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From: David Boulton []
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2002 6:08 PM

Hello (Deanna's teacher),. 

I wrote these things in Deanna's journal and some on her homework directly

#1 - The Amelia Bedelia Baseball book is terrible (I am unimpressed with the whole series). The book is full of words and phrases which are baseball specific 'at bat' etc.. When trying to help a child learn to read, the words used and the ideas they represent should be already familiar to the reader. The point is to learn to read 1st. Until they are reading well enough the introduction of new words and phrases (that they haven't heard and understood in their real world lives) adds unnecessary ambiguity. They can't know whether they are having a sounding out problem because it 'doesn't come out right' in their minds. It is of the utmost importance to consider the reader in picking the reading materials. Some of these books use old fashioned quaint language that just isn't in use in the world of today's kids. When they don't yet feel confident in their reading they will assume they are at fault in decoding when they encounter words they don't know. This must be avoided during the on-ramp to confident reading.
#2 - I reviewed a number of pieces of her homework. Some were clearly spelling exercises and so when she made an error in spelling it was quite right to point that out to her. Others however were different. In one case where there was a page of little images to which she was supposed to write a word description. Here there was picture of a wig on a mannequin's head - she wrote 'hare' (meant 'hair') and she got it 'wrong' and you wrote 'wig' underneath. I think the point of this exercise, unlike the spelling where the word is partially written out and has blanks into which she is supposed to insert the correct letters, is to write from scratch a description of the picture. Her answer 'hare' was correct in that the wig was made of hair.  Until and unless you explain sufficiently that the point of the exercise is to label the 'exact' thing - she shouldn't be made to feel 'incorrect' for a right answer that is not the exact right answer. Similarly throughout the page there were 4 other 'incorrects' each of these was the right 'thing' just misspelled. I think you MUST make distinctions about which aspects of her work are right and which are not. For her to feel 'incorrect' when she wrote the right idea but misspelled it is not right. Its important to get to this level of differentiation in the feedback and correction process to not create a condition where a child's mind is made to be wrong for having done something that was essentially right. Spelling is spelling - thinking is thinking.
#3 - There was an error on her Math homework sheet. It was a double column addition problem she did the math right - the answer was 66 but she wrote it backwards  'dd' and it was graded as incorrect - this is another version of the spelling problem. She needs to be helped to understand that in this case her math work was right but she wrote the answer backwards - its important that she 'gets' the distinction between these classes of errors and that they not be all run together.
Now I have taken her through what I wrote you. She understands these distinctions but won't remain conscious of them unless you meet her in them as you move from here. Please, for her sake and the other children's go slow and careful in these areas.
I wrote this in haste as I am overwhelmed with things right now. I hope I haven't offended in any way - take what I said as feedback - I think important feedback - and from the heart of someone who doesn't want his daughter to feel ashamed of her mind for being incorrect when she is not.

(Post script: This response to this email was in person not via email. Deanna's teacher, a beautiful spirit who truly loves her, was in every way cooperative. This email deepened the quality of all of our relationships. THANK YOU ANNIE!)

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