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Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Guest Post: Take Aim and Target Your Children’s Writing by Valerie Allen

In Guest Blogger, writing on November 25, 2012 at 12:01 am

As a children’s author myself, I am particularly pleased to welcome this week’s Guest Blogger, Valerie Allen. Valerie, who also presents workshops on the same subject, shares her philosophies on targeting specific audiences, and what to take into account when doing so. Welcome, Valerie, and thank you for being my guest.

To successfully reach their target audience, children’s writers must keep in mind four basic considerations: the child’s age, grade, reading level, and interests.

Age Level                                                                                                                             Most children enjoy reading about characters who are a few years older than they are. Children want to reach beyond their peers and experience possible future events in the here and now as they read. Most children’s books are written within an age range, for example, 6 to 9 years or 10 to 12 years.

Grade Level                                                                                                                       Grade level is usually an indication of a child’s reading skills, such as phonics, sight words, and comprehension. Books do not have to be written at an exact grade level, but within a grade range, such as preschool through Kindergarten, or sixth through eighth grade. Most computers can easily provide the reading level by grade. This is often written as 3.2 meaning third grade second month or 7.9, which means seventh grade ninth month. Keep in mind grade levels are based on the school year with September as the first month. A reading level of 4.5 would indicate the youngster is in January of the fourth grade.

Reading Level
A child’s reading level is not always the same as his or her grade level. Reading is based on comprehension as well as word attack skills.

There are 250 basic sight words, which make up approximately 70% of all reading. Most children have mastered these words by the end of third grade. Basic sight words are typically one, two, or three-letter words. An informal way to check your sight words is to highlight all of the little words on a given page of writing.
Books based on hobbies and interests are varied and must be written within the youngster’s age, grade, and reading level. Vocabulary is critical in these books and the author often includes an index of terms and definitions, with or without diagrams. Both fiction and nonfiction can be used to engage youngsters in reading about their hobby or interest. Using the solar system as an example, you can write a book that:

1.  Describes the solar system and encourages learning and understanding
2. Provides facts, greatest moments, or important figures in space exploration
3.  Tells a story involving a child who wants to walk on the moon.

As adults we can make an instant connection with others when we mention Dick and Jane, Nancy Drew, or The Hardy Boys. Today’s young readers will connect with Hop on Pop, Harry Potter, and Pippy Longstocking. Helping children read for pleasure and information is the primary goal for an author of a children’s book. Creating those enjoyable memories that last a life time is the reward of writing for children.

Valerie Allen, psychologist, author, and speaker writes fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books. Her two books for children in grades three to five are, Summer School for Smarties and Bad Hair, Good Hat, New Friends. She presents writing workshops for authors based on her book,Write, Publish, Sell! Quick, Easy, Inexpensive Ideas for the Marketing Challenged.

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Write, Publish, Sell! by Valerie Allen - Book cover

Guest Post: The Decline of Education by D.A. Adams

In Education, Guest Blogger on November 18, 2012 at 12:01 am

D A Adams

I am delighted welcome this week’s guest, D A Adams, whose informative post outlines what he feels are the reasons for the decline of the educational system in the United States of America.  Something, no doubt, many of us are witnessing in our own respective countries, and for many of the same reasons.  But is there a solution! 

It’s not a secret that the American educational system is rapidly declining.  Our rank among developed nations has slipped from consistently in the top five to now around nineteenth.  For a country with the largest and wealthiest economy in the world, that’s a staggering and saddening drop.  Those of us who work within the system have been sounding the alarms for years and begging our so-called leaders to enact reforms.  However, so far, our cries have gone unheard, and in fact, much of the legislation that has been passed over the last decade has done more to damage the system than reform it.  As an educator, I see the primary issues with our system as threefold.  First, professional educators are paid salaries lower than virtually any other sector of the economy, short of unskilled and semi-skilled labor.  Second, too much emphasis is placed on standardized testing for producing quantifiable data, and finally, current educational leadership is more focused on implementing business models to improve operational efficiency than on time-tested educational models to increase effective learning.

