Archives for posts with tag: literacy


Hello – I have been observing opinions of the public at large regarding the state of our educational system. I have decided to express my opinions regarding this topic. Some may like my opinions some may not. That is the perogative of human individuality. One thing I believe we can all universally agree on is that we need to discard our THEM AND US IDEOLOGY  AND CHANGE IT TO A WE. All societies are dependent on one another for successful existence. May we all become a united front and remember our ultimate goal – our childrens future! Merely a thought to Ponder.

Education reform has always been dictated by societal needs. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was born from a need for high tech, academically savvy Americans who can compete in our interglobal society. The next generation of capitalists must be trained. American corporations are interdependent on foreign trade to survive. Foreign countries experience financial growth through interactions with America. Land Rovers and Lexus have Toyota Engine parts. Chevrolet Geo has Suzuki engine parts. Gas hails from Arabian oil wells. Patients from other countries frequent our hospitals for high risk, state of the art surgery. American educators travel the world teaching English to foreigners. American icons such as McDonalds, Pepsi, and Spiked hair cuts are noted in foreign countries. These examples are a miniscule representation of the relations and dependency that countries have on each other. Prosperity is the ulterior motive of these relations.

The ideology of No Child Left Behind is not new. Expectations in education have been cyclical throughout history. The influx of immigrants in Horace Mann’s era necessitated a curriculum that focused on Americanization of immigrant children. The intent of Mann was not altruistic. It was the assimilation of immigrants into American society as positive contributors to our economy. During the cold war era, emphasis was based on academics. A similarity to modern day schools is noted. Gone was the emphasis on the whole child. Education was reformed to produce American engineers, scientists, and mathematicians that could compete with the Russians. We had to build a bigger, better, space craft than our Russian neighbor’s.

In modern day America, as with our predecessors, molding and training students guarantees the survival of our country. In the fifties the economy depended on competing with other countries for prosperity. In modern day America, the goal is to be sought out by other countries. What deleterious effects does America’s preoccupation with growth and prosperity inflict on our society? “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” This phrase speaks a thousand words. The American ideal of survival of the fittest warrants focusing on the strongest members. The weak and assumed useless people are weeded out. Rather than find compensatory strategies that give all kids the same chance to succeed, each child is left to sink or swim. The ones who succeed will be our future leaders. The students who flounder will be left to languish in a hand to mouth existence with no skills. Children have become statistical data on an achievement graph.

Intelligence can’t be measured merely in academic form. A child may be musically inclined, athletically inclined, or artistic. A child’s learning may be impeded by learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, or a dysfunctional household. If compensatory strategies are taught the child will succeed. The standards used to assess a gifted child should differ from those for a learning disabled child. High expectations are non negotiable. However, what those expectations are differ from child to child. Challenges should be safe and individualized for each student. A challenge should create social and academic growth. If the challenge is too high, the child will shirk their academic responsibilities, and suffer irreparable damage to their self esteem.

Accommodations for individual children need to be in place in order for the academically challenged child to score within the median range on assessments. Unfortunately, accommodations cost money. In terms of education the basic mindset is less is best. A society, who will spend $150.00 on a ticket to a Football Game, yet will wage war at the threat of having real estate taxes raised for education. It is much easier to play the blame game. Blame the parents, society, teachers, and administrators. Taking personal responsibility for America’s educational dilemma would mean admitting that we all have a stake in children’s education. Not a comfortable idea for the majority of the population to ponder.

Teachers carry a huge weight upon their shoulders. The goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is to achieve success. A teacher who has the threat of her job dangled in front of her like a carrot on a stick is not going to feel success. They will experience burn out and become less productive educators. A child who does not pass the M.C.A.S. repeatedly will experience a sense of failure that will haunt them through out life. Watching peers graduate will breed a sense of futility. In the scenarios above, the outcome is predictable. For educators and children alike, frustration leads to apathy, apathy leads to indifference. The end result is that everyone loses.

Intelligence is genetic. However, it is manipulated by the environment. A bright child who receives no stimulation will underachieve. A learning disabled child who is safely challenged will rise beyond expectations. The chance of success can be increased in the right educational setting. Introduce safe challenges that a child is sure to succeed at. A domino effect will occur. Once the taste of success is felt the child will not be adverse to more challenges. Experiencing failure can cause even the brightest child to recoil from academics. Nurture can beat nature. It merely takes the right environment, realistic expectations, and an appreciation of each child’s individuality and learning styles. We all have a function to fill in society as an adult. In our democratic society, the government and stake holders should not decide what that function will be. Accept each child for who they are, and they will be accepting of themselves. No child should be left behind!

