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Elizabeth P
 
 
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Elizabeth P
 
 
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to Troysbride
Old 01-01-1970, 12:00 AM
 
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Yes, but what research is exactly the question on this post. I agree with many of the teachers on this board. The NCTE mentioned by Mary has had a lot of bad press by researchers, long time educators and newspapers. According to the New York Times, the NCTE authors"quickly vanished into a fog of euphemism and evasion," using phrases such as "writing process elements," "a variety of literacy communities," and "word identification strategies" when they wrote the document Standards for the English Language Arts which pleased almost no one including many of my teaching collegues.


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maryteach
 
 
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Again, you need to think
Old 01-01-1970, 12:00 AM
 
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critically. What does the New York Times know about the teaching of writing to children? Once more, this is the about the same thing as a pediatrician (or a superintendent) telling us how to do these things. I am troubled by so many teachers who are completely willing to have unqualified people and institutions tout their stuff. The New York Times is a hallowed institution (with a little bit of a smudge) and the Human Health and Development people (Dr. Shaywitz' group) are no slouches--but they're also not teachers of writing, and you are not thinking critically at all if you accept that they are. It's like having a chiropractor treat cancer. There is no shortage of chiropractors who claim to be able to do this. There is also no shortage of patients who believe them. That doesn't mean that what these chiropractors are doing is really curing cancer. Oh, but they have degrees in health care? They've written a book? They have testimonials from patients? Baloney. I think more critically than that. If I have questions about the treatment of cancer, I'm going to an oncologist--not a chiropractor, not a dermatologist, not even a very well-respected neurologist.

What the NCTE advocates is:

Student choice in topic/genre
Peer revision
Timely feedback on their work--this is the hard part--this is the part that says your whole class doesn't need the same thing at the same time, and you're dreaming if you think they do.
Students should set their own writing goals
Writing should be evaluated on a six-trait rubric
Children need time to write, everyday
Children need to share their writing
Children need to publish their best pieces
Assessment should be via portfolio

I'm sorry that you and your collegues are not "pleased" by best practice and by what the true experts have to say. What are they saying that you cannot agree with? Some of their language is nebulous? Well, that's eduspeak, isn't it? How many times have you heard these phrases in a week in your building:

We are having a conversation around that.
Interventions have been put in place.
We need to decide what that will "look like."
Let's look at the writing (or math or science) "piece."
How can I "support you in this endeavor"?

You're not used to this?! You're a teacher, and you're not used to this?! Come on, your reading comprehension is better than that. You can get through it.

The hardest part about teaching, I think, is remembering that teachers HATE when recognized best practice turns out to be something other than what they're doing. If doctors were so resistent to change and reflection, we'd still have people dying from smallpox. Yet teachers will stubbornly cling to the way they've always done it, and feel very, very threatened by change. I think they feel as if they're being called a bad teacher--which they're not--until that stubborn thing starts up and they get confused and start believing that best practice is what THEY LIKE and what is in THEIR comfort zone. It's very easy to manage a whole class all doing the same worksheet, the same writing assignment, the same minilesson. But you're missing a large percentage of your kids on any given day, just so you can feel comfortable.

Listening to what the New York Times has to say about the teaching of writing just does not make sense, does not make any more sense than listening to Dr. Hochman. I continue to be surprised at what passes for "research" with some teachers. Programs do their OWN in-house research, and so many of you see nothing at all wrong with that. Amazing. Just amazing.
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Tyasia M.
 
 
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Tyasia M.
 
 
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Basic Writing Skills and Sentence/Fragment
Old 02-05-2006, 06:26 AM
 
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I have seen that a lot of districts use Basic Writing Skills. When distinguishing between a sentence and fragment in Dr. Hochman's activities, how do you teach the students that a verb ending in "ing" is not a predicate? For example, Bill running to the store is a fragment but some students identify it as a sentence because of the "running."
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maryteach
 
 
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Well, I think
Old 02-05-2006, 07:37 AM
 
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you only have to worry about teaching that to the kids who have that problem. Some of your kids are bound to be good with this, so I wouldn't drag them through it. I believe in giving each student exactly what THEY need, right now, in conferences and minilessons.

