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Clinic Cases

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno


vol. X no. 2

December 1980

First published in 1980. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1980-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-302-9 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555

“Education is an empirical process� we often say here. To work in the here and now, and on concrete situations, is what all of us educators do even if we are not quite aware of it. Clinic cases are simple magnified occasions in which we see more clearly 1) that something must be done, and 2) when the proper thing is done, that a visible change takes place. The contents of this Newsletter are reports by a few of us who work or worked as clinicians at the Psychopedagogical Clinic of our Corporation. In previous issues we published a number of reports of our clinic cases which readers may recall or have still access to if they keep the Newsletters. This time we focus on the value for the Science of Education of this empirical work and the gathering of evidence. In the issues of Volume X, we will have collected information and suggested topics of research on what is considered as special education in the Districts. For us clinic cases are chances to learn, to study and to be inspired to take steps and find that they are in the right direction. We hope our readers will feel the same. News items as usual close the issue. They represent half the text.

Table of Contents

1 Opening Article ................................................................. 1 Case Sample #1................................................................................... 5 Case Sample #2 .................................................................................. 9 Case Sample #3 .................................................................................11 2 A Clinician’s Testimony................................................... 13 1 In A Reading Clinic, The Work Is Custom Tailored..................... 13 2 In A Reading Clinic, The Work Is Short-Term And Intensive. ... 14 3 In A Reading Clinic, It Is Not Reading Which Is Taught. ........... 15 News Items ......................................................................... 19

1 Opening Article

We named our Clinic, as it is done in Europe, Psychopedagogical, because we wanted to be concerned with difficulties in learning which can be remedied by the exercise of learning. There are so many reasons for children to be in difficulty that it may require a large organization to bring them back to where people around them want them to be in their school work. Before accepting a case we offer a diagnostic session at which we make sure for ourselves that we can help. If we accept someone, in general, we do not take long to finish the job. Rarely do we need to give more than ten sessions to do what is required. In that, our Clinic differs radically from others which accept cases that are far harder to treat than ours and therefore they cannot forecast how long it may take to solve the psychopedagogical problems confronting them. In what follows we shall be concerned with a number of clinic cases for which we can describe how we diagnose the trouble and how we attempt to provide a way out. Our clients don’t know how deep the trouble of theirs or that of their brother or sister, son or daughter, husband or wife is. They vaguely know that things are not as they should be, or hear from their school or work situation that a change must take place — and soon — or else. They come to us recommended by previous satisfied clients or because friends of ours heard of some of our cases which impressed them for one reason or another.


Clinic Cases

We work on troubles connected with mathematics at all levels; with illiteracy for people of any age, including native speakers of English, French, Spanish and other languages; with spelling in any one of the above languages, with writing, with reading at the higher levels including college; with test-taking difficulties, with pronunciation and other rare problems like the recuperation of one’s native language after years of not using it. In our diagnostic session we establish, as soon as possible, whether the person in front of us has the mental equipment required to enter into the studies he or she is supposed to be engaged in, either because of one’s age or because of the choice made for oneself or by oneself. We do it by asking the person in question to engage in a kind of exercise which is akin to the tasks at which failure has been registered. While engaged in these exercises we discover how they learn, what they do with themselves in front of a simple challenge, how much of their past exposure to similar tasks in their studies is still available, to what extent and in what shape. Because we use teaching as an instrument for diagnosis we can measure some progress during the time spent to diagnose and assess through work, how long it would take for the required mastery to develop. So many of our clinic cases display remarkable aptitudes to dominate the field we present them that we cannot believe they are the persons described in the reports issued by schools or psychologists. Since their tests use other means than ours and since they believe in the objectivity of scores, we must accept that this particular subject can behave very differently in those circumstances and the ones we present them. At least, this is learned at once: this case will perform well if he or she can make sense of the challenge and is allowed to express what he or she perceives in the situations. Of course, we also use powerful instruments not available in other clinics and have sensitized ourselves to mental moves inaccessible to those who look only at the results. By coupling that sensitivity and the instruments, we let our cases relax, feel that they are being helped because they hear themselves and see, in front of them what the person 2

1 Opening Article

working with them, singles out for their perception, and comments about as being the thing required to forge ahead. Indeed, at once, proof is given that it is so, and another, harder task is being tackled, at once. At our Clinic, no time is wasted in exclamations and congratulations. Our cases are seen as being themselves and not as they should be. If the task at hand is tackled easily, the feedback is that the subject is already ahead of it. If it is impossible to tackle, then another one is given to test if it meets the means available. At no moment is it felt that a congratulation for overcoming a trivial problem is consistent with respect of himself demanded by a student. So the only feedback allowed from the teacher could be: “Now, on this, you are as good as I am.” Which must be true to reach the student more used to thinking: “I am no good.” We therefore parcel tasks so that they can be perceived and approached with care but not with hesitation, tackled with attention and respect and not rushed into. We ask questions, which are only concerned with the task at hand not with the person working; and that until a matter of fact attitude results. Our diagnostic session is the most important one for it sets the tone of the relationship and establishes the rules of the games we play and will play. Often, after that first session there may be a second one, for we cannot acquire knowledge for our clients and all learning has to be theirs and be genuine, hence providing as much time as is needed. But we cannot make them pay for our presence only, and if they are doing what they could do alone. Our work is to encourage a perspective of work commensurate with the challenge, if looking is needed, then we work on looking so that seeing follows; if listening is needed, likewise, leaving to them the hearing and the knowing of what has been heard. We could say that our role is to reestablish the discipline of learning as it is required by the functions leading to the various masteries which are part of school achievement. Thus, instead of mathematics we ask for mathematization; instead of good spelling, improved connection with words so that they are perceived for what they are and should remain; instead of reading we offer the attitude of: 1

letting words tell one what one should say;


