Ontario high schools SHOULD be teaching grammar

I received an e-mail from a regular reader yesterday who explained that her daughter had just graduated from high school and was about to start university in September — without the English grammar and spelling abilities one might expect — and wondered how she would survive university without those skills.

It was also explained to me that she, the mother, had asked her daughter’s high school teachers over the years about why her daughter wasn’t being taught distinct grammar and spelling.  In response she was always told they, high school teachers, didn’t have to do that. That whatever spelling and grammar she learned as a distinct subject would have been done, or at least should have been done, at the elementary level. Since that didn’t seem to have happened, the mother asked for my recommendations.

First of all, you can’t start from scratch. You can’t go back to the junior grades once your son or daughter is eighteen.  So, once your children graduate from high school with the required marks and credits to get accepted into a Canadian university, it is best to deal with where they are at right now.

As such, my first recommendation was that her daughter make sure she take part in her university’s orientation “essay” writing and related courses because some grammar and spelling would be included, if only in a contextual way.

Secondly, I recommended the family purchase a technological aid called the “Franklin Spelling Ace” (with prices ranging from $35.00 up to $150.00.), available at most tech stores such as Best Buy, Future Shop or the Source.  There are other brands but I have found they don’t work nearly as well as the Franklin.  The small phonetic spell checker is # SA-207A (half-way down the link’s page) and is also available on various Internet sites — just google “Franklin Spelling Ace.” (And, by the way, I unfortunately don’t have anything to do with Franklin Electronics.)

The Ace is completely phonetic and there is a more expensive version ($130.00 and up) that also has a “speaking” dictionary, so a student can make sure they have the right word, based on the meaning. The one I used when I taught university could be turned off when in the university library studying. 

The simple palm sized Ace works as follows: Let’s say you want to find the word “physician,” all you have to do is type in how it sounds, “fizishun,” and bingo you’ve got the right word.

Now, back to high schools not having to teach grammar and spelling. As it turns out, Ontario’s high school English teachers SHOULD be teaching courses about those topics. For example, I paid a visit to the Ontario Ministry of Education website — and I assume other provincial departments are similar — and what I found were several English curriculum documents that are applicable.

Here is the link. I won’t repeat what is there but I recommend parents who have high school aged children, read what is there or check out your own provincial or territorial department of education. Because if you are being told that high schools don’t or are not required to teach grammar, that information would be wrong.

Funny also that when I taught university undergraduate courses I had a complete class on grammar and spelling strategies when writing research and related reports and/or essays. And, I always included !0% for presentation as part of each written assignment’s grade. With grammar and spell checkers on every word processing program available, there simply should be no excuses!

In other words, if students don’t have the requisite writing skills, they need to learn them in whatever way they can and if that means taking non-credit short length courses or using tech aids, then they need to do what is necessary.

However, that said. To both elementary and high school teachers: There should be no such thing as “it should have been taught earlier.” Every individual matures at a different level. If high school and university kids need some guidance in this regard, it is our responsibility as educators to see that they learn the skills needed in our society to be able to read and write effectively.

Afterall, isn’t literacy (reading and writing and all that involves) and numeracy what school is all about or should be all about?

Update: Thanks to the regular reader who provided the tip, here also is an excellent resource for checking at what level your young child is spelling. Plus it provides some tips and other related information.

65 thoughts on “Ontario high schools SHOULD be teaching grammar

  1. I think the lack of teaching grammar has been a problem for some time now, all across this country.

    I learned more about english grammar by taking French in school than I ever learned in English classes.

    Like

  2. I think the lack of teaching grammar has been a problem for some time now, all across this country.

    I learned more about english grammar by taking French in school than I ever learned in English classes.

    Like

  3. This has been going on for a long time. I had poor grammar when I graduated high school. The university had instituted a Writing Across Curriculum program in response to lax adherence to syntax rules. Too many were relying on spell check and could not write properly, so the university wanted to make sure their graduates were indeed literate. Their solution was to get the students to take courses where they had to write essays. We learned essay structure, but not grammar. I later went to college where they had a required English course where simple grammar was taught. I may not remember the names of everything; however, I can apply the concepts.

    What gets me now is that I am told not to correct my kindergarten son’s poor spelling in case it discourages him from writing. What a joke. Just be nice about it! He gets more discouraged when people cannot read what he wrote.

    For the first while, I simply corrected his drawing of the letters. If he drewe an S backward, I would let him know. I have since started to correct some of his spelling. He is trying to communicate. He needs to spell correctly if he wants to achieve that goal.

    John M Reynolds

    Like

  4. This has been going on for a long time. I had poor grammar when I graduated high school. The university had instituted a Writing Across Curriculum program in response to lax adherence to syntax rules. Too many were relying on spell check and could not write properly, so the university wanted to make sure their graduates were indeed literate. Their solution was to get the students to take courses where they had to write essays. We learned essay structure, but not grammar. I later went to college where they had a required English course where simple grammar was taught. I may not remember the names of everything; however, I can apply the concepts.

    What gets me now is that I am told not to correct my kindergarten son’s poor spelling in case it discourages him from writing. What a joke. Just be nice about it! He gets more discouraged when people cannot read what he wrote.

    For the first while, I simply corrected his drawing of the letters. If he drewe an S backward, I would let him know. I have since started to correct some of his spelling. He is trying to communicate. He needs to spell correctly if he wants to achieve that goal.

    John M Reynolds

    Like

  5. Yes, grammar and spelling should be put back in. I had two rather thick, small grammar books. One was for grade 3 to grade 5 and the other for grade 6 to grade 8. We had 15 to 20 minutes each day from grade 3 to grade 8. Spelling was about 30 minutes. Also we had composition period, where each week we had to write a story on the topic the teacher assigned us. This is where we learned to write. If one handed a story in with spelling errors and grammar mistakes – it was often graded with a poor mark. I remember spending each Thursday, after school at the kitchen table rewriting my story after my Mother corrected the mistakes. Since having children, the first two kids had no spelling and grammar whatsoever. But I made sure they got it at home. I was also told, I should not correct them because the teachers wanted content. In time the children will learn how to write with correct grammar and spelling. The third child, since moving to Newfoundland there is some but not enough for all children to be able to write a decent essay, let alone a letter to grandma. Language arts have been downsized where many of the important concepts of English are not being taught. Without them, why is anyone surprise that young adults are lousy writers? Ditto for math curriculum that has grown more fuzzy as the years have gone by, without teaching children the basic math laws and rules, and other important concepts.

    Like

  6. Yes, grammar and spelling should be put back in. I had two rather thick, small grammar books. One was for grade 3 to grade 5 and the other for grade 6 to grade 8. We had 15 to 20 minutes each day from grade 3 to grade 8. Spelling was about 30 minutes. Also we had composition period, where each week we had to write a story on the topic the teacher assigned us. This is where we learned to write. If one handed a story in with spelling errors and grammar mistakes – it was often graded with a poor mark. I remember spending each Thursday, after school at the kitchen table rewriting my story after my Mother corrected the mistakes. Since having children, the first two kids had no spelling and grammar whatsoever. But I made sure they got it at home. I was also told, I should not correct them because the teachers wanted content. In time the children will learn how to write with correct grammar and spelling. The third child, since moving to Newfoundland there is some but not enough for all children to be able to write a decent essay, let alone a letter to grandma. Language arts have been downsized where many of the important concepts of English are not being taught. Without them, why is anyone surprise that young adults are lousy writers? Ditto for math curriculum that has grown more fuzzy as the years have gone by, without teaching children the basic math laws and rules, and other important concepts.

    Like

  7. To Reid, John, and Nancy:

    I can understand your frustrations. I do find that once students reach grade seven, they stop learning the finer rules of English spelling and grammar. This doesn’t mean that they don’t need to write properly. It just means that they don’t receive lessons on when to use who and whom or its and it’s. Secondary school teachers do not teach grammar because it is not in the curriculum. In the elementary grades, cursive handwriting is generally not in the curriculum. Students spend little time practising their cursive Q’s that should look like 2’s.

