Monday, September 19, 2016

Process, Content, and Feelings Influence Lesson Success

Process, Content and Feelings are in each lesson: Plan for Success

Every lesson contains three components, each of which has influence on success: process, content, and feeling.

• Process Defines the Method of Teaching. 

Group instruction, often a favorite, is most often successful when students are learning the same standard. To require a student to sit through instruction of material he or she has mastered OR material that is far too difficult, not only defeats the purpose of instruction but causes students to lose interest. The opportunity to learn may be unintentionally eliminated with the selection of ta particular lesson process.

Precision teaching, multi-sensory learning, scaffolding, and cooperative learning are examples of additional structures available. Each strategy can work with any curriculum. A list of process options to consider can be found at the end of this post. Other resources can be found listed on this blog.

• Content Defines What is Taught. 

It is important to sequence each lesson in such a way that students are exposed to both previously learned material and the new content simultaneously.   Each student should have his or her own entry point into the curriculum and move at his or her own pace in order to offer a  frustration free experience.

• Feeling is Perhaps the Most Important Component of each Lesson. 

While the reactions to the learning environment may vary among students, it is important for the instructor to be aware of the feeling tone of the class. Adjusting the content, presentation, adding humor, or additional positive reinforcement goes a long way toward maintaining a warm, inviting environment.

• Feelings are attached to every learning event and have a direct impact on the assimilation and retention of information. For example, if a teacher yells or belittles students when teaching the digraph th, chances are the student will not remember the digraph th, but will remember the teacher. The student may be less receptive to further teaching of the digraph th and, depending on the degree of the negative impact, reading in general.

• When learning is fun and tension free, information is more easily assimilated. If a student demonstrates difficulty learning a concept, and the teacher is allowed to take the time to teach another way, the student no longer fears failure.
Excerpts from Rhoades to Reading  and Simple Cooperation in the Classroom

Thank you Cindy Kreeger for editing this article.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Teachers, Firefighters, Police Officers: WEP Retirement Surprise

  A bipartisan bill (HR711) has been filed in the House of Representatives to treat teachers, firefighters and police officers who paid into Social Security the same as other American workers. 

Note from Jacquie: If you are are in public service or the spouse of a public servant, you may want to read further. Public servants are most-often not fully informed about the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Rather than list the details of WEP, the proposed remedy before the House of Representatives explains it all.

Representatives Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts)are leading the effort to alter the controversial Social Security provision known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

"Our bill strengthens the solvency of Social Security while guaranteeing our public servants receive the full benefits they earned when paying into the program,” said Brady. “Those who teach our children and protect and serve us everyday deserve equal treatment when they retire. Social Security benefits should be based on your real-life contributions, not some arbitrary formula."

Picture Resource:


Snapshot of Real Life:
Cases From Texas AFT

The Widow


Consider the case of a widow eligible to receive a survivor’s benefit of $600 a month from Social Security. Suppose she retires from a school district that does not take part in the Social Security system and in her own right has earned a TRS pension of $900 a month. 

Federal law imposes a so-called Government Pension Offset that reduces her Social Security survivor’s benefit by two-thirds of the amount she receives from Texas TRS. That happens in this case to be a $600 offset—which means her survivor’s benefit is reduced to zero.

The Worker


Consider another case. This time, suppose the teacher qualified for Social Security benefits by working for another employer for 20 years before she went to work for the school district. Or suppose she worked at another job evenings and weekends and summers to qualify for Social Security. What happens when she retires from her job with a school district that doesn’t take part in Social Security? 

She faces a severe cut in her Social Security benefits, because federal law contains the so-called Windfall Elimination Provision. Under this law, instead of receiving 90 percent of the first $856 of average monthly pre-retirement earnings, she receives only 40 percent. That’s a $428 cut in her expected monthly Social Security benefit.

Follow the progress of HR711 Type in HR711 in the search box.

History of the Windfall Elemination Act         WEP Fact Sheet

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ants in Space

The talents of educator and author. G. J. Griffiths meet once again in the fantasy si-fi children’s book Ants in Space. When playing in the garden Laura and her sister Eva discover the world of alien ants who take them through an exciting space adventure in their miniaturized world. 

The enriched content is filled with an introduction to both scientific concepts and unique ways of meeting the challenges of cultural differences.

The story and reading level is a best fit for ages eight and above. However, the illustrations are geared toward younger children. This inongruence may lessen the enthusiasm of older children.

As a bonus, Mr. Griffiths provides oral reading suggestions to parents and teachers to heighten interest of younger readers.

Five stars for the quality of writing and excellent illustrations.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Tribute to Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman

Tribute To Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman

Anna Gillingham, and her good friend Bessie Stillman,  touched lives. They simply did not give up on children. 

Following is an excerpt from introduction to  the publication Remedial Training for Children with Specific Disability in Reading, Spelling, and Penmanship by Anna Gillingham and Bessie W. Stillman.(1960)

In every school there are children who do not learn to read and spell satisfactorily… is too often assumed that any poor reader has a relatively low mentality. When it is discovered that a child of average or high intelligence is not reading, the first reaction is usually reproach—reproach of the child for lack of effort, reproach of the preceding teacher for inefficiency. Thus the college blames the high school for its poor readers, the high school the grammar school, and the last reproach falls back on the unfortunate primary teacher.

Increasingly, however, a conscientious and discerning teachers and anxious parents are realizing that there are intelligent non-readers who try very hard, and that such children present a challenge which customary teachers training does not enable the teacher to meet.

