Archive for the ‘Enhancing Teaching Skills’ Category

Teaching Cursive Part 6 (of 25): WHY Correct Cursive Slant Is Important in American Writing

January 7, 2016

Cursive Slant in American Writing

Why is cursive slant still important?  American society still makes judgments about people based on their handwriting, and slant is one of the strongest criteria used.   Most people make these judgments subjectively and subconsciously every day.  However, employers and bank officers are just two examples of those in the power structure who employ professional handwriting analysts to make judgments about prospective employees and about people applying for loans.

In the photo above, I have written out some examples of various slants, as well as how they are perceived.  As a teacher, when I introduce cursive writing, I actually write samples like this on the chalk board to show them to students, and explain what people might think about others based on the slant of their handwriting.  So I encourage them right from the very first day that our goal is to try for an average forward slant, shown in the last example in the photo above.

One other example did not fit on the page, so here it is:

Variable slant

Our slant, like other aspects of our handwriting, will change from day-to-day, but we should generally try for a correct forward slant.  This can be obtained by turning the writing paper 45° counterclockwise (subject of the post following this one, Part 7).

Countries and cultures, when compared with one another, also tend to have typical characteristics.  For example, British “reserve” as compared with American “friendliness with strangers” can be seen in typical handwriting slants from each culture.  Vertical, or even backslanted writing is more common in British culture than in American.  If we move to North Africa, we find people generally suspicious and distrustful of others, and as expected, backslanted writing (in Western languages) is most common of all.

If you are from outside the United States, you should be all right using the slant which is most common in your own culture, and no one will judge you negatively.  But if you are living or working in America, you should be very aware of this and of the impact it could have on your personal life or career with any of the undesirable slants discussed above.

My next post will explain, with photos, how to position the paper to get a correct forward slant.

In case anyone has had trouble reading the cursive in the photo, here is a typed version:

Cursive Slant for American Writing

In American culture:

A vertical slant is not considered desirable; you are judged to be too logical, too cold, and without feeling.

A backslant is to be avoided at all costs; you are judged to be  emotionally suppressed, possibly with some kind of ecret emotional trauma in your background, difficult to approach,and someone who maintains a shell around themselves.

This is too much forward slant; these people are judged as being far too emotional, of making all of their decisions based on feelings.

This is the minimum acceptable forward slant.

This is an average/normal forward slant, which is considered most desirable in America.  This slant, to Americans, indicates a balanced person who uses good judgment between logical decisions and emotion in their decision-making.

A variable (frequently changing) slant indicates moodiness, instability, and a frequently changing picture of oneself, as well as trouble making decisions.


The NEW Math: Part I – WHY We Have It

September 5, 2013

Test Anxiety

“PLEASE, can you help me, Mrs. D.?  We are having a math test TOMORROW and I don’t understand anything!”  This has been the most common complaint I have from my sixth- and seventh-grade tutoring students (ages 11-13).  Whether the topic involves geometry, equations, story problems, or even more basic calculations, nearly all my students (excellent students, too) are having the same dilemma.

If you are a parent or educator who has wondering for years (as I have) WHY we HAVE the new math, this post will explain it clearly.  (Part II explains why the new math is not working in many schools.)

 The New Math Style

The new math style in some schools appears to be, “The teacher doesn’t explain—he or she merely facilitates ‘groups’ while students (hopefully) just teach themselves.”  Like many people, I have felt confused for several years about the new style of math teaching.  Instead of presenting a lesson, giving students guided practice, and then sending them home to do independent practice (homework), the new style, which my tutoring students are experiencing, seems to be, “Don’t follow a text book (even if they are available).  Instead, just find some seemingly random problems off the internet (seemingly without any overall coherent plan of units), tell students to put themselves into groups, and pass out the photocopies.  Tell the students, ‘See if you can find some solutions to these problems.  Do this for three or four days, then tell students, “We will be having a test on Friday.’ “

Imagine middle-school students with these feelings being asked to get into a group and work on random problems.  It is not likely to go well.

Imagine middle-school students with these feelings being asked to get into groups and work on random problems. It is not likely to go well.

Of course parents’ reaction to this is panic.  Eighty percent of the children are LOST with this approach. Those who can afford it are rushing to math tutors, who teach the children by traditional methods what they should have learned in school.  Those who cannot afford it have children who fail.

Let us look at a “hammer” analogy.  Instead of saying, “Let’s learn how to use a hammer and see if we can get a good result with the nail pounded in correctly,” the new approach effectively asks, “Let’s learn why the hammer was developed, and how and why it works in theory….but don’t waste your time becoming competent in using one!”

hammer nailing into a board

Next, students are given a national or state test consisting of pounding nails into a board, which of course they FAIL!   Meanwhile, the “experts” lament that they are unable to do it!  

This is exactly what has happened with math education.  Teachers using “traditional” methods have been drummed out of education (mostly retired), while younger teachers have all been trained to use the “new” methods.  