    I would suggest to John and Nancy to correct their children’s letter formation. You do not need to correct every single word. Start with top 100 words used in English. Make sure those words are spelled correctly and explain the rules about short and long vowels with the silent e. Later, work on the top 300 and 1000 words. You can find these words in Wikipedia. When your children reach grade-three, show them how to use a dictionary–how to look for words alphabetically, variants of words that have -ed or -ing that may not always be listed, and how to understand the symbols (n., v., adj., adv., pl.) to get meaning from each word.

    If you are looking for grammar instructional books, try your regular book stores or go to Scholar’s Choice (www.scholarschoice.ca). If you live in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, or Alberta, there are retail locations. They do have workbooks that deal with the finer points of grammar. The series of books are geared to students in the the K to 6 or K to 8 range. Bring your child to the store to see which book might suit him or her.

    Finally, math is different than when we learned the subject. It is more language-math where students are required to figure out how to solve problems and explain in writing or orally how they solved them. They don’t receive formulas from the teacher how to add two two-digit numbers or how to multiply with percentages. You may not like it; I may not like it. I do teach the students the new math. At the same time, I do show strugglng students ways to perform simple calculations and solve problems using basic math laws and rules. Not every student can learn under the new math.

    I hope this helps.

    Like

  8. To Reid, John, and Nancy:

    I can understand your frustrations. I do find that once students reach grade seven, they stop learning the finer rules of English spelling and grammar. This doesn’t mean that they don’t need to write properly. It just means that they don’t receive lessons on when to use who and whom or its and it’s. Secondary school teachers do not teach grammar because it is not in the curriculum. In the elementary grades, cursive handwriting is generally not in the curriculum. Students spend little time practising their cursive Q’s that should look like 2’s.

    I would suggest to John and Nancy to correct their children’s letter formation. You do not need to correct every single word. Start with top 100 words used in English. Make sure those words are spelled correctly and explain the rules about short and long vowels with the silent e. Later, work on the top 300 and 1000 words. You can find these words in Wikipedia. When your children reach grade-three, show them how to use a dictionary–how to look for words alphabetically, variants of words that have -ed or -ing that may not always be listed, and how to understand the symbols (n., v., adj., adv., pl.) to get meaning from each word.

    If you are looking for grammar instructional books, try your regular book stores or go to Scholar’s Choice (www.scholarschoice.ca). If you live in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, or Alberta, there are retail locations. They do have workbooks that deal with the finer points of grammar. The series of books are geared to students in the the K to 6 or K to 8 range. Bring your child to the store to see which book might suit him or her.

    Finally, math is different than when we learned the subject. It is more language-math where students are required to figure out how to solve problems and explain in writing or orally how they solved them. They don’t receive formulas from the teacher how to add two two-digit numbers or how to multiply with percentages. You may not like it; I may not like it. I do teach the students the new math. At the same time, I do show strugglng students ways to perform simple calculations and solve problems using basic math laws and rules. Not every student can learn under the new math.

    I hope this helps.

    Like

  9. When our daughters were in school, I ended up purchasing some ESL notebooks which did give the grammar rules for the benefit of non-English speakers. These helped. Having the girls in French immersion was also a help, as French grammar was emphasized.

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  10. When our daughters were in school, I ended up purchasing some ESL notebooks which did give the grammar rules for the benefit of non-English speakers. These helped. Having the girls in French immersion was also a help, as French grammar was emphasized.

    Like

  11. Whole language was tried in our school system about 20 years ago, and soon abolished. But my oldest son, is a lousy speller, always will be but in grade 1 (1960) I complained that he was not being corrected for makine his e and 5 backwards. In later grades his spelling was horrible, but I was told at least he is thinking. My g/son graduated last year, and still can’t do cursive writing. He says, you mean write it in script. Thanks for the web site for scholarschoice. I used to buy lots of workbooks for the kids there. Store closed several years ago, and I would like to get more work books at about gr 6-8 level for my g/son to do.

    Like

  12. Mary T — Whole language, in Ontario at least, came out of the Hall Dennis, Living and Learning report in the late 1960’s. By the mid 1970’s we were told to teach experiential language that way but I and many of my teacher colleagues continued to teach distinct spelling. We had lessons on grammar which we worked into the whole language lessons. The primary teachers also worked in phonics lessons.

    So, it can be done. The problem with whole language was that it wasn’t “whole” — it left out huge components of language learning.

    So, to Ann who asked how we turn this beast around, it is not necessary to go back to the future as it were. All the system has to do is include all the components and as far as I know, it actually has.

    When I was working for the Harris government, I got to read the new language arts for primary, junior and intermediate and all the components were there — but again as with all curriculum, there is some latitude.

    In other words, when whole language is really whole it works!

    But, Mr. E is wrong on one point. There should be some grammar and spelling taught at the high school level because I clearly remember the curriculum documents I used (up until just a couple of years ago) when I taught pre-service teacher education, a re-introduction and/or review was there. Now, whether it is used that is another question.

    Like

  13. Mary T — Whole language, in Ontario at least, came out of the Hall Dennis, Living and Learning report in the late 1960’s. By the mid 1970’s we were told to teach experiential language that way but I and many of my teacher colleagues continued to teach distinct spelling. We had lessons on grammar which we worked into the whole language lessons. The primary teachers also worked in phonics lessons.

    So, it can be done. The problem with whole language was that it wasn’t “whole” — it left out huge components of language learning.

    So, to Ann who asked how we turn this beast around, it is not necessary to go back to the future as it were. All the system has to do is include all the components and as far as I know, it actually has.

    When I was working for the Harris government, I got to read the new language arts for primary, junior and intermediate and all the components were there — but again as with all curriculum, there is some latitude.

    In other words, when whole language is really whole it works!

    But, Mr. E is wrong on one point. There should be some grammar and spelling taught at the high school level because I clearly remember the curriculum documents I used (up until just a couple of years ago) when I taught pre-service teacher education, a re-introduction and/or review was there. Now, whether it is used that is another question.

    Like

  14. My kids started out in the public school system here in BC and I was thoroughly unimpressed with both English and math instruction. Eventually they switched to a ‘faith based’ more traditional school that taught grammer even up to Grade 12. In BC all studets have to write Provincial leaving exams in Grade 12 and the most difficult subjects are Math and English. Both my daughters got ‘A’s’ in English and during their University years were always the ones designated to ‘write’ the conclusions for group projects.

    A suggestion for math assistance is to play cards with your kids. With younger kids you can play Memory. Using a regular deck take out all of the face cards and turn them all upside down. Then they have to find one’s that add up to a number, say 10, so they would have to turn over two cards that, in combination, add up to 10. It is fun and very helpful to get them doing simple addition in their head. You can do it in the reverse for subtraction.

    For older children play Crib with them. It is a great way of learning more complicated number counting. Cheers.

    Like

  15. My kids started out in the public school system here in BC and I was thoroughly unimpressed with both English and math instruction. Eventually they switched to a ‘faith based’ more traditional school that taught grammer even up to Grade 12. In BC all studets have to write Provincial leaving exams in Grade 12 and the most difficult subjects are Math and English. Both my daughters got ‘A’s’ in English and during their University years were always the ones designated to ‘write’ the conclusions for group projects.

    A suggestion for math assistance is to play cards with your kids. With younger kids you can play Memory. Using a regular deck take out all of the face cards and turn them all upside down. Then they have to find one’s that add up to a number, say 10, so they would have to turn over two cards that, in combination, add up to 10. It is fun and very helpful to get them doing simple addition in their head. You can do it in the reverse for subtraction.

    For older children play Crib with them. It is a great way of learning more complicated number counting. Cheers.

    Like

  16. The problems with defective educations is nothing more or less than the fact that the education is largely run by teachers for teachers. It is designed to protect teachers from comparative review of competencies and outcomes. To make such an analysis might disclose the lazy, the incompetent or those marking time until retirement.

    The real solution is to have a single payer multiple provide education system. The government should:
    1. pay the cost
    2. monitor student outcomes annually
    3. report student and school performance to parents and schools so all will know teachers and schools meet the needs of the children
    4. determines minimum learning goals for each grade.