In America, the manager of a fast-food restaurant such as McDonald’s earns more money than the average teacher.  The typical starting salary for K-12 is around $25,000 a year.  At the collegiate level, which requires significantly more training and certification, the average starting salary is roughly $35,000.  In professions that demand equitable levels of education, such as accounting or engineering, the entry-level wages typically range from $75,000-120,000.  One major disadvantage to these substandard wages is that the most qualified and talented people do not pursue education as a career because they are not willing to make the necessary sacrifices for the job.  That’s not to say those of us in the profession are not creative, intelligent people.  Many of my colleagues over the years have been brilliant within their respective disciplines, but as time has passed, fewer and fewer of the highly gifted people are entering this profession.  Another problem is that many of us end up working second and sometimes third jobs just to earn a living wage.  The demands of teaching are already tremendous, from lesson plans to grading to instruction, but when a second job is added in, many of us feel stretched beyond reasonable expectations.

One of the worst “reforms” to our system over the last two decades has been the move to standardized testing.  By themselves, these tests can be effective tools to enhance instruction.  However, federal mandates now dictate that all school districts rely on these exams for funding and state accreditation.  As a result, most in-class delivery and methodology has shifted towards preparing students for the test.  After twelve years of this system, the results have been disastrous.  Critical thinking, writing, and application skills have diminished, despite test scores regularly climbing.  When it comes to picking out a multiple choice answer, current students excel.  When it comes to applying knowledge, they are lost.  Bureaucrats and politicians have difficulty seeing the problem because they look at the quantifiable numbers and express that the scores have gone up, but they can’t seem to grasp that mastery of a multiple choice test is much different than mastery of knowledge.  On my end, as a collegiate writing instructor, I now see less than 20% of my students operating at above average skill level, while nearly half are barely literate.

Also, over the last twenty to thirty years, nearly all reforms to education have been business-minded changes meant to streamline efficiency.  Every year, another layer of teacher autonomy is eroded in favor of homogenous curriculum.  To administrators, this is a pleasant change, for they don’t have to worry about individual instructors having competence in their field.  As long as instructors can follow the standardized curriculum approved by the state, they can effectively deliver the desired course content.  However, generic curriculum by its very nature is highly ineffective at reaching individual students.  Professional educators understand that the most effective instruction is tailored to particular students based on their learning needs.  To be capable of this technique, teachers must be masters of their discipline and spend three to five years in the classroom learning how to be effective.  Today, it’s nearly impossible to personalize education in part because of the generic curriculum but also because of another tragedy of the business model design – student overcrowding.  Teachers are now required by state regulations to maintain a minimum student load that is nearly double the optimum ratio.  This overcrowding makes the job maddeningly frustrating.  In fact, today, most new teachers burn out within three years, long before they have fully learned all the necessary skills, and those of us who have been in the profession for a while find it more and more difficult to juggle all of the challenges each new semester brings.  Many of my colleagues, myself included, have expressed an overt desire to leave our profession specifically because of the ever-growing presence of business-minded paradigms that view education as an assembly line.  Personally, I’m scared of what our education landscape will look like in another ten to twenty years.

If Americans want to fix our educational system, we have to address these three issues, sooner rather than later.  We have to bring teacher pay up to a professional standard to attract the best people into the career.  We have to reduce the emphasis on standardized testing for measuring achievement.  The scores are not reflective of useful learning and distort the reality that our schools are failing this generation.  Finally, we have to eliminate the business model from curriculum decisions.  We must get student/teacher ratios into a 15:1 per class range, and we must return classroom autonomy to teachers to allow for personalized education that reaches individual students.  Until we fix these three areas, our international ranking among developed nations will continue to decline, and we will wake up one day soon to find ourselves irreparably behind the rest of the world.

