Thursday, June 10, 2021

Fun Learning and the Pandemic

 There are currents and counter currents. Overall, students did worse as measured by standardized tests. Especially in math.

But, many students learned faster and better and flourished in remote learning. Many kids switched to homeschooling and seemed happier. At the pandemic outset, 4% of the US K12 population was being homeschooled. Most recent Census homeschooling data says that over 10% is being homeschooled.

 True educational games have done great in the pandemic.  Time4Maths which is a great math set of games organized and managed so that they build true math facts fluency and  proficiency while the kids are simply playing. Great example of true game-based learning.  For more info on a fun, effective way to build your child’s skills in math, look at the links below.

Time4MathFacts is an online program that helps students practice and master their math facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Whether your child is struggling in math or beginning to learn their math facts, Time4MathFacts can help them reach their goals and boost their confidence.

Addition Facts Practice

Subtraction Facts Practice

Multiplication Facts Practice

Division Facts Practice

Monday, March 01, 2021

test of wonder of the day widget

This is a test of the Family Literacy Wonder of the Day: here's the iframe version....

Saturday, December 07, 2019

The Phonics Patent

Even as we rolled out SpellingCity, teachers and literacy coaches asked us to provide the same flexible practice tools to focus not just on spelling but on recognizing and working with sounds.  They asked for help not just with the spelling of words but with learning phonics and building phonological skills.  So we decided to help students construct and decode words by working with the sounds and the letter blocks that represent them. 

The idea was simple: We wanted to treat words like “tooth” as three blocks of letters which correspond with the three sounds: T, OO, and TH. But, as we searched, we could NOT find a system which mapped the sounds in words to the way the words are spelled. At first, this seemed unbelievable. Surely, in some university or research center, somebody had created a mapping which connected all the common English words into their sounds and mapped those sounds to the letters used to spell the words.
We spoke to a lot of people which  confirmed our initial findings. This mapping did not exist. Dictionaries, for instance, routinely have a phonetic spelling of words using various systems for writing phonics. But none of the dictionaries mapped the sounds back to the actual spelling of the words. Nobody had ever done this.
Our vision came from watching endless tutors, teachers, and parents help students by pointing at a few letters in a word and having the student say the sounds that those letters created. We watched teachers help students read the sounds to decode the word and then blend them together to write them.  

So, we decided to create the VocabularySpellingCity Phonics system, a novel contribution to literacy. The phonics system can be used for building a variety of prereading phonics-related skills including phonological skills, phonemic awareness, and spelling skills. Since we knew we had created something original and valuable, we started talking to lawyers. We decided in 2015 to file for a patent on our original system.  We started with two provisional patent filings.
Our permanent patent is number 10,387,543, issued on August 20th, 2019. It’s called a “Phoneme-to-Grap
hemes Mapping Patent”. It’s a utility patent covering our original method for algorithmically mapping the sounds in English words to the letters. The patent grant is both a recognition of novelty, a recognition of usefulness, and a grant of intellectual property ownership.
What is Phoneme to Grapheme Mapping?
Phonemes are the basic sounds of the English language.  Examples of phonemes from the word “cheek”, would be: CH, EE, K.   

Graphemes are the use of letters to express these sounds.  In English, here are three different patterns of how sounds (phonemes) are expressed by letters (graphemes):
  1. Some sounds are created by a single letter, for example, the T is “ten”.  T almost always sounds the same (unless it’s in a combination with another letter like H).
  2. Some sounds such as the long E sound can be spelled a number of ways including a double E, an E followed by an A, an E followed by a consonant followed by an E which is at the end of a word, a y at the end of the word, and an EY at the end of the word.
  3. Some letters, like the S, can usually sound one way, like in sound, and sometimes sounds quite different, like in sugar (where it makes the SH sound)
So how can this technology help?