    Free schools from the tyranny of the teachers unions. Place the entire k -12 system into private hands.

    Once teachers ands schools have accountability to parents and students for their performance we can expect improvement. No accountability in a teacher focussed system means continuing decline and debasement of educational standards and outcomes.

    Like

  17. The problems with defective educations is nothing more or less than the fact that the education is largely run by teachers for teachers. It is designed to protect teachers from comparative review of competencies and outcomes. To make such an analysis might disclose the lazy, the incompetent or those marking time until retirement.

    The real solution is to have a single payer multiple provide education system. The government should:
    1. pay the cost
    2. monitor student outcomes annually
    3. report student and school performance to parents and schools so all will know teachers and schools meet the needs of the children
    4. determines minimum learning goals for each grade.

    Free schools from the tyranny of the teachers unions. Place the entire k -12 system into private hands.

    Once teachers ands schools have accountability to parents and students for their performance we can expect improvement. No accountability in a teacher focussed system means continuing decline and debasement of educational standards and outcomes.

    Like

  18. Sor you are so right on using cards to teach math. We used to have some vicious canasta gamees, by lamplight when power was out. Try being 10 short on a meld and those kids catch it in a minute. I remember one game where our 10 yr old tried to meld 3 nines, and was told, that is wrong, you have 2 sixes and one nine. He turned those cards every which way and still did not have 3 nines. He got up, went and got his new glasses and looked again, dam glasses, they are still sixes he said. Another time we were playing scrabble and his teacher was our guest. He said, just wait till I go to school tomorrow and tell the kids I beat the teacher. The teacher just said, bucking for another year in grade 8 are you. Never said a word the next day.

    Like

  19. Sor you are so right on using cards to teach math. We used to have some vicious canasta gamees, by lamplight when power was out. Try being 10 short on a meld and those kids catch it in a minute. I remember one game where our 10 yr old tried to meld 3 nines, and was told, that is wrong, you have 2 sixes and one nine. He turned those cards every which way and still did not have 3 nines. He got up, went and got his new glasses and looked again, dam glasses, they are still sixes he said. Another time we were playing scrabble and his teacher was our guest. He said, just wait till I go to school tomorrow and tell the kids I beat the teacher. The teacher just said, bucking for another year in grade 8 are you. Never said a word the next day.

    Like

  20. Gary — Both my husband and I taught in the public system. He is currently teaching in a private school. He has experienced it both ways. There are far more similaries than you realize. Kids are kids. Teachers are teachers. Where the money comes from doesn’t make the difference.

    You want to know what makes the difference? Parent involvement and parental commitment to the school and the school’s rules and practices. And, there is no reason that couldn’t happen at the public level.

    It might surprise you to also know that the teachers’ unions have absolutely nothing to do with day to day teaching practices, apart from the fact teachers all belong to the union. And, contrary to what you are hinting, all teachers have unit plans and day plans which both have clearly defined objectives — authentic and measurable objectives.

    In other words, minimum learning goals are the norm.

    So, while I am one of the first to criticize teachers, I will only do so where I think it is warranted. This blog is not anti-teachers.

    But, the bottom line is that no system with human beings in it is perfect. Neither would private education be perfect for the same reason.

    It is a worthy job but a stressful one. And, yes, I know, lots of other jobs are hard too. But, it is complex. Student achievement comes as a result of several things: the resources in the home, parent involvement, student motivation and perseverance, the intellectual potential of the student and teacher beliefs, attitudes and teaching ability.

    Let’s pull together rather than tear apart.

    Personally, I would like to see parent choice where the publicly funded per pupil grant follows the students. That, in my view, would be far more effective than all charter or other forms of private sector funding.

    Like

  21. Gary — Both my husband and I taught in the public system. He is currently teaching in a private school. He has experienced it both ways. There are far more similaries than you realize. Kids are kids. Teachers are teachers. Where the money comes from doesn’t make the difference.

    You want to know what makes the difference? Parent involvement and parental commitment to the school and the school’s rules and practices. And, there is no reason that couldn’t happen at the public level.

    It might surprise you to also know that the teachers’ unions have absolutely nothing to do with day to day teaching practices, apart from the fact teachers all belong to the union. And, contrary to what you are hinting, all teachers have unit plans and day plans which both have clearly defined objectives — authentic and measurable objectives.

    In other words, minimum learning goals are the norm.

    So, while I am one of the first to criticize teachers, I will only do so where I think it is warranted. This blog is not anti-teachers.

    But, the bottom line is that no system with human beings in it is perfect. Neither would private education be perfect for the same reason.

    It is a worthy job but a stressful one. And, yes, I know, lots of other jobs are hard too. But, it is complex. Student achievement comes as a result of several things: the resources in the home, parent involvement, student motivation and perseverance, the intellectual potential of the student and teacher beliefs, attitudes and teaching ability.

    Let’s pull together rather than tear apart.

    Personally, I would like to see parent choice where the publicly funded per pupil grant follows the students. That, in my view, would be far more effective than all charter or other forms of private sector funding.

    Like

  22. Hi Sandy,

    I should apologise for not being familiar with the high school curriculum in Ontario. I do know that at the elementary level, if something is not in the curriculum, a teacher may not necessarily teach it. For example, cursive writing, keyboarding, and the finer points of grammar may not be taught–at least not extensively.

    Based on my own experience of supply teaching, I do believe that students who print or use cursive writing neatly tend to produce better written assignments. It’s not because I can read them; students seem to have more organized thoughts when they write neatly.

    If anyone wants a systematic phonics book for SK-2, I would suggest This is Not a Complete Reading Program by Martha Petrie (www.soundreaders.ca). Children learn each component part of a word such as b-a-t through phonemic awareness as opposed to phonological awareness where students learn b-at.

    Again, I do expect correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation that is appropriate for each grade. In grades one and two, I do expect students to spell commonly used basic words correctly. I do expect them to spell more complex science and social studies words correctly if students are shown those words. For example, a grade-two student does need to spell “hemisphere” correctly if shown the word. I do not expect correct spelling on rough copies of writing assignments. However, I do expect correct spelling on good copies for all grades.

    Like

  23. Hi Sandy,

    I should apologise for not being familiar with the high school curriculum in Ontario. I do know that at the elementary level, if something is not in the curriculum, a teacher may not necessarily teach it. For example, cursive writing, keyboarding, and the finer points of grammar may not be taught–at least not extensively.

    Based on my own experience of supply teaching, I do believe that students who print or use cursive writing neatly tend to produce better written assignments. It’s not because I can read them; students seem to have more organized thoughts when they write neatly.

    If anyone wants a systematic phonics book for SK-2, I would suggest This is Not a Complete Reading Program by Martha Petrie (www.soundreaders.ca). Children learn each component part of a word such as b-a-t through phonemic awareness as opposed to phonological awareness where students learn b-at.

    Again, I do expect correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation that is appropriate for each grade. In grades one and two, I do expect students to spell commonly used basic words correctly. I do expect them to spell more complex science and social studies words correctly if students are shown those words. For example, a grade-two student does need to spell “hemisphere” correctly if shown the word. I do not expect correct spelling on rough copies of writing assignments. However, I do expect correct spelling on good copies for all grades.

    Like

  24. Back to the grammar issue. When I graduated high school in NS in 1965, we were required to take English A (grammar) and English B (literature). When I began teaching in NB in 1971, there was only one English class (literature). I really don’t know what happened in those few short years. I’m thinking that those who divised the curriculum figured that grammar would take place by osmosis.

    As a Commerce and Secretarial student at Acadia University, I was required to take a course in Business English (grammar and spelling). A few years later I was required to teach a high school course to business students in grammar and spelling. I think you will agree that there is no way better to learn a subject than having to teach it.

    But–as a business teacher, what appalled me was the lack of grammatical skills by English teachers at my school–not all, but many. And one, who eventually became head of the English dept., insisted that grammatical skills don’t matter. He said it was just the means to communicate that mattered, that teaching grammar stifled creativity. Arrrgh! Just before I retired 4 years ago, a young English teacher referred to someone as being “smaller than me.” This was in the staff room and I jokingly said that I (not an English teacher) would have expected an English teacher to have said “smaller than I.” He actually argued the point until I explained it.