  • Gillingham and Stillman, with the support and active influence of Dr. Samuel Orton, published the first edition of Remedial Training in 1946. The philosophy of reading instruction was altered forever and sections, if not all, of the philosophy they developed is seen today in a variety of programs and basal readers. Gillingham and Stillman are credited with the first integrated program for multisensory visual/auditory, kinesthetic instruction. The key components are:
  • Language-based and simultaneously multisensory
  • Structured
  • Sequential
  • Cumulative (building block thatensure mastery before teaching new material)
  • Cognitive
  • Assessment is based only on material that has been taught
  • Progress constantly observed and recorded
  • All pathways of the brain are activated during instruction

After the death of Bessie Stillman, Anna Gillingham worked closely with Dr. Samuel T. Orton,  for a short period of time, to create the Orton-Gillingham approach. After Dr. Orton's death, continued the work they had begun. 
  For further information on research please refer to the Florida Center for Reading Research.  
To view one contemporary approach to Orton-Gillingham in action, please visit Sara Zelenak's  site Think, Ready, Read

Resource: The Riverside School 

Anna Gillingham
Anna Gillingham (1878-1963) was a well-known  Quaker educator.   Her inventory of papers 1849-1962 can be found at    Friends Historical Library at Swathmore College. She was a teacher, psychologist, and Director of Remedial Teaching in the Ethical Cultural School, New York City, and Punahou School, Honolulu. She was also a Research Fellow in Language Disabilities, Neurological Institute, New York and a consultant to teacher training.

Bessie W. Stillman (1871-1947) was a Remedidal Teacher in the Ethical Culture School, New York City and in Punahou school, Honolulu. She was a prolific author. A list of her works can be found at

 I searched for a verified picture of Bessie Stillman. If any readers know of such a picture, please note a source in the comment section.

Dr. Samuel T. Orton (1879-1948) was a physician who pioneered the study of learning disabilities. It was his hypothesis that children who had not suffered brain injury had not established hemispheric dominance. 

A listing of books available on the Orton-Gillingham method can be found at Amazon

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

And the Whippoorwill Sang by Micki Peluso

And the Whippoorwill Sang 
by Micki Peluso

Note from Jacquie: This is a powerful  five star book! Thank you  author Deirdre Tolhurst for allowing me to share this excellent review.

...And the Whippoorwill Sang captured my attention from the very first page and tugged at my heartstrings throughout. Whether it was to laugh or to cry, I found myself so involved with the story that I was anticipating the next chapter with unexpected zeal.

The book quickly drew me in, making me feel as if Micki and I were sitting at her kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. She is relaxed in her writing, which made me feel like I was a part of her large family. Her words are descriptive; so much so that I could see not just the curtains, but through the windows to the streets and neighborhood beyond. I love that about this book, I can visualize what the couch looks like when Micki is recuperating from having a baby. I can see Dante's mischievous face, Michael and Kim talking about leaving home with only the things their grandmother had given them, Kelly learning to talk, and Nicole wrapping her hair around her toes. I see a huge dog that doesn't ride very well in the car!

The book begins in 1959 at Micki's wedding at age 17 to Butch. I loved how she explained the wedding night in a way that would never offend any reader. I couldn't help but laugh and smile and feel good. She brought me back to the way things used to be in the 60s and 70s. The places they lived while their family grew, the decor, the pets, so much to see with your mind's eye to make you feel a part of the story. Things were so much different back then, parents didn't worry so much about their children going out and playing, coming home when the street lights came on. Moms didn't drive, they did the wash and made clothes and did whatever they could to be sure to have enough money for groceries, and dads worked so hard to support the family. Children slept in attics, basements, and laundry rooms; wherever there was enough space to put a bed. And the children never complained. Dinners were whatever moms could throw together from leftovers, and everyone was content.

Most families at the time were large, and each child had their own personality traits which made them unique and separated them from their siblings. There were six children in the Peluso household. Noelle was independent at a very young age, broadly intelligent, and her charm captured your heart. She went through that period of time that every girl does, where hormones cause a shift in personality, but came back to being the darling that her siblings all remember. At the young age of 14, she was killed by a drunk driver while walking to the park. Before she died, her mother promised her that she wouldn't let her life be in vain, that she would let the world know that Noelle had lived.

It is so easy to relate to the stories Micki tells about those years, some of which had me laughing in sheer nostalgic bliss, and others that had me wanting to give her a hug and share her grief. I highly recommend this book. There are so many reasons why. It takes a baby boomer back to life in the 60s, and it is a double bonus if you are from the Northeast. It is a comfortable book, yet one the reader never loses interest in. It can definitely be read in a weekend, and it is one that you will remember. Micki travels in time to the early days of her family, occasionally coming back to the moment at hand, when Noelle's life is hanging in the balance. But she doesn't stay there long, only enough to fill the reader's mind with sympathy for this mother who remains strong despite the pain she is going through. Micki is the glue that is holding the family together, when she is the one who desperately needs to be hugged and loved and reassured that the choices she is making are the right ones. She wrestles with her spirituality, but knows in her heart that God is in charge and will one day remove her grief. It brings to the open the heartache that families go through when a lawless person, not caring about whom they hurt goes out reckless into the world. The devastation that is caused by drunk drivers is brought home to you between the eyes. Noelle was real, for crying out loud, she was a little girl, only 14, and minding her own business when her life was taken in a matter of moments. Is there justice for the family? The man who hit her served time, but Noelle never grew up.

There is a sweet sorrow to Noelle's short life, but even so, her mother's promise was met. I know that Noelle lived, and you will too if you buy this book. It is a 5-star read!

Deirdre Tolhurst, Author, A Christmas I Remember, ISBN 978-1-61346-422-9 and her latest book,
Dear Child of Mine available on Amazon.