Students can hear and see the sounds by mousing over the sounds in each box of VocabularySpellingCity’s Interactive Phonics Boxes. Many classrooms have students first work on recognizing the initial sounds where the Sounds Boxes are used with images to match initial sounds.
The patent holders who are current VocabularySpellingCity employees are John Edelson, Obiora Obinyeluaku. and Kris Craig.  For commercial purposes, the patent belongs to VocabularySpellingCity.
Patent 10,387,543
Holders of Patent 10,387,543 (current employees)
Activities with Interactive Sound Boxes (that use this technology): Sound It Out,  Initial Sound SpellerFinal Sound Speller,  FlashCardsWord Study (available for logged-in students) and TeachMe More.
Study and TeachMe More.

John Edelson at the US Patent Office
Sound Counter
The Sound Counter Helps Students Focus on Distinguishing Sounds, Building Phonological Awareness

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Blogs Remain Special

Even with the social media of today, there remains a need for education through long form posts. Look, Twitter and Instagram and even Facebook are great for seeing a flow of ideas and headlines but they aren't good with substantative content, this is why blogs continue to reign as the only way to have deep materials.

Admittedly, both Facebook an dLInked In have built a sort of onsite blog for articles. This sort of works. But each article is isolated and there's not a canon of work with tabs and themes the way that one can get on a blog.

Teachers often find the indepth info that makes a huge difference to them thru these blogs.
And blogs help with people finding people. Here's info on education for Jennifer eaton.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Tech is NOT transforming education...

I was just reading the Why Tech is not transforming Teaching and I feel that all of those thoughts and opinions are too mired in the details of school management to see the forest.  They are just seeing the trees.  A few points:

<sadly, this article is a work in progress. Want to help me finish researching and writing it? Comment here and I'll get back to you>

Almost every industry has been transformed by education with vast ongoing increases in productivity. Farming, manufacturing, retailing, communications, health care, and even government.  Education's slow movement has to do with some funny things about how schools are managed, not by any limitations of what technology is available.

While they might be right that tech has not transformed teaching, it has absolutely transformed learning. <Higher IQ, astonishing spatial reasoning and hand-eye coordination> and a flip side that kids can no longer read maps.

Technology has transformed the kids: the kids of today are wired quite differently.
Technology has transformed the skills that the kids need to succeed when they graduate. Need to be more entrepreneurial, higher lever skills, more tech skilled. The highly repetitive disciplined jobs of yesteryear which we use to train people for: GONE!

Big picture: I love the story of the big foundation study in the last year which did a broad state of education study and found that the students were .... <drum roll> .... very bored by school. From late elementary school through the end of high school, students across the spectrum and country reported school was dull and didn't feel relevant or important except for the credential.

The study followed up by looking at  the nation's so called innovative schools and found... the same thing!  They then took a closer look at the data and found a countertrend. In every school, including the conventional ones, there was a streak of high interest activities.  What were they?  Well, we all know the answer and its sort of amazing that this doesn't have a higher profile in our discussions about education.... It's the electives and supplementary programs.   The robotics program, the coding program, the theater program, the music program, the school newspaper, and of course, sports. 

So how to think about education and the impact of technology. 
- if you are black, do you care about a US history text book in which the first half of the book is all those white dudes and the only blacks are details about the start of slavery?   Why not ask them to create real US history which shows how they got here? Their history.  The research on this is that it produces highly motivated students plus much better mastery of US history as measured on conventional tests....

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Elementary Writing Program

WritingCity is our new writing program, I'm real excited about it.  I saw this blog post about how it serves as a great elementary writing program

And I'll quote a little:

WritingCity, previously WriteStepsWriting, provides:

  • detailed day by day lesson plans
  • the authentic student writing samples as examplars
  • the videos so the mini-lessons could be done in literacy centers rather than in whole class sessions by the teacher
  • The blending of key writing strategies including Writer’s Workshop, 6 Trait Writing,   Bloom’s Taxonomy, Multiple Intelligences, Marzano’s Instructional Strategies, and Cooperative Learning
  • The balance of using prompts that are response to reading versus more open-ended prompts

  • Teaching writing of course is very difficult in elementary schools since the teachers aren't dying to spend time reivewing the kids writing and the kids aren't always that excited about struggling with sentences. But getting them writing early is always a great idea.

