Soda depletes your mineral levels. Sodas that contain phosphoric acid removes much needed calcium from your bones. After studying several thousand men and woman, researchers at Tufts University, found that women who drank 3 or more cola based sodas a day, had almost 4% lower bone mineral density in their hips, even though researchers controlled their calcium and vitamin D intake.
15. Drinking soda changes your metabolism. Dr. Hans-Peter Kubis, the director of the Health Exercise and Rehabilitation group at Bangor University in England, has found that drinking soda on a regular basis can actually change the metabolism in the human body. Participants drank 140 grams of sugar every day for four weeks (that’s less than two 20 ounce cans of Coke). The results: their metabolism changed after the four weeks, making it more difficult for them to burn fat and lose weight.
16. Drinking more than one soda daily, increases your risk for heart disease and metabolic syndrome. According to Ravi Dhingra, M.D., lead author of the study and an instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School states “If you are drinking one or more soft drinks a day, you may be increasing your risk of developing metabolic risk factors for heart disease.” The Framingham study included nearly 9,000 individuals, over a four year period. Researchers found that individuals consuming one or more sodas a day had a 48 % increased risk of metabolic syndrome compared to those consuming less than one soft drink daily.
17. Diet soda does not help you lose weight. A University of Texas Health Science Center study found that the more diet sodas a person drank, the greater their risk of becoming overweight. Consuming two or more cans a day increased waistlines by 500% greater than those who do not consume diet soda.
18. Diet sodas contain mold inhibitors. They go by the names sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate, and they’re used in nearly all diet sodas. “These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it – they knock it out altogether,” Peter Piper, a professor of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Sheffield in the U.K., told a British newspaper. The preservative has also been linked to hives,asthma, and other allergic conditions, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Note: Some companies have phased out sodium benzoate. Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi have replaced it with another preservative, potassium benzoate. Both sodium and potassium benzoate were classified by the Food Commission in the UK as mild irritants to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.
19. Sodas containing ascorbic acid and potassium benzoate can form benzene, a known carcinogen. Benzene can form in beverages and foods that contain both ascorbic acid and potassium benzoate. According to the FDA, when benzoate is exposed to light and heat in the presence of vitamin C, it can be converted into benzene. According to the American Cancer Society, benzene is considered a carcinogen
20. Daily sodas and other sugar sweetened drinks are linked to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). The 2,634 individuals in the study completed a CT scan to measure the amount of fat in the liver. They saw a higher prevalence of NAFLD among people who reported drinking more than one sugar-sweetened drink per day compared to people who said they drank no sugar-sweetened beverages.
21. Some sodas contain flame retardant. Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is added to many citrus based sodas and sports drinks to prevent the drinks from separating. What’s the concern? BVO is patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant. It is also banned in over 100 countries, but it is still used in the U.S. Learn more here.
22. Soda is linked to Asthma. A study done in South Australis of 16,907 participants aged 16 years and older, showed high levels of soda
We would encourage you to bring other parents with as this will be insightful as to why we have chosen this route for The Daniel Academy (as opposed to Matriculation certificate). Marina Goetze who spoke at our previous parent evening, will be sharing her personal experience with GED and also the changing environment for tertiary education. The process of getting GED and SATS will be explained in detail and is vital for all parents to understand what it entails.
We had an amazing, and highly qualified speaker (available at very
short notice – we know) on 28/07/2016 – good to hear and look at
Her mentor is the noted Ken Robinson who has millions of views on TED talks on education.
If you have any children at any school – come and hear what she has to say – No you don’t have to take your child out of their school, because she will also be giving parents pointers on how to help your children and how to deal with the system in a way that will benefit your children.
Great tips on general stuff that will help your parenting skills and she will be touching on what the best school leaving qualifications your child needs to get ahead at university and life (and it is not a matric!)
If all this is making you nervous check out her website http://hookedonlearning.co.za/
Follow the links below to find out some of what we will be hearing on Thursday evening 7 pm 28 July – come and find out from an expert on how the South African education system is damaging our children’s, mental, emotional and physical well being.
By Marika Bergsund, GrowingGreat.org.
Imagine a student planting a seed in your school’s garden, and just days later seeing a tiny leaf pushing up through the soil. Tending to new plants teaches children responsibility and teamwork. It provides an opportunity to bring science, math, social studies, and language and visual arts to life through hands-on learning. Vegetable gardens let children taste the wonders of fresh food. Plus, parents, students and teachers can all enjoy the growing feeling of community that comes from sharing a new adventure. Here are just some of the many benefits of adding a garden to your school.
Nature as Teacher The experience of seeing seed, soil, water and sun come together to transform into a tiny plant is a lesson in itself, and one not soon forgotten. Learning to appreciate the wonder and power of nature is the core of an environmental education. Planting a seed teaches students about the need to protect our natural resources, since clean soil and water are necessary for the plants to grow. Children learn that we need to preserve open land for food crops, trees and enjoying nature. By tending the garden and taking care of their environment, they see that they are helping nature make the magic happen.
The Law of the Land Responsibility and Teamwork The fundamental rule of farming is that it takes responsibility and teamwork. If you don’t water your garden, your plants will die. If you don’t weed the garden, the weeds get worse and you have to work harder later to get the job done. Children learn how to be responsible by taking care of something and seeing the consequences when they don’t do the work. Gardens also provide a wealth of opportunities for teamwork. Students need to work together to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water the plants and stay on top of the weeding. These opportunities to take responsibility and work with others can build students’ self esteem, and watching their garden grow is the sign of their success.
Hands-On Learning Gardens provide a wealth of opportunities for kids to get their hands dirty while learning lessons in many different areas of curriculum. Students can study plant anatomy and botanical life science, and those are just the beginning. Young scientists can change variables in the garden (such as watering frequency or plant spacing), then collect data on plant growth, chart the research and write up their analyses and conclusions. A creative class in California once tested whether watering lettuce with dyed-blue water changed the color of the lettuce (answer: no). For math lessons, teach students about perimeters, measurements and area as they design the layout of planting beds. Even the youngest students can learn basic measurements when they use a ruler to find the proper spacing when planting their seeds or plants. For language arts, gardens make children’s literature come alive by planting a Peter Rabbit garden (which contains plants mentioned in the Beatrix Potter classic) or scatter lupine flower seeds like Miss Rumphius did in Barbara Cooney’s book. Take a lesson from social studies class by having students plant a traditional Native American Three Sisters garden of corn, beans and squash, or plant a garden of tomatoes and exotic spices brought back from the New World to Europe by the explorers. For many students, such hands-on learning experiences are vitally important and can contribute to greater success in the classroom.
Sneaking in Nutrition Education A vegetable garden gives your school all the benefits mentioned above, with the added reward of valuable nutrition lessons on the importance and joys of eating fresh foods. New reports continue to show the alarming rise of nutrition-related health conditions such as diabetes and obesity in children and adults across the U.S. And yet, with severe budget cuts in education and increasing demands on teachers, the amount of nutrition education being taught in schools continues to decline. Many teachers simply lack the time and the resources to add another content area to the existing curriculum. In this are, the garden is a double blessing. It lets you enrich your curriculum lessons while also providing an opportunity to teach nutrition when students sample their harvest. Children are much more likely to taste a vegetable they have grown, and vegetables always taste better straight from the garden.
School gardens can take variety of forms, from the simplest containers outside a classroom to a multi-plot, in-ground garden featuring seating areas and a greenhouse. But the size of your garden should not limit its potential to contribute to the learning environment. The benefits are readily available to all, so go and plant that seed!