    I always tried to convince my principal that learning keyboarding enhanced literacy skills. She would shake her head and say “how”? And I would tell her that because they are copying from correctly written material, and that they are being penalized for their mistakes, and that they are being required to fix those mistakes.

    In my opinion, the teaching of English should be in for a big shake-up. The whole emphasis of language in high school is on literature. But–think about how much people have to read these days, I mean really have to, for jobs, life in general. So what skills do they need? What should they know? One big thing is instruction manuals. In this age of technology, we get manuals for every toy we buy. Therefore, students need to be taught how to read and follow instructions.

    I do, however, feel for the young teachers who have never been taught the grammar that our generation was. But, it is not too late. There are always in-services and professional development days. But most importantly, they need to be told that this is important, that it matters, and that it will affect their future.

    Just my rave for today, but this is something that I have felt very strongly about for many years. So, thanks Sandy for a post to which I can really relate.

    Like

  25. Back to the grammar issue. When I graduated high school in NS in 1965, we were required to take English A (grammar) and English B (literature). When I began teaching in NB in 1971, there was only one English class (literature). I really don’t know what happened in those few short years. I’m thinking that those who divised the curriculum figured that grammar would take place by osmosis.

    As a Commerce and Secretarial student at Acadia University, I was required to take a course in Business English (grammar and spelling). A few years later I was required to teach a high school course to business students in grammar and spelling. I think you will agree that there is no way better to learn a subject than having to teach it.

    But–as a business teacher, what appalled me was the lack of grammatical skills by English teachers at my school–not all, but many. And one, who eventually became head of the English dept., insisted that grammatical skills don’t matter. He said it was just the means to communicate that mattered, that teaching grammar stifled creativity. Arrrgh! Just before I retired 4 years ago, a young English teacher referred to someone as being “smaller than me.” This was in the staff room and I jokingly said that I (not an English teacher) would have expected an English teacher to have said “smaller than I.” He actually argued the point until I explained it.

    I always tried to convince my principal that learning keyboarding enhanced literacy skills. She would shake her head and say “how”? And I would tell her that because they are copying from correctly written material, and that they are being penalized for their mistakes, and that they are being required to fix those mistakes.

    In my opinion, the teaching of English should be in for a big shake-up. The whole emphasis of language in high school is on literature. But–think about how much people have to read these days, I mean really have to, for jobs, life in general. So what skills do they need? What should they know? One big thing is instruction manuals. In this age of technology, we get manuals for every toy we buy. Therefore, students need to be taught how to read and follow instructions.

    I do, however, feel for the young teachers who have never been taught the grammar that our generation was. But, it is not too late. There are always in-services and professional development days. But most importantly, they need to be told that this is important, that it matters, and that it will affect their future.

    Just my rave for today, but this is something that I have felt very strongly about for many years. So, thanks Sandy for a post to which I can really relate.

    Like

  26. “I think the lack of teaching grammar has been a problem for some time now, all across this country.”

    Agreed. At least, from this Ontarian’s standpoint. I graduated high school in 1991 with a… shall we say, organic knowledge of grammar. In that I could write complete sentences and could spell. However, if anybody asked me to take a sentence apart and show subject and object and all of those things, I couldn’t do it. And I wasn’t alone. In my first year of University, our teaching assistants banged their heads against the wall and had to teach some students how to write a proper essay. I was shocked at what some students were submitting at this level.

    Back in grade 9, my mother practically had to be dragged off of an English teacher when she replied to my mother’s question, saying that they didn’t correct spelling or grammar because “they didn’t want to stifle the natural creativity of the student”. HELLO?! I’m sorry, but you have to know what the rules ARE before you can break them creatively.

    However, my school, an inner city collegiate in Toronto, did manage to teach me grammar outside of the curriculum. It came in the form of a grammar game that a grade 11 teacher played with us when the curriculum work was done. And it also came in the form of 20 minutes of silent, personal, uninterrupted reading that all students were required to do every day. By reading, I learned how writing was done. This was an excellent program that our local high school appeared to be doing outside of the Toronto District School Board’s jurisdiction, but I believe it was soon taken up by the TDSB.

    I agree, we need at least one course in grammar in our high schools, alongside a course looking into the methodology of statistics.

    Like

  27. “I think the lack of teaching grammar has been a problem for some time now, all across this country.”

    Agreed. At least, from this Ontarian’s standpoint. I graduated high school in 1991 with a… shall we say, organic knowledge of grammar. In that I could write complete sentences and could spell. However, if anybody asked me to take a sentence apart and show subject and object and all of those things, I couldn’t do it. And I wasn’t alone. In my first year of University, our teaching assistants banged their heads against the wall and had to teach some students how to write a proper essay. I was shocked at what some students were submitting at this level.

    Back in grade 9, my mother practically had to be dragged off of an English teacher when she replied to my mother’s question, saying that they didn’t correct spelling or grammar because “they didn’t want to stifle the natural creativity of the student”. HELLO?! I’m sorry, but you have to know what the rules ARE before you can break them creatively.

    However, my school, an inner city collegiate in Toronto, did manage to teach me grammar outside of the curriculum. It came in the form of a grammar game that a grade 11 teacher played with us when the curriculum work was done. And it also came in the form of 20 minutes of silent, personal, uninterrupted reading that all students were required to do every day. By reading, I learned how writing was done. This was an excellent program that our local high school appeared to be doing outside of the Toronto District School Board’s jurisdiction, but I believe it was soon taken up by the TDSB.

    I agree, we need at least one course in grammar in our high schools, alongside a course looking into the methodology of statistics.

    Like

  28. As often happens, I’ve come late to this discussion, but I hope you’ll forgive my going off on a somewhat related tangent.

    You may be aware that here in Quebec, because of past disputes over language, apostrophes were banished from commercial signs, e.g. the now defunct Eaton’s became “Eaton.”

    Where have all the apostrophes gone?
    It appears they’ve disappeared into the blogosphere, for I have noticed a surfeit of apostrophes, as in:
    • it’s (contraction of it is) instead of its (belonging to it)
    • their’s instead of theirs (belonging to them)
    • similarly, your’s, her’s and our’s instead of yours, hers and ours (That’s not mine, it’s not hers nor ours, it’s yours)
    • ‘s used instead of 3rd person sing. verb ending, e.g he stay’s instead of stays
    • ‘s used where a plural noun ending in s is required, e.g. many apple’s

    Such basic errors unfortunately at times detract from the substance of a post/comment.

    Like

  29. As often happens, I’ve come late to this discussion, but I hope you’ll forgive my going off on a somewhat related tangent.

    You may be aware that here in Quebec, because of past disputes over language, apostrophes were banished from commercial signs, e.g. the now defunct Eaton’s became “Eaton.”

    Where have all the apostrophes gone?
    It appears they’ve disappeared into the blogosphere, for I have noticed a surfeit of apostrophes, as in:
    • it’s (contraction of it is) instead of its (belonging to it)
    • their’s instead of theirs (belonging to them)
    • similarly, your’s, her’s and our’s instead of yours, hers and ours (That’s not mine, it’s not hers nor ours, it’s yours)
    • ‘s used instead of 3rd person sing. verb ending, e.g he stay’s instead of stays
    • ‘s used where a plural noun ending in s is required, e.g. many apple’s

    Such basic errors unfortunately at times detract from the substance of a post/comment.

    Like

  30. You all bring up some excellent points regarding being told not to correct spelling mistakes. I can remember when that started back in the early 1970’s. We (in teacher’s college and later in staff meetings) were told not to correct spelling on “the first draft” of anything whether a single sentence in SK or up to Grade 3 — so as not to interrupt creativity. And, there is some truth to that. But, then, with the second draft, we were told it was then the appropriate time to make those corrections.

    I still do that here on my blog. In my first draft, I just get the ideas down. Then, I reread and re-save and last of all I do the spell check. When I wrote my textbook, I concentrated on each chapter as a separate entity. I didn’t worry about spelling and grammar at all until all my ideas were down. Then, I made those corrections — and my editor made corrections as well.