    Thursday, February 22, 2018

    Learning to Write

    There are many approaches to learning to write but let me discuss a few here. The Writers Workshop, pioneered at NY Colleges, is real popular. The idea is that there's a little mini lesson and then, wahoo, lets each write.  It's about writing.
    Lucy Caukins is often the prof most associated with taking WW into the K12 population.  The most popular current effective implementation of Writers Workshop is WritingCity.

    Settings for Handwriting Practice
    Anotehr approach is for students to take single courses where they get minilessons and then practice specific isolated skills. Works for many kids. For this, use Time4Writing! here are some great materials from Time4Writing;

    Lastly, do not forget that there is an important role for handwriting worksheets to practice developing handwriting skills, particularly in early elementary.

    Sorry dear reader about the fonts. It's too hard to sort out. Sigh.

    Wednesday, November 08, 2017

    Speedy Speller!!!!

    Ask any elementary student about their favorite spelling game and in any grade, you'll hear about Speedy Speller!!!! Play it here! NOW!

    Thanks VSC: Want lists by great?  HERE!

    1st Grade Word Lists
    2nd Grade Word Lists
    3rd Grade Word Lists
    4th Grade Word Lists
    5th Grade Word Lists
    6th Grade Word Lists

    Friday, September 15, 2017

    Wonderopolis and Family Literacy

    I've just been talking to John R at Family Literacy - NCEL - in Louisville Kentucky about Wonderopolis and WonderoCity. Community manager is John M. Impressive board.. Here's one of their widgets:
    - doesn't activate...
    It's a very impressive collection of educational materials. Their mission is to provide support for family literacy.  They have:

    Wonders of the Day -
    Wonderground - exchange on what to do with it
    Camp Wonderopolis - sometimes overlaps with Wonders of the Day

    So much very cool and well done educational materials.
    Interactive Wonder Jar
    Family Literacy - NCFL!

    Thursday, September 07, 2017

    Hurricane Education

    Here's my favorite, the hurricane song.

    Hurricane Spong
    The Hurricane Song

     Here's a new one that I just discovered. How much does a hurricane weigh? Sound stupid but it's amazing. It first deals with the question of how much does a typical fluffy cloud weight (Spoiler alert...tons!)


    This little film has some good content but the dramatic premise is laughable.

    Hi Timmy. Your house is gone. I'll teach you some science about hurrricanes....

    It does have a few dramatic music sequences which make up for the cheesy premise. Also, it's got a great British  voice over.

    BTW. I'm looking at hurricane info since I'm an evacuee from IRMA in Ft Lauderdale.
    Here is the info on evacuation zones in Ft Lauderdale.

    Flex tape - here's the ad from TV about this amazing tape. If I'd had time, I wanted to seal up my sliding doors at the seam and see if it would actually stop the house from flooding. Anyone know if it would?  I asked them in the comments of their youtube video, I wonder if they'll answer...

    Wednesday, August 30, 2017

    Have you ever wondered?

    Here is a stream of more than just fun facts, these are areas of mystery demystified for us. Enjoy! All thanks to Family Literacy Center in Louisville and Wonderopolis. 

    Monday, August 28, 2017

    First Palm You'll See Driving South on I95?

    Here is a valuable update on the first palm trees seen from driving south on the I95 highway. Sorry, still no pictures or a Google address ID. I might get onto Google Earth and try and figure it out!

    Saturday, August 26, 2017

    Collections and Information

    I have some other sites that I maintain.

    Most importantly, I have a world class collection of joker playing cards. Examples  of jokers.

    There are specific sections like a collection of musicians who are jokers.  There's also a collection of clown jokers. And so on.

    But wait, there's more. I also have a blog with info, a blorum, in which I present much info including info such as SEO Circa August 2017!  There I make the bold statement that search engine position is a function of:
    1.  Quality and quantity and relevance of incoming links from websites  50% of the battle. 
    2.  Quality and quantity of social media links such as Twitter and LinkedIn, perhaps Pinterest: 25% of the battle.  
    3. Engagement: Another 25%.

