Does using shorter sentences and smaller words make a political candidate more attractive to voters? According to a study by two college researchers, it makes candidates more successful in getting their messages across to voters. Mary-Ann Leon and T. Harrell Allen of California State Polytechnic University studied the speeches of President Bush and Michael Dukakis during their two 1988 debates: They found: Bush’s remarks scored at the 8th grade level….making them clear to more than two-thirds of the audience. Dukakis tested at the 10th and 12thgrade levels….comprehensible to less than 50 percent of Americans. The difference: Dukakis used longer, more complex sentences and words than Bush did.
Posts Tagged ‘language arts’
Why is writing important? It is functional. It helps us get practical things done. It is stimulating. Writing not only helps provoke thoughts, but helps us organize those thoughts in a logical, concise manner. It is therapeutic. It allows us to express feelings that may not be easily expressed in face-to-face communication.
- Spend time on activities that require real writing rather than on short answers and fill-in-the blank exercises.
- Spend time putting thoughts on paper in a logical, well-organized way.
- Include research and brainstorming as part of writing.
- Make writing useful.
- Use drafts. Revising and editing are done by all good writers.
- Respond to the ideas expressed in writing. The true
- function of writing is to convey ideas.
- Write about something that is of interest.
- Take advantage of skills that lead to writing, such as, rhythms, reading, music, listening.
- Reward writing that is clear and concise.
- Write for real world applications, such as a letter to the editor, writing a resume or a job application.
Consider the following two teaching methods in English Language Arts. Mr. Brown hands out a worksheet exercise to his first grade students on circling words that contain the same “ch” sound. This is an explicit exercise on phonics or basic skills instruction in reading. Mrs. Kato reads to the class and asks her first graders to write about the topic after the reading. Mrs. Kato was using the whole language approach to teaching reading. Which is a better method of teaching reading to children?
Research says that a combination of the two methods or balanced instruction may be the most effective way to teach the beginning reader. This balanced instruction involves teaching the relationship between letters and sounds in a systematic fashion, and at the same time, children are being read to and reading interesting stories and writing at the same time. Researchers claim that the combination method presents the best of both worlds in teaching reading.
Learning to read is much like learning any other skill. It requires a combination of instruction, experimentation, and practice. But the first step must be motivation. The child must want to learn to read. Parents can encourage their children to read by demonstrating that they think reading is important. Parents can help their children discover the benefits of reading: new ideas…relaxation…adventure…fun.
Buy as many children’s books as you can afford.
• Give books as gifts.
• Visit the library regularly.
• Allow your children to choose their own books. Don’t rush them.
• Show your children that you enjoy reading. Make sure they see you reading newspapers, magazines, and books.
• Set up a special place for reading.
• Encourage older children to read to younger children.
• Surround your child with words; point out street signs; label objects in the house such as table, desk, and stove.
• Play word games like Scrabble, Anagrams, and Ad Lib.
• Watch educational TV programs together. Some stress reading development.
• Read to your child, especially at bedtime. Reread favorite stories.
• Ask you child to read to you.
• Stress the things your children do well in reading rather than any mistakes they make. Remember: Success breeds success.
One of the best ways to encourage children’s reading is to give them books of their very own. With so many children’s books in print, however, making the best selections may seem like a formidable task.
Since all children should have books they can handle freely, durability is important, says the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Pick well-constructed board books for infants and toddlers, so they can help turn pages without damage. Consider paperbacks and plastic covers for older kids who are not quite ready for expensive hardbacks.
Next, let your children’s interests guide your selections, suggests the Department of Education. When children ask you endless questions about where they came from or why the sky is blue, chances are good there is a book with answers they can understand. If a child expresses an interest in cars, sports, computers or dinosaurs, find books on those topics. If you will be reading aloud together, remember to choose books you can enjoy too.
Quality is as important to children as it is to adults, according to the Library of congress Children’s Literature Center. Well-written fiction with a satisfying plot and strong characterization will motivate your children to keep reading. Good illustration and design are essential to picture-story books. Critical to non-fiction are accuracy, organization and clarity of presentation.
