Singular Minds
April 2, 2005 • Volume I, Issue 8
Prolinguistica Dyslexia Correction Center
Laura Zink de Diaz

Quote(s) of the Month
From a letter to the parents of a second grade morning reading intervention class (for those kids who don't read enough words in a minute to meet grade level) in a California school:
"We have been successfully working on decoding and reading fluency and we will soon add reading comprehension to what we do."
Please tell me we all know what's wrong with that sentence... and the following situation, described by a teacher in a posting to a list serv I belong to...
"So there I am, doing the DRA [Developmental Reading Assessment] with a new 5th grader. He takes a deep breath, and starts reading at breakneck speed. I can't understand a word, and I'm following along with my copy of the text. I stop him and ask which school he came from. Its another school in Oakland, where Open [Court] is mandated. He has been trained to read as fast as he can. I guess I should have let him go on that way, and see if he understood anything. Maybe tomorrow. I had to keep slowing him down, getting him to breathe, and reminding him what the point of it all was."


Prolinguistica Mini-Workshops
Are still running! Sign up today!

Could it be dyslexia?
Dates: Wednesday, April 6, 2005 • 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Saturday, April 6, 2005 • 8:30 am - 11:30 am
Learn what’s really going on in the brain of these often brilliant learners, what to look for, and some simple ways to shape an environment at home or in the classroom that builds on their many strengths and frees them to become all they imagine.

Studying better, not harder
Dates: Wednesday, April 13, 2005 • 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Saturday, April 16, 2005 • 8:30 am - 11:30 am
Things getting a little strained around the subject of homework? Come learn some strategies for studying and learning that will cut down on time, effort, and conflict – and show the student at your house, you really aren’t the enemy after all!

Cheap -- but educational -- thrills
Dates: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 • 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Saturday, April 23, 2005 • 8:30 am - 11:30 am
Don’t you just love tricking students into learning? Prepare to have fun. This class is all about learning games - games you don’t have to buy or download but can make for next to nothing. Or better yet, your kids can make and then play them – and hardly notice they’re actually learning something…teehee!

Drawing out Learning
Dates: Wednesday, April 27, 2005 • 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Saturday, April 30, 2005 • 8:30 am - 11:30 am
Drawing is a great way to engage the whole brain in learning – and you don’t have to be able to “draw a straight line” to get your kids to use this strategy to learn! Artistic talent not a requirement, just come ready to enjoy yourself and discover the many ways to use this simple, but effective strategy.

Raising a Reader
Dates: Wednesday, May 4, 2005 • 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Saturday, May 7, 2005 • 8:30 am - 11:30 am
We’ve been fighting about how to teach reading for over a century, but there IS a lot of intriguing research out there that offers better strategies than most of us use – a lot of which we never hear about. You will in this class! And for when we’ve got them eager to read, let’s look at some really great books. (We'll have a guest instructor for this one, to show us those really great books!)

Writing Projects Kids Go For
Dates: Wednesday, May 11, 2005 • 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Saturday, May 14, 2005 • 8:30 am - 11:30 am
Kids not motivated to write? Let’s create some writing activities they’ll ask for! And while we’re at it, let’s figure out how to make grading them a breeze, too!

What Can I Leave for My Sub?
Dates: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 • 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Saturday, May 21, 2005 • 8:30 am - 11:30 am
This one’s especially for teachers! How to quickly produce and maintain a collection of assignments and activities for when some "bug" has you flat on your back! Not just busywork, but assignments your students can enjoy, complete and learn from, with minimal direction from a substitute.

Pick a language and teach it- with TPR!
Dates: Wednesday, May 25, 2005 • 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Saturday, May 28, 2005 • 8:30 am - 11:30 am
Want to give your child an introduction to another language? You don’t have to be fluent – learn how to teach another language the way that’s as much fun and as effective for you, as it is for your kids! TPR – the fast and fun way to teach and learn using your body and a few props around the house or classroom!

