Monday, March 30, 2015

Student Centered or Curriculum Centered?

After learning about both philosophies, can you identify which way you lean?
A teacher's beliefs about teaching and learning, and the subsequent classroom practices that stem from those beliefs, is called a teaching philosophy.   

Two common teaching philosophies from which an individual teacher can build a unique perspective are a student-centered philosophy and a curriculum-centered philosophy.

A Student Centered Philosophy

A student-centered philosophy, also called a learner-centered philosophy, focuses on helping individual students master pre-determined learning objectives or measurable goals.  In a well-working student-centered classroom, every student can achieve an "A" given enough time and individualized attention.

Some fundamental characteristics listed in the explanation provided in the definition of "Student-Centered Learning" by The Glossary of Education Reform, include:

  1. Teaching and learning is “personalized,” meaning that it addresses the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students.
  2. Students advance in their education when they demonstrate they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn.
  3. Students have the flexibility to learn “anytime and anywhere,” meaning that student learning can take place outside of traditional classroom and school-based settings, such as through work-study programs or online courses, or during nontraditional times, such as on nights and weekends.
  4. Students are given opportunities to make choices about their own learning and contribute to the design of learning experiences.

A Curriculum Centered Philosophy

A curriculum-centered philosophy focuses on the delivery of a set amount of content on a timeline. The material is taught, via direct instruction, on a schedule.  Students are graded based on the amount of material they retain compared to other students.

Teachers who prefer curriculum-centered teaching practices or who teach at curriculum-centered institutions, are generally extremely adept at planning lessons within units.  These lessons and units build upon one another, over time, with carefully constructed lectures and assessment activities that align to specific discipline-area goals or outcomes.

The difference between curriculum-centered assessment and student-centered assessment is in the way skills and knowledge are measured.  As stated above, in a student-centered learning environment, teachers strive to help students reach mastery; learning of a skill or concept does not stop until the student reaches mastery.  In a curriculum-centered learning environment, teachers also strive to help students reach mastery.  At the end of a set period of time, however, the teacher measures the students' various levels of proficiency, and the class moves on to the next topic or unit.

Curriculum-centered teaching is useful when class sizes prohibit individualized learning, when the class meets for a limited amount of time, when advanced or independent learners simply need a reiteration of key concepts, or when new concepts and ideas must be delivered or explained by a subject-matter expert.

Balancing Teaching Philosophies

Although "student-centered" sounds like a much friendlier teaching practice, curriculum-centered teaching has its place.  The truth is most teachers must, at some time, use curriculum-based instruction to deliver content to students, even if that content is later used as the basis of a student-centered activity.  A student-centered activity can then reinforce the idea taught in lecture. However, if a teacher too often relies on curriculum-centered practices and direct instruction, he or she is usually referred to as too pedantic, didactic, or more often, boring.

On the other hand, a teacher who relies only on student-centered teaching strategies can either be considered "fun," or may be thought of as having little to no classroom management skills.  There is a fine line between an environment suited for personalized learning and an environment that is stressful and chaotic.

In the end, a teacher must choose the philosophy not only best suited to his or her own personality, but best suited to the needs of his or her students.  Each philosophy and its related practices has benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to know which bits and pieces to borrow from each philosophy.

Want to read more about pedagogy and teaching?  Try

Works Cited

"Student-Centered Learning." The Glossary of Education Reform. Great Schools Partnership, 7 May 2014. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Works Consulted

"Learner-Centered vs. Curriculum-Centered Teachers: Which Type Are You?" TeacherVision. Family Education Network, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The "Google" Verb; Our Language Changes with the Culture

Are you a googler, too?

The word "google," most well known as the name of the mega search engine, has been considered a verb for several years now. Who knew?

Language is constantly changing. As life changes and evolves, language has to change and evolve in order to keep up with a society's need to express new ideas. One example of this type of evolution of language is the use of “google,” and derivations of this word, as verbs.

Do You Know What it Means to Google Something?

According to the 10th edition of Collins English Dictionary, the word “google” can be a noun or a verb, either transitive or intransitive (n.d.). That means it can be used with or without an object. The Random House Dictionary assures users that the word, when used as a verb, does not have to be capitalized (n.d.). A person can write or say with confidence that his or her usage is correct, “I am going to google butterflies,” or simply “I am going to google.” This googler is simply saying that he or she is about to use a search engine to find information about butterflies, or he or she is going to search the Internet for any other topic that might come to mind.