Clinic Cases

2 stringing them together in the manner of the spoken language, 3 seeing that what one has heard makes sense in the way listening to someone speaking to oneself does, 4 taking steps, when that is not the case, to bring it to be the case: like going to a dictionary for a word; asking a question or more from knowledgeable persons, or suspending judgment until one has grown in the field concerned. Instead of writing according to outside standards, we provide a) transcription in writing of what one says naturally and spontaneously, b) examination of the result to find in it whether it is what one wanted to say, whether it can do that, whether some slight and particular changes here or there would achieve that end, and c) recasting of the words to allow elegance, economy, clarity, also to be present. Awareness of some of the many devices created by the best and surviving writers, that may give one a stronger grip upon expression: the true responsibility of the writer. Of course, every clinic case challenges us differently and thus we can, ourselves too, grow in capacity to handle harder and rarer cases. Our clinic is, of course, the school where we educate ourselves to define better our work with people who come to us for help and although we shall never a priori know whether we can indeed help anybody who turns to us, we know that we always did our best and found proof (at our level, at the time) that we were of some assistance to them. The criterion was that soon they left us, taking good care of themselves. At all stages of our growth, this criterion was our guide. We may today do the job in less time, not necessarily very differently. Now to our samples. . . . . Of the many clinic cases I worked with I shall select five because they will not ask too much space to be adequately reported and because of their variety and the significance of the challenge they represent. Some of them will also shed some light on what constitutes a “cure� to the ills that brought the subjects to our Clinic.


1 Opening Article

Case Sample #1 Two men almost the same age (around 30) happen to have come to us during the same year. One was the owner of a company and its chief executive, the other an assistant plumber in a hospital. They were as different as one could wish and had only two things in common both were totally illiterate and had come to us for help. In the diagnostic session with the first we had the most telling example of the devastating effect of teaching reading by first teaching the alphabet. Let us call Z this subject. The second (we shall call A ) displayed the effects of the opposite way of teaching: through whole words. Z, when presented with any word, could quickly and accurately tell the sequence of names of letters in it from left to right, but he stopped there. On no occasion the transformation that most children carry out, of saying “ay tea” is the trigger for the word which in English sounds “at” came to him. Thus for the last 24 or 25 years of his life that person had never made sense of reading. Only that part of the process in which he had cooperated with a teacher — perhaps happily and surely successfully— to show he could name the letters as instructed, had appeared a possible task. Perhaps he had been socially rewarded for knowing his alphabet and for attaching the traditional name to the shape of any letter. What happened to him at school is of course lost in the past. What was happening now was that he showed that until this session with me, he had believed he was doing the right thing which did not yield for him what others around him produced: English speech. The diagnostic soon made us arrive at the treatment: if Z could only stop in himself the useless and demoralizing reflex of naming letters and learn to do other things with himself when placed in front of a word, he might learn to read. It would be an entirely new activity. But one he could master in a short time if it made sense to him. Since he was obviously very intelligent, capable and industrious, such hope was justified. All that observers could have seen was that for 90 minutes, we struggled to get him to stop naming letters. Although from my side there was also the requests of saying what I was showing him — in color on the charts—the main spontaneous activity of his remained the 5

Clinic Cases

well established reflex and the naming of letters. He would see that it was part of pit, sit, fit, wit, lit, but he could not say it by himself when shown this word. He could say it immediately after me and nod that it was part of the other words I pointed at when asked. There were two watertight compartments in his mind, one related to that old habit and one ready to entertain as a totally independent activity what I asked him to do. My job was clear: let him leave alone those bad habits and engage in looking with fresh eyes at the colored words on the charts hanging on the wall in front of him. Asking him not to say the letter names was most of what I was heard to saying during those 90 minutes. This took the form of: “what? again!” when he fell again into the habit of saying “ay ess” for is, “pea ey tea” for pat for example. Since he had been giving evidence that he had noticed that color existed and that very different shapes did carry the same color and the same shape could be colored differently, I let him leave without him feeling he had achieved anything. I counted on his mental activities in his sleep, to break through the main obstacle, i.e. finding ways of returning to his childhood and the mechanisms he developed then in the particular inner climates of his at that age. He would acknowledge in the session that he was all too happy to do what he always did and was counting on me to make him ready by telling him the words touched and he repeating them. Since this did not happen, he left not too happy. But when he returned a few days later it was clear that his intelligence had worked miracles. The next 90 minute session was spent in letting him look at words and because of the color code sound them as English words. Stringing words uttered by the process of decoding color, struck him as capable of generating sounds that formed intelligible statements, he could now recognize as part of his everyday speech. Because a large number of sentences were being uttered and none as a repeat of what someone else was saying, he experienced both an intellectual and affective transformation. At the end of the session he transferred the conquered awarenesses to the printed page. If one had been a strict reading judge it had only worked more or less. But for me the breakthrough was somewhere else. I gave him to practice by reading out of one of my texts of short passages until we would meet


