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March 2017 Archives

Register Now! Adult Spring Classes Start on April 10

China Institute offers a wide range of Chinese language classes at every proficiency level, from beginner to advanced. The year-round Private Tutoring has been designed to meet an individual's specific language needs. Our experienced instructors can bring private lessons to any location of your choice, and at the convenience of your schedule. In the Studio Program, we currently offer CalligraphyBrush Painting, & Tai Chi


Check out Spring class schedule: Downtown Location   UES Location 

Not sure which level to register for? Schedule an appointment for a quick 15 minute assessment! Please contact: Tina Fang by email to tfang@chinainstitute.org or call 212-744-8181 ext. 150



Spring Special

Classical Chinese III: A Rare Linguistic Gem

- Taught by Ben Wang, Senior Lecturer

10 sessions (20 hours) 

Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30pm (April 11 - June13)

Tuition: $465 members / $505 non-members 

(plus a $25 non-refundable registration fee) 


Requirements for taking this course:

Knowledge of basic grammar points and reading characters of the vernacular Chinese, which is at least one year Chinese study at a university or college Chinese program, or similar proficiency level. For those who did not attend the first two sessions of this course, it is highly recommended that you contact the office for an assessment.  


Course Description: 

In the lives of all those interested in world cultures, there is surely a moment when the door to classical Chinese must be open for them to come to better understand the poetry, literature, music, drama, and fine arts. 


Far from being a demised and vanished (or vanishing) language, classical Chinese, at its ripe age of more than 3,000 years, glows not only as a sine-qua-non to the appreciation of classical written matters in Chinese, it is used by all writers to this day in composing fine modern poetry, novels, essays, and journalistic reports and comments. Most importantly, classical Chinese language, sound and alive, makes an astonishing appearance in daily conversations often embellished by countless common sayings and proverbs in classical (or semi-classical) Chinese. These are as much an indispensable and integral part of both the spoken and written Chinese as they are the most popular and favorite phrases to all Chinese language speakers and writers. Learn More



Workshop/Short Course

Essential Chinese For Travelers

Saturday Workshop (single session) 

- Choose from one of the schedules: May 20, June 3, or June 17 

- Time: 10:00am-1:00pm 

- Fee: $90 (Materials Included)  


Thursday Short Course (3 sessions) : June 22 , June 29, and July 6 

- Time: 6:30pm-8:30pm 

- Fee: $180 (Materials Included) 


Instructor: Carl Chen 


Course Description: 

This cultural & language workshop and short course are designed to introduce essential Chinese language and etiquette tips for travelers (tourists, exchange students, business people, etc.) who are interested in learning to speak basic Chinese for functional purposes. Participants will learn useful expressions for daily use such as greetings and proper terms of address, self-introduction, asking for directions, taking a taxi, shopping, and dining, among many others. They will also learn how to read simple Chinese characters and recognize public signs. Participants will also be introduced to Chinese culture so they can better understand and communicate with people in China. No prior knowledge of Chinese Mandarin is necessary to participate in the workshop or the short course. 


The Saturday single-session workshop will include a lecture followed by language practice of fundamental Chinese. The 3-session short course will provide more detailed language instruction and participants will have more opportunities to practice and be able to communicate in Chinese upon completion. 


For Questions Contact Tina Fang at: tfang@chinainstitute.org or call 212-744-8181 ext 150 



Mercy College believes that success in university should be based on hard work rather than family wealth, and with this basis in mind, have established the College's National Thought Leaders' Forum on Student Success. The forum will "examine student success" as a whole, including questions of who gets to graduate and why.

Mercy College's Thought Leaders' Forum on Student Success

March 16, 2017

Mercy College

555 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry, New York

Mercy Hall, Rotunda

8am Breakfast

Program 9am-12:45pm

Networking Lunch/Poster Session 12:45pm-1:45pm

Guest speakers include Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children's Zone, Marybeth Gasman of University of Pennsylvania, Mendell Grinter of Campaign for School Equity, and others. Canada will deliver the keynote address, entitled "We All Must Have a Stake in the Game."

RSVP at www.mercy.edu/success

Why does the wealth gap persist? 

College success should be based on hard work and determination-not family wealth.  That's the sentiment at Mercy College and the basis for the College's National Thought Leaders Forum on Student Success. 

Mercy College has long been committed to educating low-income, first generation students and the College is once again examining student success as a whole.  Who gets to graduate and why?