You'll find more information on the content and learning outcomes of the mini-workshops, and a downloadable registration form at the Prolinguistica website: Cost per person is just $39.95 per workshop. Class size is limited to 12 participants, a good size for comfortably sharing ideas and asking questions. You can choose from a weekday evening class or a Saturday morning. And, if you're a certificated teacher you can even receive three Washington clock hours from The Heritage Institute ( for each workshop you attend. Please share this information with friends and colleagues, with anyone you think might be interested in attending. And feel free to give me a call or send me an email if you have questions about any of the workshops.

Support Group Meeting
This month's Support Group meeting will be held on April 21 at 7:00 pm in Room 206 at our offices in Mount Vernon. If you haven't been to the office yet, there are directions and a map on the web site at: Or, give me a call at 360-848-9792 for verbal directions. There is no fee for the meeting and you don't have to be a former or current client or client parent to attend. The purpose of the meeting is to exchange information, provide mutual support, and have a relaxing time. Please remember that this is an informal support group, a place to find people who are dealing with issues that may be similar to yours, whose experiences you may or may not find helpful. As always, if you feel you need counseling, I encourage you to consult a qualified counselor.

Clay Clinic
Our next clay night will be April 14. We'll begin at 5:30 pm with PIZZA! and conversation.  After the really important part - eating - we'll work on words from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. Please call (360-848-9792) or email ( to let me know you plan to attend -- so I can be sure we have enough pizza on hand! Cost: $15/client. (Support persons get in free!)

Good Stuff to Read

The Ritalin Riddle:
The Debate Over Vermont's K-12 Drug Habit
"I don't want drugs and I don't want somebody labeling him with a behavioral problem," says Amanda L'Esperance. "He was just really sad and upset and didn't know how to voice it. It's still rocky, but for the most part he's back to normal." The L'Esperances' choice -- to medicate or not to medicate their child -- is one that thousands of parents face each day, especially as a growing number of children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. ... Treatment frequently involves prescribing psychiatric drugs like Ritalin -- sometimes to children as young as 3. And that's fueled a debate over the drugs' risks and benefits. The issue has captured the interest of some local mental health professionals, Egner in particular, who points out that Vermont has one the nation's highest rates of Ritalin use.
Read the rest of this interesting article at:

And speaking of ADHD...
The Gift Of ADHD?

Two new books look at the upside of a disorder.
By Anne Underwood, Newsweek
March 14 issue - Sam Grossman grew up thinking he was stupid, lazy and irresponsible—"a screw-up," as he puts it. Struggling with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), he constantly disappointed his parents and teachers alike. So how, at the age of 24, did he end up as a partner in a Massachusetts real-estate firm? He credits an unlikely source. "The key to my success," he says, was his ADHD.
For struggling parents, ADHD—which affects roughly 3 to 7 percent of Americans—may not seem like the key to anything other than frustration. But two new books, "Delivered From Distraction" by Dr. Edward Hallowell and Dr. John Ratey and "The Gift of ADHD" by Lara Honos-Webb, advance the controversial notion that distractibility, poor impulse control and emotional sensitivity have flip sides that are actually strengths—namely creativity, energy and intuition. "A huge proportion of criminals have ADHD," says Hallowell. "So do a lot of successful artists and CEOs. It's how you manage it that determines whether it becomes a gift or a curse."
Read more at:

Gary Stager on International Ed Comparisons
John Dewey is ours!
Put on your dunce caps! It's international education comparison season again. I know. I know... Eritrea is kicking our butt in long division. If we don't get tough quickly, all of our best fast-food jobs will be outsourced overseas... As long as citizens around the world strive to embrace the following myths and practices schools will continue to lose relevance and offer fewer benefits to children.
• Artificial curricular hierarchy ~ The notion that a committee of bureaucrats can prescribe a specific sequence of curricular topics and skills for all learners defies everything we know about learning theory and will always lag behind societal shifts.
• Assuming knowledge is static ~ Just as every learner is different, the nature of knowledge is fluid. Educational success is not measured by recitation and recall.
• Testing is not teaching and teaching is not learning ~ Until we abandon the obsession with quantifying knowledge without even engaging a discussion of, "what we mean by learning," schools will continue to treat children as rounding errors.
• Barbaric conditions ~ Rows of uncomfortable desks nailed to the floor, bells, grades, age segregation, decontextualized content, sorting by similar levels of incompetence and zero-tolerance policies must give way to more flexible learning environments.
• Communication is weak ~ Parents, still largely unwelcome educational partners, find it increasingly difficult to receive timely answers to simple questions despite enormous investments in data aggregation and school-to-home accountability systems.
Read more of this lively essay at:

No, Virginia, Diagramming Will Not Improve Students’ Writing
Edgar H. Schuster, Education Week
There are certainly worse ways of spending class time—spelling bees, for example, in which every kid in the class but one flunks in a very public way. But anyone who believes that future graduates of Virginia schools will be better writers than students from other states needs to look at history.
Yes, please! Check this out at:

Comment on the controversial new SAT Writing Test
Published in The Oregonian (03/21/2005)
I have been a teacher of writing and a published writer for more than forty years. Many of the pieces I write are short essays, not much different from what the new SAT prompts seem to expect from high school students (Mar. 12 Editorial). I find that such pieces take several hours of thinking--though not usually continuous thinking--before I put the first word on paper. Then I can write 500 words or more in an hour. Still, I am far from finished. I wait at least a day, read over my draft, and begin to revise. Revision for me means finding more precise words to express my meaning, shortening sentences, reordering some sentences, and taking out the trivia and extraneous comments. Depending on where I am going to submit an essay, I may or may not do further revision, but I always let my computer do a final spelling and grammar check.
I am not saying that the way I write is the only way or the best way, but I think that other writers--of any age--need much more than twenty-five minutes to produce an essay with any logic, coherence, or style. Clearly, the only purpose served by the new SAT writing test is to see if students can use a stock formula for an essay format and fill it in with English words and grammatical sentences.
Joann Yatvin
And of course, the real question is, why do we need a superficial writing section on the SAT at all, when samples of student writing for their high school composition classes (carried out under controlled circumstances, of course) would reveal so much more about their skills? Unless, of course, the whole purpose of the writing test is to construct one more way for young people to fail... This letter is complete, but it was found at:

Hard-charging high schools urge students to do less

By Amanda Paulson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
... New Trier, like a number of large, high-performing schools, is beginning to acknowledge that a culture of excellence can have a dark side, and that the push to craft gilded college applications can bring on stress and overscheduling. Now the school - considered a stalwart of traditional education - is rethinking everything from its schedule to class rank and weighted GPAs in an effort to alleviate pressure. The proposals have caused a firestorm of debate in the community, but New Trier is hardly alone in beginning to consider stress along with test scores. These days, a number of powerhouses are changing their rhetoric to preach the value of sleep, family time, relaxation, and less homework.
Read the rest at:

In praise of the "break"
My mom used to tell me "a change is as good as a rest." Looks like she was probably at least slightly wrong...
The Power of Recess
Stephen Krashen
“Unstructured breaks from demanding cognitive tasks seem to facilitate school learning, as well as more general social competence and adjustment to school.”
An article in the most recent Educational Researcher (vol. 34, 1, 2005) presents the case for recess. In “The role of recess in children’s cognitive performance and school adjustment,” Anthony Pellegrini and Catherine Bohn of the University of Minnesota
review scientific studies showing that children are more attentive after recess than before, even if the recess break takes place indoors. They also present evidence showing the positive impact of peer interaction. Children who choose to interact more with peers than adults are higher achieving academically and show greater “social competence”; they are less antisocial and more popular with peers. Social
competence at kindergarten is a significant predictor of first grade academic achievement.
These results are consistent with findings from research on creativity: Brief breaks allow for “incubation,” the emergence of the solution to difficult problems. Here is one of many examples: According to Clark (Einstein: The Life and Times, 1971), Albert Einstein would "allow the subconscious to solve particularly tricky problems. 'Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work,' his eldest son said, 'he would take refuge in music, and that would resolve all his difficulties.'" (p. 106). Clark notes that for Einstein, "with relaxation, there would often come the solution" (p. 106).
This is complete as is, but it can be found at:
If you're unfamiliar with Dr. Stephen D. Krashen's work, visit his website, Although his focus isn't dyslexia, he's great at synthesizing the vast amount of research on a variety of topics. He has a great deal to say about reading, but is perhaps best known for his work in second language acquisition, much of which has been extrapolated and applied to learning in general. And if you're really in the mood for fun, he will be in Seattle on May 18 to present a talk called "Effective Second Language Acquisition." Unfortunately, I have a prior engagement that day or I'd go hear him - I've heard him speak on a number of occasions. He's funny, down to earth, and his vision is wide ranging, so even if you think you're not terribly interested in second language acquisition, you'll get information on developing literacy, strategies for increasing motivation to read, how to accelerate the cognitive development of children... a wealth of information. The organization sponsoring his talk is SDR, which can be found on the web at The fee to see him is $175.00 and I've never regretted spending a penny of it! For those of you out of state, he'll also be in Boston, MA on April 11, McLean, VA on April 13, Charlotte, NC on April 15, as well as Portland, OR on May 16.