WHERE did this approach ever come from?

I finally found the answer I’d been searching for, in a MOOC (FREE online course offered through Coursera, taught by world-renowned British mathematician Keith Devlin of Stanford University, Fall 2013, called Introduction to Mathematical Thinking.)

Keith Devlin

Keith Devlin

Devlin explains that in the job market, there is a need for two types of mathematical skills.  He describes Type 1 skills as being able to solve math problems that are already formulated, and it’s just a matter of calculating the correct answers.

carpenter measuringmachinist measuringloan officers

Type 2 skills involve being able to “take a new problem, say in manufacturing, identify and describe key features  problem mathematically, and use that mathematical description to analyze the problem in a precise fashion.”

aircraft designBoeing CEO

“In the past,” Devlin says, “there was a huge demand for employees with Type 1 skills, and a small need for Type 2 talent.”  In the past, education produced many Type 1 employees and a few Type 2 employees.  However, in today’s world, the need for Type 2 thinkers has greatly expanded.  Not only do scientists, engineers, and computer scientists need to think this way, but  new business managers also need to, in order to be able to understand and communicate with math experts and make decisions based upon properly understanding those experts.  So the “new math” curriculum is an attempt by the “experts” to produce many more Type 2 thinkers; yet, it is FAILING to do so.

Prior to the late 1800s, math was viewed as “a collection of procedures for solving problems.”  In the late 1800s a revolution occurred among mathematicians which shifted the emphasis from calculation to understanding.  The new math of the 1960s was the first attempt to put this shift into the classroom, and the results were not successful.  I see the current shifts to put new math into the classroom as the second attempt, which is different from the 1960s attempt (children are not studying various bases these days), yet no more successful in reality.  Part II of this series will explain the three reasons WHY this is happening.

 –Lynne Diligent

The New Math:  Part II – Why It’s NOT Working in So Many Schools

How to Help Students Improve Their Topic Sentences

June 8, 2012

Writing a good topic sentence is surprisingly still a problem for many middle-school students. Students usually have one of two problems. The first problem is that many students write an incomplete phrase as a topic sentence, putting a period at the end. These students are confusing titles and topic sentences. The second problem is that the topic sentence students write is not general enough to the whole paragraph and should really be another supporting sentence.  This post will only deal with a solution to the first problem.

I discovered an easy one-on-one method to help students work on the problem of confusing title phrases with topic sentences. I suggest having a long list of about fifty simple essay titles prepared. Point out that titles are not complete sentences. Ask the student who has trouble to change the title phrase into a complete sentence. Many students will immediately change it into a question. While a question can be used as a topic sentence, I don’t them use questions, because this doesn’t solve their basic problem; it allows them to get around their basic problem.

If the student just cannot change the title into a declarative topic sentence, then help him. Give him three or four examples; then move on to the next example. This technique works even better with two or more students in a small group. Ideally, the group should be composed ONLY of students who have the same problem. (It’s of no help to anyone to be placed in a competitive group–or class–with others whose level of competence far exceeds their own.)

Points can be kept with a tally-mark system of who can come up with the best topic sentence. I also give students a chance to change and adjust their answers (after hearing another child’s answer) before I choose whose answer is best. If they are all equally good, I give points to each child.

Here are two examples:

Title 1: How Technology Affects People’s Lives

Example Topic Sentences:

A. Technology affects people’s lives in many ways.

B. We would be lost without technology in modern life.

C. Technology can have either a positive or negative influence on our lives.

Title 2: Comic-Book Heroes

Example Topic Sentences:

A. My life as a child was filled with comic-book heroes.

B.  Comic-book heroes inspire us in real life.

C.  Real-life heroes are better than comic-book heroes.

The second student problem, that of using as a topic sentence one which should really be a supporting sentence is a little more difficult to solve, and requires more one-on-one work in a different approach.

–Lynne Diligent

English Chaos!

January 16, 2012

G. Nolst Trenité, aka Charivarius

This amazing poem, containing over 800 notorious irregularities in English spelling, is better known abroad by foreigners than by native speakers.  (I only learned, myself, of its existence from foreign speakers.)

The Chaos was written by G. Nolst Trenité (1870-1946), a Dutchman, in 1922.   Trenité was a student of classics, law, and political science, and a teacher in the Netherlands, later in California, and finally in Haarlem.  He published several textbooks in English and French, and wrote many columns for an Amsterdam weekly newspaper using the pen name Charivarius.

The poem is extremely difficult for non-native speakers to read correctly.  The author originally added it as an appendix to a book of English pronunciation exercises.  The point is that non-native speakers can never tell how to pronounce words encountered in writing.

For any non-native speakers, YouTube has a reading aloud by an Englishman HERE.

Several versions, which have been added to by others over the years, are in circulation.  Some of these circulating versions have nearly doubled the length of the poem.  Below is the author’s original version.

