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Involving The Paraprofessionals

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno


vol. III no. 3

February 1974

First published in 1974. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1974-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-275-6 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555

So much has been learned since teacher aides were first considered the method of improving education in public schools in the States, that there is now a whole literature on the subject. This Newsletter is prepared in the hope that it can make a contribution to the study of how paraprofessionals can serve the school populations through our services. Our special individual and corporate involvement in their work is in proposing to paraprofessionals ways of filling gaps in their mastery of school subjects which are part of the curriculum of the schools they work in, and in making them aware of how learning takes place in humans. This we do by offering seminars to the paras which are organized by the principal and may be a regular feature of their schedule or ad hoc. Descriptions of these seminars are found in a number of the articles in the Newsletter written by colleagues of ours who have conducted them. We included in this letter one article by an assistant principal in a New York City public school, Ms. Minta Spain, whose main function is to look after the needs of the paras and the way they discharge their duties. We wish to express to her our thanks for making this Newsletter less parochial.

Table of Contents

At An Alternate School (Private) In Manhattan .................... 1 At One Intermediate School In Brooklyn .............................. 5 From An Assistant Principal In An Elementary School ......... 7 At The Twin Parks School .................................................... 11 Notes On A Mother Tongue Workshop.................................15 Involving The Paraprofessionals As Mathematicians.......... 19 On Paraprofessionals At P.S. 133 ........................................ 23 At An Intermediate School In The Bronx ............................ 27 News Items ......................................................................... 29

At An Alternate School (Private) In Manhattan

Recently three teachers from the first, second and third grades of the East Harlem Block Schools* gave a workshop for the nursery teachers. The subject was developing children’s awareness through mathematics. The teachers who gave the seminar had worked with me for two years. They knew well how they had felt when I first introduced them to the Algebricks and demonstrated their use in teaching mathematics, and this made them particularly sensitive as teachers of their co-workers. The session was lively and based on the games with Algebricks, fingers and the number array which make it so easy and joyful to generate mathematical functioning. It was the second experience the three teachers had had with giving a workshop so they made many mistakes and learned from them. The nursery teachers asked them to come again and they agreed. Afterwards we talked about how they felt about what had happened (excited and pleased to be able to offer something useful to the other teachers) and I asked them of all that they had learned in the two years , which were the things they thought came particularly from me and the Gattegno Mathematics I had introduced to them, as opposed to their experience of making mistakes which has taught them so much. Here are some of their statements:                                                         *

At the East Harlem Block Schools, all adults who work with students whether parents or licensed teachers are called teachers.


Involving The Paraprofessionals

“If I get stuck, there is always another way; coming at something from different directions, the children can always find the way that is closest to them.” “When I was growing up in school, ten was five and five, and that was it. Now I know there must be fifty different ways of making ten.” “I was teaching ‘times’ and then all of a sudden there I was bringing in ‘division’ — knowing that they go together.” “I know if you teach 3+1, you teach 1+3.” “Patience! You were patient with us; I learned to be patient with children.” “Simplifying a problem — out of one problem you can make others. You can use different methods and find the one that works best for you.” Our way of working together continuously evolved as I and the teachers worked on ourselves. From the beginning, we used the process of feedback, in which the students and teacher comment on what has happened to them in the time they have just spent together. At first, particularly, feedback revealed that our expectations of each other were far from met by the classes. The teachers had hoped to come away with information that could be put into notebooks. I banned notebooks and worked through perception and action. I had planned that in six lessons I could give the class experience of most of the central ideas of our way of working. In six lessons we had barely begun. One of the main interferences we had to work through was the teachers’ fear and dislike of math as they had known it in their school experience. Any time part of the work we were doing together proved difficult, someone was likely to become discouraged. It was very hard to believe that mistakes are part of how we learn. Some of the teachers had not finished high school; they felt that their lack of schooling meant they