This is merely my opinion.

Stay well

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE


Hello – I have included some fun educational activities. My approach is to present learning in a fun format. Children will be more engaged if they enjoy what they are learning. Preach to a child and they will turn a deaf ear to you – I guarantee that.

Below are some activities that have hidden learning agendas. I equate with the child that loves a particular brand of cereal until he realizes that it is GOOD FOR HIM. :0)

1) Math:  Children are encouraged to preplan a bead arrangement by drawing a sketch by counting and designing color arrangement. color arrangement. This can be adapted to just choosing colors depending on the childs level of development. For young children, or children with motor skill challenges, use larger beads. They can preplan a design for a key chain, necklace, bead drawing, or pencil holder (provide empty soup can to glue beads on for pencil holder) Imagination is the only limit, and accommodation is the key. Large beads for younger children and children with fine motor skill issues, smaller beads for older children.

Always allow the children to choose their bead colors and designs. Children gain independence and a sense of pride from a creation that the “did all by themself”. Remember, coach projects, do not do the project for the child. If a child is experiencing difficulty, guide them, but do not hover. Safe challenges that are successfully achieved give children the positive self efficacy to move up to another skill.

2) Movement and literacy: Vocabulary kickball is a great way to reinforce word comprehension in the kids while having fun. The children can stand in a line while you say a definition. If the chosen child can identify the word associated with the definition, roll the ball to them. If not, it is considered a strike for the team. Modifications can be made for various developmental and cognitive levels. Instead of giving the child a definition, give them a word to define.

For some children, you may hold up an object and ask them to tell you what letter it starts with. For children who struggle with behavioral issues and are just learning the skills for reciprocal behavior you may choose not to count strikes and merely move along in the game. The important point is to always adapt the game so all children feel safe enough to participate.

3) Shape recognition: Provide children with a sponge. Encourage them to take a walk or look around the classroom. Reinforce the point that all objects are actually shapes. i.e. The desk is a square, the art table is a rectangle, The bottom of their thermos is a circle, etc.

Children grasp the concept easier when you have pointed out objects that are present in there live’s everyday. Young children do not have the capability to think in an abstract format,.They are concrete thinkers and learn better through visual prompt.

Upon completing the lesson on shapes, children can dip their sponges in paint and proceed to create a work of art fit for Picasso. :-0) Circle sponges can be used for the son, stars may become part of a painting of a camping trip, ideas are unlimited with the creative minds within the classroom. Encouraging the children to share their sponge shapes with the other children increases their sense of pride and reinforces reciprocal social skills. Kids love to see their shape used on a friends artwork. Again, please encourage children to create their own sponge shape. I always reiterate the importance of remembering that projects are the childs, not ours. There are always adaptations that can be made to make each and every child feel included by their teacher, parents, and peers.

4)Science: The Blue Sky experiment is a blast! This experiment will explain the ultimate children’s question. “Why is the sky blue”? A two liter soda bottle is filled 1/2 way with water. Shine a flashlight on the bottle. Add milk to the bottle. Shine the flashlight on the bottle again The color is now blue!!! Add a little more milk and the color should turn red or orange when you shine the flashlight on the bottle again.

Have fun – I hope you enjoy these ideas. More tomorrow.

Mari N. M.Ed.

Why is vocabulary development important to acquiring fluency in reading? Vocabulary comprehension is a crucial component in acquiring reading comprehension skills. Successful vocabulary development ensures that students will develop metacognitive skills which will assist children in comprehending advanced texts requirements when they leave the learning to read phase, and are expected to read to learn.   Comprehension is not the sole factor in word recognition and memorization of definitions; it is merely a main component of vocabulary development. For children who have not acquired proper knowledge of the meaning of words, reading comprehension will prove difficult if not impossible.