Mercy College's Thought Leaders' Forum on Student Success

March 16

Mercy College
555 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry, New York

Mercy Hall, Rotunda

8 a.m. Breakfast

Program 9 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.

Networking lunch/Poster Session 12:45 - 1:45 p.m.


RSVP at www.mercy.edu/success to attend in person or view online during a live national webcast at 9 a.m. 

Mercy College will bring experts together to examine the gap between wealthy and low-income students earning college degrees in America as the demand for college-educated workers is rising.  At the Forum this year, speakers include (in order of appearance):

·         Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children's Zone                                          

·         Marybeth Gasman, University of Pennsylvania

·         Mendell Grinter, Campaign for School Equity

·         Donna Linderman, City University of New York

·         Nicole Hurd, College Advising Corps

·         Kathryn Mannes, Jobs for the Future

·         José Herrera, Mercy College

·         Henry Fernandez, Complete College America

·         Cynthia Rivera Weissblum, Edwin Gould Foundation

·         Robert Niehaus, The Robert and Kate Niehaus Foundation and GCP Capital Partners LLC

The keynote address will be given by Canada, it is entitled, "We All Must Have a Stake in the Game."

According to experts in the area, there are hundreds of thousands of students across the nation who fall into the category of "at risk for graduation" because of their socioeconomic background. These students desperately want to earn a four-year degree-but they encounter issues that students from more affluent families do not. Mercy College has always stayed true to its mission, committing itself to educating these students and helping them transform their lives through higher education. Among the many programs the College has instituted is the College's PACT Program, which pairs students with a full-time mentor to help guide them through college and overcome obstacles that arise during their time in college.

Mercy College President Tim Hall said: "We need to defeat demography.  As a nation we need to ensure that all students who are determined and smart are getting into college, through college and into meaningful careers.  College success should have nothing to do with family wealth."

Städel Museum, Frankfurt

March 9, 2017

Visited: April 2016

by Ulli Kotanko

Accessing the staircase to the main entrance of the Städel Museum

About the museum

Frankfurt is not only known for one of the biggest and busiest airports in Europe and for the European Central Bank (EZB), but also for its culture, literature and art.

On my last visit to Frankfurt I had the opportunity to visit the Städel Museum - the oldest museum foundation in Germany, dating back to 1815.

Spanning a time period of over seven hundred years of European Art, from the fourteenth century to the present, its collection focuses on the Renaissance, Baroque, to early Modern Art and beyond.

Showcasing paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings and prints by artists like Dürer, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Monet, Picasso Kirchner, Beckmann and many more, this collection offers a comprehensive survey of Western art history.



Located on the embankment of the river Main, on the so called "Museumsufer", it shares the river bank with many other museums: Museum of Architecture, Museum of Archaeology, and Children's' Museum, to name a few. For more museums, seeMuseumsufer. 

Accessing the museum by a flight of stairs you enter a small foyer with the admission desk on the near left, a locker room to the far left, and the Museum Shop and Café to the right of the entrance.

At the ticket counter, I was informed that the museum does not offer large print folders or maps of the museum, and that there are no verbal description group tours available for VIPs (Visually Impaired Persons). There is, however, a program for VIPs on a quarterly basis or by appointment.

I was offered an audio guide for a small fee. I had to fetch it from what seemed a hidden spot - down several steps.

Being short of time I did not visit the current exhibition on view, but focused on the permanent collection and some of the highlights.

The galleries are well lit and spacious. Even though it was a Saturday afternoon, they were not too crowded.

Directory to the different galleries - also in English

Labels, Audio Guide and App

I asked myself: will I be able to read the labels?

The labels are big and use the color of the wall for background. The print is mostly in a contrasting color. I personally could not read the labels because the font was too small for me. However, at the bottom of the labels there is a big symbol and a number for the audio guide and the smartphone app.

There is an app, and I recommend downloading it to familiarize yourself with it before you visit the museum - it is worthwhile to do so! You can access the artwork by scan-recognition: you simply point the camera on your phone at the artwork, it scans the painting and delivers the accompanying audio guide to your screen. You will find a symbol for the app on the left bottom corner of the label. This system works very well and is best in combination with the audio guide.

The audio guide is easy to handle. It has raised, lit buttons with white numbers on a black background. The number for the audio guide is located in the right bottom corner of the label.

