Friday, December 19, 2008

Bilingual Kids Books

A huge percent of us are bilingual. Or we want to be. I've always thought it would be fun to read books that were written in the two languages that we know. So I was pleased when I read about Zooprise Party Fiesta.

Written by Joy Delgado of Puerto Rico, it combines English and Spanish. She is an exciting new author/illustrator who is intereviewed on Kathy Semke's blog.

Sadly, I speak English and French so I can't read it. But for my kids who speak English and French and are learning Spanish, it should be great. Thanks Kathy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sites that Work Together

I like it when different sites figure out how to work together. Check out this clever connection. The Learning Vocabulary Fun website has some science songs. They are a great way to learn science.

They do use some vocabulary which can be challenging. So underneath the songs, there is a vocabulary list. And then, they have built links directly to the vocabulary and spelling games on SpellingCity.

It's cool. You should do the same from your classroom. Put together a vocabulary list and link it directly to that list on SpellingCity.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Have you ever lied to your kids?

Have you ever lied to your kids?
This got me to thinking. I can't wait to see this discussion develop.....

OK. Lets hear it. “Have you ever lied to your kids? If so, how did it work out”. I’m going to start a discussion here and then send it around as a meme.

I’ll start off. Two lies. One was when we had a rat problem. I was baiting a mouse trap with peanut butter and cheese and my four year old daughter asked: “Is that so the rat can eat when he’s caught in the trap?”

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Teaching technology to today's tweens and teens

Teachers in schools are coming up with great ways to teach technology to today's kids, and, as one would expect, the kids are eating it up!

One great example is a teacher at the Randazzo School in South Florida.
She teaches a computer class to middle through high school kids. This class was impressive from the very start. Within weeks the kids were taking apart CPUs and installing hardware.

They soon moved on to learning Microsoft Word. Homework was done in Word and emailed to the teacher through the student's Gmail accounts.

Currently, this teacher who also works on the city of Coral Spring's website as well as the school's website, has started teaching her students to use Joomla. Joomla is a content management system used currently by forward-thinking web developers.
Her students are now researching and writing articles for the city web site's teen section CS-Teens and adding them to the website using this content management technology, a skill that is currently in high-demand in the web world.

Half way through their school year, I can't wait to see what they move onto next!

I want to join this class!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Homeschool blog with give-a-aways

A friend just pointed me towards a blog that's doing a clever promotional effort: 7 reviews with 7 giveaways.

What I really liked about Shanna's blog was the December 3rd post: This counts as school, right?
Somehow, it captured the spirit of homeschooling at it's most simple and charming. And I quote:

All on their own, the kids decided to create a script, build a set, and act out their own lego film. They asked me to film it and put it on my blog. Well, how could I resist?

The give-away idea is good. It's effectiveness depends on how well promoted it is and whether the giveaways are significant enough to endear the visitors to the site. That's my $.02. (In any case, that's what I learned when I took my Intro to Blogging and Blog Promotion course).

Check out her site.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Twitter is Not a Waste of Time!

I'm wrong again. It turns out, according to the latest research, that Twitter is Not a Waste of Time! And I quote a campus technology article:

David Parry (2008), an assistant professor at the University of Dallas, cited an example of a class in which one half of the students used Twitter and one half did not. He observed that those students who did use the technology were more engaged and connected overall with the course and that he, as the instructor, knew more about the students' understanding and progress throughout the course than with those who did not use the technology. Parry did note that there is something of a challenge not to over-engage with students but did propose that being relevant with students is a very real challenge in his view of teaching. The more that instructor can and does use current communication tools like Twitter with students, Parry noted, the more students will regard the instructor as relevant. When instructors do not communicate with students using these kinds of tools, according to Parry, students will likely regard those instructors as irrelevant.

In this article, I was also introduced to the term microblogging. Microblogging technology basically brings the concept of blogging into a more direct and immediate mode.