Children who are poor readers may lack the proper vocabulary to comprehend what is read and will find reading difficult .Struggling students will attempt to practice avoidance techniques such as procrastination,  or misplacing a text, rather than read a book overloaded with a vocabulary that is foreign to them.  Without exposure to new words students do not acquire the skills needed to achieve fluency. As time progresses and children receive increasingly demanding work, students continue to fall behind academically. A result of not achieving fluency is the “Matthew Effects”.  Bio social economic disparities within a child’s environment result in the “rich get richer and the poor get poorer” consequence. Excelling readers become avid readers and poor readers become poorer readers. Poor readers will read only when necessary thus learning fewer words

Vocabulary can be divided into three parts. Auditory vocabulary is composed of the words that are heard.  Verbal vocabulary is composed of words that are used in speech. Reading vocabulary is composed of words that are seen in print and can be decoded. Acquiring a fluent reading vocabulary requires more than looking up the definition of words in a dictionary. A proper form of instruction is required for children to develop word knowledge in-depth.  Students need to be empowered with skills to Develop strategies that will increase the growth of word knowledge.

     For word knowledge growth to occur four obstacles to vocabulary development must be addressed. If obstacles are not recognized, a successful reading experience cannot occur.

1)      The size of a task, the number of words that students need to learn is large.

2)      The difference between spoken and written English levels. The vocabulary of written English such as what students experience when reading a text differs from conversational English. Children who have do not have exposure to literate English in their environment may come from English and non-English speaking households.

3)      Limitations of sources of information about words. Children may have limited resources of reading materials in their environment. Thus, severely limited their experiences with words.

4)      The complexity of word knowledge. Children must comprehend more than dictionary definitions. Memorizing a definition does not ensure the word could be used in reading or writing. Different words pose varied demands on students.

The size of the task

     Students learn words at a rapid rate, estimates range in the thousands. Without instructional intervention, the vocabulary gap between fluent and non fluent readers gets larger. Students add 2000 to 3000 words a year to their vocabulary. This breaks down to roughly six new words a day. One can surmise how the gap between fluent and non fluent readers widens every year. Knowing the meaning of words can result in children comprehending new ideas and concepts faster than their peers with more mediocre vocabularies.

Differences in word knowledge begin at an early age. Children are exposed to varied ranges of words in their homes and communities. Socioeconomic classes can hinder or encourage exposure to words. Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds will not have an opportunity to be exposed to experiences that well off children are. Children from households where parents are employed in professional positions are exposed to 50 percent more words than children from working class families. Finding ways to balance this vocabulary inequity reinforces the importance of creating opportunities for lower-income children to receive exposure to activities that enhance vocabulary and language development. If schools develop programs that rectify a child’s experiences growing up in a home that does not promote language and vocabulary development fluent readers will emerge due to positive school experiences.

Differences between spoken and written English

     Spoken language is less descriptive than written language. Speakers use many communicative tools to convey a message. Gestures, vocal intonations, and body language are not available to writers. Friends depend on shared knowledge during conversations. Certain descriptors are left out because it is assumed that a friend already knows what the person is speaking about. Friends may use words like “you know who” during a conversation. Reciprocal feedback occurs during verbal communication so any misconceptions could be validated verbally. Writing relies on more precise methods as the only mode of communicating a thought is the written word.

Differences between the spoken and written word poses a problem for English as a second language students.  Students may learn to speak English within two years and appear conversationally fluent but their vocabulary deficits may be hidden. Students who cannot claim English as their native language learn conversational English before they become proficient in written English. Educators must take these factors into account within their classroom or a child could be diagnosed as learning disabled when the English language learner is merely having difficulty comprehending a book.

The Literate English vocabulary can pose difficulties for children who come from an English-speaking household as well.  Certain words such as restore may be read in a book but the child is not acquainted with the word through life experience. Childrenwho live in a low-income environment will most likely not know what renovate means, by comparison children from an affluent environment would most likely comprehend the definition of renovate in print due to exposure.

     Sources for Learning Independently

      Dictionaries are common in many classrooms. Dictionary instruction focuses on having children look up words they do not know and learn definitions. Children have problems have difficulty looking up words in the dictionary if they do not know how to spell the word and often misinterpret the definitions. Dictionaries often have multiple definitions and children struggle to choose the proper meaning.  Children may attempt to use word parts to comprehend new words. However, many words in the English language have multiple meanings such as steak/stake, rain/reign, plain/ plane. This can be confusing to a child

Students will likely acquire vocabulary knowledge as they pick up meanings of words from context as they read books. Context has beneficial long-term effects. Words will be encountered repeatedly by gradual accumulation of information related to the words that are read. Repeated encounters with words reinforce the odds that vocabulary growth occurs. One encounter with a word does not allow automatically to occur. When one knows a word the definition is usually comprehended. Knowing a word and acquiring the capability to use it speech, writing, or comprehension are extremely different. Children may be familiar with the word at or so and still have difficulty with defining the word. Definitions talk about a meaning but do not constitute word meanings.

