Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Back To Basics, Diving, Reading, Dancing etc... For Success

As an English Teacher, I have found myself, too many times, confronting students of all ages who are missing the most basic reading skills.  They can't find their way among the vowels, the keys to reading and writing and understanding written English.  I have a very easy way to teach it, which is one of the reasons I can't teach in schools.  It's not the conventional way.

Almost a half a century ago when learning Creative Dance and Choreography with Laura Foreman in some Long Island community center, I was introduced to Labanotation, a way of recording basic dance movements.  And then a couple of years later I studied Israeli Folk Dance, Leadership and Choreography with Fred Berk.  He also broke down each movement and step in a dance.  His Israeli Folk Dance albums included small booklets with instructions how to dance the included dances.  His approach made it possible for everybody to dance, not only those gifted/talented with superior dance intuition.  Most "teachers" simply say:
"Copy what I'm doing.  Just do it."
But Fred broke down every step into the musical notes, counting out the 4/4 beat, including telling us when to pause.  As a gym teacher, I used this technique explaining to my students that they can dance with their minds in control, rather than guessing. 

During the same period of time, my two years in Stern College, I was learning Israeli Folk Dance with Fred.  I also learned dance movement, with Allan Wayne, who emphasized proper alignment of the body when dancing.

Now, what got me onto this long tangent?  It's the New York Times article about the lengendary Olympic diving champion Louganis, who is now coaching.  And what's the secret technique behind Louganis's great success?  It's mastering basic movements,  just like the way I was taught to dance and I teach reading.

Too much of modern, from mid-twentieth century on, education is:
  • "Feel good," don't criticize and correct the kids too much
  • Forget about details and grammar.
  • Guesswork over exactitude.
And we all know the results, mediocrity at best.  Sport is no different than science, and successful sport is a science. So is dancing.  There are fewer injuries when it's done correctly and the body is properly prepared.  And the same for the "three r's,  reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic.

Now, back to my household chores...


Hadassa said...

It is absolutely appalling how many children learn, or rather don't learn, how to read by the "look-say" or "whole word" method. When no de-coding skills are taught, it's no surprise that the results are mediocre. English, although it has many irregularities and exceptions to rules, does have rules and patterns that should be taught. Last summer my third grade daughter was given a workbook that focused on letter combinations (My spell check won't accept a plural of combination; who's right?), including vowels: th (BOTH pronunciations), ch, bl, ou, ai, ea, etc. Her two older sisters had not been taught the subject in school. That workbook was the only English workbook that I hadn't regretted having to purchase.

Batya said...

Do you remember the name and publisher of the book? I'd like to know, thanks

Hadassa said...

We still have the work book. I would say that a child will not get the maximum benefit out of the book if he/she does not work with a teacher/parent who knows English very well. The exercises are good, but more explanation is IMHO necessary.
The name and author are all in Hebrew: מעברית לאנגלית מנחם משק- מושקוביץ 04-844-7407

Batya said...

Hadassa, it's true that very rarely can a child, or adult, learn from a book without some guidance.

Hadassa said...

True. I should have been more specific. What I meant is that it isn't a workbook for a child to work on independently and then go to an adult to have it checked and discussed. I sat with my daughter as she was working for almost all of the exercises.

Batya said...

sounds good