I found that the combination of the two devices gave me good information and allowed me to visualize the artwork in greater detail. There is no verbal description available on the audio guide and app - this would be a wonderful addition to these well designed applications.

Top: Label with signs for audio guide on the bottom right  and smartphone app on the bottom left

Bottom: Audio guide and smartphone with app in front of a label


Getting around

Navigating the museum might be a bit of a challenge if you want to see specific works, since there are no large print maps available.

The best way to get around is to resort to the old custom of asking the guards for direction. Since the galleries are spacious it is easy to walk from gallery to gallery. There are not many obstacles in your way, except for some benches, here and there and, of course, sculptures!


Last, but Not Least

So many important, original artworks are on display in this museum, that it felt as if I were walking through a text book of art history.

I will definitely come back to see more. Visit the bookstore and the cafe or treat yourself to a meal at the adjoining restaurant 'Holbein'.

Don´t miss the garden! Some of the flower beds have been planted in the style of some of the paintings in the galleries. When I was there in spring it was too early to see flowers. It must be delightful to spend some time on a bench in the garden during the summer.

Highlight of the museum: J.H.Wilhelm Tischbein: Goethe in the Roman Campagna



Visit the website before you actually go to the museum to check current exhibitions and changes on the information.

Familiarize yourself with the app beforehand to enhance your experience at the museum and check out the Digitorials, a multimedia preparation course, that is being offered for some exhibitions.


Enjoying a bench in the beautiful garden and listening to a sound installation

Mercy College looks forward to their 36th Annual Mercy College Trustees' Scholarship Dinner. This year, they will be honoring Joseph V. Apicella '85, Managing Director of Development, The MacQuesten Companies, Hoda Kotb, Co-host of NBC's TODAY Show, Dr. Gregory H. Williams, M.B.A. '14, Trustee of Mercy College and 11th President of City College of New York and 27th President of University of Cincinnati. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded to Neil D. Judge, Former Athletics Director of Mercy College. 

Gregory Howard Williams, Ph.D.

At the age of ten, Gregory Howard Williams moved to the Black housing projects of Muncie, Indiana where he first learned of his father's African American heritage. Confused and bewildered, this bi-racial young man found himself in the middle of an intensely divided community. In his best selling book, Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black, Williams recounts in vivid detail the racism, poverty, abandonment, alcoholism, and finally the Christian support that guided his search for a place in society.  

Williams received the coveted Los Angeles Times Prize for Book of the Year. The New York Times called Life on the Color Line, "a stunning perspective on racial oppression and identity" and added Williams' "recollections are precise, balanced and well-written."  The San Francisco Chronicle called his work, "A stunning journey to the heart of the racial dilemma in this country ...  a story that stays with us, wraps itself around us and won't go away."

In spite of the turmoil of his early life, Williams emerged from the poverty and racism of his youth and became one of America's most respected college presidents and inspirational speakers. He has spoken nationwide on college and university campuses, and in cities like Kansas City, Kansas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, struggling with racial and economic division, as well as before American corporate giants. He captivated an audience of 14,000 in the Carrier Dome on Syracuse University's campus, spoke to 6,000 students at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Fortune 500 companies have recognized him as understanding their needs and capable of relating his experience to the business environment. He served as the Keynote Speaker at IBM's Diversity Celebration in Raleigh, North Carolina and the Black History Month Celebration at Texaco's headquarters outside White Plains, New York.  He has been a Keynote Speaker at the Annual NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Conference) and firms like the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, Procter and Gamble, Kroger and Macys. The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post have solicited articles from Williams. He has appeared on Dateline, Nightline, Oprah, Larry King, the Tony Brown Show and on NPR with Michel Martin's Tell Me More and the Diane Rehm Show.

Williams has been a national leader in higher education. As President, Williams spearheaded the Renaissance of The City College of New York, resurrecting a once proud institution, the College home of nine Nobel Prize winners, and returned the College to its rightful place of prominence among America's urban universities. He raised admission standards, increased the student body 60%, and catapulted City College fund raising to fourth in New York City behind, Columbia, NYU, and Rockefeller University. He has been the major fund-raiser in three university $1 Billion campaigns. DIVERSE ISSUES magazine celebrated President Williams turnaround leadership of The City College of New York in an article titled,  "The Right Man for the Job." He later served as President of the University of Cincinnati and also served as a major leader of The Big East Athletic Conference. While a college president, he also chaired the Committee on Access, Diversity and Excellence of the National Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, helping shape historic and groundbreaking work on developing College Diversity Plans.