Definitions identify, and then describe differences within a word category.  Meanings of words are not fully comprehended in descriptions of relations to other words. Students must experience a word in context and learn how its definition relates to other words that are used in its place. Comprehending the meaning of words as they are used in different contexts such as Joe gave the waitress a five dollar tip, the doctor gave my son medicine, or the actors gave a wonderful performance. Each act in the example differs from the others. Children cannot learn this from a dictionary definition. Children need to see words used in multiple contexts to comprehend how the words meaning changes. Each example had a receiver and giver but the meaning was different in each example.

Vocabulary knowledge is complex because all words are not similar. Vocabulary has function words and content words and these are not the same. Function words are syntax words that describe the function of a sentence. If function words are nonexistent, a sentence becomes unintelligible. Function words are learned relatively easily with merely 100 function words accounting for relatively 50 percent of words conveyed in English language. A content word is large, accounting for nouns, verbs, and adjectives which convey information in print. Content words veer towards abstract or concrete and are descriptive, such as things, sounds, and colors. Abstract words are difficult to learn as they have to be taught through example. Concrete words can have connections to an object.

Content words can teach a new concept, a new way of organizing ideas, and experiences. An example is photosynthesis which needs to be learned in the context of another scientific idea. Concepts are learned through repetition and experience and are vital to vocabulary development.   What qualifies as reading for vocabulary growth? Reading material should be to students at a variety of levels. Reading for enjoyment can increase fluency skills as the child is most likely reading text that they are familiar with. Challenging text should be available to give children the opportunity to acquire new skills.

The text must not be so challenging however that the child will get frustrated and avoid reading the book. Reading strategies may be developed by assisting the child in developing strategies that assist them in reading challenging books without becoming frustrated.  Students who learn comprehension strategies tend to find reading more palatable. How to increase motivation levels is of the utmost importance in the road to fluent reading. Classroom climate is an important factor in encouraging reading. Classroom environments that promote reciprocity, a variety of reading materials, ample pockets of time to read, and social interactions with peers and the teacher during reading time increase students  motivation to read. An important motivation booster is modeling.

Teachers would be well advised to mention to students that they like to read specific books. Teachers present a great example of how enjoyable reading can be by making a point to read in front of the students. Exposure to books in the classroom will have a positive effect on English language learners and English-speaking students who have developed fluency in conversing but do not have much exposure to text outside of the school environment.  Successful classrooms can create an atmosphere that takes advantage of verbally fluent students by increasing the level of spoken language in the class. Incorporate words that are present in print to increase literacy.

A great way to induce exposure to literate vocabulary is to read story books to the children and allow time for discussion of the content. Reading aloud is conducive to acquiring the meaning of new words.  Audio books that children can access independently expose them to new language experiences as well. Although no text is present during storytelling activities the children still receive exposure to new language and experiences. Stories can be adapted into fantasy play for younger children to reinforce a story that was recently heard.

For successful introduction of a new challenging vocabulary, a teacher must make it an enjoyable experience for the children. Students need to comprehend the differences in written and spoken words in order to become literate. Children can reinforce new vocabulary words learned from reading by copying sentences from their reading materials into a journal. Encourage the children to write descriptions, plays on words, that the children found interesting. Allow children to share their journal with the class so they can learn from one another. If a child is to shy, allow them to post interesting information from the book on a wall.

Playing oral and written word games can enhance vocabulary comprehension. Puns and limericks can be used in both younger and older grade school class rooms. Jokes, riddles, crossword puzzles, and anagrams can be used in older grade school classes where the child’s cognitive level is more developed. When students realize that playing with words can be enjoyable it creates an interest in knowing more about them, and can become a catapult for independent word learning.

When a child is taught in an unthreatening atmosphere they thrive and perceive learning as an enjoyable activity. Teachers who instill positive self efficacy in their students create life long learners. Children, who have been taught to believe that they are capable of achieving their goals, possess an innate sense of curiosity which propels them to develop a thirst to learn more. Children who are struggling readers and are in a negative classroom climate will perceive learning as something they are incapable of and eventually give up. May all educators strive to create a culturally sensitive classroom climate, and may there be “No Child Left Behind”.