I would guess that microblogging includes:
  1. twitter
  2. facebook: wWhat are you doing right now.
  3. All sorts of computer and phone based chat.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Geography Awareness Week

Take students on a virtual whirlwind tour of the world this November with, a National Geographic-led campaign to give kids the power of global knowledge. During Geography Awareness Week (November 16-22), experience a range of geo-activities designed to engage kids in exploring their world while they become more informed global citizens. You can take a geo-tour of global hotspots on a virtual globe, including polar regions, coral reefs, and great cities. Explore earth's marine ecosystems as you pilot an underwater vehicle. Hear from young people living and working around the world.
Go to to see the world in new ways!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Free Spelling Resources!

Free Spelling Resources!
Does Your Child Have The Spelling Gene?
By Diane Flynn Keith

Some people's brains are hard-wired for spelling - it just comes "naturally" to them. Others struggle endlessly with spelling drills and workbooks resulting in little progress and lots of frustration.

The emphasis on spelling in schools and homeschools as a critical language arts skill is over-rated. There are plenty of intelligent people who excel in every school subject including reading, who cannot spell well. They suffer the indignation of red marks on papers that scream, "You're stupid! You can't spell!" Somehow, these non-spellers graduate from school and college and go on to lead productive lives. Not spelling well doesn't mean you're condemned to dumpster diving for a living.

John Wells, a professor of phonetics and president of the Spelling Society in an interview with The Times Online said:

"It's time to remove the fetish that says that correct spelling is a principle mark of being educated. ...Text messaging, e-mail and Internet chat rooms are showing us the way forward for English."

The written language is evolving into a more phonetic and simplified form.
The Times Online also reported that research conducted by Anthony Monaco of Oxford University suggests spelling ability may be embedded in your DNA. He tracked the development of 6,000 children and identified a gene that helps guide brain cells into the cortex of the developing brain that may affect the ability to read and spell. We all have it, but about 15% of the population has a slightly different version of that gene that may account for information processing differences.

Science doesn't have all of the answers yet, but progress is being made toward understanding the difference between Spelling Bee champs and chumps.

So what can parents do to help their children in the meantime? Avoid judging your child's ability and intelligence based on whether or not they can spell well. This truly may be an inherited genetic trait. If spelling isn't their "thing" - give them the tools they need to edit their own work. Understand that every brain is different. Visual learners can "see" the correct spelling of a word in their mind's eye. Auditory learners will be better at sounding out spelling words. Explore multiple methods that will help your child decode the language in a fun and engaging way. Here are some helpful resources for those with and without the spelling gene: is a terrific website that will help your children (ages 5-13 or grades K-8) improve their spelling skills for FREE. Spelling City includes:
Over 37,000 words, including plurals, contractions, future and past tenses.
8 spelling games! Students can play games with their spelling words that are automatically generated by a program at the website.
A REAL human voice that pronounces the spelling words and sentences making it easier to understand and learn.
A "Teach Me" function that spells out the word using both visual and auditory input to improve retention.
The ability for teachers and parents to enter and save their own spelling lists for their students/children.

Get the 28 Rules of Spelling - Free! from the Riggs Institute that sells spelling curriculum and workbooks.

Scripps National Spelling Bee - For those who have the spelling gene, get free resources, study suggestions, spelling word lists that include parts of speech, language origins, pronunciations, definitions, and sentences for thousands of words.2009 Spell It! - This is the official study resource of the Scripps National Spelling Bee from Merriam-Webster. You'll find plenty of free tips and activities to improve spelling.

Free Homeschool Spelling Course - When you get to this commercial website you'll find a FREE 30-lesson homeschool spelling course for students in grades 6- 8. It includes printable spelling rules and step-by-step lessons. The idea here is that if you like the spelling course, you may be motivated to purchase their other courses in grammar and punctuation.

Free Spelling Worksheets - Get free spelling worksheets for elementary grade and remedial students including spelling rules like "silent e", consonant blends, plurals, suffixes, prefixes and even word search games to reinforce spelling.