1 Opening Article

the following week. He never returned. His wife called us and said: “Z is reading the short passages so well that he decided not to return to the Clinic. He does not need anyone to go on from there!” In three hours of clinic the work had been done. The proof of that was in the independence he now showed. *** A, was a very different subject. He did not know the names of the letters, for he never said them during his ten hours of clinic work with me. The first day, as he stood in front of the word charts he said “pig” for any one of the words I pointed at. When I asked him how could it be since each of them was different, he did not know. He was indeed totally illiterate. But he had retained one reflex from his schooling, he would make a sound when shown a design that would trigger in any of the written forms the awareness that it was something to utter, something in exchange for it. Why and what? was not part of him. I consoled myself by saying: “At least this, I shall not have to teach him!” and I embarked upon making him make sense of reading. The process was to give him a statement such as “I am here” which he understood, by pointing at the three locations on the vast expanse of words covering the 20 charts, which contained “ I,” “am,” “here,” and let him point at each in turn as he uttered what they trigger in us, and in that order. By speeding up the pointing the words would come out as a sentence and he soon said it naturally as if he understood it. When asked if he knew what he had “read,” he said “yes, I’m here.” From there, I established that color is there to help him know what to say. I made sure he understood that the two colors of I were recognized in the y of my in the i of mind in the igh of night in the ie of lie in the eye of eyes and I gave him only the word my, taking m from am. He worked on that word and recognized its sound in mind and might. We worked for some time on “my eye” and made the artificial sentence “I am my eye” by just going over the four words to make sure he would only let one of these words sound by itself and only when pointed at.


Clinic Cases

What all this means is that with A a great deal of time was spent obtaining from him that he acquired what we call “the discipline of reading,” which means letting each word tell one what to say. Once a small number of words were secured, by pointing at them in various sequences or various combinations, we would produce a large number of sentences. Thus A would never be able to fall into a routine and repeat anything automatically. Instead he had to be alert, to retain the sequence pointed at and utter it in one go after its pointing ended. They were all statements he would use in speaking about ordinary life matters such as “I sat with them,” “this man is old,” “my hat is black” and so on. He could see that reading was to let printed words convey by their form and their combinations various meanings as the spoken words do. When A became aware of this, he made considerable progress and could retain long sequences of words selected from the 20 word charts and utter them naturally after a short practice. The main difficulties with A were: 1

he was not innerly motivated to acquire the skill, having been under pressure from his mother and paid for by his Union, so as to be promoted to plumber;

2 he came regularly in the beginning and often enough to see the cumulative effect of his learning but when he let weeks go by much of the work done had to be gone over reducing considerably the earlier good hourly yield; 3 he had been treated for some mental troubles (whether real or not was not known to us) by drastic methods and he did not use his will all the time and normally. The miracle of the first four or five meetings when he managed to break through so much in a relatively short time and encouraged our hopes, was replaced by routine encounters and small advances where giant steps were possible and could have become routine. A did not return after ten meetings except once, six months later, to show us that some learning had taken place for good and would remain with him forever, but not to justify outsiders to provide him scholarships and time off to complete a job he started so well. The


1 Opening Article

excitement of seeing him rush through major obstacles and perform tasks of clearly a large magnitude, made us certain that his case was remediable. The absence of social terms of reference, such as test scores, prevented us from proving that to him or to others. A represents for us one of our greatest sources of enlightenment in this field, for he gave us a chance to see how working carefully, slowly, pinpointedly and with a sense of the dynamics of the mind, it is possible to give a battered person the sight of what there is to do to become a user of new mental techniques that remained hidden from him for a quarter of a century, although available to so many of his contemporaries. A was considered mentally retarded because he could not read. He was left at the same rung of the social ladder because he could not read. “We proved� to ourselves that he could learn to read if we did not take him all the way in a dozen hours.

Case Sample #2 Two of the math clinic cases I wish to describe concern two adolescent girls I worked with, 7 years apart, one a senior in a high school in Manhattan, the other a ninth grader in Brooklyn. Both were demoralized when they came to us sent by friends of theirs who trusted that we would not be guided by the school reports which we find often biased and no help in guiding us in our work. The first one, B had been told by her math teacher that she had no brains for math particularly for trignometry which they had on their curriculum. At our first session it was clear that B was a reasonable young lady using her common sense with ease, studious and serious. All these formulae she had memorized made no sense and she could never answer any questions. So, I set about trying to make her see that there was very little to memorize and that much of what she was to learn could be deduced from a very small number of obvious relationships easily established. I showed her a film I made in England in the early sixties, in which the basis of trigonometry is found in a point describing the circumference of a circle. Looking at this movement in different ways not only allows the introduction of the


Clinic Cases

trigonometric ratios but also the formulae from which all other formulae result through algebra (cf. Newsletter Vol. IX # 3). It all made sense for B who, although disbelieving, expressed what I needed to hear to know she was on top of that chapter. Two more meetings with a young colleague who was not a math specialist and could show how one reads problems to make sense of them before one attempts to solve them, were sufficient to release the clinic case and state to her: “Go back to your class and you will see that all will be all right.” Indeed, a message from a common acquaintance told us soon after that not only was B doing well in her trig classes but that her teacher marveled at the change and enquired how it did happen. She only answered: “Now it all makes sense and seems easy.” An excellent summing up. C the ninth grader, spent about 4 hours at our Clinic and was told that she does not need to come back, except perhaps if she felt that only from us she would get the kind of help she felt she still needed. She never came back. Her fat math textbook under her arm and full of apprehension, this young adolescent came in to see us. Her mother came with her and was told that the day will be divided into a morning 75 minute session for diagnostic and a 3 hour after lunch to see how much she could do with us. At the morning session it became soon clear that all her difficulties came from her not allowing any formulation of any problem reach her. Thus we embarked upon looking at simple questions and letting the discipline required to take them in, work. Her intelligence involved she gave herself the sight of her powers to analyze, retain, transform what was given, to obtain what by itself dictated what was to be the answer to the given question. I only told her: “Do you see what makes this question an easy one?” or “Do not let the form intimidate you, let it become what you need to see the answer.” Looking at the chapters in her book she had made herself unable to relate to, we found that if she let her common sense work the difficulties, indeed vanished. Succeeding again and again by herself to squeeze out of a problem the answer asked for, her sight became acute 10