The Chaos, by G. Nolst Trenité, aka “Charivarius”

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,

I will teach you in my verse

Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;

Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;

Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it! 10

Just compare heart, hear and heard,

Dies and diet, lord and word.

Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).

Made has not the sound of bade,

Say – said, pay – paid, laid but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,

But be careful how you speak,

Say: gush, bush, steak, streakbreak, bleak, 20

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;

Woven, oven, how and low,

Script, receipt, shoe, poemtoe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,

Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,

Missiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining, 30

Scholar, vicar, and cigar,

Solar, mica, war and far.

From “desire”: desirable – admirable from “admire”,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,

Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,

Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.

Gertrude, German, wind and wind,

Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind, 40

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.

This phonetic labyrinth

Gives moss, gross, brook, broochninth, plinth.

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,

Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,

Peter, petrol and patrol?

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet. 50

Blood and flood are not like food,

Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.

Discount, viscount, load and broad,

Toward, to forward, to reward,

Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.

Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,

Friend and fiend, alive and live. 60

Is your R correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes with Thalia.

Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,

Buoyant, minute, but minute.

Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;

Would it tally with my rhyme

If I mentioned paradigm?

Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy? 70

Cornice, nice, valise, revise,

Rabies, but lullabies.

Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,

You’ll envelop lists, I hope,

In a linen envelope.

Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.

To abjure, to perjure. Sheik

Does not sound like Czech but ache. 80

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.

We say hallowed, but allowed,

People, leopard, towed but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.

Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,

Chalice, but police and lice,

Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label. 90

Petal, penal, and canal,

Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with “shirk it” and “beyond it”,

But it is not hard to tell

Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,

Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,

Senator, spectator, mayor, 100

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the A of drachm and hammer.

Pussy, hussy and possess,

Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.

Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,

Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker“,
Quoth he, “than liqueur or liquor“, 110

Making, it is sad but true,

In bravado, much ado.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.

Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,

Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.

Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,

Paradise, rise, rose, and dose. 120

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.

Mind! Meandering but mean,

Valentine and magazine.

And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,

Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,

Tier (one who ties), but tier.

Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring? 130

Prison, bison, treasure trove,

Treason, hover, cover, cove,

Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.

Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,

Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;

Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,

Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn. 140

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.

Evil, devil, mezzotint,

Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,

Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,

Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did, 150

Funny rhymes to unicorn,

Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.

No. Yet Froude compared with proud

Is no better than McLeod.

But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,

Troll and trolley, realm and ream,

Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme. 160

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,

But you’re not supposed to say

Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,

How uncouth he, couchant, looked,

When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty, 170

Episodes, antipodes,

Acquiesce, and obsequies.

Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,

Rather say in accents pure:

Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,

Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,

Wan, sedan and artisan. 180

The TH will surely trouble you
More than R, CH or W.

Say then these phonetic gems:

Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em –

Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,

Lighten your anxiety.

The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight – you see it; 190

With and forthwith, one has voice,

One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does [1]. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.

Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,

Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry, fury, bury,

Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,

Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath. 200

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners

Holm you know, but noes, canoes,

Puisne, truism, use, to use?

Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,

Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,

Put, nut, granite, and unite

Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer. 210

Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,

Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;

Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,

Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it

Bona fide, alibi

Gyrate, dowry and awry. 220

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.

Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,

Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,

Rally with ally; yea, ye,

Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!

Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver. 230

Never guess – it is not safe,

We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,

Face, but preface, then grimace,

Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;

Ear, but earn; and ere and tear

Do not rhyme with here but heir. 240

Mind the O of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,

With the sound of saw and sauce;

Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.

Respite, spite, consent, resent.

Liable, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen, 250

Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,

Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

A of valour, vapid, vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),

G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,

I of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.

Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,

Polish, Polish, poll and poll. 260

Pronunciation – think of Psyche! –
Is a paling, stout and spiky.

Won’t it make you lose your wits

Writing groats and saying ‘grits’?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,

Islington, and Isle of Wight,

Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father? 270

Finally, which rhymes with enough,

Though, through, bough, coughhough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

–Posted by Lynne Diligent

Attend Filmmaker Luke Holzmann’s Free Film School Course on Line

January 16, 2012

As a teacher (or even homeschooler), have you ever considered how adding filmmaking capabilites could enhance your teaching abilities with students?

The only materials you need to do so are a computer with high-speed internet connection, and a simple point-and-shoot digital camera with video capabilities (although higher levels of video cameras or those with more manual controls are always a plus).

Filmmaker Luke Holzmann now offers a free, online, 36-week course to all who are interested.  A brief description of the course and simple materials needed (which most of us already have) can be found HERE.

Filmmaker Luke Holzmann

Many teachers, students, and adults are interested in filmmaking, but most don’t have a clue where to start if they are not actually in school especially for this purpose.  Check out this exciting course, either to enhance your career skills, or as an enjoyable hobby.

I’m going to try it, and I’m signing up today.

–Lynne Diligent