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Volume 1 #11 August
One of the serendipitous
effects of using RfS/EL has always been that even within
just a week or two, students seem to cheer up and come
to their lessons looking less mournful. I was wont to ascribe
this to my delightful personality and wonderful teaching
until I found that other people using RfS/EL were getting
the same effect. On the other hand, just a good phonics
presentation didn’t seem to do it, however pleasant
or skillful the teacher might be.
It would appear that isolating the phonics lesson to one side might be part of
the answer, but I’d never had a clue as to why, or even whether I was imagining
A doctor working
in a mental hospital was testing his theory that the two
sides of the brain process
depression differently, and to prove his point, he used
magnetic pulses to numb one hemisphere so he could stimulate the other
one by itself. When he did this periodically for a
couple of weeks he got dramatic effects.
If he zapped the right side and stimulated the left, the depression lifted,
sometimes so much that the patient was nearly
in remission! On the other hand, when he
reversed the procedure, it didn’t work.
Our public school
version of magnetic pulses is some nice Mozart, but the
principle is the same: isolate one hemisphere and stimulate the other.
We know from experience
now that the left language areas can be poked into activity. Who would
have thought you would be reducing depression at the same time?
this one interested in strokes, also undertook to numb
one hemisphere, although with a slightly different kind
of magnetic pulses.
would numb one
side and then see how well the other worked by itself. No matter which
side he numbed, the other one worked better by itself than when both
same time! That dovetails nicely with the results from an fMRI test
recently in which a person was put into earphones (sound
familiar?) with a musical
task sent to the right hemisphere and a verbal task sent to the left
what? The left side showed increased activity. Apparently isolation
of the input enables
you both to stimulate the left hemisphere and have a beneficial effect
on depression at the same time.
Alas, it wasn’t just me. Never mind. I AM a nice teacher, and that certainly
An interesting question turned up in my e-mail the other
day about why the “le” on the end of a word like
puzzle or little was pronounced with just the L sound, and
why you couldn’t just as well spell the ending, “le,” as “el”.
The short answer is that a final letter E on an English word
is always silent, where the E inside the word is part of
a syllable, often accented, and must be pronounced like the
short E that it is. Witness compel, expel, motel, hotel,
etc. “Littel” and “puzzel” do look
The long, perhaps more accurate answer is buried in its
LLL (long, lurid, linguistic) history, involving the mixture
of germanic and other languages and the fact that English
spelling wasn’t even partly standardized until a few
centuries ago, and even after that, pronunciations changed
over time. By the time you explained all that, your student
would be asleep. When he comes across some weirdo like silent “gh” or
the T in hustle or bustle, just tell him it has an LLL history
, and that’s life.