At An Alternate School (Private) In Manhattan

were empty and needed to be filled up, which they assumed would be a painful process since math was the subject area. As time went on, this feeling was replaced by one of being powerful and resourceful as well as successful in the area of computations where for the most part they had felt inadequate before. The pattern of our weekly sessions together was as follows: We started with refreshments. Everybody had been teaching hard all morning and coffee and cookies improved morale. We then usually discussed any teaching problems that had arisen during the week. Three of the teachers, as part of their commitment to the course work, had agreed to teach math to a group of children every day. This experience made our sessions together much more vital, and was as much as anything the reason for the success of the classes. One of the commonly held goals of the course was that the teachers would develop their abilities to help each other, by observing each other’s lessons, discussing games and strategies that had worked well and helping each other when ‘stuck.’ We usually devoted part of each session to this kind of activity. The rest of the work consisted of my helping the teachers to explore and become inventive with Algebricks, and to work out some of the skills of giving lessons based on perception and action. In the course of this study, we met various bases of numeration, the importance of language in math teaching, the relatedness of the operations of addition and subtraction, multiplication, fractions and division. This practical work was what the teachers usually adapted for their classwork and sometimes they would feel they had had enough of it. Our tonic for a sleepy session was to work on computations. Here the teachers would approach the computations they had always done in the past by one method and not always accurately, from any of a number of angles and mentally. Freed from paper, feeling rich in resourcefulness, the teachers enjoyed improving their skill at mental addition, subtraction, mastering fractions at last, finding that without memorization they knew their ‘tables.’ Their pleasure in these activities made them eager that their students should learn in this way to let each problem teach us its solution.


Involving The Paraprofessionals

Fortunately we are still at work together. Now that we have arrived at a way of working, we are a true seminar. In the same way, as their teachers continue to grow with them, I think that the children of the East Harlem Block Schools are beginning to share in the joy we have known in our work together. Caroline Chinlund


At One Intermediate School In Brooklyn

The strength of the administrative staff at I.S. 55 and its determination to improve the quality of education at the school is particularly evident in the carefully thought out structuring of its reading program. The paraprofessional staff is an integral part of this program and has become one of its major foundations. Under the direction of Ms. Rebecca Taylor, the reading department is a remarkable model of what is possible when paraprofessionals and teachers join together in a serious effort to overcome the difficulties their students have met in reading. Little time is wasted. Each morning the paras attend a half-hour workshop in Words in Color before joining their classes at 9:20, I lead the workshops on the 2 days each week that I spend at the school, Ms. Taylor conducts the workshops on the other 3 days. The paras have managed a high degree of proficiency (with Words in Color). I have seen paras point out to teachers, errors the teachers have made on the Fidel. It is a common sight to find paras in the reading room when their classes are not in session, writing sentences using all the words from one chart (or using at least 4 of them in the same sentence) or taking a column from the Fidel, finding as many words for each spelling, and putting them into a story. Or they may be working


Involving The Paraprofessionals

on their assignments for the college course they attend 2 hours a week taught by Ms. Taylor at the school. In the classroom, the para is never idle. The teachers plan activities for 3 different groups which rotate during the day from work with the teachers, to work with the paraprofessionals and to independent work. Most of the classrooms are equipped with 2 Fidels, so that the para and the teacher may have access to them whenever they are needed. Words in Color has made sense to them, and their enthusiasm is taken back to the classroom as they work to make sense of reading with their students. Ann Crary


From An Assistant Principal In An Elementary School

During the summer of 1971, I participated in a unique experience. I took part with all the C.S. 129/234 (Twin Parks School) staff in Dr. Gattegno’s workshop. During those weeks one of our principal tasks was to work on our own awarenesses so that we would be able to develop the milieu that would enable our children to make maximum use of their strengths and powers. One of the topics that we discussed was how to use the full talents and capacities of each staff member of our school. As a result of the summer seminar, one of our objectives as supervisors was to utilize the skills and talents of the paraprofessional staff at C.S. 129. This objective has become a reality. In the past, at many public schools, paraprofessionals spent most of their time “assisting” the teacher, reading stories to groups of children, and helping to supervise large group activities. In order to train our staff of paraprofessionals to solve the reading and mathematics “problem,” and to act as catalysts in developing the children’s powers, it became necessary to create a program that was sufficiently organized to accomplish the following objectives: 1

Develop their skills and awarenesses;