    So, like MJB’s experience that grammar disappeared, somewhere along the line it was forgotten that spelling was ignored only in the first draft of writing anything.

    Strange how these things happen.

    Hello policy makers in the provincial and territorial governments.

    Houston, we’ve got a problem!

    Like

  31. You all bring up some excellent points regarding being told not to correct spelling mistakes. I can remember when that started back in the early 1970’s. We (in teacher’s college and later in staff meetings) were told not to correct spelling on “the first draft” of anything whether a single sentence in SK or up to Grade 3 — so as not to interrupt creativity. And, there is some truth to that. But, then, with the second draft, we were told it was then the appropriate time to make those corrections.

    I still do that here on my blog. In my first draft, I just get the ideas down. Then, I reread and re-save and last of all I do the spell check. When I wrote my textbook, I concentrated on each chapter as a separate entity. I didn’t worry about spelling and grammar at all until all my ideas were down. Then, I made those corrections — and my editor made corrections as well.

    So, like MJB’s experience that grammar disappeared, somewhere along the line it was forgotten that spelling was ignored only in the first draft of writing anything.

    Strange how these things happen.

    Hello policy makers in the provincial and territorial governments.

    Houston, we’ve got a problem!

    Like

  32. Gabby — I just used to tell kids that if something belonged to someone else it had an ‘s, otherwise it was plural, more than one. John’s shirt. John’s shirts.

    Beyond that it would make an excellent song: “Where have all the apostrophe’s gone? Long time passing.”

    Like

  33. Gabby — I just used to tell kids that if something belonged to someone else it had an ‘s, otherwise it was plural, more than one. John’s shirt. John’s shirts.

    Beyond that it would make an excellent song: “Where have all the apostrophe’s gone? Long time passing.”

    Like

  34. I had to comment again. The public education system has to be held accountable to the parents and their children. Presently, I am in a position where no one at any level of the education system have any concerns regarding my LD child’s reading ability when my child has not pass a written language arts test, the CRTs (standard testing) and her reading fluency and decoding is poor. She will not get any help, until my child starts failing all core subjects. She has very good grades due to the tutoring and teaching that is done at home. Without it, my child would be struggling to keep grades at the 50% mark.
    I have never receive a phone call from anyone regarding what can be done to improve her writing and reading skills. My concerns if I contacted anyone at any level of the education sytem, I was given reasons for the most part based on her grades for not giving her a reading program that will work on her fluency. What is offered are ineffective strategies, remedial help, and other suggestions that I could do at home.
    As I have discovered to my dismay, the system is setup in such a way that accountability is no longer a concern for our educators. For children like my child who have a diagnoses of LD and childen who do not but still are stuggling, the only requirement for the educators is the magic 50 % mark. They are not require to find out the reasons why little Suzie is doing so poorly. At the same time, standards have not change where it is based on children who have always done well in school. The only difference between my child and these children are their reading ability. The children who have always done well, are good readers.
    In today’s schools, most curriculum is based heavily on language-based material where most children have poor reading skills and from where I am sitting it appears the only requirement for educators is to teach the basics of reading without covering fluency, speed, comprehension, word decoding and other important skills that will help them in turn to become good writers.
    Some provinces do a better job than others but one just have to take a look at the stats to see the poor showing at the literacy rate, standard testing scores, and examples of your own child’s work to see that there is a growing problem in our public education system that needs to be address, including the immense growing power of teachers’ unions where parents and to some extent children are being shut out of the education system.
    As for me, I hired a consultant for the new school year who has confirmed that my child needs work on reading fluency among other things. As my child will be entering into high school, it will be the first time in the school’s history that a parent will have a professional on education matters to advocate on the behalf of myself and my child. I can’t wait when the consultant hears the reason why my child should not have a reading program because my child can read. It is the top reason for children in our school system for not receiving proper spelling and grammar instruction because the children can read.

    Like

  35. I had to comment again. The public education system has to be held accountable to the parents and their children. Presently, I am in a position where no one at any level of the education system have any concerns regarding my LD child’s reading ability when my child has not pass a written language arts test, the CRTs (standard testing) and her reading fluency and decoding is poor. She will not get any help, until my child starts failing all core subjects. She has very good grades due to the tutoring and teaching that is done at home. Without it, my child would be struggling to keep grades at the 50% mark.
    I have never receive a phone call from anyone regarding what can be done to improve her writing and reading skills. My concerns if I contacted anyone at any level of the education sytem, I was given reasons for the most part based on her grades for not giving her a reading program that will work on her fluency. What is offered are ineffective strategies, remedial help, and other suggestions that I could do at home.
    As I have discovered to my dismay, the system is setup in such a way that accountability is no longer a concern for our educators. For children like my child who have a diagnoses of LD and childen who do not but still are stuggling, the only requirement for the educators is the magic 50 % mark. They are not require to find out the reasons why little Suzie is doing so poorly. At the same time, standards have not change where it is based on children who have always done well in school. The only difference between my child and these children are their reading ability. The children who have always done well, are good readers.
    In today’s schools, most curriculum is based heavily on language-based material where most children have poor reading skills and from where I am sitting it appears the only requirement for educators is to teach the basics of reading without covering fluency, speed, comprehension, word decoding and other important skills that will help them in turn to become good writers.
    Some provinces do a better job than others but one just have to take a look at the stats to see the poor showing at the literacy rate, standard testing scores, and examples of your own child’s work to see that there is a growing problem in our public education system that needs to be address, including the immense growing power of teachers’ unions where parents and to some extent children are being shut out of the education system.
    As for me, I hired a consultant for the new school year who has confirmed that my child needs work on reading fluency among other things. As my child will be entering into high school, it will be the first time in the school’s history that a parent will have a professional on education matters to advocate on the behalf of myself and my child. I can’t wait when the consultant hears the reason why my child should not have a reading program because my child can read. It is the top reason for children in our school system for not receiving proper spelling and grammar instruction because the children can read.

    Like

  36. «Beyond that it would make an excellent song: “Where have all the apostrophe’s gone? Long time passing.”»

    That was the allusion I had in mind too … 😉

    Re: spellcheck. Although it’s a great aid (not aide), it doesn’t help with homonyms like bare/bear, fare/fair, stair/stare, cede/seed, need/knead, etc.
    For more, see http://www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html

    Nor does spellcheck help in differentiating between perpetrate/perpetuate, uncharted/unchartered, throne/thrown, or even where/were and there/their.

    Or in statements such as “lead to an alternate *concussion* (instead of conclusion)”
    Mind you, some comics, like Norm Crosby, carved out a career with such malapropisms:
    http://www.public-speaking.org/public-speaking-malaprops-article.htm

    Malapropisms may also have made a few teachers laugh at some children’s answers to test questions:
    http://www.manbottle.com/humor/malaprops

    Forgive me. I realize education is a serious subject, but I couldn’t help being a bit silly.

    Like

  37. «Beyond that it would make an excellent song: “Where have all the apostrophe’s gone? Long time passing.”»

    That was the allusion I had in mind too … 😉

    Re: spellcheck. Although it’s a great aid (not aide), it doesn’t help with homonyms like bare/bear, fare/fair, stair/stare, cede/seed, need/knead, etc.
    For more, see http://www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html

    Nor does spellcheck help in differentiating between perpetrate/perpetuate, uncharted/unchartered, throne/thrown, or even where/were and there/their.

    Or in statements such as “lead to an alternate *concussion* (instead of conclusion)”
    Mind you, some comics, like Norm Crosby, carved out a career with such malapropisms:
    http://www.public-speaking.org/public-speaking-malaprops-article.htm

    Malapropisms may also have made a few teachers laugh at some children’s answers to test questions:
    http://www.manbottle.com/humor/malaprops

    Forgive me. I realize education is a serious subject, but I couldn’t help being a bit silly.

    Like

  38. Nancy — I hear you loud and clear. As a mother of an adult with autism and learning disabilities, I have been there. Moreover, I was a consultant and educational psychologist in private practice.