Play Games To Improve Spelling! Here are some suggestions:

Spelling Hangman - This classic kids game helps hone spelling in a fun and engaging way.

Wordfind Game - Practice spelling while playing a fun online video game.

Alphabet Soup Spelling Game - Try this arcade style game that will challenge your spelling skills.
Spelling Games - Play and learn with these games based on the Dolch Sight Words list.
Catch the Spelling - This site was designed for ESL students, but can be used for grades Pre-K through 8 (approximately). Players use the arrows on their computer keyboard to move "the catcher" to catch falling letters in the correct order to spell out a designated word. Younger children and non-readers will need parental help.
Scrabble, Boggle, and UpWords - These terrific board games from Hasbro improve spelling skills. Click on the link to play the games online for free.
Funbrain: Spell Check - Need a little drill and practice work? This site offers an easy and hard spelling test. There are 20 sets of 4 words offered in each test. The Spell Check game is designed for 4th grade through Middle School. Younger children may find the Spellaroo version of the game on this site a little less difficult.
Copyright 2008, Diane Flynn Keith, All Rights Reserved.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE, BLOG, OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: "Diane Flynn Keith publishes the rave-reviewed Homefires Ezine with 5,500+ subscribers. If you're ready to save time and money, ease your anxiety, and learn how to have fun homeschooling, get your FREE subscription now at"

More Spelling Resources:

Alphabetical Order, Word Search, Unscramble, Parts of Speech,   Crossword Puzzle, Handwriting Printables, Word-O-Rama Game Show and   Letterfall . Resources for teaching too:  analogies, dolche words, compound words, math vocabulary, science vocabulary, and segmenting syllables.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Online Learning

There are many types of learning. One type of learning, important to me, is about learning seo. I've started a new blog on that topic.

Have you voted yet? I voted yesterday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I just voted!

In Florida, where I live, they changed the rules and the early voting opened this morning at 7am. I got in and voted this morning. You should vote. If you need help deciding, I have opinions that I'm willing to share...privately. Go vote. And encourage friends and family to do the same.

Monday, October 20, 2008

From Online to in the flesh - Campaigns are multimedia

Today, I went to a political rally. It's actually the first political rally that I've been to since I was about 20 (I'm 50 now).

I won't share my politics with you but I will say that it really made me think about the process and people as I stood there in a crowd, a very mixed crowd, in the sun at mid-day.

There were old and young, mostly old. Many volunteers. Some children. I assumed that they were homeschoolers since it was a school day.

It's 15 days to election day and being in Florida, we hear A LOT of political ads on the TV and radio. It makes sense to me that in addition to enormous amounts of online work, they hit the crowds and radios, and the TVs and the newspapers. There is no mor multimedia effort than a presidential campaign.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

English is so weird.....

The English language is so weird, I marvel at the fact that we seem to love it despite it's absurd lack of logic...

Goose, geese,
Moose, .....mooses

Mouse, Mice

Swim, swam
Trim, ....trimmed

I'm thinking about learning english and vocabulary because I'm back to one of my favorite pastimes, designing games. In this case, I'm looking at Learning Vocabulary Fun, a site with vocabulary word games, trying to figure out games would be popular and useful for building vocabulary. Also, which ones would be within my means to build. As I looked around, I read some of Avko's comments on Crazy English....

Reasons why some people think English is hard to learn. Or, reasons why other people (like me) think English is great fun to learn.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

Coming soon on Learning Vocabulary Fun, new games dealing with idiomatic expressions.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Can My Child Handle A Time4Writing Online Class?

This was such a good article that I thought I'd repeat some of it here. It could be used for any topic...

Can My Child Handle A Time4Writing Online Class?
If your child has never taken an online course, and you are concerned about their ability to handle one, here are a few things you should consider.

Can your child read at at least a first or second grade level? Most of the teaching and instruction in the Time4Writing course is given in writing. If your child can’t yet read the lessons, they might still be able to take the course, but you would need to either sit with them and read the lessons aloud, or use some type of text to speech program to guide them through the coursework.

