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Videos for Small changes hard to understand and a remedy

Some who use the videos that are a central part of Small Changes in Teaching Big results in learning say that their students find it difficult to understand the audio on the video clips.

So I have followed my own advice! I have transcribed the videos which soon will be available on the same site that the videos can be accessed from.

Here is one transcript. I hope you find it helpful.

The screen shots that are part of the transcript for some reason do not copy in this Blog.

Enjoy, enjoy,

John

Transcript of Video 13 School knowledge World knowledge

John’s Narration (0:00-8:40)

In URL 12, we ask Wakako to discover the meaning of dismounted in the sentence, “The three men dismounted from their horses as soon as they arrived at the fisherman’s house.” It took a couple of minutes for her to discover it. And of course the most efficient way to get the meaning of any word is to look it up in a bilingual dictionary or you can look it up on the internet which we did and then we got a picture of dismounted, which is even more what shall I say more powerful than just a definition of the word dismounted or a word equivalent from a bilingual dictionary.

But the point of asking students to discover meanings is not for them to just learn the word. There are many points. But one point is for them to learn how they can learn on their own, how they can make use of words they do know to discover what they don’t know—how they can make use of word order, how they can decide whether something is an animal or a feeling or a place. So the context is very important and we want to teach students how to use context to discover meaning and also to enjoy reading more.

The other reason we want students to discover is the same reason that people might like to do horse riding or horse back riding. You don’t learn only how to get on and off a horse which you are not going to use too much in your daily life but getting on and off a horse, getting on and off a bicycle, a regular bicycle that you use outside, a stationary bicycle, getting in and out of a car, you learn agility, you learn balance, you learn all sorts of other skills in addition to the skill that you are practicing with horse riding.

And so it’s the same with learning anything, language included. You begin to see how things are connected and how you develop your mind and relate language to your personal experience.

Now it turns out that after the class I was talking to Wakako and she had lived in New Zealand in a home stay. So she had a lot of experience with horses. But if her home stay mother asked her “What did you do this morning?” she’s not going to say, “I dismounted from my horse.” She’s going to say, “I went horse riding with a friend.”

So it’s possible to have the experience and not use the words. The more common word is of course get off—get off a horse, get off a bicycle, get on a bicycle. So, it’s a very infrequent word and I think that Wakako will remember it because of all the experiences she had with it and then we related it with her experience in New Zealand. But just to remind you that we’re teaching students how to see the mold—the function words and word order into which words like dismounted fit.

So she might say, “The three men dismounted from their horses, the three men got off of their horses, the three men got out of the car, the three men got into the car. The pattern is what’s important, not just the word dismounted, got off, got in.

Now, another thing you might have noticed is that Wakako consistently said, “I don’t know. I have no idea.” And then at the end she realized she got it.

Plato said, “Teaching is reminding people of what they already know.” So it takes longer to remind people of what they already know than to show them what they don’t know. But it develops a skill and an interest in trying always to discover and to see how much more you can do than you thought you could do.

Now in this picture (4:13) you can see Wakako after she discovered the meaning.

And we didn’t take a picture of her looking up a word in the dictionary and getting the word equivalent. But I don’t think the expression would have been as exhilarating and exuberant as this face is.

So I think that this is some evidence that tapping students’ curiosity, natural curiosity to learn is its own reward for the students.

A common practice is to take words from a reading passage that the teacher thinks the students don’t know and put them on the board. And then the teacher sometimes asks the students if they know what they mean, they usually don’t and then they start trying to say what do you think it means and sometimes the teacher defines the word and often the students don’t understand the definitions because definitions are very difficult to understand.

But at any rate, the word c u r r a c h occurs later in the same passage. And I put this on the board for hundreds of teachers and students. (4:47)

And the only people who know what it means is people from Northern Ireland because this is a kind of a boat that is used in that place. But nobody else gets it.

I offer people ten dollars sometimes. I offer them a hundred dollars for anyone who is not from Northern Ireland or Scotland who knows the word. And I’m so confident that no one will know it that I offer a hundred dollars sometimes.