To learn more about author and educator D.A. Adams, please check out these links:

Author Website

Amazon UK Kindle

Amazon US Kindle

Seventh Star Press Online Store


Triple Trouble: Choosing a School for My Kids Shouldn’t Be so Hard by Alisse Lee Goldenberg

In Education, Guest Blogger on October 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm

I am very proud to introduce my new guest, and début guest blogger, Alisse Lee Goldenberg, with her educational dilemma. Not only does she write, she is also the mother of triplets under the age of two. Welcome, Alisse, and thank you so much for taking the time, during your undoubtedly busy schedule, to write here.

For this blog post, I was asked to write about something I deeply care about. At first I was unsure about what I shouldAlisse Lee Goldenberg on Amelia Curzon's Blog - Carte Blanche write. I could write about being a writer, or about my cultural heritage, or about the environment, all things that are extremely important to me. But then I thought, “What is the single most important thing in the world?” and the answer to that question came easily: my kids. After all, they were the ones I originally wrote my first novel for.

In February of 2011, I gave birth to triplets: two boys, and a girl. The instant they were born, my whole perspective on life shifted. I was no longer the centre of my own existence. They were the people I lived for. (My husband is very understanding about this fact.) They are who I write for, tell stories to, work for, etc. Those little faces are the first ones I want to see in the morning, and the last ones I want to see at night. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not a helicopter parent; I let them make mistakes, be adventurous, take risks. At this age, this mainly constitutes trying new and daring things like climbing my furniture, fighting with each other, or riding the dog. Everyone I know sees my husband and me with our kids and they tell us how shocked they are that we are so calm. This strikes me as an odd comment to make. If I stressed out, or freaked out over every bump, bruise, sniffle or cough, I would be freaking out every second of every day, and a stressed out parent will inevitably lead to a stressed out child.

What prompted this blog was the fact that I am stressing out right now.  This coming February, my kids are going to be two years old. Now, this isn’t some big crisis along the lines of “Oh no! My babies are growing up!” it’s more along the lines of my friends with kids the same age are asking me where they’re going to go to school for junior kindergarten. This has me looking long and hard at my priorities.  I would like them to have a religious, Jewish education like I did growing up, while I would also like them to understand music and the arts. In an ideal world, there would be a school that taught everything, but this is very clearly not am ideal world. If you look at the state of public education in Ontario, it is a shambles. Teachers are on work to rule, where they have largely stopped all extracurricular activities such as: sports teams, dances, performances, field trips, and concerts. They are doing this to protest wage freezes and anti-strike legislation by the government that goes against their rights. I support this in theory; I just hate how it hurts the students.  Furthermore, we now have this “no man left behind” mentality where teachers are not allowed to give zeros, or failing marks. Really? If you don’t do an assignment that means you don’t pass. Parents can argue for their kids to get better grades, and this routinely happens. All this teaches a kid is that they can skate through in life, and not try. They don’t have to put in any effort. I feel they are in for a rude awakening when they graduate.

Private schools that my husband and I are also looking at have the religious education, but many of them are lacking in the arts department. He went to school and had bands he could play in. I had a choir and no instrumental education aside from after school piano classes.  I don’t know where to turn here. I don’t want to make a wrong decision for my kids. I just don’t know what’s right at this point.  Part of me wants to just throw in the towel and home school.  Then I think “Yeah right. They’ll graduate with a full knowledge about fantasy, folklore, and music composition.” But in the end,  would that really be so bad?


Alisse Lee Goldenberg is an author of Young Adult fantasy fiction. She has her Bachelors of Education and a Fine Arts degree, and has studied fantasy and folk lore since she was a child. Alisse lives in Toronto with her husband Brian, their triplets Joseph, Phillip, and Hailey, and their rambunctious Goldendoodle Sebastian. Her début novel The Strings of the Violin is now available for purchase.

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The Strings of the Violin by Alisse Lee Goldenberg - Book cover
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