Does your child feel comfortable with a computer? If your child is just now building mouse skills, and hasn’t had any keyboarding experience, he or she might find an online course overwhelming. But if they are already spending time on the internet, and can at least hunt and peck on a keyboard, they will probably do fine with an online writing course....continued..... Can My Child Handle A Time4Writing Online Class?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Five Great Websites

The best online homeschool curriculum is from

The best site for spelling words is

The best new article site on homeschool materials is homeschool city.

The best homeschool directory site is

the best homeschool forum for online discussions.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Learning Experiment...not just for the kids...

I think this is so cool and such a clever idea. I know that one side effect of this group blog course was the creation of the Blog Writing Course. And I quote from the web home school blog.....

I’ve been asked by a few people about the purpose and status of this blog so I thought I’d write up a quick summary of it’s history. We will probably relaunch this blog soon as some new variant. If you have any suggestions or would like to participate, you can contact us at Time4Learning.
This blog was started by Time4Learning as a learning experiment.
We asked half a dozen parents (actually, all moms) of students using Time4Learning to write on this group blog about the details of their homeschooling program. What their days were like and what they worried about. And were happy about.
More specifically, we wante to know what was working for them and what wasn’t in terms of their use of online educational materials.

--- it continued for awhile and concluded with......

What did we learn? We learned a lot of details and about other products that are used in conjunction with us. We learned that most homeschool curriculums are a home-made eclectic mix optimized for each child. And that there is different mix of planning, routine, and spontenity for each family. We were stunned to find out how unique and useful our service really is. My favorite posts:
The gifted child, with autism, with Time4Learning
How the Internet changes everything….for homeschoolers
T4L - How it helps everyone. Mom too.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Homeschool Literature

I wonder yet if there is a body of good homeschool literature. By this, I mean homeschool fictions. Books and stories written in which the setting involves a homeschooling family. Or some or all of the characters are involved in homeschooling.

I've found a few books, but not that many.

Pictured left is an excerpt from one of a few kids books written by Scott Stroud. I've read a review copy of Baby Kong. First rate. He has a second one which received awards but I haven't seen it. If you are looking for gifts, give him a look. He had a great publishing-website name too: HomesCoolKids.

Here are a short listing of homeschool literature that I found on a site called

Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan. Kids literature. Fine.The Applewhites book starts with a traditionally-school adolescent who is having alot of problems. He is sent as a foster kid to a rural homeschooling “unschooling” family full of some stereotypical characters. The cityboy “comes of age” through his experiences on the farm and with the family. For a review of the Applewhite .

Schooled by Gordan Korman. Kids literature. Bad. The homeschooled boy is a terrible representation of being a social misfit-homeschooler. The middle schoolers at public school are horridly behaving. The hippie homeschooled boy is basically tormented in school to the point where it would be impossible for the reader not to pity him. (excerpted from a review of Schooled by ChristineMM)

The Adventures of Lil’ Wolf, Twinkie, Toes, and Flower Girl in the Homeschool Forest by Jacqueline R. Campos. Editorial description from Amazon: Come and join in all the fun of the Wolf Family as they share their homeschooling adventures with you! It is never a dull day in the Homeschool Forest, with the gentle Flower Girl, lazy Toes, fun loving Lil’ Wolf, and the very clever Twinkie.

Other suggestions?


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Science education - need a new approach

The general approach to science in our schools is a bust. It doesn't attract enthusiasm or many students. And our need as a society for a scientifically fluent citizenship and for scientifically-strong professionals is vital.

The curriculum for science continues to get short-changed as the schools increase their focus on the more testable math and language arts. Starting in middle school and in high school, the science labs continue to get back due to budget cuts, lack of teachers, and the perceived danger of actual science labs with acids and bases and fire.

Fortunately, there is a solution: computer-based instruction. This can be personalized which will solve the problem of students progressing in science at dramatically different rates. We can do simulations of experiments with amazing capabilities. It can be inquiry based and socially relevant.