    I'm also a big collector of vintage educational technology, the old techie for kids and their fun learning. Key articles there that you will want to check out:


    The site is about old technology for education. In the VocabularySpellingCity office, we collect vintage educational technology and enjoy viewing previous "revolutions" in edtech. Visitors get to visit the museum. Have retired film strips, educational records, or whatever? We might give them a home. Did you use these technologies, were they revolutionary? Comment on the site or tweet to me: @VSpellCityMayor PS. I'm looking for a classic old teacher gradebook, have one?

    Sunday, August 13, 2017

    Language Arts in Elementary Schools

    I am familiar with the VocabularySpellingCity adoption by schools, districts, teachers, and parents across the country. It's been wildly popular! 👱

    It started with the automated spelling test.  What a gas! Kids were finally empowered to really test themselves and not have to ask for help to practice their words. And, the test itself and all the practice activities were gamified so the kids stopped complaining about practicing their spelling words and started learning them.  

    Teachers were like Oh WOW, I don't have to grade and record a spelling test this week? Or ever again.  Suddenly, after years of fighting technology, somebody has actually introduced some technology that simplified their life and saved them class time and effort. How much do teachers LOVE VocabularySpellingCity? So Much.  Other activities have come along which have also made a huge difference.

    For nstance, the site introduced tens of thousands of word lists ready-to-use on almost any topic. Want to have a vocabulary test on top European countries?  Third grade geometry words?  1st Grade Compound Words?  8th grade level analogies and metaphors.  The site has a veritable Swiss Army knife of possibilities.  Want help finding the right materials for your grade? Start with the info on your grade level. Here:

    Kindergarten Word Lists;
    1st Grade Word Lists
    2nd Grade Word Lists
    3rd Grade Word Lists
    4th Grade Word Lists
    5th Grade Word Lists
    6th Grade Word Lists

    Lastly, the site has a serious number of great learning games. I won't list them here but still, fantastic materials. Enjoy! It's only $2.25 per student per year for schools!

    Thursday, April 27, 2017

    Phonics Prereading skills

    Homeschool moms: pay attention to the sequence of learning to read. While there is much to debate and which doesn't relaly matter, afew things do.

    What may or may not matter. Letter names. Plenty of kids have learned to read without knowing the names of all the letters. I fyou think about it, knowing what the name of the B or the D is does not help you to read at all. It arguably gets in the way since its name is a useless fact. Of, you could argue that knowing the name makes it easier to deal with letters.  Many countries such as England and France do NOT teach letter names until later in elementary school after the kids have learned to read. They, by the way, have less problems teaching kids to read that the Good Old USA!

    What does matter. Phonological skills. The kids who do not learn to discriminate between p and b, or m and n, and so on, have a very difficult time with both verbal and reading skills.   From early on, parents should play games and find software that helps kids build these skills. Examples:

    Sound It Out - A great Phonological Skill Building game. Her'es a detailed description of how these phonological prereading skills are developed by it.  And here's a link to a collection of prereading phonics-skill building games.

    Why are these phonological skills important? 

    Building early literacy skills begins with phonological awareness, the key element in learning phonics. Once they can begin to understand phonics, the system of sound and letter correspondence, beginning readers can accurately decode words and writers can spell them. Word recognition also includes the automaticity of word meaning. Developing good spelling and vocabulary skills is essential for effective written communication as well. Vocabulary development also promotes fluency by building background knowledge and concepts necessary for reading comprehension. Developing these skills over time achieves the ultimate goal of reading and writing fluency.

    For English Language LearnersSound It Out is exceptionally useful.  As background, we all know that one of the challenges for ELL students is mastering the phonological skills of distinguishing the sounds (both for hearing and for speaking) that exist in English but not in their original languages. For instance, native Spanish speakers need to learn to distinguish the English /v/ from the /b/ sound.  Other English sounds that are difficult for native Spanish speakers include the /l/ sound, the short /i/, and the /ch/ sound. But with Sound It Out, these tough sounds can be listened to and practiced, sound by sound, giving them the power to pursue proficiency.