2 Encourage them to subordinate teaching to learning;


Involving The Paraprofessionals

3 Involve them in the total professional staff activities. We didn’t eschew any of the above challenges. Several techniques were employed to achieve our goals. Paraprofessionals were involved in “intense” seminars under the direction of consultants from Educational Solutions. During these seminars, which were given throughout the school year, the paraprofessionals were able to increase their awarenesses and skills in the areas of mathematics and reading (English and Spanish). They were able to make new discoveries and solve old problems as they developed their familiarity with the Algebricks and the Words in Color charts. Another aspect of our training program is the opportunity that paraprofessionals are given to use their newly found skills with their own reading and mathematics groups. A paraprofessional is able to work with small groups of children under the supervision of a teacher and/or an administrator. Consultants, teachers and supervisors are available to aid and assist the paraprofessionals when it is needed. Still another part of our training program consists of weekly seminars for the professional and paraprofessional staffs. The seminars are held twice weekly. They last for one period (45 minutes) each. During these seminars the paraprofessionals receive training in all of the curriculum areas as well as additional training in reading and mathematics. They are also able to participate in “rap” sessions at some of the seminars. During these discussions common problems are aired. Activities, ideas and skills are shared with other staff members. Throughout the 1973-74 school year, C.S. 129, has experimented with a new school organization. The school is divided into six mini-schools. The principal supervises all “central” personnel. Each assistant principal is responsible for the administration and supervision of two mini schools. Each mini school has two paraprofessional staff members. In the two mini schools that I supervise, the paraprofessionals have been involved in special reading seminars led by a consultant from Educational Solutions. The purpose of these seminars is to expand the paraprofessional’s awareness of the types of tasks that their children were capable of doing. As the seminars progressed the rewards that were gained from them became twofold. 8

From An Assistant Principal In An Elementary School

The paraprofessionals were not only able to see their reading groups advance in leaps and bounds (decode pneumatic for example), but they were able to solve grammatical problems that they had previously had themselves. The sense of self-satisfaction and enthusiasm when they left the seminars was gratifying. The paraprofessionals were thoroughly engrossed in the seminars. They were not just learning techniques. They were developing self awarenesses and meeting and solving challenges that they were confronted with. They were now well on the road to subordinating teaching to learning and being able to allow the children to “be with� each learning situation by using their powers to achieve unlimited gains in reading. As the paraprofessionals became able to subordinate teaching to learning, and thereby to enable their children to use their powers more and more, they had time at various points during the school week to use the various talents they brought to the Twin Parks Upper School. They are now able to work with children in the areas of arts and crafts, science, cooking etc. Working at the Twin Parks Complex has proved to be an unending challenge that provides excitement and gratification as I participate in a new educational experience. Minta Spain


At The Twin Parks School

Involving paraprofessionals in the life of a school can mean anything from taking attendance and policing a classroom to teaching reading and math groups. In the Twin Parks School, where I work as a bilingual teacher of teachers, it means teaching reading and math groups in conjunction with the teachers. Their involvement is directly with the education of the children, not simply performing daily bookkeeping and housekeeping chores. They must be prepared for and supported in their efforts with the children in much the same way as the teachers. At Twin Parks, the training seminars for all teaching personnel are held with teachers and paraprofessionals jointly participating. When my colleagues and I held training seminars in LeoColor (Spanish literacy) all the bilingual teachers and paraprofessionals were there. Since the paraprofessionals have their own groups, we observe their lessons, offer feedback and give demonstrations for their groups in much the same way we do for teachers. There are surface similarities in my way of working with teachers and paraprofessionals. Yet to look only at the similarities of form is to deny the reality of each individual’s way of learning and the particular response to each situation. Just as there are children who plunge eagerly into each new thing and ones who wait to see it in its entirety before committing themselves, so are there adults. I have found that the most useless thing I can do is to make assumptions based on what I imagine to be similarities.