1 Opening Article

and she worked faster and faster, without pen and paper, being challenged on another problem as soon as she solved one. No congratulation for succeeding, only a higher hurdle to overcome. The tempo of work accelerated to become what she could handle in a heightened mood of intellectual penetration and the ensuing excitement made her more competent, more concentrated, more daring. At the same time pages and pages of the book became meaningful, even a source of welcome challenges. Working for three more hours with a colleague in the afternoon gave her all she needed to become an independent, autonomous and responsible student of her math curriculum. In the next test at school she scored 98% and her teacher could not understand what had happened to her, where, and why? C only said: “I find it easy after looking at it all in a different light.�

Case Sample #3 The last case I will mention here is very special but also very startling. A 44 year old man, foreman for AT&T came to us to learn quickly some Spanish as he had been posted to Puerto Rico on a project and wished to be able to relate to workers in their language. Of course, he could have learned some Spanish in a total immersion course and in 3 weeks make considerable headway. But his background suggested something else to me. Son of a Costa Rican mother and a German father he was born in Costa Rica and spoke Spanish till the age of twelve. For 30 years he did not use that language having come to the United States and spent his life in environments that only required English. He was sure he had forgotten all his Spanish for he could not say anything except in English. This we tested and found to be true. He did not understand any statement made in Spanish, orally or in writing. So I suggested to him that I would rather bring back his own Spanish of his youth than take him as a new learner of that language. He did not understand my purposes but was prepared to cooperate provided he learned Spanish in the time left before his departure.


Clinic Cases

The approach consisted in making him first find in him the melody of Spanish which would encounter least resistance in his psyche and once it was back to let it pull the vocabulary out of storage and let this play its part in the return of expressions, structures and written images. I counted on the role of sleep in learning to do most of the work which our reason cannot do because there are no justifications for one to believe that the forgotten material will surge to consciousness. Still it did, and less than ten hours later the foreman was confident that Spanish was at hand if not fully there as it had been 30 years later. A month later a letter from Puerto Rico in flowered and accurate Spanish brought us his gratitude for having recuperated his native speech and for the help his work with us did in that respect. I have no doubt that in his position and with his ordinary preoccupations he had no way of understanding what we did. That his forgotten language came back and became functional he took for granted and he saw nothing extraordinary in our fishing expedition and in the techniques of recuperation. For us it was a very important experiment from which we learned much on behalf of everybody. *** Thus our Clinic does more than rescue people in trouble, it gives us a human laboratory where we can test again and again the work of awareness in learning, the cumulative effect of learning, the role of sleep in learning, the place of common sense and of making sense in mastering skills and above all to let challenges educate us and force us to find techniques to meet them as fully as we can. We both learn from the magnified aspects of things as they are brought to us by our cases and use that learning to become every day better equipped to meet adequately a new challenge that comes our way. The many people we helped over the years helped us become what we can call true clinicians, i.e. people who look at each case to find out what it is and refuse to replace him or her by a schema approaching a known description. Caleb Gattegno


2 A Clinician’s Testimony

I label myself, among other things, a reading clinician. Many other people label themselves similarly. More than once I have been struck by the fact that some of those others have something very different from what I have in mind when we speak of clinical work in reading. In fact, it can be so different that I am certain that either I or they should stop using the same label. Which is not to say that all the people who teach in all the various clinics should think the same way or do the same things. But there would appear to be certain aspects of the work that transpires in a reading clinic which distinguish it from what presently goes on in most tutorial centers, for example, or in regular, ongoing classes. Examining those distinguishing aspects may yield insights into a way of working which could then have broader appeal and application, so that in the end the regular classroom teacher or the tutor might ultimately emulate what will best serve the interests of their students.

1 In A Reading Clinic, The Work Is Custom Tailored “Individualized instruction� is a worn out phrase. Most educators would agree that, as an application of certain principles designed to make time devoted to learning more fruitful, the individualization of instruction is an end toward which to strive. However, its usefulness as a concept has been diluted by recipes for instruction, the proliferation of commercially prepared workbooks, dittos and other materials, as well as various test-teach-retest models for teaching. As a result, it


Clinic Cases

presently adds only a small amount of improvement to what generally transpires. In a reading clinic, the actual, moment to moment needs of the learner are analyzed and met on the spot. The more traditional approach to individualization — usually referred to as diagnostic-prescriptive teaching — is thus replaced by a shifting and wholly flexible responsiveness to the changing needs of the learner. No preset instructional steps, no matter how pinpointedly defined, can replace a teacher who maintains a vulnerability to the real person with whom one is confronted, and who is prepared to reassess, reformulate, and modify his or her approach at any moment, according to the impacts received. There is no special talent or hidden magic which allows the reading clinician constantly to mold his instruction according to the real course of events that transpire. It is only the maintenance of an attitude of suspended judgment, one which dictates an empirical approach that is continuously open to modification and refinement. Rather than thinking, “I know a priori just what to do for this student, based on the results of this or that assessment procedure,” the reading clinician accepts that it is only in the actual working together that the truth can be revealed, and that such truth can change as the very result of the work. By remaining open to the uniqueness of what goes on, one learns from each and every student how to custom tailor the work for that particular individual.