So far, there are bits and pieces of great curriculum but no consensus. Right now, I'm reviewing the Jason curriculum from National Geographic to see if it can be used as the basis for some sort of "Time4Science" (ie an online interactive science curriculum)


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Learning to Blog

While anyone can learn to blog, for many it is a lonely frustratingly-long time before you are writing a quality blog and have an audience. Why not take a short cut and ride along with us?

You can, of course, learn about the key skills in blogging by reading articles and through trial and error. Or you can take a fun course. offers two online courses. One, Get Ready to Blog, is a free automated course that anyone can sign up for and take at any time. It's for total beginners, a precourse to get students ready for Blogging 101. In the precourse, you'll start with the very basics about how much it costs to start a blog (nothing) and the different approaches to blogging and setting up your first blog. also offers Blogging 101, an 8 week online course with a teacher which you take as part of class. The course teaches you the skills you need by having you practice and get feedback. There are some reading assignments but the heart of the course is learning by doing with guidance and support and feedback.

Blogging 101, the learning to blog class runs intermittently. There are generally eight students in each session and a teacher. Black belt mama, the teacher, has a masters degree in creative fiction and is a successful blogger. She's also a total charmer, students love working with her.

In the first section of Blogging 101, students compare blogs to see what distinguishes the best ones. They learn about how to form a coherent combination of topics, the visual look, and the identity of the blogger (the "about me"). In the second section, they apply these rules as they set up their own blogs, define their writing identities, and write their first posts. Students get feedback and explanations including help with technology and graphics. Issues about personal safety, privacy, and copyright are covered. In the third section, students start to react to comments (initially each others), keep writing their blog, and are given some assignments to help build an audience through posting on similarly-focused blogs and forums. In the last section, the students learn to use the promotional tools such as technorati and the different blogcatalogs and groups.

What many students like best is that by starting their blog as part of a group, they have readers, feedback, and comments from the start. And long after the course has finished, they have their initial classmates who have become their first group of online friends that they can learn from and shares experiences with.

The students are a diverse group. From the recent alumnae, there's Topsy Techie who writes about her Unconventional life of a homeschooling family and is well on her way to becoming a famous bloggger. The students range from the Daily Grind of kooky caffeinated JavaMama, the ultra fit Spin Diva, the aging but still eager BlackBeltat50, the trials of Renovation Girl redoing her house and starting a family and of SheParent wrestling with her 11 year old, the life of one BBW (big beautiful woman), and there's the more senior Grey Haired Geek.

Come sign up. The free automated precourse is a total no brainer for anyone thinking they might like to start a blog and want to get a basic orientation. And Blogging 101 sessions fill up quickly so you should move quick. The Blog Writing Course just announced that the summer session starts July 7th and the fall session starts September 8th. Reserve your place now.


other paragraphs.....

Writing a blog successfully is way different than writing an article or an essay. In a blog, readers engage not just because it's a collection of good articles but because there's some continuity. Also, most readers want to be learning something. In fact, most blog readers say that they read blogs on subjects that they are trying to learn about or stay current on but they choose which blog to read by how entertaining the author is. Most blog writers find that they want to mix elements of their personal life with commentary on some subject in which they have interest and expertise.

So the readers expectations and writers plans are a great fit which explains why blogs are becoming so popular. But with thousands of blogs being started every day, how do you make sure that your effort is fun for you and popular with readers?

Writing blogs is also very different from writing traditional novels or even newspaper columns. The key difference is that the writer is expected to interact with the audience and to create a community experience. This requires a combination of traditional writing skills (grammar, point of view, characters, vocabulary), social skills, and technical skills.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Safety and My Online courses

I run an online learning service which has thousands of students ( It's automated and there have been no teachers so all of our security issues have been of the technical type so far.