    The truth may be difficult to understand but classroom teachers are only provided with very basic skills to deal with disabilities. I got my training at the graduate level. And, the teachers I taught at the Master’s level were very appreciative of the strategies I provided them.

    Accommodating and compensating for learning disabilities is a specialized area as is being a reading specialist, which I was following my Ph.D

    Read the posts I have about my book under the “learning strategies” category. Just scross down the page and you’ll find many helpful ideas — that you can ask your daughter’s teacher to do or use and/or you can use at home.

    The first article starts here.

    All the best.

    Like

  39. Nancy — I hear you loud and clear. As a mother of an adult with autism and learning disabilities, I have been there. Moreover, I was a consultant and educational psychologist in private practice.

    The truth may be difficult to understand but classroom teachers are only provided with very basic skills to deal with disabilities. I got my training at the graduate level. And, the teachers I taught at the Master’s level were very appreciative of the strategies I provided them.

    Accommodating and compensating for learning disabilities is a specialized area as is being a reading specialist, which I was following my Ph.D

    Read the posts I have about my book under the “learning strategies” category. Just scross down the page and you’ll find many helpful ideas — that you can ask your daughter’s teacher to do or use and/or you can use at home.

    The first article starts here.

    All the best.

    Like

  40. My son in SK was a part of a new initiative at his school called LEAP into Literacy. The file mentions it being used in Toronto back in 2005. Apparently, it does not stress spelling either.

    Of course, one other major problem that has not been highlighted here yet, but is such a prevalent problem on blogs, is the lack of proof reading. Not only are the initial spelling and grammar crafting poor, so too is the practice of not going back and checking your work. How can we expect our kids to learn to proof read if we do not do it ourselves?

    When my son learns to type, I will teach him to use Notepad, or some other basic text editor, and to get used to proofing his work. The spell check in a word processor should be the penultimate step just before formatting. This is similar to MJB’s “grammar stifled creativity” argument and Sandy’s first draft idea. The brainstorming must be first followed by the writing then the proofing. Ignoring grammar during the brainstorming phase is just fine as long as the main idea is communicated. The trouble is too many people never seem to get much past the brainstorming phase. We are inundated with rough drafts being passed off as finished products.

    I have picked up several novels over the years that had spelling or grammatical errors within the first couple of pages. The poor spelling was mildly annoying, but the grammatical errors were frustrating. If I cannot understand what the author is trying to say, why should I bother with the book? I do not find such books to be entertaining. It does not stop with novels. User manuals are usually poorly written. Newspapers are often riddled with errors too. I will not read some people’s articles due to a history of my not being able to discern what message they were trying to convey simply due to the presence of poor grammar.

    Has grammar been this poor for many decades or has it really degraded? Seeing as how society is paying a lot for public education, we should all demand better for the sake of our society’s future.

    John M Reynolds

    Like

  41. My son in SK was a part of a new initiative at his school called LEAP into Literacy. The file mentions it being used in Toronto back in 2005. Apparently, it does not stress spelling either.

    Of course, one other major problem that has not been highlighted here yet, but is such a prevalent problem on blogs, is the lack of proof reading. Not only are the initial spelling and grammar crafting poor, so too is the practice of not going back and checking your work. How can we expect our kids to learn to proof read if we do not do it ourselves?

    When my son learns to type, I will teach him to use Notepad, or some other basic text editor, and to get used to proofing his work. The spell check in a word processor should be the penultimate step just before formatting. This is similar to MJB’s “grammar stifled creativity” argument and Sandy’s first draft idea. The brainstorming must be first followed by the writing then the proofing. Ignoring grammar during the brainstorming phase is just fine as long as the main idea is communicated. The trouble is too many people never seem to get much past the brainstorming phase. We are inundated with rough drafts being passed off as finished products.

    I have picked up several novels over the years that had spelling or grammatical errors within the first couple of pages. The poor spelling was mildly annoying, but the grammatical errors were frustrating. If I cannot understand what the author is trying to say, why should I bother with the book? I do not find such books to be entertaining. It does not stop with novels. User manuals are usually poorly written. Newspapers are often riddled with errors too. I will not read some people’s articles due to a history of my not being able to discern what message they were trying to convey simply due to the presence of poor grammar.

    Has grammar been this poor for many decades or has it really degraded? Seeing as how society is paying a lot for public education, we should all demand better for the sake of our society’s future.

    John M Reynolds

    Like

  42. Our problem is we don’t have a single “system” and we have many competing interests to maintain the status quo. If it is any consolation, it has been that way since the early 1960’s when, in Ontario at least, the government threw out the little grey book in favour of curriculum documents.

    Would we want to go back there? No, to think that is to see our past through rose coloured glasses. We are a different society and our technology has gone through the roof.

    Strange though that just when we, as a society, need an actual whole language emphasis, we have thrown out the foundations with the bath water.

    Change primarily comes from political pressure, so let’s start something here. LET’S THINK BIG!

    LET’S BRING BACK GRAMMAR AND SPELLING — INCLUDE IT IN ALL LITERACY AND ENGLISH PROGRAMS & COURSES — ACROSS ALL GRADES — ACROSS ALL CURRICULUM — ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

    Like

  43. Our problem is we don’t have a single “system” and we have many competing interests to maintain the status quo. If it is any consolation, it has been that way since the early 1960’s when, in Ontario at least, the government threw out the little grey book in favour of curriculum documents.

    Would we want to go back there? No, to think that is to see our past through rose coloured glasses. We are a different society and our technology has gone through the roof.

    Strange though that just when we, as a society, need an actual whole language emphasis, we have thrown out the foundations with the bath water.

    Change primarily comes from political pressure, so let’s start something here. LET’S THINK BIG!

    LET’S BRING BACK GRAMMAR AND SPELLING — INCLUDE IT IN ALL LITERACY AND ENGLISH PROGRAMS & COURSES — ACROSS ALL GRADES — ACROSS ALL CURRICULUM — ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

    Like

  44. Ha — John, you got that. My husband and I tried to figure out two words that might get passed people but you got it. Then, I chickened out and corrected them. But, you saw them first.

    Even the word I just used above –“passed” — is misused all the time. How often do we see “past?”

    Like

  45. Ha — John, you got that. My husband and I tried to figure out two words that might get passed people but you got it. Then, I chickened out and corrected them. But, you saw them first.

    Even the word I just used above –“passed” — is misused all the time. How often do we see “past?”

    Like

  46. Due to the deafness of our g/son, we have used closed captioning on our tv for years. That is where you really see how spelling, grammar etc have been ignored. It was also very apparent at the Briar, when Alberta’s jackets has WILD ROWS instead of WILD ROSE on them. Wonder who made those crests. For some reason the curlers were never shown with views of their backs, on tv.
    As Albertans we should have been offended an filed a complaint with HRC. Wonder if it is too late to do it now.
    If you are interested the Calgary Stampede parade is on cbc now. Wonder if all the honchos in Toronto and Ottawa will make snide remarks again, about the western wear of the reporters in Calgary. Just jealous because they can’t wear Pride costumes on TV during that week in Toronto.
    Dion is having breakfast at the Zoo tomorrow, lots of snide remarks about that setting.

    Like

  47. Due to the deafness of our g/son, we have used closed captioning on our tv for years. That is where you really see how spelling, grammar etc have been ignored. It was also very apparent at the Briar, when Alberta’s jackets has WILD ROWS instead of WILD ROSE on them. Wonder who made those crests. For some reason the curlers were never shown with views of their backs, on tv.
    As Albertans we should have been offended an filed a complaint with HRC. Wonder if it is too late to do it now.
    If you are interested the Calgary Stampede parade is on cbc now. Wonder if all the honchos in Toronto and Ottawa will make snide remarks again, about the western wear of the reporters in Calgary. Just jealous because they can’t wear Pride costumes on TV during that week in Toronto.
    Dion is having breakfast at the Zoo tomorrow, lots of snide remarks about that setting.

    Like

  48. We could call the movement:

    PUT THE WHOLE IN HOLE LANGUAGE!