Involving The Paraprofessionals

One of my assignments at Twin Parks this year has been to involve in the teaching of reading in Spanish bilingual paraprofessionals who have previously taught reading in English to English speaking children. My understanding of our way of working is to affect the students’ awareness through their perceptions so that they can make sense of the task at hand, whether reading in either language or mathematics. I entered the assignment with the certainty that if the bilingual paraprofessionals were confident of their competence to teach reading in English, then switching to teaching reading in Spanish would be an easy matter for all of us. There was no doubt on anyone’s part of their ability to teach Words in Color. There was, however, some uneasiness about teaching LeoColor. The source of that uneasiness was that they were unsure that their proven skills would transfer to what they saw as a new situation. To involve them in teaching reading in Spanish, I had to work with them in two main areas. We worked out a series of daily observations where the paraprofessionals in question would spend part of the reading time observing me or another teacher of teachers working in Spanish with a group of children. This gave them a chance to see the techniques and materials in use. Gradually they began to work with the children for part of the time with one of the teacher of teachers observing and offering feedback after the lesson. As they saw that they used the same skills and their rapport with children had not changed, they assumed full responsibility for the groups. During the weekly seminars, we worked on the formalities of the Spanish language by using their awareness of their own use of it and their perceptions of what they do with themselves. All those formally educated in Spanish have at their command a series of rules which they have memorized without knowing that they possess access to the same information through their perceptions. Spanish speakers who learned to speak and read Spanish informally generally find these rules a meaningless imposition. To work in the areas of formal grammar, spelling and use of the written accent we have tried to formulate exercises which work as much as possible through perception. For


At The Twin Parks School

example in the study of the written accent we know that a Spanish speaker can hear where the stress falls in the word she utters. Then, by making collections of similar and dissimilar words and given words which carry the written accent and the ones which do not, a rule can be ascertained without having to struggle with memorizing the definitions of aguda, liana, esdrĂşjula, etc. The same sorts of exercises can be developed and used for examining Spanish orthography. These kinds of studies can help to place Spanish speakers in touch with their functionings in their language and show them that they possess the knowledge within themselves, the sense of their language which the Academy in Madrid formulates as rules. The more aware the bilingual paraprofessionals become of their own functionings in Spanish, the more relaxed they become and able to pass on to the students their own findings in the language. Mary Seager


Notes On A Mother Tongue Workshop

During a workshop at C.S. 129, I found four warm women, who, in spite of many responsibilities to their families, jobs and college courses, had a real concern for the children they teach. They were initiated, familiar with the Words in Color tools and ready to work, preferring to be called, like soldiers, by their last name. I thought that work on their personal brands of English might be a bridge to their student’s needs. They were excited about this study, seeing they could find in their own speaking, what it is to grow in using one’s mother tongue. Their enthusiasm and good nature put me at ease every time and many of the exercises that came to me proved fruitful. In making deliberate mistakes in my sentences from the charts, we saw what it is to be alert to small shifts in meaning, that we had each adopted only a few of many possible “good” English constructions for our own use. Once it was clear that no grammatical explanations were allowed this exercise also made possible a study of the limits to the uses of some words and structures. We found we didn’t always agree when the line had been crossed from “maybe” to “wrong,” or from “good” to “maybe,” or from “OK” to “understandable but weird.” Making statements with two or more meanings led to the importance of phrasing and stress (“Hector’s heŕe,” and “Hećtor’s here,” each


Involving The Paraprofessionals

answers different questions, as does: “Hector iś here”). In making statements which were sad, or foolish, or funny, we had games open to all speakers. That the ambiguities we found everywhere didn't discourage, but awakened our interest, put a new light on the simple cases and easy examples too often used in teaching. On the Fidel charts combining one consonant sound in turn with all the vowel sounds, reversing these nonsense syllables and then doing the same with one vowel sound and all the consonant sounds increased our facility and speed in connecting what we heard with the English signs for these sounds. This exercise also brought an awareness of our regional differences in pronunciation as we critically examined the colors chosen for some of the words on the charts. Several times the paras watched me work with their students. They were surprised to find themselves challenged no less than the children when we started at the beginning of reading with the “pop-up” film cassettes and games which give access to the conventions of written English. As the only requirements for these games are sight and hearing, it was now a young one and now an older one who first caught on to, or became an expert in each game. This proved helpful later when we took a closer look at the conventions without the children. One question at the workshop was what to do after students can decode most words. After making sure that this group of children could read all the words on chart 17, I set them to using the words in sentences. It became clearer as the students worked, that our earlier study of our own speech was parallel to what the children were doing. I remember the beginning of a story I wrote on the board toward the end of that lesson: “The beauty of the plateau was a treasure to Paul because in the quiet up there he could laugh and laugh. His daughter had taught him to bury his doubts and he had paid her in raw water.” It was the young ones this time who showed the most interest in listening for a meaning that was fleeting even for its author. 16