There is a thread further down in which some teachers have very good things to say about Dr. Hochman's program. You may want to read that, and chime in. There are teachers on that thread who have experience with that program.
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Sara T.
 
 
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Basic Writing
Old 02-05-2006, 12:11 PM
 
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To be a predicate, a verb that ends in -ing must ALWAYS have a helping verb with it.

Jan walking the dog. Fragment

Jan is walking the dog. Sentence

Students usually get this through oral language. It is hard to run individual student conferences when you have 25 second graders! I do like your schools writing program for that reason. Unfortunately, we are using something else but I do use the teacher's manual from BWS.


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maryteach
 
 
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It's not hard at all
Old 02-06-2006, 04:40 PM
 
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to run conferences. All it takes is management. Obviously, the kids need work they can do independently (like writing!) while you conference. No conference should last over 3 or 4 minutes. You should be able to get to the whole class in two periods. I do this with 100 sixth graders. It's easy.
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Sarah T.
 
 
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Basic Writing Skills
Old 02-07-2006, 06:03 PM
 
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Why would I spend precious instructional time - 3 to 4 minutes- with each child when I could do group lessons and reach so many more instructional areas and students over 2 periods??? Thats too whole language for me.
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maryteach
 
 
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Certainly, small groups
Old 02-07-2006, 08:23 PM
 
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are great to pull, efficient, and should be done whenever possible. But it's important, I think, that EVERYONE in that group need the same lesson. Otherwise, that's a real waste of precious instructional time--dragging some kids through what they don't need in order to catch a few who do. It's a far better use of time, I think, to give a kid what they need. My kids set individual writing goals, based on their feedback from their last paper, so everyone has their own goal to meet--not a someone else's goal, or almost everybody else's goal. Some kids are perfect with punctuation. Some kids really struggle with it. Some kids write beautiful intros, while others need a lot of help with it. With 100 (or even 25) kids, it's not reasonable to assume that everyone needs the same thing, on the same day, in the same way, or that even 25% of them are on the same page. I have levels in my classes (all but my GT rotation) from second to ninth grade! A kid on a second grade level needs different instruction than the kid on the ninth grade level. Yes, I pull groups, but they're small. My scores are the best in the district because each child gets just a few minutes of attention, feedback about what will help THEM, not the kid next to them, RIGHT NOW. In second grade, some of your kids are probably writing stories with dialogue, a clear beginning, middle and end, the whole thing. Others probably can barely write their name. There is no way those kids are all at the same place (having spent quite a bit of time in second grade, and seen it, worked with it), and there is no way they need the same thing.

I was in a first grade classroom once, as a student, in which there was a child who came in as an independent reader and writer. The teacher, though, couldn't be bothered to differentiate for this kid, so she forced him to sit and write rows of letters, just like the kids who were learning to write. It was easier for HER. My professors said that my experience in her room would serve as the example for what NOT to do. They were horrified by what she was doing, and so was I.

One size just doesn't fit all. It doesn't even fit most.
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Sarah T.
 
 
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from 2nd to 9th???
Old 02-08-2006, 06:12 PM
 
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It is illegal to have more than a three year span in a classroom. Where do you teach? Maybe that is why I love BWS (Basic Writing Skills)because our groups are more alike in ability - not politically correct but definitely correct instructionally. Sarah
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Rachel N.
 
 
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2nd to 9th grade is ridiculous
Old 02-08-2006, 06:18 PM
 
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A few minutes of instruction is so sad for a language arts lesson considering the need of your students. This must be NYC!!! You sound like a great teacher that needs a reasonable charge! What you're trying to accomplish is impossible. RN


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maryteach
 
 
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Sarah, now you're
Old 02-08-2006, 07:30 PM
 
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making me laugh! My whole district has spans like that! We have poverty and and second language learners, along with middle class, English-speaking kids. Where do YOU teach?! I teach in the Denver area, by the way, but not for DPS. Illegal where? I've never even heard of that--but I want to move to wherever you are! Only having a three-year span would make what I do insanely easy! I REALLY wouldn't do anything but small group/individual with only a three-year span and only 25 kids. I really do think I need to move.

