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Have you ever wondered what spelling bee champs know about spelling? I have, and my research led me straight to the 31 spelling rules as taught in the Logic of English method. These simple yet powerful rules explain 98% of English words when coupled with 74 phonograms. While that may not be enough to win an elite spelling bee, its a huge step forward for everyday literacy. The 31 rules are posted here: While most are remarkably simple, they are quite powerful. Consider how the very first rule explains the answers to these tricky word equations: picnic + ing = picnicking notice + able = noticeable Rule 1 states that "C always softens to /s/ when followed by E, I, or Y. Otherwise, C says /k/." Thus, picnicking gets its K because without it, the word would say /picnising/. Likewise, noticeable retains its E because without it, the word would say /notikable/. I'd love... read more

English is widely regarded as being full of exceptions, and often logical/literal learners struggle with the ways in which it is commonly taught. Fortunately, though, there is logic to our language, and methods have been developed that carefully distill it into a limited number of spelling rules and phonograms. These concepts are quite simple to learn but very powerful in application, transforming English from a confusing jumble of exceptions to a deliciously rich and robust code. An introduction to these concepts is posted at The entire video is informative and inspirational, but if you’re pressed for time and want to sample some of the real meat of the content, jump ahead to the 20 minute mark and watch for about 8 minutes. I'd love to hear what you think. Is this content helpful? Did you learn anything new? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

An article on math education in the NY Times (July 23, 2014) wrote this about our teacher quality and resulting education: " In addition to misunderstanding math, American students also, on average, write weakly, read poorly, think unscientifically and grasp history only superficially." I would like to focus on my area of English: writing and reading. The article discussed teacher training and techniques to improve teaching results. I would like to add that for us tutors also, techniques to present our subjects are critical to help students. Some tutors are former or current professional teachers; others may be retired people from business, housewives earning extra money, college students, or even working professionals in various fields. It's fine to teach business skills to graduate students if you are an executive, swimming to children if you are a swimming coach, or history to high schoolers if your major is history. Yet, simply tutoring in your major field may not be... read more

A recent article in the New York Times on higher education stated that, "A review of MOOCs [large-scale online college courses] co-written by Professor Hollands of Columbia University’s Teachers College concluded that the typical community college student often did not have the literacy or the drive necessary to benefit from courses that require a lot of self-motivation and offer little if any face-to-face interaction." I want to emphasize the word "literacy" here since I teach English. In fact, the professor isn't referring to the simple ability to read a short text, but the ability to read a long and complex text, critically (or "deep reading"), and then being able to respond to it, criticize, analyze, evaluate, and summarize it, that is the skill of critical thinking. When I work with high school juniors and seniors, I find this skill being poorly modeled or practiced. A student recently asked when I assigned chapters in a novel to read, "should... read more

Whoa! What a mouthful? National Family Literacy Month!   Will your celebration be modest or over-the-top?   Let's start slow here... Who wants to be overwhelmed right now - when you are still scrubbing the candy corn out of your youngest child's teeth?   I propose a Family Literacy Minute - one for every member of the family - every day if you can(!) - once or twice a week if that is what know you can do!   OK, the minimum is ONE minute, but anyone can take up to TWO minutes. Any longer and it may be too long for those accustomed to the surfing and clicking that we all do too often.   These minutes will be, blessedly, technology free!   Day 1 - Tell me one thing you learned today - at school, work, OR something very useful that you learned at anytime in the past from someone at least 20 years older than you are!!!  (The second option is great for kids who had to take a (sigh) sick day, and/or... read more

Some French speaking Canadians, Hispanic populations of the US Southwest, Native Americans and urban African Americans are ethnic groups that can all be classified as involuntary minorities. Voluntary minorities include immigrants such as those who entered the United States through Ellis Island to include those who settled in homogenous communities within their host country. Examples are the German immigrants who populated the Northeastern rural lands, and as well as the urban Asian and Irish communities within Boston. The prospects for opportunity for the children of these ethnic groups depend greatly on the dominant culture’s value of the group’s linguistic capital. Involuntary minorities are effectively a subculture within their own, with their culture is in danger of being absorbed into the one dominant in their homeland. These people may see little chance for success as compared to those who express the dominant discourse norms in their primary culture. These parents may pass... read more

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