True Comprehension Means True Understanding, Not Guesswork
One of the aspects of education we pay a lot of attention to at our school is ensuring the words being used and read are understood. Our freedoms depend on our children’s ability to use a dictionary and on their understanding of words. That is a broad statement to make, which some might say is controversial. It is true that some teachers in other schools disagree with the idea that such importance is placed on the defining of words, especially if they follow the methodological idea that one can learn the meanings of words by the contextual clues. However, it is easy to point out the shortfalls of learning by context by just asking someone to work out the meaning of the word “on” from the sentence “I live in a house on the water.” This does not literally mean your house is floating on the water, but really means by the water or on the banks of the water. That tiny word “on” makes such a difference when you have the wrong meaning. How about the common word “run” as in “Does your car run?” This might make one conjure up images of cars with legs!
Extend this principle to flying an airplane. What if the pilot has a wrong meaning for some facet of flying (because he worked it out from the context rather than defining it in a dictionary)? If the pilot only has the concepts 95% right, is that enough for you to feel confident flying in that pilot’s plane?
Understanding Words – A Tried and Tested Educational Approach
The stress on meanings of words also came from Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States. He said that one needs to define the words being used when learning a science. Malcolm X became literate while he was in prison just by studying the dictionary word by word and learning how to use each one.
A man called Johnson O’Connor (one of the foremost authorities in the world on aptitude) did a study of corporate vice presidents in the United States to find out what factors made them successful. He found just one. It was not a university degree nor even finishing high school. It was this one point: they all had a large vocabulary with a precise understanding of the meanings of the words.
Learning to Read – For Real
Alvin Toffler, an American author, stated “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” This makes learning how to learn a paramount subject in this new age and one of the key things that is taught at Laurel Academy.
Reading is an important subject, and one we stress very heavily in our program, as it opens the gates to any avenue of learning.
The Importance of Dictionaries
In 2008, we celebrated the 250th anniversary of the birth of Noah Webster. He was the author of the first American Dictionary of the English Language. Noah Webster had strong moral principles and a love for the future of this country. Our modern Webster’s Dictionaries are derived from his first dictionary published in 1828, which is still available today from good bookstores. In that first edition Noah Webster stated that he wrote the dictionary for this reason: to preserve the freedom of the American people.
He foresaw a time when words could be mis-defined and misused to trick the people into believing something different. What Webster foresaw is something that is actually happening today; it is observable in some political speeches and even in the current practice of “labeling” children. Today, by teaching the use of the dictionary along with the other tools of Study Technology, we will not only have literate children, but also have them armed with the tools to preserve their freedom. Today’s children will become tomorrow’s civilization, and we had better make sure our children are given the best opportunities we can afford them, right now.
Learning How to Study
Every child has an innate desire to learn, to gain knowledge and understanding of life and the world. This process of learning is an innate and, normally, pleasurable experience for every child. The only reason any child feels otherwise is because they have run across something which is not understood. That something can be a word, it can be a concept or action, or it can just be, “How does this apply to me?”
These tools develop a truly self-sufficient and self-directed student who can learn anything, easily and comfortably.
In conjunction with our pre-STEAM curriculum, students in the 4th grade begin learning the technology of study and how to avoid its pitfalls. This curriculum is based on works developed by Applied Scholastics International. To overcome these barriers and ensure a student could truly put his or her education to use, they hold a precise and simple set of tools called Study Technology. With them, a student can learn to recognize the signs of study difficulty and, most importantly, what to do about them. Using this approach, our students become confident and enthusiastic learners. The three elemental parts of Study Technology can be found and explained below.
Laurel Academy is licensed to use Applied Scholastics™ educational services, who makes Study Technology available on a global scale, functioning through more than 760 affiliates to the benefit of some 100,000 educators and 28 million students. It serves every conceivable educational arena—public and private K–12 schools, community-based learning programs, state and local government education agencies, professional training, tutoring centers—across some 70 nations of the world. Applied Scholastics International is a not-for-profit educational organization based in Missouri, and was founded by a consortium of American educators in 1972.
Attempting to educate someone without the mass (i.e. the actual thing one is studying about or a reasonable approximation) that he is going to be involved with can make study exceedingly difficult. This is the first barrier to study.
For example, if one is studying tractors, the printed page and the spoken word are no substitute for an actual tractor. Lacking a tractor to associate with the written word, or at least pictures of a tractor, can close off a person’s understanding of the subject.
The third barrier to study is the most important of the three; the misunderstood word. A not-comprehended definition or an undefined word or symbol can block one’s understanding of a subject.
A Demonstration of Study Technology
Here is a brief demonstration of Study Technology, an important component of our proficiency-based curriculum.
The concept is simple: draw in the box provided below, following the instructions as they are given.
There have been many recorded successes of Study Technology worldwide. In Mexico City, for example, Study Technology was introduced into a private high school in which one class had a 95% failure rate on their material. After the students learned to use Study Technology, the same class achieved a 90% passing rate.
A study undertaken in England found that students improved their reading levels by 1.3 years after only ten hours of study using Study Technology study procedures.
A literacy program in South Africa produced an average gain in reading level of 2.25 years. In the same country, the pass rate of students enrolled in 19 government schools increased from 43 to 78 percent after the Study Technology had been in use for only six months.
Also in Southern Africa, Education Alive, an Applied Scholastics affiliated organization, introduced Study Technology into a teacher’s college. The dropout rate for teacher trainees fell dramatically, to only 2 percent, as a direct and immediate result of the program.
In Los Angeles, California in the United States, students at a school which uses Study Technology throughout its curriculum regularly score 30% above the national average on pre-college aptitude tests. Their fourth grade students consistently score two or more grade levels above the norm in reading, math and language on standardized achievement tests.
We ensure that each teacher is trained in our study methods and how to communicate effectively with children. In our school, children are treated as individuals, not herds. We teach them how to learn so they can resolve their own learning difficulties and know how to get help when they need it. We believe that children should be able to work things out for themselves and we are sure to educate them thoroughly on the skills they need to do research to discover information for their use, not just parrot back facts for an exam. Our stress is always toward a purposeful understanding and ability to use the information they are learning. Make an appointment to visit the school and discover for yourself the difference our approach to learning can make in your child’s life and future.