Notes On A Mother Tongue Workshop

Another point was made when I asked each participant to read aloud a passage written in a dryly old fashioned verbosity. They soon met problems students often find in their school books. Asked what they would do with such a book, they said they would certainly never read it and would probably throw it away. When I asked if their students had the same right to refuse books given them in school, their answer was an immediate: “No.” But I thought I heard a small change of voice as they answered: “Because they have to.” Steve De Giulio


Involving The Paraprofessionals As Mathematicians

Work involving the paraprofessionals at I.S. 84X in mathematics began after the six-week intensive reading program and consisted of conferences with various teacher-paraprofessional teams. From this initial contact have evolved weekly ongoing seminars, thanks largely to the concerns of the two people in charge of educational assistants. While these seminars have proved so far to be the most fruitful, sustained area of work, a couple of examples of other encounters will be given first. One paraprofessional, who had attended the summer sessions, was entrusted from the start to try for himself what he had observed taking place in the mathematics lessons. The challenge of shifting from “teaching mathematics” to creating a situation where the learners catch themselves functioning as mathematicians in this case took a particular form, since he had been assigned the topic of decimals and percentages. The textbook he had looked at presented the subject in terms of conversion tables and tedious formulae, and our joint task became one of transforming this presentation into a number of activities, first, enabling the students to become aware of using their powers of perception, of substituting for one language or notation an equivalent, of combining awarenesses to go from simple to complex expressions and operations and, secondly, providing them with the practice necessary to conquer this new area. “Not-yet games,” in particular choose an activity which is pinpointed and yet can be extended indefinitely over a particular field. The “not-yet” title 19

Involving The Paraprofessionals

indicates that answers to questions in these games can be given almost instantaneously. For example, by a virtual action of moving the decimal point two places to the left in a numeral, anyone can immediately find the answer to “What is one percent of 100., 242., 56.7, etc.” Combining this operation with others one can find almost as quickly “one-half percent of,” “two percent of”. . . . . By developing a number of these games, testing them in class evaluating the results, this paraprofessional engaged himself in a very technical way in the challenges of bringing to life a normally dull and tedious topic. The results of his activities had an effect in influencing the teachers we worked with to enquire themselves about this way of teaching. In another example illustrating the willingness of paraprofessionals to become involved, a woman, who had Just changed from working in the office to working in the classroom, happened to observe a class of a dozen or so girls engaged in the not-yet game of multiplying by 11. Having become so caught herself in the activity, she immediately made an appointment after the lesson to find out more about “this dynamic approach to mathematics.” It seemed logical after a number of such happenings to set aside a time for the paraprofessionals to study some of these questions together, and so in mid-December a weekly seminar was set up. In the first couple of the sessions the paramount notions of equivalence and transformation were investigated in a variety of games. Because equivalence has an aspect in language and writing as “another name for” this led to a study of the conventions of order of operations. The expression 3x5+2 could, without established conventions, be read either as “three times five (pause) plus two” or “three times (pause) five plus two,” thus necessitating some convention in writing. With this development we were able to write for any expression as complex or simplified an equivalent expression as desired. The sense of creativity and flexibility gained in these seminars sparked such enthusiasm that two seminars per week were requested. 20

