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Today, another exquisite article in the New York Times Magazine, called "Building a Better Teacher."

Decades of educational discussion and crisis remediation attempts have taken us to wondrous lands of ideology, deserts of testing, winding paths of experimental technologies. It brought us teacher assessments and merit pay, charter schools and busses shuttling students around. Study after study has promised to show the way, but it seems we're still in the dark: None has produced the necessary yield or the desired lift in performance.

Could it be because most innovations, improvements and ideologies leave the student component out of the equation? I know, I know... it is politically incorrect to include student attitudes and mind set in the calculation. It has become deeply ingrained in our culture to look at students as consumers, vessels to be filled, projection screens for our instructional finesse. Student failure by definition is always a teacher failure, an institutional failure, a societal failure.

And, I guess, it is, but not in the way we have come to look at it. Students don't fail because we don't make it easy or fun enough to learn. They fail because we allow them to look at education as something to be consumed, something that is separate and only marginally relevant to their lives.

The NYT article finds that teachers are the single most important factor influencing student achievement and that being a successful, student-boosting teacher could not really be taught. It made me reflect back on my time as a student. Why was it that we adored some teachers, while instantly, almost intuitively, deciding to sabotage others?

The teachers we despised were the ones that acted like they were working hard to teach us. Their attempts to make the material "easy" were often unnecessary, which made them insulting. 
Their countless repetitions in reaction to low student involvement were boring. If there were no signs that we cared in the first time, what makes you think we'd care the second, third, or fourth time around? The problem was not whether the material was hard or not, it was that we weren't convinced that there was a reason why we should care. You could sense in their attitudes that they considered us malleable, helpless children, potentially low-witted, not the developing, perceptive people we actually were.

The teachers we adored were the ones who challenged us, sometimes to the point where it was painful. They would make us work hard, but not because they were mean (we had those, too) but because they believed in our potential. They made us understand that they wanted us to succeed. They had very high expectations of us. They asked the ultimate questions, and always set the bar at a good, healthy, hard-to-achieve height for each student. Most of all they trusted us, conveying that every student could achieve it with the right amount of "try."

The most important characteristic of a successful teacher is that they care. The second - they have to have natural authority and leadership, a sense that they are resting in themselves, know their own self-worth, and can interact with a mixed bunch of diverse students from a "calm-assertive" position (as Cesar Milan would say). It would take us just seconds to figure out a new teacher entering the classroom: Did s/he possess "teacher power"? Was it the benevolent or the dangerous type? Was he a leader, who could challenge you in the best sense of the word, or a push-over, who would drop the ball as soon as the students started challenging them?

Posted by Rosevita Warda in how to learn, teachers. | Leave a comment |

"It takes 10,000 hours of practice to truly master a skill."

This is the much-quoted statement by Professor of Psychology K. Anders Ericsson, Florida State University. His conclusion that experts in a given field have clocked around 10,000 to gain expert level skills has been popularized by Malcolm Gladwell's bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success (affiliate link) and is now part of popular culture.

10,000 Hour Rule... Start Today 

The point that is often overlooked is that we're talking about deliberate practice... practicing in a structured and optimized fashion.

Clocking untargeted, random work for 10,000 hours is useless busy work. It won't matter that you've done it for 10,000 hours, it won't get you anywhere!

What is deliberate practice?

Deliberate practice should stretch your comfort zone, challenging you as well as guiding you to practice what you do not yet know.

Deliberate practice means responding and adapting to immediate feedback and scheduling the next step accordingly, so your skill and memory bank systematically improves.

Deliberate practice blends practice to build mastery and automaticity with introducing new material at the right time. It means working on your goals with high levels of motivation, even the repetitive "drill"-type components of your practice.

Deliberate practice builds memory effectively by scheduling review points in a well-planned cycle, responding to the point you accomplished mastery by moving on.