For your consideration...

Families First's Ten Resolutions for Parents in 2005
1. Come together for a family meal as many times a week as possible. Let the answering machine do its job and make sure the TV is off.
2. Notice the small steps and the good efforts your child makes. Don’t overvalue the final product, which can serve to discourage a child from trying.
3. Apply this same generous attitude toward yourself and other family members.
4. Avoid asking too many questions. Questions often make children feel quizzed, attacked and/or invaded. Make statements and observations instead.
5. Listen carefully to your children. Try to understand where they are coming from – what are their wishes and concerns – and how it is that they see a situation.
6. Be clear in your own mind what are your expectations. Then let children know clearly and calmly, in advance whenever possible, what these expectations are.
7. Promote laughter with your child. Have fun and good times in the family. Cultivate your own sense of humor.
8. Pay attention to each other. FOCUS. Listen with both ears and let your children know when you can’t listen or pay attention to them.
9. Beware of overscheduling and filling every minute with “productive” activity. Create blocks of time for just hanging out and being there. These are the times that children will remember with fondness.
10. Make time for the things that give YOU pleasure – that nurture and nourish you mentally, physically and emotionally. Your well-being is crucial to your family.
There are other nuggets of wisdom for families at the Families First website. Read some of them at:

Disgusting Behavior
Sent to Scott Parks, Dallas Morning News
Dear Scott:
My grandson is a first-grader. He came home last Friday with a homework assignment in math. He was to create a bar graph on clocks in the house – a bar for each type of clock. His mother is very dutiful about helping him with homework. But this time, the family was going out of town for the weekend.
On Monday, mom sent a note to the teacher explaining why he did not do the homework. The class keeps a marble jar. When students do something good, they get to put marbles in. Something bad takes marbles out. When the jar is filled, the class gets a reward.
Anyway, the teacher marched my grandson over to the marble jar in front of his classmates and had him remove five marbles as punishment. That night, his mother had him do the assignment, but the teacher said it was too late and didn't accept it.
What is an acceptable level of homework for first grade? And what are some effective ways that parents can react to teachers who humiliate children?
You can read Scott Parks (Dallas Morning News) answer here: (although you'll have to register - but it's free!) Meanwhile, here's mine, which is far more emotional than his:
For Shame! If I were the parent, I'd be at that school in a New York minute complaining to the principal and the teacher. What adult would put up with treatment like that? What makes us think that it's OK to treat children in ways that we'd never dare treat another adult? If we want children to love learning, if we want them to learn to respect one another and the adults in their midst, we model that by treating them with respect. What do you think?

Revisiting TPR - but not today
I had promised to write a little more about TPR in this issue. But I've found myself inundated with work since the mini-workshops began, so I'm going to have to put that topic off a little longer. (Right - like you've all been on the edge of your seats, holding your breath in anticipation!)

Next Issue of Singular Minds: May 1, 2005

Got a topic you’d like to see addressed in Singular Minds? E-mail questions, proposals, letters, and/or stories to:

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