Grammatically, the word can also be conjugated per the normal rules of English and used as a gerund: googling. Interestingly enough, one can “google,” even if using a search engine other than Google, much like one can “xerox” on any brand copy machine.  For example, just yesterday I heard a coworker say she had "googled" her Outlook Inbox to find a particular message.  Everyone knew she meant she had searched her Outlook Inbox using the search box under the Microsoft ribbon toolbar.

Do You Know What it Means to Google-Map a Place?

If a person is using the mapping or directions tool within the Google conglomerate, he or she might use the verbs “Google mapping” or “Google Earthing.” Arguably, however, it is correct in this particular usage to capitalize these verbs because a person is using the brand name and the software belonging to Google. The word here is a modifying part of a specific verb phrase. The word “mapping,” and even more so, the word “Earthing,” have different meanings (or little meaning) when compared to “Google mapping” or “Google Earthing.” The jury is still out about whether or not to hyphenate the noun phrase or whether or not to create a compound noun.

Do You Know What it Means to Googlebomb a Search Engine?

“To googlebomb” is more serious than to "google," or look something up on the Internet. This derivation has a negative connotation. Dr. Stephan Ott states, “A Google bomb or Google wash is an attempt to influence the ranking of a given site in results returned by the Google search engine. Due to the way that Google's PageRank algorithm works, a website will be ranked higher if the sites that link to that page all use consistent anchor text. Googlebomb is used both as a verb and a noun” (para. 1). In layman’s terms, if a person (or a person’s friends) wants a specific website to appear at the top of Google’s search results list, that person and his or her friends can create oodles of links that point to that particular website. Like googling, however, googlebombing is not limited to the use of, or an attack on, Google’s search engines.

Do You Know What it Means to Win a Googlewhack?

Gary Stock offers a few great examples of "googlewhacked" results on his web page, Googlewhack! The Search for The One. He also offers an extensive definition and the rules of the game. Yes, "to googlewhack" is to play a game. Simply put, it's to enter a two-word phrase into the Google Search box with the hope of turning up only one result. The main rule is that the googlewhacker (the noun) enter only two words; no numbers, symbols, or punctuation. If a person wins and receives only one hit, that person can have the results checked by another player. Although Mr. Stock's definition refers only to the Google search engine, the game can be played using any search engine.

Whether a person is googling, googlemapping, googlebombing, or googlewhacking, one thing is true: Our language has certainly changed over the past few years to facilitate communicating new ideas and incorporate our daily use of Google's search engine.


  • google. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from website:
  • google. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from website:
  • Stock, G. (2009). Googlewhack! The search for the one. Retrieved from
  • Ott, S. (2001). Google bombing. Links & Law - Information about legal aspects of search engines, linking and framing. Retrieved from

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
Originally published on July 22, 2011.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Arts & Crafts & Healing

A white crochet lace motif
Engagement in a detailed craft is is one method
of controlled avoidance. 

When people focus on a craft, when people focus on creation, people overcome grief.

Grief is an emotional reaction to a devastating loss.  People who are grieving often feel helplessness, anguish, loneliness, or even guilt. These feelings make it difficult for the grieving person to function, to complete day-to-day tasks like cooking, bathing, or paying bills.

Research supports that one way to ease the anguish associated with a devastating loss is controlled avoidance.

Taking a Time Out

J. Shep Jeffreys writes, in a chapter called "Controlled Avoidance in the Management of Grief," that at times, people may need help managing and controlling the grieving process in order to function, in order to complete necessary daily activities.  Those who are grieving may need help planning these "time outs," or they may simply need permission to give themselves a break from actively grieving (2012, pg. 155).  He refers to these breaks from active grieving as controlled avoidance.

One of the controlled avoidance activities Jeffreys lists as appropriate for these "time outs" is crafts.

Engagement in Craft Activities

Jeffreys is not the only researcher who advocates crafts and creative activities as a potentially effective therapy.