Deliberate practice means studying for results in a mindful manner. It's at the core of what we do at LearnThatWord, where every session is custom designed to your goals, skills and learning history.

Posted by Rosevita Warda in education, how to learn, learn English, memory, practice, self-development, your brain. | Leave a comment |

Since 2013 the National Spelling Bee includes an additional vocabulary component.

It is now no longer enough to spell well, you also need to pass a tests that quizzes you on what words mean. 

This is why we recommend to work on words up to grade 12 by using the VOCABULAR quiz:


You can activate spelling practice on the toolbar that is available at the bottom of the page during the quiz. Spelling tutoring is a premium feature.

How to select spelling practice in the vocabulary quiz

Naturally, the benefit of studying words so intensively is multiplied by you study both meaning and spelling.

No matter if you end up as a Spelling Bee champion, you'll certainly end up winning! 

Posted by Rosevita Warda in spelling, spelling bee. | Leave a comment |

In our last email, we talked about what it takes to join the Spelling Bee champions. I introduced some of the features of the Spelling Bee module you're enrolled in, and how you can change the grade level to skip over very easy words.

In addition to following the Spelling Bee module, you can also request your own words. There are lots of lists in our word list archive, or you can create your own.

Activating a list from the word list archive

If you search for Spelling Bee, SpellIt, Hexco or any other related term into the word list archive, you'll find hundreds of lists. You might also type in German, Arabic, Greek, Latin, etc. to find lists of words that have that particular origin. This helps your brain form clear patterns through practice.

The number of words and the lists ranking helps you select the right list. Click on the list name and click "add this list" for the first chapter. This list is now bookmarked in your portal and LearnThatWord will work on it with you.

Create your own list

You can also add your own list with a few clicks. This is especially useful if you're at the early rounds and were given a specific list from which words will be selected.

Simply enter them and activate the list for personalized study.

Practice cycle


Every time you start a new quiz, you will be taken through your personal practice words. Reviewing these words regularly is key to learning them in long-term.

In a hurry?
Want to see all the words in a large list at least once before starting to practice them?

Simply switch the order in which words are presented in your preference tab (under "my accounts"). This "cramming mode" is only recommended for special situations, because the real learning progress comes from going through your practice words regularly until you learned them.

Vocabulary/Spelling quiz

As a premium member you can activate spelling tutoring as part of the vocabulary quiz. This way, you study the meaning of words first (which you'll need at the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.) and this is then followed by checking your spelling skills.

You activate this in the toolbar that pops up at the bottom of the page during vocabulary quizzes. Select "all words."


Lastly, you can make further adjustments, like turning the feedback sound on or off, on your preferences page.

For questions with our program we're always available via live chat, too!

Posted by Rosevita Warda in spelling, spelling bee. | Leave a comment |

Every year, over 10 million students try out for the National Spelling Bee.

So, what does it take to come out ahead of everyone and win top honors?

Aside from a natural spelling talent, champions have three common traits:

1 - They practice relentlessly--and smartly!

2 - They're persistent; often preparing, like top-athletes, for years.

3 - They use effective tools to manage their studies.

Did you know...

... that some of the founding mothers of LearnThatWord had kids who wanted to win the Spelling Bee? That's why from our early beginnings in 2004, we invested special attention into our Spelling Bee module. 

Spelling Bee champion

Photo courtesy of

The Spelling Bee module that you selected when you signed up for LearnThatWord covers over 25,000 typical Spelling Bee words, sorted by difficulty and how frequently they appear in events.
Every year, we add new words that pop up at the event.

Just by start your quizzes, you'll automatically learn them all -- the easier and more common ones first and the advanced words. No need for complicated management, which can get easily out of hand considering the size of the task!

How does it work?

While you take quizzes, LearnThatWord keeps track of what you know and what needs further practice. Words you missed are added to your practice list. They are then automatically reviewed over future sessions until you got them right three times in a row. It doesn't matter how many reviews that takes, since our technology keeps track and practices the word with you, until youl get it right, always.

