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RE: [xmca] Obama's Learn Act

Here's what I found:
Bonjour Peter. How nice to have mail from a Kenyon fellow!
The classroom is from Mari in Syria. It was excavated by Andre Parrot,
probably in the 1930s.The site was sacked by Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) which
gives a date in the 18th cent. BC. 

I understand that the new team of French archaeologists excavating Mari
doubts that the room is a classroom. I like to keep with the first
interpretation. The jars held the clay destined to be shaped into tablets. I
hope this helps.

You will find PDF articles in the 3 first stations of my web site on
Writing, Counting and Ain Ghazal. Let me know if this does not work.

Happy new year! Denise
Denise Schmandt-Besserat [dsb@mail.utexas.edu]

Peter Smagorinsky
Professor of English Education 
Department of Language and Literacy Education
The University of Georgia
125 Aderhold Hall
Athens, GA 30602

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of mike cole
Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:19 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Obama's Learn Act

Great summary, Gordon. Many thanks. When combined with the Bernfield/Suppes
comments sent by Martin, they provide a lot of food for thought.

(Suppes is the guy who called me one afternoon in December, 1963, to ask,
"How would you like to go to Africa?"). Still working hard at the age of
about 90.

To these comments, i commend reflection on the ancient classroom depicted in
the attached, which many of you have seen before, and which Peter S has
tracked down to probably date and place. I take the architectural
isomorphism between this classroom and the most advanced distance learning
facility at UCSD to indicate deep structural forces arising out of the need
to coordinate large numbers of people living in close proximity; the
relation of this social condition to "deep psychological factors" I take to
be the matter of some dispute.


On Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 7:55 AM, Gordon Wells <gwells@ucsc.edu> wrote:

> Mike,
> Here is a brief summary of the main findings of the Bristol Study.
>  Starting in 1979 I directed a large longitudinal study designed to 
> chart the language development of a representative sample of children 
> during the pre-school years. Subsequently, we followed the progress of 
> 32 of the original 128 children until the age of 10 years, comparing 
> their early language experience with their progress during the first phase
of schooling.
> Several important findings emerged from the overall longitudinal study 
> which challenged some beliefs that were then (and are still) widely
accepted :
>  1. Despite considerable variation in their rate of development, all 
> the children followed essentially the same sequence of development in: 
> the functions for which they used language; the meanings which they 
> attempted to communicate; and their mastery of the morphology and 
> syntax of British English.
> 2. There was not a statistically significant relationship between the 
> children's overall rate of development and their rating on a scale of 
> family background.
>  3. The most significant predictor of rate of language development was 
> the quality of conversation that the children experienced.
>  4. On entry to school, the quality of linguistic interaction that the 
> children experienced in the classroom was inferior on all measures to 
> that experienced at home; this was true for all children in the study, 
> whatever their class of family background.
>  5. Progress in school was significantly related to the children's 
> knowledge of literacy on entry to school and this was most strongly 
> predicted by the frequency with which they had engaged in shared story 
> reading; both these measures were significantly correlated with class 
> of family background.
>  I think it is findings 3 and 5 above that are most significant in the 
> current context.
> With respect to language development (3), children who developed most 
> rapidly experienced more interaction with parents and older siblings, 
> of which a greater proportion was of high quality in being more 
> collaborative and more responsive to the children's interests. The 
> Meaning Makers includes many examples that exemplify high quality 
> interaction. What characterizes these examples is the way in which the 
> child's mother or other interlocutor willingly responded to the 
> child's interest and provided information to explain the significance 
> of what he or she was seeing or hearing, even when this interrupted the
mother's plan.
> What these examples show, in particular, is that when the child and 
> interlocutor are engaged in some joint activity of mutual interest, 
> this ensures that there is intersubjectivity of attention, which 
> enables the interlocutor to provide relevant information at the moment 
> when the child is most able to appropriate it. It is in this way that 
> the child gradually comes to take over the adult way of interpreting 
> the world - not through deliberate and systematic instruction, but 
> through shared interest and involvement in the events that make up
everyday life.
> Opportunities for such contingently responsive adult interaction with 
> a child are obviously more difficult to provide when the adult-child 
> ratio is greater than at home, but it is the goal to be aimed for. By 
> contrast, talking with several children according to a predetermined 
> script, based on what is expected to be assessed, is unlikely to 
> secure the children's active engagement and may even lead to their
becoming unwilling participants.
> With respect to (5), these same principles applied equally to 
> "literacy events." Frequency of being read to predicted facility in 
> literacy learning in the early school years and overall attainment at 
> age 10. But what was clear was that, for those who were most 
> successful, being read to involved interaction about the story and 
> accompanying illustrations, not instruction about the "mechanics" of 
> the written code. If letter-sound correspondences were made explicit, 
> this usually arose out of the child's interest rather than from the 
> adult's didactic intentions. When children were really engaged with 
> the story and the flow of the read-aloud text, they spontaneously 
> began to pay attention to the vocabulary, asking questions about the 
> meanings of unfamiliar words, and noticing rhymes and alliterations that
provided opportunities to talk about letter-sound correspondences.
> While being read to was more common in "middle-class" homes, it was 
> not confined to such homes and children who had experiences of the 
> kind just described took more easily to reading and writing in school, 
> whatever their social class designation.
> My interpretation of these findings is that collaborative talk about a 
> text in which the child is interested is the best way to get him or 
> her interested in taking over responsibility for decoding print to 
> meaning and in discovering how to represent his or her own meanings in 
> writing. This is particularly important for children who do not have 
> such experiences at home. As I spell out in detail in The Meaning Makers,
focusing on "phonics"
> before the child has discovered the purposes of reading and writing 
> and the pleasure and satisfaction that they yield is 
> counterproductive. Similar arguments are made by Marie Clay, whose 
> successful Reading Recovery program is built around gaining the 
> child's interest and active involvement in reading and writing texts of
personal significance.
> The implications of these findings for pre-school programs seem very 
> clear so I will not belabor them. The question is how to get the 
> policy makers to pay attention to them.
> Gordon
> Gordon Wells            <gwells@ucsc.edu>
> http://people.ucsc.edu/~gwells/ <http://people.ucsc.edu/%7Egwells/>
> Department of Education
> University of California, Santa Cruz.
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