Sue Griffiths, Principal Lecturer with the Division of Occupational Therapy at The University of Northampton finds there may be "potential health gains from using creative activities" in mental health therapies.  (Griffiths, 2008, para. 4).  One such specific example of beneficial creative activity comes from U.S. military veteran John Smelser. He began completing craft kits, provided by Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV),  after seeking treatment for alcoholism triggered by grief ("Working on Arts & Crafts Helps This Veteran Cope with Grief," 2013, para. 2).  After several years, he has found that completing craft kits has helped him heal in a "myriad" of ways (para. 5).

Furthermore, a study published in 2009 by The Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy also supports the claim that crafts can be used as effective "time outs" from active grieving.   Specifically, the researcher states that an analysis of the study reveals the following:

Craft can be [useful] in achieving therapeutic changes in following areas: physiology (heart rate, respiration etc.), psychophysiology (pain, level of consciousness etc.), sensomotory development (internalization of visual, tactile and kinaesthetic functions, fine motor coordination etc.), perception (discrimination of differences etc.), cognition (learning skills,  knowledge, attitudes, short and long-term retention etc.), behaviour (activity level, activity level, safety, accuracy etc.), craft related skills (composing, craft techniques, using equipments and materials etc.), emotions (anxiety, depression, motivation, imagery etc.), communication (verbal and nonverbal communication, expressive skills etc.), interpersonal (role behaviours, relationship patterns, sensitivity etc.) and creativity (inventiveness, artistry etc). (Pollanen, pg. 44)

The benefits are shown to be numerous, and they relate both directly and indirectly to healing after experiencing a devastating loss.  That is, this study also supports that crafts help those who are grieving overcome their grief.


Although more specific and more numerous studies have yet to be conducted, preliminary and related studies show that crafts can and do aid in the healing process.  Most notably, crafts can be used when a grieving person needs a "time out" from actively grieving, or needs permission to engage in controlled avoidance of active grieving processes.

Want to read more about grief and healing?  Try

Grief and the Holiday Season
Using the Nice Dishes
Learn to Crochet for Stress Relief

Ready to learn to crochet?  Take my complete online crochet course for beginners on Udemy for only $10.00!

Learn to create four different patternless projects and start crocheting for stress relief.  Crochet does a body good!


  • Griffiths, S. (2008). The experience of creative activity as a treatment medium. Retrieved from
  • Jeffreys, J. S. (2012). Controlled Avoidance in the Management of Grief. Techniques of Grief Therapy: Creative Practices for Counseling the Bereaved (Series in Death, Dying, and Bereavement). Neimeyer, R. A. (ed.) New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Pollanen, S. (2009). Craft as context in therapeutic change.  The Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy. XLI (2). pp. 43-47.
  • Working on Arts & Crafts Helps This Veteran Cope with Grief. (2013, July 17). PR Newswire. Retrieved from lirn84858&it=r&p=PPCJ&sw=w&asid=a74e1306abbaf9a4a8e2ec3435da19ad

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sentence Diagramming: Diagramming Gerunds

A gerund is a super part of speech that takes on some of the qualities of both nouns and verbs.

It's a Noun!  It's a Verb!  It's a Super Gerund!

Diagramming a sentence is a great way to unravel the meaning of a sentence and check its grammatical construction.  This type of visual analysis of a sentence can help people become better readers and better writers.  Picking out each of the parts of a sentence (the subjects, predicates, modifiers, phrases, and clauses) helps both readers and writers see how each part of the sentence works to create meaning. Understanding how each word functions in a a sentence helps ensure proper construction or analysis of that sentence.

The type of word I'm explaining in this post, the gerund,  has qualities of two different parts of speech  at the same time; it looks like an "ing" verb, it takes on a verbal complement like a verb, but we use it like a noun.

It's important to know how to identify gerunds within sentences to prevent subject-verb agreement errors.  These errors can occur because gerunds, like present participle verbs, end in "ing" and might be mistaken for the main verb in a sentence - even if it's the subject.  Gerunds are used as nouns, not verbs.  A gerund can be used in a sentence in any way a noun can be used: as a complement, object, or subject.

How to Diagram a Gerund

When a gerund appears in a sentence, it is diagrammed on the gerund element.  It looks like a stretched-out "z" or "2" on legs.

Gerunds should be diagrammed on the gerund element.

Whether the gerund is a subject, object, or complement, it is placed on the gerund element.  The root word of the gerund can be placed on the top horizontal line of the gerund element, any additional letters added to the root before the "ing" ending can curve around the horizontal line of the element, and the "ing" can be placed in the lower horizontal line.  Take a look at the example of "Running."