You'd be surprised, Rachel--believe it or not, my state scores for writing, even with these spans, even with the poverty and the second language issues, were 79% proficient and advanced--compared to 32% for the district (like I said, this is hardly an affluent district. We have one whole middle school with half their kids living in motels). In one year, running four to six levels of reading groups in four core classes, and writer's workshop in every one, we write five major papers, do three novels, a big nonfiction unit, a poetry unit, a research unit, and hit the parts of speech--all by CSAP (Colorado's state test) in March. It really is just management and clear expectations. My kids work very well independently while I work with groups/individuals. They can do so well because everybody is doing work THEY need to do, all the time. So there really aren't behavior issues, to speak of (which isn't to say I've never had a behavior problem--but it's not because the work is the wrong level, which is what's often behind that). And they have to do well--I'm a demonstration classroom for differentiation, for teachers both in and out of our district. I have two teachers from out of district coming next week.

It's not impossible, but it does take management, organization and planning.

You said I must be in NYC--I don't know anything about that--what do you mean? Is that a bad place to teach? We have a teacher from the Baltimore area, and she said that was really bad.
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Betty
 
 
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Betty
 
 
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from Basic Writing Skills to class size!
Old 02-09-2006, 12:35 AM
 
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I am not moving to Denver! In NY, special ed at least, you can not have a spread of more than 3 years in reading ability or in age/grade in one class. Do you work for a private school? Very interesting! NYC is not a great place to teach. Some schools are okay. Many teachers, burnt out from lack of support and 35+ kids in their classes with no aid, are looking to get out. They adopt curriculum that is very "whole language" and that results in a lot of 10 year olds that can't decode c a t! But... I am sure, if you read the New York Times, you know the city's teacher's dilema with programs that lack scientific research....oh, well....
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maryteach
 
 
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No, I work
Old 02-09-2006, 04:39 AM
 
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in a public school. I've just always had such a spread. I guess I'm just used to it. My biggest class right now is 26 students, no aide. I do not, however, have an age spread that is too much.

Whole language means using whole pieces of text instead of a basal, and doing everything in context. What is so seditious about that? I'm not sure what it is that people believe about whole language, but I am always so surprised that more don't know what they're talking about before they start slamming. I expect that from the public, but from teachers, it's a shame. I think some teachers think that whole language doesn't teach phonics or something. In fact, I'm sure that's what they think. Back in the 70s, when whole language began, it is true that many schools around the country went to it, without studying first. I think that there were classrooms then in which skills weren't taught. Whole language has been refined for nearly 40 years now, and is what is taught in universities as best practice, and has been now for 15 years, at least. I think some of my peers get nervous if kids aren't doing lots of worksheets or something. You can malign what you don't understand all you like, but you should at least understand that there are some highly respected names who are total whole language proponents:

Regie Routmann
Donald Graves
Carol Avery
Nancie Atwell
Tom Romaine
Lucy Calkins
Ralph Fletcher
Dawn Latta-Kirby
Constance Weaver

I can't help noticing that my scores every year are over 40% higher than the bottom-up classroom practices surrounding me. 40% is certainly statistically significant. Something is doing that, folks. Sneering at whole language isn't gonna get it here. You still need to explain that 40% difference.
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span?
Old 02-09-2006, 07:21 PM
 
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hey, mary--

i know you teach 6th grade in a middle school....you aren't saying you teach 2nd to 9th graders, just the academic ability level of the students there, right?

that's about where mine are...2nd grade is a little low, though--i would say 3rd to 9th or 10th is the span of my group. in boise, idaho.