 His biracial background, the formative years of his youth spent in a racially tense urban community, combined with his service as a law enforcement officer and Chair of an Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has given him a singularly unique perspective on campus and community issues dealing with race and racism and police and policing. He is a tested and proven leader in resolving divisive campus and community issues. His advice and counsel are often sought.

He received the Judge Leon Higginbotham Award from the National Bar Association for his contributions to the Preservation of Human and Civil Rights and the Dean of the Year Award from the National Association of Public Interest Law. President Bill Clinton drew on his expertise in Clinton's Call to Action to promote diversity in the American legal community.  While serving as President of the Association of American Law Schools, Williams was asked to speak at a White House Press Conference announcing President Clinton's Call to Action. 

Williams, the former Dean and Carter C. Kissell Professor of Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, holds eleven degrees including a J.D., Ph.D, MBA and five honorary doctorates, as well as the Distinguished Alumni Professional Achievement Award from his alma mater, The George Washington University. Williams has travelled widely and served as a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University, Professor of Law at Durham University (United Kingdom) as well as Associate Vice President for International Programs and Professor of Law at the University of Iowa. He has worked with the Minister of Education in Austria who awarded Williams the Austrian Cross of Honor, First Class; he has pursued program development initiatives with university leaders in Canada, China, England, Mexico, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Slovakia, the President of the Dominican Republic, and The King of Spain.

Dr. Williams and his wife live in Hastings on Hudson, New York. They have four children including twin brothers adopted in El Progresso, Honduras. 

Neil Judge

Former Athletics Director, Head Coach and Instructor, Mercy College

Neil Judge joined Mercy College in 1969 as a part-time physical education instructor. Two years later, he was named Mercy's first athletics director, serving in that role for 34 years until his retirement in 2005.

Known and respected throughout the Mercy community, Judge coached every team at some point, including three stints as head coach of the softball team and director of Mercy's summer sports camps. He was instrumental in securing membership in the Eastern College Athletic Conference in 1973 and the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1975. He also guided Mercy toward becoming a charter member of the New York Collegiate Athletic Conference (now known as the East Coast Conference) in 1989.

Judge graduated from Tarkio College in Missouri in 1968 with a BA in history. Always very athletic, he minored in physical education and played many different sports. He briefly held jobs at Chubb & Co. and the New York City Department of Social Services, and served six years in the New York National Guard. In 1977, he received a master's degree from Herbert Lehman College.

Manhattan-born and raised, Judge was the second of seven children born to a New York City police officer and a mother who worked nights at Macy's. As a boy he hoped to follow in his father's footsteps, or become a Yankee like his idol, Mickey Mantle. He was introduced to Mercy College through his future wife, Mary Anne, whom he met when she was a student in Mercy's first graduating class.

Throughout his tenure as Mercy's athletic director, Judge maintained focus on one primary goal: doing what was best for his student athletes and preparing them for any career, not just athletics. That dedication earned him the coveted Sister Gratia Maher Award for outstanding teaching. Early on, Judge was approached by President Gruenwald, Mercy's first lay president, who told him the college had funding for either a new library or a new gym, but not both. When asked for his opinion, the answer was immediate: Judge opted for the library--and for a few more years, continued to haul athletic equipment to and from games and practices in his car.

Judge, now 74, retired from Mercy in 2005, but he still travels from his home in Stratford, Conn., each year to attend Mercy's Senior Awards Night. He personally presents the award that was named for him: the Neil Judge Scholar Athlete Award, given to one male and one female graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average.

Many people still remember how Judge's office at Mercy was decorated with hundreds of graduation photos of students he'd coached or taught throughout the years. To this day he often hears from former student athletes who express their gratitude for his guidance and unswerving dedication. The pride and affection are mutual.



Hoda Kotb is the co-host of the fourth hour of NBC News' TODAY alongside Kathie Lee Gifford.  Since the duo teamed up in 2008, the Gifford-Kotb hour has been hailed as "appointment television" by Entertainment Weekly, "uproarious and irresistible" by People, and "TODAY's happy hour" by USA Today.  