2 In A Reading Clinic, The Work Is Short-Term And Intensive. Whatever problems may have prevented a student from reaching a sufficient mastery of reading, it is encumbent on the clinician to strike as directly as possible at the very heart of the matter. Remediation must be capsulized, so that the time required to achieve a solution can be thought of in terms of hours of work together, rather than months or years.


2 A Clinician’s Testimony

A sense of responsibility permeates the reading clinician regarding the use of the minutes available during a session with a student. Each minute is considered precious, both in terms of its relative scarcity and of its potential to yield significant learning. As much progress as the clinician is capable of initiating needs to be packed into each minute. But this compression of much learning into a relatively short span of time can only be accomplished through a sensitivity to and compassion for the person worked with, so that the carefully orchestrated momentum is not felt as undue pressure. The reading clinician knows that rapid remediation is possible only when the learner takes charge of her own learning. Therefore, exercises are given only when they can generate criteria, and lead to the situation where the student knows not only what is being asked of her, but why it is being asked. For example, because in English so many different sounds may be given to a particular sign, and because context does not always provide meaning, one’s inherent quest for growth and independence actually forces one to refer, at appropriate times, to the dictionary. Once the relevant criteria regarding the nature of the language are established for a student, the clinician trusts that the student will use the dictionary when necessary, and will in fact teach herself, at a certain point, how to reach meaning through that portion of the written language which remains to be conquered. The clinician knows, at such a stage, that his job is completed. The idea that the student in reality is teaching herself to read brings us to the last and perhaps most significant point.

3 In A Reading Clinic, It Is Not Reading Which Is Taught. This bizarre sounding statement expresses a profound awareness on the part of the clinician, that the content of the language is the concern of the learner, not of the person working with the learner. The clinician attends to such matters as: Is this person looking at what is in front of her? Is this person listening to herself? Is she comparing what is seen to what is heard? Is she stubborn? Or confused? Or undisciplined?


Clinic Cases

To the extent that such questions are entertained, the clinician can be said to be concerned with functionings of the student. Once the appropriate functionings are operative, the student plainly teaches herself how to read, and the clinician more or less delegates to himself the role of bystander for whatever short period of time he needs to be convinced that the student is on the right track. The talents of the clinician are truly tapped only when he encounters a particularly persistent misuse, by a person, of their mental powers. A student may appear trapped, for example, in the bad habit of looking only at the first few letters of a multisyllable word and guessing at what the word is, with little or no regard for the semantic or syntactic content of what precedes or follows. Exercise after exercise and/or admonition after admonition may produce improved performance from time to time or for a selected set of words covered during the clinical sessions; but the student may nevertheless remain essentially entrenched in a way of functioning which causes her undue trouble when she attempts to use reading as a tool for one purpose or another. In such a situation, the clinician’s responsibility is to devise yet another technique, one which can affect the student at a deeper level of awareness, so that she is agitated enough to effect internally the necessary reconsideration of how she is relating to printed material. Thus, time is consumed in the reading clinic, not in acquiring subject matter, but in reaching that moment when the student finds within herself the clarity and the resources to relate appropriately to the challenges as they in fact descend upon her. The tutor or the regular classroom teacher may find, in the clinician’s ways of working, certain things to benefit them in their own work. If individual students in a reading clinic can teach themselves how to read, why not look for the same from individual students in a tutoring situation? Or from small or even large groups of students in a regular class? Is it not possible to replace the framework that dictates an emphasis on subject matter with one that prompts a consideration of how the students are using their mental resources to cope with the subject matter? Is it not more of a burden to the teacher of 30 or 40 students to try to teach all of them all the same things at the same time, than it is to spend the same amount of time divided between making


2 A Clinician’s Testimony

sure the students are functioning properly and then turning them loose to teach themselves? If tutors and teachers were to function more as the clinician does, and were to custom tailor their teaching to the actual needs of their students, so that in a relatively brief period of time the students take charge of their own learning and teach themselves, who is to lose from such a state of affairs? It would seem that only people such as myself would lose, for the services I offer as a clinician would be forthcoming through sources more closely connected with the normal state of affairs. I am prepared to accept that fate. Ted Swartz


News Items

1 On the weekend of October 24-26, the New York State English to Speakers of Other Languages and Bilingual Educators Association (NYS ESOL BEA) had its tenth annual conference at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, NYC. Educational Solutions was represented at three of the concurrent sessions; Dr. Gattegno conducted a 2-hour seminar entitled, “Reducing the Cost of Learning a New Language,” Steve Shuller made a presentation, “Using Video Tapes of Learners as a Teacher Training Tool” and Sarah Benesch led an exercise on the role of listening in teaching pronunciation, “Are We Listening?” A. Dr. Gattegno’s session was attended by about 50 ESL and bilingual educators. The talk focused on energy transformations in the spoken language and on letting students know what they need to do with themselves in order to learn the target language. There were 9 different Sound Color charts hanging on the wall. The first problem was how to discover what is common to the native and target languages. Dr. Gattegno had one participant come and find all the colored rectangles that appeared on the English Sound Color chart which also appeared on one of the other charts. This demonstrated that a student whose native language is English need only learn 6 new sounds (all of them vowels) in that other language. It was suggested that when the size of the task is made apparent, the level of frustration may be lowered. In terms of energy, repetition of what is already known is avoided and the student is free to pursue the actual challenges which the target language presents in a precise way.