Also keep in mind your children’s reading ability. Books should be challenging enough to stimulate their thinking skills but not so difficult as to overwhelm them. The Department of Education suggests school-sponsored book fairs as an excellent source of offerings geared to your children’s ages and reading levels.
Is cost a factor in your selection? Many second-hand bookstores offer very reasonable prices. Some even allow you to bring in books your children have outgrown and trade them for others. Many public libraries also have periodic used-book sales. Ask a librarian for dates and details.
If you are still not sure what is appropriate, take advantage of available help. Teachers and children’s librarians can suggest books that are good for reading aloud and books of interest to a particular age group. Most libraries have book lists and journals that regularly review and recommend children’s books.
When reading orally, children must not only decode the printed words on a page, they must also communicate the author’s meaning to others by varying the voice volume, pitch, phrasing, pauses, tone and reading rate. When reading orally, children must understand what they are reading in order to communicate the meaning successfully. As a result, the regular practice of oral reading boosts children’s comprehension, producing gains that will transfer to their silent, independent reading of fiction or nonfiction.
Activities to increase oral reading skills:
- Reading Specific Sentences Aloud. Have your child read a passage silently. Ask questions and direct him/her to locate and read the sentence that has the answer.
- Multimedia Models. Play records and tape recordings of poetry, prose and plays. Encourage discussion of the way the speakers use their voices to convey meaning.
- Reading Duets. Have your child choose a reading partner. Alternate the partners as readers and listeners.
- One Minute or Less Oral Reading Fun. Provide daily opportunities for your child to read orally, such as reading notices, signs or advertisements.
- Choral Reading and Play-Reading. Select poems, dramatic scenes from stories or story description to rehearse for choral readings. Model the chosen selection. Have your child choose a part to practice reading orally.
- Recording Oral Reading. Tape or video record plays, choral readings or radio dramas that your child has prepared and practiced.
Read your children’s books yourself. Or better still, get your child to read them aloud to you. Ask yourself during the reading:
- Does this book lay stress on villainy, deception or treachery?
- Are all the incidents wholesome, probable and true to life?
- Does it show young people contemptuous toward their elders and successfully opposing them?
- Do the young characters in the book show respect for teachers and others in authority?
- Are these characters the kind of young people you wish your children to associate with?
- Does the book speak of and describe pranks, practical jokes and pieces of thoughtless and cruel mischief as though they were funny and worthy of imitation.
- Is the English good and is the story written in good style?
Adapted from One Hundred and One Famous Poems (1958)
Learning and using new vocabulary is an area of the curriculum that is often neglected by high school students using online learning programs such as eTutor. Sometimes students and parents are not sure of how to use new vocabulary words or words they are not familiar with. Practicing vocabulary and word usage skills will help students go far beyond the particular subject or topic they are working on.
Vocabulary is essential to comprehension. Students need to apply strategies before, during and after reading to understand the written word. New words should be reviewed and used in a variety of ways. Students might use the following ideas to build and extend their vocabulary skills:
- Use definitions of words to create word riddles.
- Group words based on similarities and/or differences.
- Draw pictures that illustrate the vocabulary word.
- Play a variation of the card game, Go Fish. Prepare a deck of word cards with five or more sets of four related words in each set. Duplicate the cards so that at least each student has a deck for the game. Try to build sets of like words, ie, antonyms, synonyms, nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.
- Go beyond definitions in the dictionary. Explore ways to describe the associations that cluster around the word.
- Choose a vocabulary word and then answer the following questions: How would a scientist describe this word? How would a judge describe this word? How would a poet describe this word? How would you describe this word?
Organize a collection of words:
- Reference Book: Create vocabulary pages for a three-ring binder.
- Word Wall: Display collected words and definitions on a bulletin board.
- Word File: Record words, definitions, and context-rich sentences on index cards. Place them in a recipe box that organizes the words alphabetically.
Students should not skip this important skill work. Learning new vocabulary is essential to learning.