Since joining NBC in 1998, Kotb has served as a correspondent for "Dateline NBC."  She has covered a wide variety of domestic and international stories across all NBC News platforms as well as numerous human-interest stories and features.  She covered the aftermath and one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a story personal to Kotb who lived in New Orleans for six years.  Additionally, she has reported on the war in Iraq, the conflict in the West Bank and Gaza, and the War on Terror in Afghanistan.  Kotb was a part of the network's extensive coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.  She also served as host of the weekly syndicated series "Your Total Health," from 2004 to 2008. 

A New York Times bestselling author, Kotb has written four books, Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer and Kathie Lee; Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives and Where They Belong.  Kotb is an 9-year breast cancer survivor and is involved in several initiatives to raise awareness about the disease. 

Kotb was recognized with a 2016 Gracie Award for Outstanding Host in Entertainment/Information for her radio show, "The Hoda Show on SiriusXM." In 2015, she was honored with a Gracie Award for Outstanding Host in News/Non-fiction and a Webby Award for her 'Truly Brave' music video, shining a light on pediatric cancer.  Kotb received additional Gracie Awards in 2008 and 2003, the Alfred I. duPont -Columbia University award in 2008, a Peabody Award in 2006 for her "Dateline NBC" report, "The Education of Ms. Groves" and a 2002 Edward R. Murrow Award. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Kotb was awarded Daytime Emmys as part of TODAY's recognition as the best morning news program.   

Prior to joining NBC News, Kotb worked at WWL-TV, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans from 1992 to 1998 as an anchor and reporter for the 10 p.m. news broadcast. From 1989 to 1991, she was a weekend anchor and reporter for WINK-TV in Fort Myers, Florida.  

Kotb graduated from Virginia Tech University with a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast journalism. She resides in New York City. 

Joe Apicella

Managing Director of Development, The MacQuesten Companies

Joe Apicella is an accomplished Senior Real Estate Executive responsible for the acquisition, approvals, financing and construction of more than 2 billion dollars' worth of development in the tri-state area. He joined MacQuesten in 2015 as the Managing Director of Development. Joe holds extensive expertise in managing all aspects of commercial real estate development including site compliance, legal documentation, governmental approvals/grant awards, regulatory compliance, lease negotiations and asset management. He has an established network extending to all levels of county, state and federal government. In 1998 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by Yonkers Business Improvement District, in 2007 the Distinguished Citizenship Award by Yonkers YWCA and in 2009 New Rochelle Businessman of the Year. Some of Mr. Apicella's projects at MacQuesten include: 

Van Sinderen Plaza, Brooklyn, a $60,000,000, 193,675 square-feet mixed-use project  including 130 residential units and 20,000 + square-feet of commercial space located at the elevated train stop in  East New York. 

22 S West , Mount Vernon, a key Transit Oriented Development project in the Hudson Valley featuring a 20 story mixed-use 200 unit residential -retail development located at the foot of the Metro-North Mount Vernon West Train Station. 

Mount Vernon West Train  Station  Development , a 60,000 square-foot development including national retailers such as green grocers, banking, cafe and pharmacy. This project will also include 30,000 square-feet of class A office space, all situated and part of the actual redesigned and redeveloped train station building.  

Previously, Mr. Apicella was the Executive Vice President of The Cappelli Organization leading multi-million dollar projects and is considered instrumental in the downtown revitalization of two major cities. Some projects include The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, City Center White Plains, Trump Plaza New Rochelle and Trump Park Residences Yorktown. 


In today's world, students are learning about irrational numbers much earlier than the date years back. However, all too often they are told what they are but not given enough time to appreciate what we mean by an irrational number. Let's take a little time here to understand what irrational numbers by using one of the more common ones, squareroot2.png.

When we say that the squareroot2.png is irrational, what does that mean?  It may be wise to inspect the word "irrational" with regard to its meaning in English.  Irrational means not rational.  Not rational means it cannot be expressed as a ratio of two integers.  Not expressible as a ratio means it cannot be expressed as a common fraction. That is, there is no fraction absquare2.png, where a and b are integers.*

If we compute squareroot2.png with a calculator we will get: squareroot2.png= 1.414213562373095048801688724209698078569671875376948073176679737990732478462107038850387534327641572

Notice that there is no pattern among the digits, and there is no repetition even of groups of digits.  Does this mean that all rational fractions will have a period of digits?  Let's inspect a few common fractions. 1/7 = 0.142857 142857 142857 142857 ... , which can be written as: 1428lineabove.png   (a six-digit period**). Suppose we consider the fraction 1/109 = 0.009174311926605504587155963302752293577981651376146788990825688073394495412844036697247706422018348623

Here we have calculated its value to 100 places and no period appears.  Does this mean that the fraction is irrational?  This would destroy our nice definition above.  We can try to calculate the value a bit more accurately, that is, say, another 10 places further.