Clinic Cases

The second problem was how to convey to students which vowels are to be stressed in particular words. Here, energy is transferred from the teacher who hits the rectangle for the stressed vowel with the pointer, to the students who utter the word as the native speaker would. Rather than relating to the student’s ear which does not function as a voluntary organ, the teacher relates to his voice production system which can respond to the student’s will. The expenditure of energy from the teacher’s arm is immediately transferable to the student’s utterance. There is the energy of affectivity at work as well as that which is equipped to respond to the will. The third topic for examination was the summoning up of the energy it takes to get through a statement. This includes the internal distribution of energy (sounds and stresses) as well as the running together or phrasing. Melody, the risings and fallings of the voice in the stringing together of statements, was then brought up. Intonation was referred to as a transformation of the energy of affectivity, a function of the state of mind of the speaker rather than an attribute of the language. In response to the various questions raised and to sum up the session, Dr. Gattegno reiterated his way of relating to students as systems which process, analyze act upon energy. These two hours were a clear demonstration of how “the paradigm of language learning is changed when energy transformations are the central concept.” B. Steve Shuller’s seminar was an examination of the uses of video tapes in teacher training. Some selections from the series, English The Silent Way, were used. The advantages of these video tapes are 1

the teacher is not visible, forcing viewers to watch the students,

2 each video tape is a self-contained unit since the content of each one is introduced and worked on within the halfhour allotted to each tape, 3 the students are from various language backgrounds and although they are all beginners some are more experienced language learners than others.


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Before the participants in the seminar viewed the tapes, Steve suggested techniques of observation which attempt to avoid interferences. The challenge is one of watching without interpreting or becoming distracted with thoughts which the tapes might trigger. After the participants viewed 5 minutes of one tape, there was a discussion of what was seen. Some participants proved to be more observant than others, but it was obvious that the video tapes make human learning visible and can provide the basis of a discussion on the topics of teaching and learning. Once all the observations had been collected by the group, there was a discussion in which those observations were interpreted. That is, after the facts had been established, the following questions, among others, were explored: “What makes a good language learner?” “How can a teacher work with students so that he or she is neither overwhelmed nor bored?” “What is the role of students vis-a-vis one member of the class who is having difficulty?” The workshop ended with the viewing of another short section from one of the video tapes. A few participants stayed to ask questions about the use of the tapes for teacher training in their work. C. Listening was the topic of a 11/2 hour workshop conducted by Sarah Benesch. The 25 participants were first asked how much French they knew. Most had studied for a few years in high school or college. Only one expressed confidence in his ability to speak French. An exercise in which the students worked on their pronunciation of French followed. Sarah pointed to words, phrases and sentences on a couple of Word charts and got the students to make their utterances more native-like by having them listen to themselves and to other students. One participant was an eager learner, but had never had the chance in her previous French classes to find out what she needed to do to make her utterances sound French. Her pronunciation of “rouge” was one place where she needed to work. In fact the whole group became involved in the exercise of putting the French “r” in their throats as well as helping this one woman. After listening to the others and getting the indication from the teacher of where the sound needed to come from, she came out with it, much to her surprise and delight.


Clinic Cases

The feedback which followed the pronunciation exercises was animated. The participants who had outwardly been the most engaged expressed frustration at not knowing what the “right” sound was. This led into a discussion of the role of the teacher, the responsibility of each student in his own learning, the role of a student in the learning of other students, and finally, what it is to truly learn and to know that one knows. One student who had shown a preference for working by herself during the exercise summed up her experience by declaring, “It was me listening to myself.” Another participant who had considered herself an adequate speaker of French learned where she had to improve. Another expressed surprise that those who had been so involved were voicing dissatisfaction during the feedback. 2 During November, like every year, Dr. Gattegno visited Europe. This time he spent a few days in Lyon, in Paris and in Geneva giving courses which produced material that may interest our readers. A. In Lyon, teaching Russian I to a class of 18 students who were all beginners — with about half acquainted with The Silent Way — he experimented with retention and with the ease of combining words and expressions to produce new expressions. Greater yields followed these experiments. Joy and freedom with the language were the climate all through the 16 hours of the course. A participant knew he acquired a lot of Russian, more than he expected to gain in 40 hours of classes even with The Silent Way. Using the rectangles-Fidel, a dozen sentences were generated, that were placed invisibly on the chalkboard with the pointer, one beneath the other as if they had been written. That all of them could be retained together and separately, struck everyone. But more spectacular still were the sentences that could be added as combinations of these invisible words. Each sentence was uttered as a flow of words that any Russian could have recognized as very good and totally understandable.


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Two hours were given to that and all the sounds of Russian encountered and produced with ease and accuracy although no one except the students made the sounds (accepted or worked on according to need). Two hours were devoted — as it is now usual in Silent Way classes — to numeration and the practice of long strings of sounds they generate, to affect breathing as Russians do and to discover that in that field one can be as good as natives. Reading and writing in he Cyrillic script had been introduced at the moment numeration was mastered with the rectangles, suggesting the sounds when the figures appeared on the chalkboard. When the colored Word Chart N was put up a very short time was needed to allow students to write in black and white on paper or with chalk on the board, displaying a very legible set of sequences of words. Two hours were spent in applying numeration to telling time which in Russian is a challenge because declensions, effect of prepositions, idiosyncratic traditional ways are all present. The task was experienced as hard but not that hard that one should give up trying. None did. The mastery of the hand written script took less than two hours. Thus the first 8 hours were full, productive, challenging but joyful. The next 8 hours were conducted much more as they were in Silent Way III classes. Rods, Word Charts (1, 2, 3), Fidel Charts were all used to obtain the functional vocabulary classified as essential. On Chart 1, rod is given in Russian as a feminine noun. The Fidel was used to introduce a masculine form and a large number of examples were worked out with either and then with both. This transfer of knowledge of material introduced (in silence) to new material they knew how to construct and recognize as their creation acted as a further morale booster. No fatigue was evident in the students who sensed how much had been generated of that language — reputed very difficult — after only two days of study. A visitor — who happened to come two hours before the end of the course and had had also only 18 hours of Russian ten months earlier in Barcelona-joined in at once as if he had never left his studies.