Do you have to start at the lowest grade?

No, you can change your grade level under preference at any time. It is safer, though, to just quickly check all words to make sure that you don't miss anything that will cause you to hear the bell too early.

One of our members once studied over 20,000 words, only to lose in the first round to a word he thought was "too easy"!

Good luck with your Spelling Bee!

Posted by Rosevita Warda in practice, spelling bee, Uncategorized. | Leave a comment |

Nelson Mandela on education

"I learned that courage was not
the absence of fear, but
the triumph over it.

The brave man is not he
who does not feel afraid, but
he who conquers that fear."

Thank you for teaching us so much! 


Our Greatest Fear

by Marianne Williamson

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.


Posted by Rosevita Warda in Uncategorized. | 1 Comment |

Three proud spelling bee champions

Jenna Stafford, a long time supporter, sent us the following lines:

I just wanted you to know that my triplet boys came in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in their school spelling bee today out of nearly 100 spellers!

I give all the credit to your LearnThat program.  We had to work [on getting the lists we want activated] but once we got it going they learned the 400+ words quickly. 

All three now go on to compete in the County Spelling Bee in February with a chance to go to the State Bee and then on to the Scripps National Bee.  The boys plan to use your program to prepare for the County Bee.  Thanks!


Update from 2/8/2014:

Fantastic news!  The triplets did great at the County Spelling Bee today.  John David won and Chaz came in 2nd!   

Ready for the state spelling bee!

They went 19 rounds (the last 10 just the two of them) before Chaz missed “sauve” (I’m pretty sure he did it on purpose to end the thing!  Lol) and John David spelled omnipotent correctly for the win. 

There were about 100 spellers in the bee.  (For some reason, the first 75 words in the bee were from a list that the students were not told to study, so Treyson got out in the first round on the very difficult word “dodecahedron”... but he had not studied it).   Anyway…  John David goes on the Arkansas State Spelling bee on March 1st.  

Thanks again so much for all your help through this process!  So proud of the triplets and so thankful for LearnThat!  

Posted by Rosevita Warda in our members, spelling bee. | Leave a comment |

Over the years, Google has helped LearnThat Foundation tremendously through its Google grant program. From its Google Ad grant to free use of Google apps and other offers, we have always been extremely grateful for the support.

While most US nonprofits qualify, many struggle -- either to successfully complete the application process (yes, there are multiple pit falls!) or to make the Adwords system work for them. Of the $10,000 given to each nonprofit per month, most use less than $300, overwhelmed by the requirements of setting up a high quality campaign.

After helping numerous nonprofits on an informal basis and to make optimal use of our team's skills, we launched a nonprofit consulting agency, BigHeartCloud (BHC).

We're certified Google Adwords partners and offer a unique concept to nonprofits:

Our package requires just one low fee if we succeed in securing the Google Ad grant, and no fees at all if we fail. Included in the low fee is a 90 minute webinar tailed to the needs of nonprofits starting out with Adwords, and up to an hour of personal consultation time. If you're a nonprofit or know of one that would benefit of receiving this amazing monthly advertising allowance, please recommend us!
Posted by Rosevita Warda in Uncategorized. | Leave a comment |

Over 1 of 10 adults are illiterate. 2/3 of them are women.
In celebration of International Literacy Day 2013, a new UNESCO infographic illustrates the problem:

Infographic Unesco International Literacy Day

What can be done to improve these numbers? Please join our new Vocabulary Junction communities, and work with us on closing the vocabulary divide.

We look forward to exchanging ideas and expertise!

Posted by Rosevita Warda in education, English, literacy, self-development. | 2 Comments |

Someone sent this to me. Enjoy:

Pablo Picasso's Girl Reading at a TableDate a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or if she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

by Rosemarie Urquico

Posted by Rosevita Warda in fun with English, our members, self-development, your brain. | 1 Comment |