with our teaching team, we combat leveling concerns by:
for math we either pretest or use data from our standardized testing (if current and we are given specific subtest data) to group our students into hi, mid, low (they don't know which, but can figure it out....well, some can) and we do this for each skill unit--fractions, geometry, decimals....so the groups do change--there are a couple high that always stay high and a few low--but most do change. this helps us teach the specific skills they need and speed up or slow down as necessary.

for reading (well, one component--i keep my class for short stories and poetry from our "basal" of classics; i keep mine for my absurdly hard vocabulary which is only 15 min 2x week; and we have our own students during "reading skills" time which is 15-30 min per day, focusing on one specific reading skill (fact/opinion; synonyms; inference..) anyway...3 days a week we have novels class where the students are grouped again--hi, mid, low (using STAR, teacher judgment, CBM--words per minute, lexiles, and standardized test info). here we can work on "deeper" or not, reading concepts with a book of the appropriate reading level.

unfortunately, it will be a long while before we have 3 teachers at our grade again--this will be harder to do with only 2 groups.

i have always viewed writing differently--strong writers with more ability just naturally write using more literary devices and complex sentences....while weaker writers can work on the same concepts/writing genres, but just end up with a piece that is on another "plane".

i'm totally rambling now, avoiding grading.
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maryteach
 
 
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Man, I would love
Old 02-10-2006, 06:14 PM
 
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to be able to ability group my classes. I would still do lots of small group work, and individual writer's conferences, but I would be even more effective, I think. We're trying to get our principal to say okay to leveled lang. arts and math classes. She's really against it, says it's tracking, but I say, "so what?" She's all in love with the differentiation I do, but isn't differentiation just tracking on a small scale? My kids move up, too; I made several "promotions" with the reading groups we just started up. So as long as kids can move between levels, I say we should do it.

That's something I miss about the elementary setting, though--grade level partners you can team with. I could be really effective in an elementary sixth grade, if I could just teach all the lang. arts and social studies, and my partner could do math and science. In middle school, I have a team, but it's a core team--a math teacher, science, social studies, and me. Teaming up here is mostly about behavior, parents, schedules, that sort of thing.

No, I don't have an age range, to speak of, just an ability/proficiency range.
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Carissa
 
 
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BWS, Dr. Hochman to whole language?
Old 02-11-2006, 05:16 AM
 
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I think what is happening is we are not talking exactly the same language since we are from all over the country! I think where Mary lives they use the term, whole language, more broadly since she clearly teaches skills and her students do so well. Whole Language has a very bad connotation in the NE and California. We, in the NE, use the term literally from its roots in the 1960s. This is why…. Ken Goodman and Frank Smith advanced the idea of whole language in the late 1960s. It was never based on real research but on the observation that adults process the written word without recoding it letter by letter or sound by sound. So, they claimed that children should learn to read as naturally as they learn to speak. Smith said that the decoding words into sounds was pointless and that letter-sound correspondences were “jabberwocky” to be avoided at all cost. He felt that skill development was largely boring, repetitive, and unrelated to developing reading. Whole language proponents thought that reading was analogous to speaking. Almost every premise advanced by whole language proponents about how reading is learned has now been contradicted by scientific investigations. As Michael Pressley, editor of Educational Psychologist, once remarked, “At best, much of whole-language thinking...is obsolete, and at worst, much of it never was well informed about children and their intellectual development.” Read “First to Worst”, the story behind California’s reading failure that effected millions of children using “whole language” but better yet read the recent independent research from the National Reading Panel that was one of the biggest reading studies in history. Read Reading Wars by Nicholas Lemann, and Whole Language Lives On, the illusion of balanced literacy by Louisa Moats. Through scientific brain imaging and medical research, we now know without doubt how children learn to read. NO FURTHER NEED TO DISCUSS IT LIKE WE KNOW CALCIUM HELPS BUILD BONES!Unfortunately, teachers now like the term “balance literacy” (balanced, whole - it sounds good - right?) and what they still use is whole language. Please read these studies before responding, read the research from Dr. Sally Shaywitz, from Yale Medical Center. It proves the philosophy behind whole language is wrong and the solid research supports direct instruction of reading skills. Our students are the future; let’s not practice methodologies just because their names “sound” politically correct. And, by the way, Mary should keep fighting for ability grouping because it is the best way for kids to learn exactly the skill areas she mentioned, reading and math. She sounds like a great teacher.