    BRING BACK SPELLING, PHONICS AND GRAMMAR TO READING, WRITING AND THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE.

    Like

  49. We could call the movement:

    PUT THE WHOLE IN HOLE LANGUAGE!

    BRING BACK SPELLING, PHONICS AND GRAMMAR TO READING, WRITING AND THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE.

    Like

  50. Hi Sandy,
    I have read your ideas and are still using them at home. However, at the school level many strategies that are perfect for any student that is struggling are dealing with teachers limited knowledge on how children learn, teachers’ attitudes regarding biases that children who are not good performers academically from the beginning of school, will preclude them from performing at a proficient level, especially the children who have learning difficulties and of the upper management decisions that have the potential to greatly impact the classroom.
    In the past year, I have done much research on this, finding out the reasons why my child is not getting the help she needs even for simple things such as handwriting. Why for the past two years, all attempts for a reading program based on her written work, her slow reading ability, and assessments back up by the world’s leading researches that it is a reading problem has been rebuffed at all levels.
    I found the answers, and to my dismay the teachers’ association (aka the union) has been behind and has heavily influence the direction of education at the school level. The latest being is the removal of all ISSPs at the pathway 2 level including all students who have mild to moderate LD. The needs of these students are left up to the general teachers. I have manage to keep my child’s ISSP for the time being because an reassessment have shown no improvement since 2004. The teachers association pushed for this, to eliminate all the paperwork that are associated with ISSPs. They also went a step further, changing the rules under pathway 2 that greatly impact the LD children along with students who are non-LD. There is no longer a need to consult with parents of changes being made to a child’s ISSP, ISSP meetings for pathway 2 LD children, and all decisions rest on the general teacher’s shoulders. As a result, a child may get more accommodations inside the classroom but the root cause of their learning problems will not be address through effective means of remedial and accommodations. Children like my child who have poor reading and writing skills are caught in a system that will not allow them to reach their full potential. Parents must either help them, hire the tutors or allow them to sink or swim in what appears to me, a system that is quite willing to teach to only the good students.
    As for biases, there is two that still stand out and probably will be in my head for a very long time. My child made the distinction list on second term. For all children who do, there is a party to celebrate their achievements. My child was looking forward to it, but she came home telling me they were not going to have it this year. A few weeks later, the school change their mind. I believe they did not want to have the party, because my child and a couple of others were receiving outside help for their learning needs. Apparently, children who are getting outside help are view as a child who has an extra advantage or edge over all other children who do not have this advantage.
    The second event was my child earned the top grade for a public speech. It is their custom for the top 3 students to move into the next level of public speaking. The rule was change based only on my child’s LD. The school used the reason that she does not have enough experience talking in front of strangers and wanted children who they know will perform. I saw through it, only because the school knows very well I would have prepare the child very well for the next level, just like I did for my child when preparing for the speech. You see my child was the first and only LD child in the school’s history to get top marks in a speech and now students behind her will have to beat my child’s score. As a teacher, you can only imagine what the negative impact it has on my child. From that moment on, I have been dealing with a poor attitude both at home and towards school.
    During this pass year, I have looked into any research that is being done, looking into what is happening to our children? Lots of things are being researched and studied but only a few are actually inplemented inside the public education system that does not cost a great deal of money. The actions that should be taken, cost a great deal more but are far more effective in reaching the majority of children to become good readers, writers and calculating basic arithmetic.
    As for teachers at the school, I am handed the same reason and no doubt it will not change for years to come – your child child must learn the same way with the same materials and instruction as all other children. Which is another story for another day, why accommodations such as your recommendations are not welcome at the school level. And yes even strategies especially in math that were taught to all in our day are frowned on, because they see it as a form of cheating. Now tell me how does learning the ratio proportional method as a form of cheating? I have yet to hear any reason why I should not teach my child the same way I was taught, especially when in the algebra test she once again received top marks. She even beat the smart people, because I made her memorized the basic algebra rules and lots of practice. Even than, she did not receive a post card that is normally given to the student who has the top mark. I can only conclude, the teachers see my child as having an unfair advantage over all other children in the classroom.

    Like

  51. Hi Sandy,
    I have read your ideas and are still using them at home. However, at the school level many strategies that are perfect for any student that is struggling are dealing with teachers limited knowledge on how children learn, teachers’ attitudes regarding biases that children who are not good performers academically from the beginning of school, will preclude them from performing at a proficient level, especially the children who have learning difficulties and of the upper management decisions that have the potential to greatly impact the classroom.
    In the past year, I have done much research on this, finding out the reasons why my child is not getting the help she needs even for simple things such as handwriting. Why for the past two years, all attempts for a reading program based on her written work, her slow reading ability, and assessments back up by the world’s leading researches that it is a reading problem has been rebuffed at all levels.
    I found the answers, and to my dismay the teachers’ association (aka the union) has been behind and has heavily influence the direction of education at the school level. The latest being is the removal of all ISSPs at the pathway 2 level including all students who have mild to moderate LD. The needs of these students are left up to the general teachers. I have manage to keep my child’s ISSP for the time being because an reassessment have shown no improvement since 2004. The teachers association pushed for this, to eliminate all the paperwork that are associated with ISSPs. They also went a step further, changing the rules under pathway 2 that greatly impact the LD children along with students who are non-LD. There is no longer a need to consult with parents of changes being made to a child’s ISSP, ISSP meetings for pathway 2 LD children, and all decisions rest on the general teacher’s shoulders. As a result, a child may get more accommodations inside the classroom but the root cause of their learning problems will not be address through effective means of remedial and accommodations. Children like my child who have poor reading and writing skills are caught in a system that will not allow them to reach their full potential. Parents must either help them, hire the tutors or allow them to sink or swim in what appears to me, a system that is quite willing to teach to only the good students.
    As for biases, there is two that still stand out and probably will be in my head for a very long time. My child made the distinction list on second term. For all children who do, there is a party to celebrate their achievements. My child was looking forward to it, but she came home telling me they were not going to have it this year. A few weeks later, the school change their mind. I believe they did not want to have the party, because my child and a couple of others were receiving outside help for their learning needs. Apparently, children who are getting outside help are view as a child who has an extra advantage or edge over all other children who do not have this advantage.
    The second event was my child earned the top grade for a public speech. It is their custom for the top 3 students to move into the next level of public speaking. The rule was change based only on my child’s LD. The school used the reason that she does not have enough experience talking in front of strangers and wanted children who they know will perform. I saw through it, only because the school knows very well I would have prepare the child very well for the next level, just like I did for my child when preparing for the speech. You see my child was the first and only LD child in the school’s history to get top marks in a speech and now students behind her will have to beat my child’s score. As a teacher, you can only imagine what the negative impact it has on my child. From that moment on, I have been dealing with a poor attitude both at home and towards school.
    During this pass year, I have looked into any research that is being done, looking into what is happening to our children? Lots of things are being researched and studied but only a few are actually inplemented inside the public education system that does not cost a great deal of money. The actions that should be taken, cost a great deal more but are far more effective in reaching the majority of children to become good readers, writers and calculating basic arithmetic.
    As for teachers at the school, I am handed the same reason and no doubt it will not change for years to come – your child child must learn the same way with the same materials and instruction as all other children. Which is another story for another day, why accommodations such as your recommendations are not welcome at the school level. And yes even strategies especially in math that were taught to all in our day are frowned on, because they see it as a form of cheating. Now tell me how does learning the ratio proportional method as a form of cheating? I have yet to hear any reason why I should not teach my child the same way I was taught, especially when in the algebra test she once again received top marks. She even beat the smart people, because I made her memorized the basic algebra rules and lots of practice. Even than, she did not receive a post card that is normally given to the student who has the top mark. I can only conclude, the teachers see my child as having an unfair advantage over all other children in the classroom.

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  52. JMR — John I realize that in the abstract but not in the concrete. 😉

    In terms of spelling here, I tried to use a “comment preview” plugin so visitors could check what they had written but hardly anyone used it — given the errors I continued to see — and it was causing a lot of difficulties with my template, so I give up on it.

