Blog entry #5


Name of post: "Learning Styles and Homework Myths" (To analyse your child's learning style, have a look at this free online demo.)

Myth 1: Don't agree to having the TV or music playing while your child is doing his or her homework. It's nothing but distracting and teaches a habit that will be hard to break.

Truth 1: Research shows that many students think and remember best when studying with background music. Furthermore, 20% of an elementary population in a research study scored significantly higher when reading in a noisy environment.

Myth 2: Use folders, small boxes, manila folders or other types of stationery for storing school work, both past and present. This will teach a life long habit that makes achieving set goals so much easier.

Truth 2: Yes, being organised is a wonderful habit to have. However, a child whose information processing is global, will feel distressed or even threatened by a neat work area. Such children draw comfort from a less tidy and less structured homework environment and will find it impossible to function at an organised desk. And, speaking of desks....

Myth 3: Children learn best when sitting upright at a desk.

Truth 3: Sitting upright on a firm chair puts most of your weight on a very small part of your body. Many children (and adults) find it distracting to maintain such a body position for any length of time. Speaking from a learning style point of view, many learners need to sit in a less formal environment (floor, bed, sofa) in order to concentrate better, or concentrate at all. Which leads us to sitting....

Myth 4: Students who do not sit still are not ready to learn.

Truth 4: Many students need mobility when they learn because of their learning style requirements. An American study revealed that half of one school's seven grade students needed extensive mobility while learning. When they were allowed to move from one instructional area to another while learning new information, they achieved statistically better than when they had to remain seated. Most students who are actively involved are likely to learn more, pay closer attention, and achieve higher test marks.

Myth 5: Students learn best in well-lit areas and damage their eyes when they read and work in low light.

Truth 5: Research shows that many students perform significantly better in low light environments, because bright light makes them restless, fidgety and hyperactive. Low light calms these youngsters down and helps them relax and think clearly. The younger children are, the less light they seem to need! They only need that amount of light for reading in which they feel comfortable, but their need for light seems to increase every five years.

(Does your child need bright light to do her homework? Find out here.)

My response: The truth of myth one that students score higher in reading in a noisy environment seems strange to me. Then again, since the data is of elementary school children, it makes sense, but I know few of my peers who learn better (or retain information better) in a noisy environment. I used to like music or the TV on while I am working, but I have found that the harder coursework becomes, the less I want noise around me. I wonder when we grow out of liking a noisy environment to work in.

For myth two, this makes me think of my younger sister who claims she does not like her room clean because it upsets her. Do young students get threatened by this sort of environment because it seems too grown up? I wonder if there is an underlying fear there of actually growing up and having responsibilities, like keeping a clean desk.

And about myth five, yes, I can understand students not needing a lot of light, but this is also a good environment for students to fall asleep in. For instance, say a student was working on a math sheet and the teacher lowered the lights a bit to make the work seem less threatening. A student who does not have any interest in math may actually drift off because of the lack of blinding, florescent light.

Danielle McGuire

Blog entry #4


Name of Post: "National Grammar Day-March forth on March 4th!"

It's here, the first national grammar day. Good grammar is an endangered species, but it's not dead. In fact, groups like SPOGG promote the use of good grammar, identifying and drawing attention to misuse in the public eye.

In honor of National Grammar Day, I'm serving a high fiber lunch (good for colons!) and drinking a Grammartini! Join me and join SPOGG over at

Finally, here is my grammar pet peeve for the day: the split infinitive. (BAD: I wanted to seriously talk about my feelings with him. BETTER: I wanted to talk seriously about my feelings with him.) It's better to save your adverb for last, or place it before your "to" + verb phrase.


My response: Not only is the "better" sentence the most academic English form, but it also seems to have a whole different meaning than the "bad" sentence. In my grammar class, my professor is constantly harping on the way grammar has a way of distinguishing classes and different types of people. The "bad" sentence seems more of a valley girl statement, one where "seriously" is used to add emphasis. I would expect someone to say, "like" before such a sentence. But the "better" sentence speaks of the tone of the conversation the speaker wishes to have.

I wonder if such mistakes as infinitives should be corrected in the classroom when a teacher hears them. Is this more of a dialect mistake? The same professor I mentioned a bit ago also explains that educators should never simply say, "What you said is bad" but instead explain to the student that there is a more academic way to state what they said.

Danielle McGuire

Cheryl's response: March 25th, 2008 at 3:25 am

Proper English historically identified the upper crust, so I see your professor's point. I catch myself saying, "my bad." Of course, that's incorrect modern slang for "I did something wrong." I often speak worse than I write.

Thanks for weighing in, and visit again, Danielle.




Blog entry #3


Title of Post: "Hurray for Harriet!"

One of my colleagues teaches Harriet the Spy and sends her students off to spy on ....other teachers like me! Fortunately, their write-ups are very nice indeed. I'm now used to seeing her kids peeking in my classroom door and taking notes. I haven't seen many kids read the book on their own these days other than one of mine right now whose mother gave it to her and insisted she read it to the end. I just asked her how she liked it and she said she did. (High praise from a girl who doesn't much like to read although she can perfectly well.)

