Systems vs. Goals: Is it time to toss out the resolutions?

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, many of us put the same things on our list year after year: lose weight, exercise more, travel, and so on. You probably have your own familiar favorites.

New Year’s resolutions are goals. Putting them on our list makes us feel like we’ve taken the first important step toward achievement. But the fact that they show up year after year suggests that having a goal is not enough. What’s more, having a goal may not be as important as we think.

A goal doesn’t explain how we do what we hope to accomplish. That’s the role of systems. Systems spell out the steps and track our progress.

Let’s look at this in terms of education and, specifically, teaching students to read, spell and write.

 

Teachers often set learning goals for students. Passing a standardized test is a goal. An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a list of goals. IEPs are the backbone of special education programs.

IEPs offer some systems guidance, such as the number of lessons per week and how progress will be measured. But they rarely track what matters most: the direct instruction of specific concepts and the frequency and number of practice challenges provided to the student. What is tracked, if anything, is seat-time. And, alas, seat-time is not practice.

Over many decades, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has shown that students who read at a below-basic level in 4th grade rarely become proficient readers by 8th grade. Even if they show up for classroom seat-time, the system doesn’t provide the necessary steps to move them toward literacy.

Could a tighter system approach change that? At Lexercise, we think it could.

 

Lexercise’s System Approach: Structured Literacy

Lexercise is a systems approach: one structured literacy lesson a week followed by at least 15 minutes a day of structured practice, four days a week. Our data over the last 10 years shows that students who actually use this system (not just aspire to it) make at least a year of reading gain in the first eight weeks!

Note the absence of a goal in the Lexercise approach. We don’t say that the student will be able to read a certain book, or will be able to read or write at a certain grade level. Those are goals. What we say is that if the student actually does the lesson and the practice, they will make significant progress.

James Clear writes about habits and human potential. In Chapter 1 of his book Atomic Habits, he writes about goals and systems. Again and again, he emphasizes the importance of process and actions over goals. “Systems-based thinking is never about hitting a particular number, it’s about sticking to the process and not missing workouts.” “Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process.”

Clear also emphasizes the importance of feedback as a way of tracking progress. At Lexercise, feedback is built into our ongoing testing system, so that the student sees and hears their progress as they move through the practice.

Can the systems approach work for your student? We think so. We’d also be very interested to see how the systems approach might change your New Year’s resolutions!

Whatever approach you take, we wish you the very best for 2019 and look forward to sharing our understanding of learning and to answering any questions you may have about dyslexia and other language-processing disorders.

 

If you’d like to learn more about our services, click here.

Live Broadcast 37: Math-U-See for Struggling Readers and Writers

Steve Demme, Author and Founder of Math-U-See joined us to discuss what makes Math-U-See effective for struggling readers and writers.

Steve is a former math teacher who has taught at all levels of math in public and private schools. Steve’s goal with Math-U-See is to help produce confident problem solvers who enjoy the study of math.

Homeschool families considering math curricula for their struggling readers and writers as well as other families interested in helping their children with math will enjoy this engaging webinar.

Broadcast 36: Creating High Quality Instruction in Teaching Reading

picture of Elisabeth LiptakElisabeth (Liz) Liptak is the Professional Services Director for the International Dyslexia Association, and joined us to discuss the IDA’s Knowledge & Practice Standards. She talked about how the IDA Standards can help teachers and parents recognize what to look for in high-quality reading instruction and how parents can get the help they need for their children who struggle with reading, spelling, and writing.

The IDA Standards serve as a guide to teachers and parents for selecting effective programs and methods for teaching children with dyslexia. Liz Liptak discussed how the Standards guide effective instruction, what teachers and clinicians need to know and be able to do to deliver effective intervention. The Standards provide guidance in the use of structured literacy in an intervention program. An effective program provides daily, structured practice in the following areas:

1. Phonology
2. Phonics and Word Study
3. Fluent, Automatic Reading of Text
4. Vocabulary
5. Text Comprehension
6. Handwriting, Spelling, Written Expression

Liz Liptak was formerly the Executive Director of the Washington Literacy Council, a community-based direct service program in Washington DC that served struggling adult readers and younger children. Liz also worked for two years on a reading research project at the Krasnow Institute, which was funded by the Department of Education. Liz has been a reading tutor since 1989, most recently in the DC Public Schools. Liz works closely with the IDA Board’s Standards and Practices Committee.

Click here to download the presentation for this Live Broadcast in pdf format.

Emerson, a victorious word wizard

Emerson

As a 9-year-old homeschooled rising 4th-grade student, Emerson is a competent and confident speller and writer. He enjoys thinking about word parts, what they mean and how they are spelled.

That is quite a change. Last spring, before his 3rd-grade year, Emerson resisted anything having to do with writing words. His initial writing sample consisted of just three sentences and most of the words were misspelled.

After covering 24 Lexercise levels Emerson no longer resists writing; he embraces it. His writing is nearly ten times more accurate than it was last spring. He is a word analysis wizard who can identify word elements like base, suffix, and prefix, even with new and unfamiliar words.

I recently interviewed Emerson’s mom, Julie Barney, about their experience with Lexercise online therapy. Below is a video of our conversation and an outline.

 

Video Interview Outline

Time 0:00 – Introduction
Time 0:44 – Can you describe how and when you first became concerned about Emerson’s reading, writing and spelling skills?
Time 3:07 – Will you describe Emerson’s progress with Lexercise Online Treatment and how it has helped you as a homeschool mom?
Time 5:47 – You and Emerson had some office-based sessions before starting Lexercise Online Treatment. Can you describe how online treatment has worked compared to office-based treatment?

Thanks, Julie…and keep up the good work, Emerson!

If your child struggles with reading, writing, or spelling, please have a look at the Lexercise Online Dyslexia Testing and Treatment page. It could turn your child into a reader! If you have questions about the diagnosis or treatment of dyslexia, I would love to hear from you. Email me at Info@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.