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The feedback session at the end, seemed to center around the experience of effortlessness of language learning if lessons were carried out in that way and when students accept to play the game suggested by a knowledgeable teacher. B. Two days were also dedicated to further study of The Silent Way. Nine students of the Russian course took it and nine newcomers were added. The momentum of the previous weekend was found to be carried to the study of Spanish by the students who were in both courses but who now took only two to three hours of it. Two of the participants who claimed to know Spanish to an advanced level were also in the class. Often the newcomers were freer, more accurate and produced sounds nicer to listen to. French pronunciation lessons were given to two or three of the participants who in spite of a wide vocabulary could not always be understood by natives, because of their strong British or American accents. Such lessons are truly spectacular for those involved and who for the first time realize what they are supposed to do to sound like natives and manage to do just that. Their concept of survival French stood in their way of putting their energy where it belongs to get that same good level of performance. The examination of The Silent Way as a scientific approach to specific language learning challenges helped the participants to come to terms with the multiplicity of materials and techniques. These appeared then as the appropriate answers to specific needs of learners. C. In Lyon, a public lecture had been arranged for the evening of the day before the Russian I course. The title was “Evolution and Energy.� Dr. Gattegno chose to invite the audience to consider the stage of evolution we are in which makes the computers and the microcomputers so attractive today that the Governments are prepared to make cuts in traditional basic educational programs in order to spend huge sums to equip schools with computers. The audience was not ready to entertain that there were any advantages in understanding that trend but were ready to fight it without considering themselves reactionaries. So it became necessary to look at evolution as a whole (in the light of what was reported in the previous issue of this Newsletter as the work done last July at a


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seminar in France). Whether most people were enlightened it cannot be said since feedback is not a way of working of lecture audiences. All that can be said is that a few decided to take the two day courses or to attend the Monday session at Villars les Dombes at 25 km southeast of Lyon. D. Georges Grandjean’s class is made up of two groups some 5 to 6 year olds, who are to be taught to read French and some 6 to 7 year olds who already had such a course the previous year. The room is arranged for small group work, but Dr. Gattegno took all the students together. On the wall above the chalkboard and out of reach of these little children were the 8 Fidel Charts of La Lecture en Couleur (1st edition). Dr. Gattegno had the inspiration on the spot of studying with the children the dual demands of the spoken and the written French. He addressed those who knew how to read to get from the Fidel by pointing the sentence “il est ici” (written form) and wrote it as i/les/tici/ as it is spoken. The idea appealed to all children and observers alike. It had already been used systematically since 1977 with the Sound Color Fidel but not with the Phonic Code of the written Fidel. The exercise, which was new to all (including Dr. Gattegno) clearly brought to light how we can miss an obvious element of learning to read (and write) which can help beginners make sense of the problems confronting them. The few examples that were selected to make that awareness clear raised new problems which fortunately could be worked out systematically to the point that the technique developed then and there could be adopted immediately by the audience. (We heard since that it is making life much easier to hearing, as well as hard of hearing, students.) The lessons were to last the primary school day (8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p. m.) with a break of 1 1/2 hours for lunch. So there were other opportunities to study the teaching of reading and writing of French to beginners. The Word Charts (old edition) were used with the more advanced group for a writing lesson and it was possible to create an awareness that legibility is needed if other people must read one’s writing. An


Clinic Cases

excellent motivation for good penmanship, doing away with sterile repetition. The weaker and younger group was not responding too well and it was necessary to take them separately after lunch. Eight children, eight very different problems. Impossible to work with all as was done in the morning. One by one they all were diagnosed as having such or such a problem as is done in the Clinic at New York headquarters and immediate remediation exercises were offered them. Some, on the spot, proved susceptible to the treatment and gave signs of considerable progress in minutes. The observers were given a hard task to discover the invisible reasons for the moves that they could see were doing some good in a mysterious manner. Feedback sessions helped but had to be short. A Spanish song ended the day with the whole class. The students became at once familiar with the melody and the words and sang that foreign song as if it had been one of theirs. The evening was dedicated to a presentation of parts of the films Absolute Visual Reading to a group of teachers of the deaf and some parents. Although the film was in English, it struck home and several of those present were deeply moved by such a simple approach to a problem they found, for years, frustrating and defeating. It was the first time in 6 or 7 years that Dr. Gattegno met a sympathetic audience of specialists when he presented his novel solution. E. In Paris, Dr. Gattegno had two seminars of 20 hours each and a 3-hour demonstration lesson with 5-6 year old children in a bilingual school where his Words in Color and La Lecture en Couleurs are used. The two twenty hour courses were very intense indeed. There was much to learn for all. The title (of the first seminar) “Intuition a sure way of knowing� attracted a good group who worked (in French) on a topic which included three stumbling blocks: Intuition; ways of knowing and sure