We started recently a new service teaching writing ( in which we provide an 8 week writing course online which is led by a teacher. I'm looking for some feedback on our approach to safety:
1. All parents (who must sign up students) and students are informed that all of the class communication should happen thru our online website (moodle is our learning management service). No email and no phone calls.
2. 100% of the communications are saved, monitored, and reviewable.
3. We review about 20% of them on an ongoing basis.
4. No private student to student communication is allowed.

My new big question (as we expand past teachers that I personally know or who are onsite) is about teachers.

I only hire "accredited teachers" which means (in the modern era) that they have had a full background check with fingerprinting etc. Since I intend to hire some of these teachers over the internet, I also conduct a webcam based interview (although so far, we don't use that technology in the classes). My reason is so that I can visually verify their identity against the documents that they've sent me (including a driver's license) to make sure that the person is who they say they are. (I'm worried about identity theft and approving "borrowed" credentials)
Anybody got any feedback on this approach?


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Time4Writing is alive and useful

Time4Writing has courses that start every week! This is made possible since most of the 8 weeks courses are built to provide one-on-one instruction from a writing teacher to your child.

The courses are online and require about two and half hours per week. They really help the kids' writing. The feedback is provided the day after each assignment is turned in and the feedback is specific and useful

Help your kids learn to write.

And I quote.....Online Elementary, Middle and High School Writing Courses.
8 Week Sentence, Paragraph and Essay Courses

For many students, learning to write well is difficult.

Time4Writing provides online 8 week writing courses that help students build writing skills. Students learn through one-on-one interaction with a certified teacher.
writing courses for elementary, middle and high school Schools rarely have the resources to provide the detailed, systematic feedback that students need to maximize their writing skills. Time4Writing helps students build writing skills for general communication, self-expression, and high stakes writing requirements such as SATs and college entrance exams.
writing courses for homeschoolers Homeschool parents often find that teaching writing is difficult. They feel that the editorial process is subjective since, of course, there is no answer key. Writing courses provide the editorial feedback that helps students improve.
Will your children benefit from Time4Writing?

Do your children need help in developing their writing skills?
Would your child benefit from regular writing practice and detailed feedback?
Do your children have upcoming reports or timed assessments?
Is your child writing with joy and confidence yet?


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hooked on Phonics

Hooked on Phonics - Remember them?

Hooked on Phonics was hugely popular in the eighties and nineties. It provided parents a way to help their kids learn to read. HOP's television marketing campaign made Hooked On Phonics a household name. It was reportedly one of the most successful direct marketing campaigns in history. It ran on and on and on.

While it seemed a whole generation used Hooked on Phonics to learn to read, it's popularity has declined as new technologies, approaches, and services have emerged. Today, children increasingly respond to more interactive, online resources. I would recommend Time4Learning is the modern equivalent to Hooked on Phonics.

Their learning games are digital online interactive and fun. Their phonics games are fantastic.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Learning to Blog

Bloggers aren’t usually writing for the benefit of their health (although who knows what new research may turn up in next week’s health headlines). They are writing to share their knowledge, their insights, and their feelings with others. The hope is that other people will read what they have written, and interact with it, in the form of blog comments, quotes, and forwarding that content to others who might be interested. One of a bloggers best friends is his or her blogroll, which highlights other blogs they are following, and often that are following them. And thus, a community is born.

My blogging community started with a small group of folks who were taking the online blog writing course with me.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Online Spelling Program

SpellingCity (which I am affiliated with) is the coolest online spelling program. They (we) keep adding cool new features. What do you think of free printable handwriting worksheets generated using your spelling lists?

With tools this good, there is just excuse for not doing your spelling practice and getting perfect scores on every spelling test.
Also, it should be easy to integrate spelling and vocabulary with your studies since there are so many lists available. Just go to FindaList and type in 2nd grade or SATs.
Here are some vocabulary lists extracted from Classic Literature.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Call of the Wild, Canterbury Tales, David Copperfield, Diary of Anne Frank, Frankenstein, Gulliver’s Travels, Kidnapped, Old Yeller, Pride and Prejudice, Red Badge of Courage, The Prince and the Pauper, The Scarlet Letter, To Kill A Mockingbird, Treasure Island, and Wuthering Heights.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Teaching Writing

Many parents are disappointed by the writing skills of their children. However, they find that teaching writing is difficult as the kids don't necessarily recognize the parents' authority in this area.