    I still go through (not threw – ha) and correct typos and spelling where I see them because I know folks appreciate that.

    Funny thing, I am a fairly good speller even though I was one of the kids who went through an experimental phase in the mid to late 1940’s. Yes, its true, none of these whole language problems are new. We used to call it the Dick and Jane whole word method versus phonics.

    When I was in Grade 1, it was the first year they did away with phonics (for a few years at least) and we had to learn to read the whole word “Dick and Jane” way. We didn’t sound out anything.

    Yet, although I somehow survived the process, by high school, had real problems with spelling.

    I was involved in French Immersion (lived in Ile Bigras in Laval Quebec but actually went to Lake of Two Mountains High School in Ste. Eustache and in a Catholic high school in Ottawa) and that helped a lot because I learned grammar by learning French.

    But, honestly, I have no memory of any spelling or grammar courses at the high school level. None.

    Then, it seems there was a flurry of the basics in the sixties and early 1970’s and then they disappeared again.

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  53. Nancy, I am sorry I didn’t connect which Nancy you were as there are a couple who visit here regularly.

    As we have discussed before, I can’t get involved in individual cases but you obviously need to speak to someone who can act as an advocate for you and your daughter.

    I think I have mentioned this before but you should call the closest provincial LDA — learning disabilities association — near you. If you can’t find anyone, I have some links on my header bar under “Disability Resources.”

    The Canadian Learning Disability Association (LDAC) is the main one to find local groups.

    In Ontario at least, staff who work for LDA’s will often advocate on your behalf or provide you with the contacts you need.

    However, I would like to make one recommendation to you and anyone else in your shoes. If your child can manage with help from home and tutoring, don’t have them identified and labelled. I have written many times about the power of labels, labels that can stick to a child for many many years, sometimes for life. And, they can affect a child’s self-esteem negatively in many unintended ways.

    When I taught university, one of the things I told undergraduate students who had learning disabilities was NOT to tell their professors unless they absolutely had to. I taught them notetaking and study strategies so they wouldn’t have to.

    Why, you ask? Because professors (and later employers) have a pre-conceived view of “disability.” And, as far as I am concerned, a problem with learning is just that. It doesn’t have to be a disability.

    None of us are perfect. All of us have ways of doing things, strategies we use. That is no different than someone who has a reading problem that they have been able to get around.

    Moreover, kids can be cruel. Let kids be kids and as normal as they can be without labels they don’t need. Some kids, such as those with moderate to severe autism have no such choices. They need to be identified and labelled to get the help they need.

    So, there needs to be a balance. But, please, talk to someone in your provincial LDA or LDAC.

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  54. Nancy, I am sorry I didn’t connect which Nancy you were as there are a couple who visit here regularly.

    As we have discussed before, I can’t get involved in individual cases but you obviously need to speak to someone who can act as an advocate for you and your daughter.

    I think I have mentioned this before but you should call the closest provincial LDA — learning disabilities association — near you. If you can’t find anyone, I have some links on my header bar under “Disability Resources.”

    The Canadian Learning Disability Association (LDAC) is the main one to find local groups.

    In Ontario at least, staff who work for LDA’s will often advocate on your behalf or provide you with the contacts you need.

    However, I would like to make one recommendation to you and anyone else in your shoes. If your child can manage with help from home and tutoring, don’t have them identified and labelled. I have written many times about the power of labels, labels that can stick to a child for many many years, sometimes for life. And, they can affect a child’s self-esteem negatively in many unintended ways.

    When I taught university, one of the things I told undergraduate students who had learning disabilities was NOT to tell their professors unless they absolutely had to. I taught them notetaking and study strategies so they wouldn’t have to.

    Why, you ask? Because professors (and later employers) have a pre-conceived view of “disability.” And, as far as I am concerned, a problem with learning is just that. It doesn’t have to be a disability.

    None of us are perfect. All of us have ways of doing things, strategies we use. That is no different than someone who has a reading problem that they have been able to get around.

    Moreover, kids can be cruel. Let kids be kids and as normal as they can be without labels they don’t need. Some kids, such as those with moderate to severe autism have no such choices. They need to be identified and labelled to get the help they need.

    So, there needs to be a balance. But, please, talk to someone in your provincial LDA or LDAC.

    Like

  55. I already have and she is my consultant, but I must pay for her expenses since I live to far away from St. John’s. So far, everything she has directed me to do has work for copies of rports, getting a reassessment and now I need to get an ISSP meeting schedule for the fall. During this process, there has been several attempts at blocking me, and the latest being the date for the ISSP meeting. At the local level, the school authorities are upset that I have hired an advocate to speak on my behalf but they are even more upset given what they consider private information to an outsider. It is a first for them to be dealing with an outsider who has considerable knowledge of LD and the NL education system.
    My case is not an isolated case, but one of the many where parents have trouble accessing the system for help for their child. The only reason I have said all of this, is to make everyone aware that in the North America education systems there is a movement towards a system that is geared to cost only. Decisions are being made not in the best interest of children and their learning. Cookie-cutter approaches are being used in all curriculum for all students. As a consequence the biggest losers are the special needs children in terms of resources and the various needs that the special needs may have are only met part way.
    As you have said, the many parts of an education system all have a separate agendas that may not mesh with the other parts. From the mountain of material I have read in the pass 12 months, I have come down to the conclusion that our education and health systems are at risk where micro-managing is taking place at the highest levels to control the lowest levels, allowing the middle levels to carry out a separate agenda that is usually entails the funding aspect to the lower levels. This is happening all over, and it really shows up in provinces or states that have had dramatic shifts in population caused by migration from rural to urban areas. Just check out British Columbia where population movement from rural to urban have cause some real problems in education and health. Look at Newfoundland, and I believe it is the canary in the cage warning a crisis!
    The education system needs to be change into a system that is more in keeping with the 21st century and not the model of the 1950s. Yet, the question is how do we make changes to a system that creates barriers in order to keep the status-quo?
    I have seen many changes over the years in the public education system, but what I have not seen is changes to the actual structures of the public education system.

    Like

  56. I already have and she is my consultant, but I must pay for her expenses since I live to far away from St. John’s. So far, everything she has directed me to do has work for copies of rports, getting a reassessment and now I need to get an ISSP meeting schedule for the fall. During this process, there has been several attempts at blocking me, and the latest being the date for the ISSP meeting. At the local level, the school authorities are upset that I have hired an advocate to speak on my behalf but they are even more upset given what they consider private information to an outsider. It is a first for them to be dealing with an outsider who has considerable knowledge of LD and the NL education system.
    My case is not an isolated case, but one of the many where parents have trouble accessing the system for help for their child. The only reason I have said all of this, is to make everyone aware that in the North America education systems there is a movement towards a system that is geared to cost only. Decisions are being made not in the best interest of children and their learning. Cookie-cutter approaches are being used in all curriculum for all students. As a consequence the biggest losers are the special needs children in terms of resources and the various needs that the special needs may have are only met part way.
    As you have said, the many parts of an education system all have a separate agendas that may not mesh with the other parts. From the mountain of material I have read in the pass 12 months, I have come down to the conclusion that our education and health systems are at risk where micro-managing is taking place at the highest levels to control the lowest levels, allowing the middle levels to carry out a separate agenda that is usually entails the funding aspect to the lower levels. This is happening all over, and it really shows up in provinces or states that have had dramatic shifts in population caused by migration from rural to urban areas. Just check out British Columbia where population movement from rural to urban have cause some real problems in education and health. Look at Newfoundland, and I believe it is the canary in the cage warning a crisis!
    The education system needs to be change into a system that is more in keeping with the 21st century and not the model of the 1950s. Yet, the question is how do we make changes to a system that creates barriers in order to keep the status-quo?
    I have seen many changes over the years in the public education system, but what I have not seen is changes to the actual structures of the public education system.

    Like

  57. Incredible. In my humble opinion, the ability to write coherently and use proper grammar is essential to success – professionally and socially. Far too often do I see quite intelligent folks who cannot write whatsoever…grammar and expository writing skills should be a part of every curriculum, for every major, and for all students.

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