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way. The second point was taken up first, since it appeared that the participants had not explicitly entertained the matter and believed vaguely that there was essentially ways of knowing i.e. being told by a knowledgeable person. As we worked on perception, action, analysis and synthesis, some of the participants came to the conclusion that there are as many ways of knowing as there are knowers. A long, painful study of how we know another person had to be abandoned because it seemed too complex for this way of working. Intuition as the only proper way of knowing complexities is defined as respecting their wholeness and contents. A number of examples were examined in detail to show how intuition works and what makes it an invaluable approach in some researches for which the classical scientific approaches (analysis, synthesis, experimentation) did not seem to provide a lead. One of these examples which was at everyone’s reach was the study of Spelling. Not only did it serve as a good illustration of intuition but also as the way of getting hold of the challenge and seeing why if we want a sure way of knowing what spelling entails, we must resort to intuition. The feedback session at the end confirmed the extent of the mental growth which allowed to replace the naive thinking intuition as synonymous to hunch or a quick insight, by a true way of knowing. Sleep was the second and fruitful example. The second seminar (in English) also involved a large group of participants who came to see how one learns about teaching by teaching consciously. The four evenings were very different, one from the other. During the first a large number of examples of study of teaching were recounted and analyzed, but some people felt the need to be involved in actual lessons to be examined. The second evening was devoted to that. At the feedback session people asked for a return to the format of the first evening. But on the morning of the third day the demonstration lessons with the little children was attended by twelve of the seminar participants who felt the need to talk of what had happened there and asked for explanations. Hence it turned up that most of that evening 27

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too was given again to the study of teaching, through lessons on French pronunciation to participants who after years in Paris were still unable to find out how to sound French. The details cannot be given in this summary. Often it happens in these intensive seminars that a great deal of material for study by the participants during and after the seminar emerges and deserves gathering. This last seminar was the only one which had not been recorded. It brought many worthwhile contributions which some intend to write up as a report on their significance for the education of teachers. *** Just a word on the lessons with the eleven youngsters at the bilingual school. Although the topic was reading with Dr. Gattegno’s approach, what took most of the time of the feedback and question time was how could these normally very active and often disruptive children remain for such long stretches of time quiet and attentive. Some even made sense of what was asked of them to make them able to read. Such unusual performance was only due to the fact that games were offered which involved them and held them since their own feedback was that they were learning something new, easily enough and with obvious future developments. In the Paris seminars the subject of sleep occupied a considerable place. Games too; but mainly in the second seminar where people concentrated on tasks offered them for inordinately long durations. F. The Geneva seminar — although it had the same title as the course of 90 hours on the Foundation of Education series run in New York over 6 weekend meetings — was very different in approach, conception and results. First, it could only last 18 hours. Second, it came after the very intense work of the previous two weeks and much work had been done which brought to light new instruments that could be used in this study.


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What resulted from this study on “Can one change one’s past?” will be written up as a separate monograph since it was felt by the eighty or so people present that a few breakthroughs emerged in these studies. Not much needs to be said in these short notes. In Geneva as in New York it was found at once that the word “past” only evoked very vague definitions although no one doubts that it is full of meaning and is used accurately and freely thousands of times a day. The development of instruments of study in New York had shown that memories can serve us well provided we distinguish in them the component that comes from the energy impacts that produced them and what results from our subsequent work on the retained material. In Geneva most of the work done was on the generation of the past and what went with it. There was need to define the present as the presence of the self in its awareness and the past as the result of the shift of awareness from present to present. The past could only accumulate as time went by. Since sleep followed the waking state every day there was a clear need for two states of consciousness for the self in sleep and wakefulness. Much of the seminar was devoted to understanding how keeping in mind the fact that two states of consciousness are united in the self and the fact that we sleep every day, provide the complex instrument which allows us to see how we construct our past and deposit in it all sorts of energies diversely coagulated. That we must accept a certain responsibility for what we carry in ourselves of our past also became clear and hence how each of us can change his or her past. *** In Geneva a number of demonstration lessons made it possible to study, with teachers and parents, how children can tackle tasks of a certain magnitude and remain with them for long periods. In this they indicate that if they are given tasks at their level which are dynamic and can be acted upon, they can stay with them for a long time to explore and exploit them.


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The key word is interaction and it explains why the most effective computer programs are those which leave room for the user’s initiative to make the machine respond. *** Shiow Ley Kuo spent the end of September and most of October in Europe teaching Chinese in Barcelona, Paris and La Chaux de Fonds (Switzerland). Cecilia Bartoli now stationed in Paris continued giving her Italian and Silent Way courses there as well as in other cities in France and in Switzerland. The French magazine Psychologie devoted 10 pages of its October issue to Dr. Gattegno’s work on education and learning. It was an interview made by the cofounder of the Journal Jacques Mousseau. A California magazine for the learning disabled Academic Therapy, published in its November issue an interview of Dr. Gattegno by the publisher Mr. John Arena on matters pertaining to that area. Dr. Gattegno received invitations from — (a) The Calgary School Board in Canada to appear in their February Teachers Convention; (b) The Quebec Association for the Learning Disabled (QALD) to appear at their annual conference in Montreal in March; both arranged for by GEMS (General Educational Materials & Seminars) who also participate in the Marianne Frostig Symposium which takes place in Los Angeles and San Francisco during the month of February. Two weekend seminars led by Dr. Gattegno have been organized as follows (1) The Silent Way February 27, 28 and March 1, 1981 (at Holiday Inn, Hazel Park, Mich.)


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Hours: Friday 4:30-10:00, Saturday and Sunday 9:005:00 Tuition Fee: $130.00 per person includes dinner and lunches. (Registration accompanied by payment should be sent as soon as possible to - Educational Solutions, 80 Fifth Avenue, NYC 10011. (2) Mathematics Education (in French) (at Queen Elizabeth in Montreal) March 13 to 15, 1981 For registration information contact-GEMS Victoria Ave. Montreal Quebec H3W 2N2, Canada




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.

Clinic Cases  
Clinic Cases  

Newsletter vol. X no. 2 December 1980