Most schools just don't have the resources to give the children lots of writing assignments with appropriate feedback. Without the practice and instruction, students' writing skills do NOT improve.

Many parents look for help to teach writing. Time4Writing provides that help. It's a set of online eight week courses which gives weekly writing assignments followed by in-depth personalized feedback on the writing. Students can take courses afterschool, during the summer, or for homeschool families, whenever it fits into their schedule. Classes start almost every Monday.

Prices are terrribly reasonable for the amount of personalized instruction that each student needs. The course requirements are simply an Internet connection and a browser. The writing is done on an online system so a word processor is not even required.

In middle and high school, a methodology called Four Trait Writing is used.
The first course on Four Traiting Writing is available from Time4Writing, which provides online writing courses. But there are likely to be books and other courses promoting this methodology in the near future. Time4Writing conforms to the NSTE approach to writing.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spelling Tests

If there's one common educational principle through the entire US educational system, it's the tradition of the weekly spelling test.

Public schools, private schools, parochial schools and homeschoolers all seem to unite around this principle. Somehow that amuses me. Has anyone ever studied the actual benefits of a weekly spelling test to education? Fro teachers, it's a simple routine time-filler. For most students, it's their first introduction to graded activities.

I do believe that if you organize your spelling lists well, you can achieve significant educational benefits. For instance, in the kindergarten through second grade, students are learning phonics which is best done through word families. Spelling tests that are organized in support of this principle (cat, rat, fat, hat, bat etc) are useful reinforcement. Similiarly, at these ages and into third grade for script, combining spelling list practice with handwriting practice is probably a very efficient way to go.

Practice spelling tests in later grades can deal with concepts like compound words, word roots, vocabulary by subject areas, country of origin, and what not.

Do you have any original ways to combine spelling tests to make them useful?

How do you spell: John Chow?


"The H* with Spelling" Time Magazine article

"The Hell with Spelling" Time Magazine. And I quote:

In the course of a congressional hearing on U.S. economic policy, a witness casually mentioned the importance of education to the future of the nation. That was enough for Vermont's plain-spoken Republican Senator Ralph Flanders, 76, who proceeded to sound off on what has obviously become one of his favorite topics.

"Our education system," said he, "is a shambles. I have, for instance, four grandchildren in high school . . . Three of them are writing rather good theses and essays but are not corrected in spelling. They communicate; that's all that is necessary. The hell with spelling.

"Furthermore, the leading citizens of the town in which I live, Springfield, Vermont, were hypnotized into signing a statement of educational policies which includes this: that examinations shall be student-based and not subject-based. In other words, it is of no great importance whether a child really understands the mathematics so long as he is working hard at it. If so, he gets a good grade. But as to whether he has achieved a satisfactory degree of proficiency is not of any particular interest to the school."

Here's my questions, what is this about?

As far as I can tell, the position of standardized tests measuring skills and achievement is very strong in this country. NCLB has vastly increased their importance and impact. So what is he going on about that the lack of testing is the problem with our educational system? It's true that spelling has lost some ground in academia due to the increased use of proof-reading and spell checkers and word processing.

Remember, my generation went to school and we drafted our writing by hand. One did not make endless revisions since each one could mean copying over the entire document. Instead, we doodled up an outline, wrote a draft, proofed it, and then wrote a final version in pretty distinct stages. Now that we have word processors, we tend to do our brainstorming on the keyboard rather than in our head and doodling. So more typos and misspellings occur. And we get sloppy since the spellchecker fixes most of them correctly so some great bloopers get through.

But this is hardly a sign of our educational system going to pot.

Frankly, there haven't been that many great tools to make spelling time, a fun time. But there are now...try