1/109 = 0.0091743119266055045871559633027522935779816513761467889908256880733944954128440366972477064220183486238532110091

Suddenly it looks as though a pattern may be appearing, the 0.0091 also began the period above.

We carry out our calculation further to 220 places and notice that in fact 108-digit period emerges.

1/109 = 0.009174311926605504587155963302752293577981651376146788990825688073394495412844036697247706422018348623853211009174311926605504587155963302752293577981651376146788990825688073394495412844036697247706422018348623853211009174

If we carry out the calculation to 332 places the pattern becomes clearer.

1/109 = =0.009174311926605504587155963302752293577981651376146788990825688073394495412844036697247706422018348623853211009174311926605504587155963302752293577981651376146788990825688073394495412844036697247706422018348623853211009174311926605504587155963302752293577981651376146788990825688073394495412844036697247706422018348623853211009174 . . .  .

We might be able to conclude (albeit without proof) that a common fraction results in a decimal equivalent that has a repeating period of digits.  Some common ones we already are familiar with. Such as:


To this point we saw that a common fraction will result in a repeating decimal, sometimes with a very long period (e.g. 1/109) and sometimes with a very short period (e.g. 1/3).  It would appear, from the rather flimsy evidence so far, that a fraction results in a repeating decimal and an irrational number does not. Yet this does not prove that an irrational number cannot be expressed as a fraction. Here is a cute proof for the more ambitious (or curious) reader that squareroot2.png cannot be expressed as a common fraction and therefore, by definition, is irrational.

Suppose a/b is a fraction in lowest terms, which means that a and b do not have a common factor.


Understanding this proof may be a bit strenuous for some, but a slow and careful step-by-step consideration of it should make it understandable for most readers.

* Integers, you will recall, are essentially whole numbers and can be positive or negative, or zero.

** A period of digits is a group of digits that repeats, as in the case of this example.



By Hollis Dannaham, M.Ed.

Dear Hollis,

My fifth grade son is reading almost two years behind his peers. He understands book discussions but while he is reading he often skips over words or mumbles through them. What can I do to help him catch up to his peers?

Mumbling in Massachusetts

Dear Mumbling,

Many times children who struggle with decoding (sounding out of words) memorize whole words so they can keep up in the younger grades. However, when they get into upper elementary school and are faced with multisyllabic unknown words they get stuck because they never mastered the "code" of reading. The "code" consists of two parts, phonemic awareness (processing the sounds of language orally) and phonics (matching sound to symbol). To determine if this is the case, search on the internet for "nonsense word test." Have your son read through these nonsense words as if they were real words. You will then see if there are holes in his phonics knowledge and specifically where those holes are. If this proves to be his struggle, then you can bring this information to his school to see if they have a reading teacher who can provide him with an Orton-Gillingham based intervention group. If not, you can find a tutor who is trained in this method. If his decoding proves to be fine, then I would recommend finding a reading specialist who can assess him properly to discover the underlying cause of his reading difficulty.

Keep me posted,


Dear Hollis,

I am a principal in a K-8 school and I notice that my students are not writing in a clear and cohesive manner. We use the writing workshop model for our writing instruction. Can you suggest something that we could add to our writing curriculum to improve students' writing achievement across the grades.

Underachieving in Brooklyn

Dear Underachieving,

This is a common issue in many of the schools I consult with. Writing is a very complex task that requires the orchestration of many skills. In addition, many teachers are not trained in how to teach writing effectively. There is a great research based program that you can integrate into your workshop model and provides many free resources online. Go to www.thinksrsd.com to get more information. I have seen significant results using this program. Please note that I am not connected to SRSD in any way.

In Service,


After 30 years serving complex learners of all ages as a special education teacher, reading specialist, school leader, and clinical learning specialist, Hollis Dannaham, M.Ed., now consults with schools to design intervention and special education programs, coaches teachers and administrators, and provides professional development workshops. Please send your questions to hdannaham@gmail.com.

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