The gerund sits on top of the elongated "z" or "2."

If the gerund is a subject, the gerund element will stand on the base line in the subject area of the diagram, like shown below.  If the gerund is an object or complement, the gerund element will stand on the base line in either the object or complement area of the diagram.

Stand the gerund element on top of the base line in the proper place on the diagram.

How to Diagram a Gerund with a Verbal Complement

Just as a main verb in a sentence can be followed by a direct object, a gerund can be followed by a verbal complement.   Take a look at this example: "Running laps is super."  "Running" is still the subject, "is" is still the main verb, and "super" is still the subject complement.  However, this time we've added the noun, "laps," after the gerund.  "Laps" answers the question Running what?  It adds information to our gerund.

To diagram the verbal complement, write the verbal complement on the gerund element with the gerund.  The gerund and its complement have the same visual relationship as a main verb and its object.

A verbal complement will follow its verbal.

In Conclusion . . . 

Although it can be tricky to identify and diagram gerunds, analyzing and diagramming them can be mastered with just a little knowledge and practice.  You can become a super diagrammer of this super type of word and the complements!

Want to read more about diagramming sentences?  Try

What's an Object Complement?
Prepositional Phrase or Phrasal Verb?
Diagramming Sentences: Folk Song Friday

Or purchase my complete sentence diagramming textbook, Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language.  

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Budget Day Trip to Chateau Elan's Winery

There are many ways to occupy a day away from the city at Chateau Elan.

The winery at Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia, is an inexpensive and easy day trip from the Atlanta metro area.

On a visit this past Independence Day, we spent three hours at Chateau Elan, mostly just at the winery, which included a self-guided tour, a few sips at the tasting bar, and a walk through the art gallery, gift shop, and grounds. Meeting a challenge we had set for ourselves to spend less than $25.00, the entire day at the winery cost a grand total of only $5.00.

A Short Trip from Atlanta, Georgia

Having never been to Braselton, I was very impressed with the signage on I-85, Highway 211, and on the grounds. There was no confusion about where to turn or where to park. The winery is a very close walk from the parking area, and the walk is very beautiful.  The grounds are planted with well-manicured lawns and gardens.

Our first stop was the hotel, where we enjoyed the indoor fountains, sky lights, and many comfortable seating areas. From there we headed out to the winery and grounds.

Welcoming visitors walking to the winery from the hotel, there is a magnificent fountain with a statue of a woman stomping grapes; she makes a great photo companion.

Surrounding the winery are acres of grapevines, a path leading to the nature trail, and a view of the equestrian center. The final touch a visitor cannot help noticing before entering the winery is the large, primitive clay vessels standing at the entrance.

Inside the Chateau Elan Winery

Once we entered the winery, there were several options for what we could do first. We chose to wander through the gift area and take a look at the varieties of wine available. We also took a peek into The Culinary Studio, which is advertised on the winery brochure as a "teaching kitchen" where they offer classes, demonstrations, and events.

Although guided tours are offered during the week at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., we chose to take a self-guided tour instead of waiting for the 3:00 tour to begin. The employees were very helpful getting us started, and there are placards within the winemaking area to help explain the winemaking process.

Unfortunately, we were there pre-harvest, and there were no grapes in process that day. We completed our tour with a stop at the tasting bar, where for $5.00 we tried five varieties of both red and white Muscadine wines.

Closing Out the Vineyard Trip

After our tour of the winemaking area, we also stepped into the upstairs art gallery, which includes artwork turned wine-labels, and rested our slightly light-headed selves on a lovely leather bench while it began to rain lightly outdoors. Feeling slightly spontaneous as well as slightly light-headed, we decided to forego bicycle rental and instead walked through the vineyard back to our car in spite of the rain.

Our Independence Day was a very lovely first trip to Chateau Elan's winery, and we are planning a return trip in the fall. The trip to Braselton from Atlanta was effortless, there was plenty to see and do both indoors and outdoors, and the wine was fantastic! I'm looking forward to eating at one or more of the many restaurants, taking a cooking class, taking a guided tour of the winery post-harvest, perhaps seeing a horse show, staying overnight to enjoy the spa and swimming pool, and definitely tasting a few more of those Muscadine wines.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.  Originally published July 8, 2011.