My Response: What a wonderful idea for having students interact in their reading! I also love the idea of spying on teachers. Recently in my education classes we have mentioned the fact that teachers are often angered by outside intruders, such as a spy. Obviously, this was not how you felt, but it made me wonder why teachers sometimes feel upset when there is an outsider in their room. After all, whoever is looking in only means well. I suppose it would be reminiscent of the feelings one may feel while giving a speech. Of course I may feel fine while watching others give their speeches, and sit comfortable in my chair wondering how someone could be nervous. But then once I begin my speech, I understand their fear. By welcoming people into classrooms, like "spys," I wonder if teachers would feel more pressure to be creative in their presentation and productive in their lesson plans.

Danielle McGuire

medinger's response: March 4, 2008 at 6:57 am

I love having classroom visitors. It is the best way to share what I do.



Blog entry number two


Original Post: "I Wish I Could Quit You!"

In one of those weird, fortuitous reading coincidences, I read the following articles back to back:

On, Why Quitting is Good For You, and on, Please Cast Ryan Gosling as Me.

They got me thinking: When do we (teachers) quit? This question has two meanings: (1) When do we quit the profession, and (2) When do we "quit" students?

I remember as I was finishing up my teacher preparation program, one of the instructors said, "When you're done, you'll know it. Don't stay just to stay." I think her point was that when you are "done" with teaching (i.e., you are burned out), you are not doing anyone any favors by staying. You are making matters worse for yourself, your students, and your colleagues.

As I am on leave from classroom teacher to pursue my Ph.D. in English Education full-time, I wonder if I "quit" teaching. I certainly wasn't done with the profession (although schools and school systems is another story), but I felt that I needed an intellectual challenge that classroom teaching just wasn't providing. I'm much happier and fulfilled being a student again and my work has me thinking about classroom practice regularly and I will be doing my research in classrooms. But, did I quit?

This is related to the second meaning of the question: When do we make the decision that we've done all we can with a particular student and the situation is out of our hands? I remember the last time I was challenged by this several years ago. I had an advisee who was a genuinely nice kid. He started off the year strong and unafraid of asking for help (thank goodness, as he was grade levels behind). A teenage boy openly asking for the teacher's help on something academic was not common in many of the classrooms I taught it, so I was thrilled he was so gung-ho.

That stopped though when his chronic absentee problem came back to life. When I called home to his mother, she seemed concerned but resigned to the fact that she had no control over him. I remember one exchange where she said that he was bigger than her and she couldn't make him do anything. I replied, "Well, he's not bigger than me. I can come over if you want." She didn't take that well and it was clear that she was using his size advantage as an excuse. I don't think she cared.

That didn't stop me. I went to the guidance counselor who called his probation officer (oh ... didn't know about that) and I was filled in on the long-standing problems that had been plaguing this student. It was clear quickly that his problems were bigger than me. But, I still didn't give up (plucky, ain't I?), but to no avail. Several months later, I did give up. The problem was so much bigger than me. Every time he did show up I showed him I was happy that he was there and I was ready to help him. The next day (or, frankly, on several occasions later that morning) he was missing again. Everyone - the principal, AP, guidance counselor, ACS, parole officer, mother, brother, aunt, uncle - had been informed, yet somehow he never got better.

It was a sad situation, for sure, and the decision to "quit" him was difficult. I don't like to say "quit" because I never stop believing that a student can do it, but sometimes we just have to prioritize.

My Response:

One of the last things you said, "I don't like to say 'quit' because I never stop believing that a student can do it" shows that you never "quit" on the student. I feel that as long as you continue to embrace the possibility of success, and do not leave the student behind, that is, write them off, you do not quit. The very fact that you continue to think of that student shows your refusal to "quit."

In a previous comment, Matt wrote, "We don't always agree with their choices, even when we understand the motivations, but we do owe it to our students to understand." I agree, but just because we understand their, student's, motivations does not mean we must lose our hope for that student. Even when actions cease to help that student toward success, we can be positive by not losing a hope of change.

Danielle McGuire



Blog Entries

Title of the post: Independent Learners


What does it mean to be in charge of your own learning? We drop that phrase but do we really consider the meaning? Today, unlike Monday, several 6th graders learned how to login to a site, answer questions there and update their profiles without my help! I am ecstatic! This is where they need to be, not relying on me to think for them or serve them learning on a silver platter. One young man even made his own wiki. I know, I know, all this sounds so basic. Well it is. Sixth graders who have never had computer training, have never used any social networking sites, never created anything online, are suddenly putting two and two together to equal sixteen! Fabulous!! We need to be teaching all learners to learn independently. Many of us gathered at Educon in Philly this past weekend to pursue our own learning (Jakes pursued Philly cheesesteaks). While it's great to get away, the important thing is to continue our conversational learning. Maria reminded us of this on Monday night. Now the challenge is to include those who were not there and draw all learners into the conversation, facilitating their journey to independent learning.

My Response:

It is so beneficial for students to take hold of their learning. This enables them to interact with what they already know, deepen it, as well as test themselves. It also prevents Paulo Freire's fear of students being simple containers only receiving information. Also, if the students are practicing a new skill through their independent learning, the practice will explicitly show how well the material has been grasped.

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