Involving The Paraprofessionals As Mathematicians

For several sessions the focus was on fractions, one activity being an example of “another name for” using only multiples of 7: 3/2 x 14 + 2/5 x 35 - 4/3 x 21 ~ 7. After generating families of equivalent fractions and then being asked what family 15/35 belongs to, one paraprofessional burst out with “So that’s what was meant by reducing fractions.” It seems that she had made more sense of the notion of an infinite number of families of fractions, each containing an infinite number of equivalent terms than the “finite rule” for reducing fractions. In this she was being true to her functionings which allow her to be a mathematician. One of the most exciting seminars began with a geometry question someone brought from a course she had been taking. Starting from scratch with the help of the Geoboards we developed the appropriate theorem needed to solve the problem. The awareness that the theorem was itself a moment of awareness issuing from previous awarenesses created such a climate that everyone truly became aware of herself functioning as a mathematician. We covered too much in one session because we had become sensitized to ask fertile questions involving invariants, transformations, ways of classifying and other mathematizations. For example, one person, after we had developed the theorem for the sum of the measures of the angles of a triangle, asked “Can we extend this to figures of 4, 5, 6 etc. sides?” Again using the Geoboards we discovered that each figure of n-sides can be shown to contain n non-overlapping triangles, so that the sum of the measures of the angles was (n-2) x 18 ° since at the common vertex there are 2x18 °. I think everyone leaving that seminar had a profound sense of having entered the universe of mathematics as an active explorer. Zulie Catir


On Paraprofessionals At P.S. 133

The paraprofessionals are a subtle source of strength in the school system. I remember when I first began teaching, I was grateful that the paras were available to negotiate school supplies and help out with the daily procedures and records. Over the years however, more responsibility has been given them and in many cases, their work has become almost entirely indistinguishable from the teachers. They are charged with similar responsibilities and in many instances achieve outstanding success with students. P.S. 133 is fortunate this year to have received funds earmarked specifically for the establishment of several reading clinics. These clinics accommodate children who show reading difficulty at each of three levels. At its inception, I had the opportunity to work with the 3 paraprofessionals and one teacher assigned to each station. Now, these groups are quite independent of me. Hence the main thrust of my work with the paraprofessionals has been with 13 of the so-called Home Teachers.* These are women, in some cases, mothers of children in the school, who spend one hour a day in the classroom and give most of their time visiting the homes. Despite their apparent lack of contact with children in the classroom, and the fact that many of the women who have been affiliated with 133                                                         *

A position provided several years ago by the Head Start program.

Involving The Paraprofessionals

for several years had attended other workshops on Words in Color, the Algebricks and LeoColor, it has been clear to me from the outset by the kind of enthusiasm they bring with them to our 2 1/2 hour weekly workshops, that they are seriously committed to their roles as parent, teacher and student. We began this year by re-exploring ourselves through the Words in Color materials. We noted that while a few of us were using these tools for the first time, still for the more experienced among us there were opportunities to meet the unknown. Particularly when embarking on the question of what are the bricks of speech in English. The discoveries that 1

the number of vowel sounds determined the number of beats per word, and,

2 that the unaccented syllables contained (in general) the schwa or the schwi make me recall those moments of illumined insight — when one of our more experienced members realized at the level of articulation what she had functionally known for some time but had not before been able to utter. The stages of discovery are as varied as is the experience the individuals bring to the group. There were for instance, some women who had not been given full day responsibility in the classroom and hence had somewhere acquired the notion that they were not equipped to remedy reading problems in the classroom. Such a lack of confidence simply bumped up against reality when following statements of “I can’t do it,” the para successfully mastered tapping the sentence on the Fidel, or in general doing what she thought was beyond her reach. This kind of revelation occurred more frequently than in isolated incidents. Many felt for example, that they had no access to the problem “how does one work on spelling?” And yet, they began to know their power to develop criteria once work was under way. The outcome was an increased sensitivity to the kinds of questions which forced them to notice. Hence they were not only able to meet new words with more facility but they became increasingly


On Paraprofessionals At P.S. 133

aware of the probable options in for example dividing a word into its syllables or in assigning a sound to a particular sign. Evidence of this increased contact with their functioning as users of a language was their extended interest in the study of dialects, and research of the foreign words in English. So, at one level the paras have demonstrated an increased control over the language itself. They have shown a flurry of creativity manifest in numerous games which focus on particular skills, and they have, in increased numbers, brought a fresh supply of questions to the workshops. On the other hand, they have begun to develop the discipline of separating the content of a particular problem from an awareness of their functioning as solvers of that problem. Sally Kolker