PS sorry, everyone got off the basic writing skills sentence fragment thing… this should be a new thread but it was great reading how it went off track! By the way, a lot of teachers use the Basic Writing Skills methods in conjunction with other programs even though it is a stand alone. It is good but we lowly teachers cannot choose the curriculum. I like the sentence expansion activities.
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Old 02-18-2006, 05:51 AM
 
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Mary, I would love if my own 2 children were in your classroom! I'm sure you've read Linda Dorn. How you run your room is similar to what she recommends. I've done grouping in writing with my 2nd graders and it was successful. I was also the GT cluster teacher, and ability grouping is differentiation. It's effective on all levels. Especially since so much of what we do is teach for those lower students. The higher ability students need us too. I would love to teach with you!
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Tyasia M.
 
 
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Thanks Carissa and Mary
Old 02-19-2006, 12:21 PM
 
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I actually printed your postings and we found, printed, and discussed the articles and research that you suggested. Great - thank you. After I read all you suggested, I have to agree with you. My fellow teachers loved the time discussing the research from NICHD. I love all the BWS (Basic Writing Skills) activities but the fact that it is supported by real research makes me feel I am doing the right thing with my students. There are so many philosophies and approaches on writing and reading. Your suggestions clear up why certain ones are really research based. Another problem is that districts change the way they teach writing all the time and are not consistent K-12 at all. Some things should ring familiar to the students from year to year. THANKS! Ty
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maryteach
 
 
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I posted a reply
Old 02-26-2006, 09:39 AM
 
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to much of this below, on the thread titled "Writing Curriculum." These two threads are so similar, and I think I may have responded to a couple of people on this thread, down there. If anyone is still interested, go read that one. I'm too lazy to re-type the whole thing!

Any chance we could just move this discussion down there, and keep it all on one thread?
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Amen
Old 04-06-2006, 05:59 PM
 
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I am delighted to hear you voice positive comments about managing workshop and conferencing! I am not familiar with several writing programs I see discussed here, so I certainly am not going to cast judgment, but there is WAY too much research that supports self-selected writing topics, blocks of time for writing, mini lessons to teach at the point of need, conferencing, and sharing (the workshop model) to disregard in hopes of a bandaid approach to fix writing problems.

I have found that PROGRAMS work for a short time to raise scores, but at the heart of good writing instruction is good, solid research-based philosophy in how children learn to receive and express language.

I am looking forward to perusing the materials mentioned here.
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Elizabeth P
 
 
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Elizabeth P
 
 
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Who?
Old 04-09-2006, 09:39 AM
 
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I don't know about some of the names you mention besides Shaywitz ( I don't like to name or bash individuals) but even as part of the Goals 2000 education initiative, the federal government solicited national standards for English-language arts curricula from the NCTE and the International Reading Association and what they received was nothing to grab onto for teachers who want more than theory. A lot of slippery language without concrete direction. Have you read their twelve basic rules? Number five was everyone's favorite, "Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes." Don't get so defensive - I just agree to disagree and stay professional without bashing individuals. That's not professional. If your theories work for you and your students, great. That is all that counts. Many teachers and students need something with a little more meat - that is all.
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I probably wouldn't
Old 07-03-2006, 03:13 PM
 
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bash individuals either, except that when teachers start spouting about how "research-based" this individual's malarky is, someone who knows A WHOLE LOT BETTER needs to say something. This person wrote a program, did all the research herself, then opened the center that teaches the program. That's fine, I guess--shows she knows a heck of a lot more about marketing than she does writing--but when teachers so horrifyingly lack critical thinking skills (meaning they can't tell in-house "research" from the real deal) then I worry about having them in front of children. Teachers should be able to think critically. Many cannot, obviously.
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