Then I have them read the passage and I say, “put post its on words they don’t understand.” They all put post its on c u r r a c h. And I say, “Draw a picture of a word that fits the meaning in this sentence. And the sentence is, The four men quickly pushed a c u r r a c h from the beach into the water. They jumped into the c u r r a c h and the fishermen started to row away from the beach. So they read that sentence and they all draw a boat, a small boat. So you see the word X there (on the screen)? There’s no algebra teacher in the world who would draw an X on the board and say what is the value of X. It has to be 2 X equals 6, 2 X = 6 or 6 X equals 60, 6X = 60. You have to have a context. So putting an X on the board in an algebra class, no one can find the value.

Putting a word singly on the board is the same. It’s very difficult to get the understanding of the meaning. So words in context.

If you put toothpaste on the board, many students will not know it. If you give them a tube of toothpaste with the word toothpaste on it, they know toothpaste. That’s another kind of a context, a visual context. So you can have a visual context or you can have a linguistic, verbal context.

All around the world there are charts with fruits. They have a picture of an apple and under apple they have apple. Under a bunch of bananas, they have banana. But it’s not apple, it’s an apple, it’s a bunch of bananas.

If you know you have an a before c u r r a c h, at least you know it’s a noun. That’s a small context, but the use of articles makes a big difference because people know it’s a noun rather than a verb or an adjective or another part of speech.

When I ask students to draw a picture for dismounted , more than half of them draw a mountain. And Yohei is one of them. He drew a mountain. And he’s going to tell you now how he drew a mountain and then he changed his interpretation of dismounted from a mountain to get off. And one of the things I would like you to notice is the emotions that he’s expressing as he’s talking because I think it’s really important to remember the emotional component of language learning. And when people make discoveries they have an emotional connection with what they’re doing. So it’s for you to evaluate or analyze the degree to which you think Yohei is expressing a range of emotions as he’s discussing how he made this discovery.

“When I saw this word dismounted, dismount the first time, I couldn’t understand, what does this mean? So I drew a, drew picture mountain and person who’s going down mountain— because dis, mounted and mounted and I thought mountain and a person is going down. I found out that this is something like get off or ride off and then after I saw the word from their horses.”

“Ahh!!” (9:23)

“I figured out this is ride off, get off, exactly!” (9:33)

PS John’sRemarks after the fact

I learned the terms school knowledge and world knowledge from Douglas Barnes. In Hard Times, Charles Dickens gives an example of each kind of knowledge.

1 I say I learned the term world knowledge from Douglas Barnes in his book From communication to curriculum. In fact Barnes uses the term action knowledge in juxtaposition to school knowledge. Teachers in my classes pointed out that though Barnes gives examples of students learning by doing—action knowledge—he also reminds us that we learn by observing. We can understand how a bicycle pump works by observing another use it as well as using it ourselves. So we decided to use world knowledge rather than action knowledge because we thought it better represented the concept that Barnes had introduced us to. So throughout my book when I say world knowledge Barnes would have written action knowledge. Same concept but different terms.

School knowledge: “A horse is a quadruped. Gramnivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisors. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs too. Hoofs hard but required to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.”

World knowledge: “I fed my horse this morning and poured water in her pail so she could drink when she wanted to. Then I brushed her hair.”

In Video 13, Yohei uses his experience—world knowledge–to discover that dismounted is not related to mountains even though the first five letters of dismounted and mountains are the same. And he uses his school knowledge to make his discovery: “and then after I saw the words from their horses. Ahh!! I figured out this is ride off, get off, exactly!”

So we need both school knowledge and world knowledge to learn. In many classrooms though the focus is almost exclusively on school knowledge.

I deal with school and world knowledge in 4.3 Dismounted, Houses, Saddles, Reins—Comparing school knowledge and world knowledge.

I learned two other terms from Douglas Barnes: final draft talk and exploratory talk. Here is Yohei using exploratory talk:

Yohei (8:40-933)

“When I saw this word dismounted, dismount the first time, I couldn’t understand, what does this mean? So I drew a, drew picture mountain and person who’s going down mountain— because dis, mounted and mounted and I thought mountain and a person is going down. I found out that this is something like get off or ride off and then after I saw the word from their horses. Ahh!! I figured out this is ride off, get off, exactly!”

Here is Bitzer, the student in Mr. Grandgrind’s class in Hard Times using final draft talk:

“A horse is a quadruped. Gramnivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisors. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs too. Hoofs hard but required to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.”

For many exams, we need to master final draft talk. But we cannot make discoveries without exploratory talk. Asking questions we do not know the answer to is one example of exploratory talk. I deal with exploratory talk in 5.6 The frequency of different questions in different places.

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