At An Intermediate School In The Bronx

The paraprofessional staff at I S. 84X represents a source of vitality and dedication which is making its potential evident in a number of ways. One responsibility they’ve accepted is to help individually or in small groups those students who haven’t been able to read well enough to do the work assigned by the teachers to the class. I have joined some of the paras in their effort to make their work with the students as productive as possible. I’ve been fortunate to share in the joy and pride they’ve felt in their achievements as reflected by the progress of their students. Our work together has focused on finding the awarenesses and techniques which will allow them to move, in a short time, even the poorest readers to the point where they can function as well as their classmates. Among the paraprofessionals with whom I have worked most closely are Ms. Beauford and Ms. Roman, who share the responsibility of training their colleagues. Ms. Beauford has been working with a boy named Hector, who was able to read fewer than ten words when she first met him. It is not possible to relate in a few lines the change that has occurred in Hector not only as a reader (he now decodes familiar signs better than most adults), but as a person who now has great confidence and pride in his own learning ability. The expression on Ms. Beauford’ s face reveals her sense of joy and excitement as she finds in herself resources that allow her to help him gain access to his powers. As she functions more and


Involving The Paraprofessionals

more as an exacting technician, Hector’s enormous intelligence becomes more obvious to her. Just the other day, she said, “I want to work more with him on the harder words on the bottom charts.” Ms. Roman is trying to get all of the paraprofessionals who have been teaching reading to become better acquainted with the Words in Color program. She shares the hope that more of them will be able to find a rewarding direction for their abundant energy and their seriousness of purpose. Ted Swartz


News Items

1 On January 16th, we had the announced one-day conference on teaching reading to the deaf. Of the 40 people who responded to our invitation, 30 came. It was a good cross section of the personnel who are immediately responsible for the improvement of reading in schools for the deaf. The day proved too short for a complete examination of all the matters raised by the participants. Still at the final feedback session many comments were that it had been a very worthwhile experience. The day began with the guests reading a two page statement by Dr. Gattegno which can be summarized as follows: if it is possible that reading can be taught entirely visually, as is claimed, then deaf students will own a dynamic approach to language with a sense of why changes occur in words and sentences. This mental equipment will then make the conquest of the spoken language a much more manageable task since intelligence of the language will be available. At the first meeting a demonstration that the claim above is based on fact, took the form of making the participants learn to point at Chinese characters (unknown to all) as an equivalent of making sounds for the names of specific objects and for going through specific actions on these objects. Orders were given by silently pointing at signs resulting in actions which were acceptable to the audience as fulfilling agreed conventions. Some participants were even able to take the initiative


Involving The Paraprofessionals

and ask for what had not been demonstrated by simply pointing at signs. After this demonstration, the Absolute Visual Reading film was shown in segments each followed by an examination of the content; the way it could be used in a classroom and which were the problems it could solve better than other means. As usual, when professionals meet, the novel was contrasted to the old and only accepted if it appeared capable of being compatible with one’s preconceptions. The third session concerned itself with the expansion of vocabulary. We had prepared samples of how we were tackling this task at Educational Solutions. The first chart we showed linked the contents of the 30 minutes of film with clusters of words that can be presented and practiced in classroom lessons. These extensions will be spelled out in a set of materials and in a teacher book being written at this time. We saw, in particular, how reading the clock follows from the knowledge of the reading of numerals and how that experience can be transferred to solving problems on time. The second chart shown indicated how a systematic study of the expansions of vocabulary could be connected with “illustrated sentences” through sets of booklets we may call by that name. A third chart referred to the vocabulary of the family i.e. the labeling of relatives included in four successive generations. Since the deaf must acquire language at the same time as they meet the words for everything, a demonstration was given of how to use colored rods and the “Silent Way” charts to make sure that students can use the English written language as freely as the group did in the morning, the Chinese. Since we know a great deal about teaching silently foreign languages, this knowledge could be transferred almost wholesale to teaching the deaf. The very few illustrations given only convinced those who could relate immediately to the functional vocabulary on the charts and see how easily it solved very difficult teaching problems. The group expressed interest for future joint effort and for moving ahead together. Mr. N.J. Leigh who was present at the seminar, lent to four institutions four copies of the first half of the 30 minutes of film he


