The Best Lesson for New Readers Might Be the One They Teach Themselves

Let's celebrate the educators who empower us to teach ourselves. #projectliteracy

To improve students’ reading skills, these books were written by teachers and students together in class, based on the stories found in the library books and left open-ended with a big question mark on the last page to engage students. Dadal County, Mongolia. Photo: Khasar Sandag / Flickr user World Bank (cc)

If some of your earlier lessons in reading and writing involved a teacher standing at the head of a classroom, lecturing you about letters and grammar, you’re not alone. As much as 80 percent of classroom instruction in the United States is delivered orally—whether it’s being used to help students develop their literacy or tackle any other subject. Yet, we’re all different human beings with different needs and circumstances—and, according to certain researchers, many of us respond more effectively to alternative methods of instruction.

First spelled out 1983 and continually revised by one Dr. Howard Gardner, there are many different learning styles. Visual-spatial learners respond best to pictures, bodily-kinesthetic learners benefit greatly through physical activity, sound patterns encourage musical learners, written language inspires linguistic learners, problem solving fuels logical-mathematical learners, and naturalist learners are at their best in an outdoor environment. Interpersonal learners respond to calls for self-improvement, while intrapersonal learners prefer to share information with others.

Whether our favorite teachers explicitly worked from these definitions or not—and debate about the learning styles theory can get heated—there’s no doubt that when our personal needs are attended to in the classroom, we’re more apt to respond positively. But even the most attentive teacher can struggle to tailor lessons to every student, especially in the era of ever-expanding class sizes and increasingly demanding standards.

Today, Dr. Gardner—now an adjunct professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education and Boston University School of Medicine—is working to empower educators everywhere to accommodate the needs of all kinds of students through Project Zero: Multiple Intelligences Schools, of which he is chair. It turns out that his approach is much more nuanced than the learning styles to which he is so frequently linked.

As Dr. Gardner has explained in The Washington Post and on the Project Zero website, each of us has multiple intelligences—not simply learning styles—and though we may lean toward one educational mindset or another, we all learn best in different ways at different times:

“If we all had exactly the same kind of mind and there was only one kind of intelligence, then we could teach everybody the same thing in the same way and assess them in the same way and that would be fair. But once we realize that people have very different kinds of minds, different kinds of strengths—some people are good in thinking spatially, some in thinking language, others are very logical, other people need to be hands on and explore actively and try things out—then education, which treats everybody the same way, is actually the most unfair education. Because it picks out one kind of mind, which I call the law professor mind—somebody who's very linguistic and logical—and says, if you think like that, great, if you don't think like that, there's no room on the train for you.”

“People have this idea that intelligence is fixed and it’s not true,” adds Dr. Jen Gowers, director of curriculum for Equality Charter School. Dr. Gowers studied with Dr. Gardner when getting her Master’s in Secondary Education at Harvard, before earning her doctorate at Teacher’s College. “Today in school, you learn to be a good reader and writer, and you learn to be good at mathematics. But real-life careers are so much more project-based. The opportunity to showcase the way you learn best and apply that to skills you’re going to need is what makes you successful.”

Really, it boils down to this: approaching the same material in different ways, and offering students the opportunity for individual attention. Sometimes it’s easier to keep in mind students’ personality traits, rather than their learning styles. “I noticed for my introverts there were a lot of times when I needed to say, ‘Let’s take a minute and gather our thoughts before we jump in,’” says Dr. Gowers. “Otherwise, my class is designed to put the extroverts first, because I would take the first hand that goes up.”

Overall, Dr. Gowers simply recommends that educators keep trying out new methods, letting go of a degree of control every once in awhile. “I think it’s a matter of not being afraid to fail, trying new things, breathing, and reflecting. It’s not always going to go great.” And when classes are so large that experimentation feels like a burden, Dr. Gowers recommends making time for learning in small groups. She says, “I think that stations and groupings provide a real opportunity for [one-on-one learning]… Give [students] opportunities to get up and out of their seat and have discussions... Start the lesson instead of writing down in a book or listening to me talk—talk about the theme of the text with your partner. Now move to Station 2 and we’re going to write what you think the theme is on a giant piece of chalk paper and the people around you comment on it. Then move to Station 3 and we’re going to discuss it and have people with post-its say what they think the takeaway is.”

At the end of the day, both Dr. Gowers and Dr. Gardner are advocates for teachers who find ways to enable students to take control of the material. “[It’s about] saying ‘Your thoughts matter,’ and structuring it in a way where, even though I’m going to guide and facilitate [the activity], it’s their responsibility to take the reigns on learning.”

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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