Monday, May 20, 2013

Building English Skills

As a parent, are you satisfied by their verbal and written skills? Are they skilled readers? Do they get enough practice in which they have to be active and thinking about words and games?  I'd recommend a lot more word play games and efforts that actually build skills.  there are plenty of online word games and I've collected some lists of them here:


English Learning Games and Lessons

The materials all come from a great site, let me quote them a bit here:

VocabularySpellingCity.com wants to make our spelling website an invaluable part of every child's spelling and vocabulary education. To help us keep improving our vocabulary & spelling games

English Word Lists

Here's an example of their analogies information.

Welcome to VocabularySpellingCity's introduction to Analogies! Here you can find word lists of analogies, see analogies examples, learn about types of analogies, and compareanalogy vs. metaphor. You can also customize sentences to create funny analogies for kids that can be used to play analogy games. You can even generate an analogies worksheet from many of our games!
An analogy (dog is to puppy as cat is to kitten, or, as it commonly appears on standardized tests, especially in higher grades: dog : puppy :: cat : kitten) is a comparison between two things that are usually thought to be different from each other, but have some similarities. They help us understand things by making connections and seeing relationships between them based on knowledge we already possess. Check out the fun Analogies video lessons above to learn more about them!

Types of Analogies include:
  • Synonym (happy : joyful :: sad : depressed)
  • Antonym (inflation : deflation :: frail : strong)
  • Characteristic (tropical : hot :: polar : cold)
  • Part/Whole (finger : hand :: petal : flower)
  • Degree (mist : fog :: drizzle : tropical storm)
  • Type (golden retriever : dog :: salmon : fish)
  • Tool/Worker (pen : writer :: voice : singer)
  • Action/Object (fly : airplane :: drive : car)
  • Item/Purpose (knife : cut :: ruler : measure)
  • Product/Worker (poet : poem :: baker : pie)

Different types of analogies are introduced at different levels. Elementary school analogies may be simple, possibly funny analogies; whereas middle school analogies may focus more on analogical reasoning. Analogies practiced in high school delve even more deeply into analogical problem solving.

Analogy vs. Metaphor

Students often confuse analogies with metaphors. Both are comparisons, often involving unrelated objects, so what IS the difference? An analogy is a parallel comparison between two different things, whereas a metaphor is more of a direct comparison between two things, often with one word being used to symbolically represent another. "All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players." is an example of a famous metaphor. William Shakespeare is directly comparing the world to a stage, with the people playing " roles" as they go about their daily lives. A comparable analogy would be "Players are to stage as figure skaters are to ice rink."
Whether the goal is preparing for a standardized test, such as the SAT, or simply increasing one's communication and reasoning skills, fun online analogies games are an excellent tool for practicing them. Click on the links to the right to play some Analogies games from our sister site Vocabulary Fun, or check out the VocabularySpellingCity games below, each pre-loaded with a list of Analogies at a different grade level! The games below are programmed using the "_ is to _ as _ is to_" format; however, with the ability to customize sentences, you may create Analogies MatchIt Sentences and WhichWord? Sentences games from your own word lists using the "_ : _ :: _ : _" format, if you wish!

Analogies at a glance:

Elementary School Analogy Words: big, snow, hand, pencil, apple, cat, happy, milk, ruler, eye
Middle School Analogy Words: gigantic, anxious, blustery, thermometer, chameleon, barren, staff, drizzle, fiction, digestion
High School Analogy Words: carnivore, abhor, placid, laceration, adulation, hone, democracy, Confederacy, milliliter, philanthropist

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Writing Skills - More important with the Common Core


There is so much attention to standardized tests in K12 education:  The FCAT and TEKS and so on. And they are apparently all changing to a new format with a whole new approach known as the Common Core. What is this Common Core and why such a fuss?

The common core came from an initiative by a group that I had never heard of called the State Supervisiors of Education (or something). They felt that they could cooperaitvely come up with new standards, now known as the CCSS.  Big changes in language arts that they are pushing.

1.  Much harder. Many states since Bush's NCLB had dumbed down their state tests to make their students looks smarter.  The standards really shot down the last 15 years. This moves them back up.
2. Much more skills and conceptual, much less acceptance of simply remembering and regurgitating information.  Higher order thinking skills!
3. Less emphasis on understanding literature, more emphasis on dealing with non-fiction writing.
4. More media sophistication. Who is the writer of this piece? Are they narrating? Convincing? Persuading? Hiding? Claiming objectivity?  Documenting researching? Reporting?  Can you write with each of these biases?
5. Much more emphasis on proper use and deep levels of vocabulary.

To help, many parents this summer are considering helping their kids with a remote study summer program for general summer skills work,  or summer writing work.  Here's some info on writing materials to help you think about it!