News Items

helped produce through a generous grant from his foundation dedicated to the education of the deaf. 2 On February 5th, a group of principals and delegates from schools in 3 boroughs of the city came to our headquarters to examine what we have to offer schools. We consider that: 1

we have solutions to some of the more pressing problems in public schools, and,

2 that we can implement them through the regular personnel of each school. Our guests were free to spend as long as they cared to in one of seven rooms we devoted to specific functions. In one of them two of our colleagues responded to any questions concerning mathematics education and demonstrated our procedures and the materials which make these possible. In a second room we had our video tape equipment showing classroom work from kindergarten and special education to language classes for adults. There, too, we had on display and for examination a new product for evaluation which we hope will meet the needs of people concerned about the faults of present day testing materials; and also some of our proposals for teaching reading to the deaf. In a third room, we concentrated the materials for bilingualism and foreign languages (known as the Silent Way) and three of our colleagues gave demonstrations. The Chinese materials were in another room where the educators who have need for this language were given a demonstration. The room devoted to reading the native language was the most popular and kept busy all the time. The A/V room showed films during the reception. The reception area was used for an oral presentation to the whole group of how we proceed when we go to a school to assist teachers to subordinate teaching to learning. This question-and-answer period allowed a number of points to be clarified. We were gratified to see so many principals face the rigorous weather to come to our offices. We gave them some of our literature to extend their acquaintance with us. 31

Involving The Paraprofessionals


Two new books will appear next month.

One Thousand Sentences for ESL teachers who want to extend the vocabulary of their students in areas of everyday living. The sentences are clustered in a sequence of topics, beginning with the home and extending to the government of a country. The cultural elements refer to life in the United States and may not apply to Great Britain and other English-speaking countries. The written word does not teach by itself, so users will need to develop an approach that couples the contents with the use of pictures and worksheets or the teacher’s own illustrations. The Common Sense of Teaching Mathematics written for elementary school teachers who have to introduce beginners to various chapters of mathematics, this book may be of particular benefit to remedial teachers in any school. Perhaps teacher trainers will gain most because of the explicit presentation of a new epistemology which appears for the first time in this text in the form of a curriculum for schools. The book concerns itself with the extraction of as much mathematics as possible from the set of one’s fingers, a set that all students carry with them every hour of the day. On the basis of this considerable yield, much that was formerly scattered over several school years can now be studied in a very short time and by very young children. It is on these foundations that the algebra displayed by the various actions (and virtual actions) on Algebricks provides the understanding, the accuracy and the swiftness of computation with whole numbers and fractions still demanded in elementary schools, and that can be easily achieved by almost all students in the first few grades. Teachers will find many common sense suggestions which they can readily adopt and find both useful and motivating in their classroom. Plainly written yet profound it may make a difference to teachers’ lives.


About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesn’t require his students to memorize anything, he doesn’t shout or at times even say a word, and his students learn at an accelerated rate because they are truly interested. In a world where memorization, recitation, and standardized tests are still the norm, Gattegno was truly ahead of his time. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1911, Gattegno was a scholar of many fields. He held a doctorate of mathematics, a doctorate of arts in psychology, a master of arts in education, and a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry. He held a scientific view of education, and believed illiteracy was a problem that could be solved. He questioned the role of time and algebra in the process of learning to read, and, most importantly, questioned the role of the teacher. The focus in all subjects, he insisted, should always be placed on learning, not on teaching. He called this principle the Subordination of Teaching to Learning. Gattegno travelled around the world 10 times conducting seminars on his teaching methods, and had himself learned about 40 languages. He wrote more than 120 books during his career, and from 1971 until his death in 1988 he published the Educational Solutions newsletter five times a year. He was survived by his second wife Shakti Gattegno and his four children.

Involving The Paraprofessionals  
Involving The Paraprofessionals  

Newsletter, Vol. III No. 3, February 1974