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This is a short one!

This video covers the pronunciation and semantic clues of words ending in -able and words ending in -ive.

Last week one of my projects at Hack Reactor was to write a server (using Node.js) to emulate the functionality of the Wayback Machine– that is to download and archive copies of various web sites.

An interesting coincidence is that my old friend John just wrote about it yesterday. He’s designed and written numerous beautiful blogs and, sadly, destroyed them and broken all of my links to them. He’s started combing the wayback machine to bring some of that content back… for me. Now I can tell you readers who email me about not being able to find his content to go check out the dev.gd graveyard. Some of his old posts on language (and other) learning are great!

How do you pronounce an “a” if it’s at the end of a word? This one’s pretty easy. Just tell your students at some point… or better yet, ask them if they’ve noticed the pattern.

In terms of phonics, what’s the difference between -sion, -tion and -ssion? Why is it that it’s possible for students first encountering the words “devotion” or “nation” to be 95% sure they end in -tion and not -ssion? Why is it even easier to know when to spell something with -sion?

This video covers the spelling pattern of “al” or “le” at the end of words. It’s about polysyllabic words such as “noble”, not single syllable words like “pal” or “vale”. Aside from the pronunciation of the “le” itself, the “le” also interacts with preceding vowels.

And yeah, this is a good one to know if you ever want to read Fox in Sox!

When beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles
and the bottle’s on a poodle and the poodle’s eating noodles…
…they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle
bottle paddle battle.

Sometimes words with a “ch” sound are spelled with a “tch” in which the “t” is silent. Other times, the “ch” sound is spelled without a “t”. What’s the pattern? When do you spell words with “ch” vs “tch”?

Since my arrival in San Francisco last summer, I’ve become aware of the new “hacker schools” popping up around the city. Their stated purpose is to take smart, motivated people who may or may not have a strong technical background and turn them into world-class junior developers in a short time.

The Starter League

The first school of this type that I ever heard of was Code Academy in Chicago (renamed as The Starter League due to name confusion after the online school Codecademy launched). Their system was pretty unique– students spend 8 to 10 hours per day for 2 months, working in pairs as they learn a stunning amount of ruby, HTML/CSS/JS and Ruby on Rails. At the end of this time, they have an interview day in which they demo their projects to various tech companies, including some of the hottest local startups. The school has only been running since 2011, but results have been excellent and even DHH, the creator of Ruby on Rails, is a fan of the program.

SF Hacker Schools

With that kind of success, it wasn’t long before similar schools started popping up in the Bay Area. The demand for top notch developers is extreme here, but very few companies are willing to train and they take only a tiny fraction of their applicants. A program to quickly bring students up to speed in the technologies that local start-ups are using is the perfect solution. It’s an incredible learning experience for the students that opens doors, the companies can hire solid programmers to join their teams and schools can earn money from either or both of the former two groups. From what I understand, Dev Bootcamp‘s first class was hugely successful–Over 90 percent of the students landed jobs shortly after graduation (at nearly double the average US salary) and of those who didn’t one opened a similar school called App Academy that focused on iOS development and the other opened Hack Reactor, an even more intense school with a stronger focus on JavaScript and front-end technologies. There is also another school, which I know less about since it doesn’t accept men.

In contrast with computer science degrees at universities, these schools have less of a focus on CS theory and more of a focus on building things. Students write a lot of code, and they use newer languages and frameworks. Another feature is heavy use of cutting edge tools and various automated testing frameworks that are commonly used in bay area start-ups, but not so common yet at larger, more traditional companies. Most striking to me is the intense nature of the study. No college I’ve ever seen puts students through 8 class hours of computing classes per day.

The bay area hacker schools remind me more of high-end intense language schools! There are a number of 6 hour per day intense language learning programs in which students work in pairs or small groups, work hard, and acquire a great deal of vocabulary, speaking skills and reading skills in a short time. In my experience learning mathematics as a teenager and then later learning Japanese and Chinese in my 20s, working at something 4 hours a day isn’t just 4 times as good as 1 hour a day. It’s closer to 10 times as good.

All in all, I see a lot of positives of this type of education. So much so, that I’m considering the possibility of running a school of this type someday… possibly even in Taiwan again! Entrance is very competitive to the existing schools, so it took a lot of hustling, but I’ve gotten into Hack Reactor class. I’ll be in class from 9am to 8pm six days a week, starting tomorrow. If you’re interested in the full story, I’ve put it up on my programming blog.

I may or may not be able to continue posting phonics lessons in my Phonics Friday Youtube channel, but I’ll try!

Why is it that the to make the plural form of “hobby”, you change the “y” to “ies”? But to make the plural form of other words ending in “y”, like “toy”, you just add an “s”? Why do you add “es” to make “potato” plural? How about “loaf” and “loaves”? Is that just an exception?

If you don’t know, then this is phonics video for you!

How do you pronounce an S at the end of the word? Well, sometimes it sounds like an S and other times it sounds like a Z. This video covers the phonics rule for that and also a fun way of helping your students remember when to add “es” to a plural noun or 3rd person singular verb.

Have a great 2013, everybody!