Learning Articles

To Read Is To Grow: Literacy in Cuba

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

I was very fortunate to have spent eight days of my spring break in Cuba!

Americans still need a reason (other than pure tourism) to be allowed to visit Cuba, and  I went on an educational research tour, during which we visited schools, clinics and the Cuban Literacy Museum in Havana.

“To Read Is To Grow”

The Cuban people place a high value on education, and Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

At the Literacy Museum, we learned about the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961, which enlisted “each person who could read to teach one person who could not read,” and which raised the national literacy rate from about 65% to 96%.

I feel passionately about one-on-one education as a source of empowerment and connection for both learner and teacher, so I was greatly moved to see tutoring having been implemented on such a grand scale and having had the effect of forming bonds between people from different backgrounds and geographic areas.

“Before 1959 it was the countryside versus the city. The literacy campaign united the country because, for the first time, people from the city understood how hard life was for people before the revolution, that they survived on their own, and that as people they had much in common. This was very important for the new government.”- Luisa Yara Campos, Cuban literacy museum director

I also believe that all people should be lifetime teachers and learners, so I admired that the Cuban literacy initiative enlisted all kinds of people, especially young people with little to no formal teacher training, to become instructors, and that anyone, regardless of age, gender or profession, was given the opportunity to learn to read.

Here are two pictures of photographs on display in the literacy museum:

Literacy tutors carry lanterns in order to teach in rural homes without electricity .


The Teenage Brain is Primed for Learning

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Pantheon & Pompidou Centre 2 18 2011 053What was he thinking?

Is there a parent out there who can’t relate to the first sentence of The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen, MD?

She’s a neuroscientist specializing in adolescent brain development and the mother of two teenage boys, and her book is “a survival guide” full of important information about how brains develop, what’s going on inside the skulls of adolescents, and what this means for how we parent and educate our teens and young adults.

I’ve just started reading this book, and here are a few of the nuggets I’ve already discovered:


The Blood, Sweat and Tears of Middle School Math

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Many middle school students struggle with math, often for the first time.

Math becomes harder in middle school, and teacher expectations are higher. These changes are appropriate as kids mature; the achievement bar must be raised so that students’ intellects are challenged to grow. The teacher who waters down instruction so that it’s always easy and “fun” isn’t doing students any favors.


You Can Become a Better Person (Day Seven: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

P6290016It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you. -Randy Pausch

I make my living working with kids, and it’s my impression that most of them have little clue as to what they want to do with their lives, and that they find the very question terrifying.


Day Five: Read the textbook and work the problems. (Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Easter April 4 2010 Met with M and H 013My mom deserves the credit for this one.

When I was a kid math was not my forte, and in eighth grade I was struggling and failing at algebra. So my mom went to the local bookstore and bought me a review book (picture the mid-1970’s version of Algebra for Dummies).


Day Two: Emotions affect reasoning. (Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Pantheon & Pompidou Centre 2 18 2011 069People use words as weapons, to defend themselves. It is common for people to attack with anger when they are afraid and to become insulting when they are hurt or jealous.  -Dr. Shirley Glass

When we are anxious or angry we can’t think straight. This means we ought to avoid taking action or having heavy conversations while immersed in these mood states.

The emotions of fear and anger trigger our internal fight-or-flight mechanism, which sends epinephrine (adrenalin) gushing through our bloodstream. Our heart races, our blood pressure shoots up, our platelets ready themselves to clot in case we are injured…and our higher-level thinking skills shut down. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to run from a saber-toothed tiger.


Why Vocabulary and Facts Are So Important

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Getty Center July 17 2010 024How do you know all the words without looking at the back of the cards? 

A fifth grade student was amazed that I knew every word on the American Heritage Dictionary’s Top 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know  list. She only recognized five.

I assured her that soon she would also know these words, because we were about to begin learning them now.The authors explain why knowing these words is so important:


Don’t Fall Off the Physics Bus!

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Group 1 020My kids attended Indian Springs School in Birmingham, Alabama, where their wonderful physics teacher started off every school year with his infamous warning: Don’t fall off the physics bus!

He was playfully reminding students that physics is a cumulative subject, in which you’ve got to make sure and master the material all along the way.

If you don’t thoroughly understand and gain fluency in each chapter, especially the early ones, you won’t have built up the foundation of knowledge and skills needed to handle the later material. Month after month, chapter after chapter, that physics bus will keep on rolling down the physics road, and if you fall off you’ll have a heck of a time catching up with it.


How to Study: 5 Basic Practices for Academic Success

Friday, October 24th, 2014
Fall is the time when first-quarter grades come out, and many students would like to improve.

Fall is the time when first-quarter grades come out, and many students would like to improve.

Many students complain that they don’t know how to study, so I’ve compiled this short and sweet page of the basics.

Perhaps now, as the first grading quarter winds to a close, is a good time to read down this list and get back on track with these five essential good-student behaviors:
How to Study
Five Basic Practices for Academic Success

  1. Do all your homework, on time, every day. Teachers assign homework so as to give you the practice you need to learn and remember the material. The single most important thing you can do to understand better, remember more, and score higher grades is to always do all your homework thoroughly (even the “optional” stuff) and on time.


A Student Discovers The Joy of Reading

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

 

The original Winnie the Pooh and friends on display at the New York Public Library

The original Winnie the Pooh and friends on display at the New York Public Library

Dear Friends,

The other day I had a wonderful conversation with one of my older students. He was brimming over with enthusiasm for his senior-level College Reading class.

It’s really more a structured study period than a class, in which students come in every day and spend the entire 48-minute period silently reading a book of their choice. When they’re finished they write a brief summary of the book and then select another.

The whole point, of course, is to get college-bound seniors used to the discipline of sustained, focused reading. And this particular student was loving it!

As soon as he left I grabbed my notebook and jotted down everything I could remember of what he had said so I could share with you this glimpse into the head of an older, more mature student. (Read on, dear parents of tweens, and take heart!):


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