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Wednesday, September 21, 2011


In college we are discouraged from teaching memorization. After all, memory is low on the Bloom's Taxonomy. I know I've blogged about this before but when I see 12 year-old kids counting on their fingers it drives me mad. 

2+2=4 as long as we are using our wonderful Base 10 system. That is never going to change. In early primary grades they learn why. In intermediate grades they know this and they know several strategies on how to make 2+2=4. So there is no need for them to use those strategies anymore. They need to be able to look at math sentence that uses addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and automatically know it. Instead they are relying on their fingers, number lines, and manipulatives. This causes them to take much longer and distracts them from the issue at hand. For example, if a child is adding or subtracting fractions it is rather helpful if they already know that the least common denominator for 6 and 12 is six. If they have this memorized then they can quickly put down that 12 is the least common denominator and that six will go into twelve two times so if the problems uses the fraction 5/6 they can finish it up quick sticks, without fingers, number lines, etc because they should have their facts and sums memorized by then. It would be terribly embarrassing if this child grows up and is seen at a grocery store figuring things out their fingers that they should know in their head. 

That my friends is my recent soap box lecture on the importance of memorization. Memory is grand thing. It doesn't stay with everyone forever so let's use it while we can. ;)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Worksheets are boring

Here is a worksheet, there's a worksheet, read this worksheet, finish this worksheet. Really, are we still living a worksheet world. I am an adult so my attention span is supposed to bigger than that of school age children. If I had to sit a desk and do worksheets or read out of a text book five days a week for several hours a day you would need to order my straight jacket in XL. We expect young children to do this day in and day out? Then if a child is easily bored with sitting and doing worksheets and it hard to keep on task society wants to label them with a disorder. We have too many resources for children to sit all day and do worksheets and read from textbooks. This is not teaching, it is sucking the life out of children. With the use of technology, a ton of teaching strategies, and more importantly; our brains, we need to get these kids up and moving a little. Must they be doing something active all the time? Of course not. Plan activities not just lessons. They need to get OUTSIDE every now and then for something besides a few minutes of recess. Teach them how to stop and smell the roses...what are roses anyhow? Are they plants or animals? How do we know that?....sorry one of those teachable moments just clicked. How about group work? Oh, they are to rowdy? Is it because there haven't been guidelines and procedures set for them for group work? If they do not know what to do then, yes, it could become quite chaotic. My son once came home from middle school telling me how he despised group work. He tends to be a loner, more of an intrapersonal learner but I ask him why. Shrug of shoulders, of course. "Were the kids not doing their assigned 'jobs'?" He looks at me like I lost my mind. "Did you want to do something else in the group besides what you were told to do?" Crickets could be heard chirping for miles. "I don't know what you mean Mom. Nobody does anything but sit around and argue about who needs to do what." Yes, if kids do not know their roles this could be a big problem. If you have a group of finger pointers and tattle tales it would probably be best if you assigned the roles yourself. I think it is a good idea to give them a list of the roles needed and let them decide in a timely manner. Plus, less trees are killed in the process and the copier gets a little break so much more important things can be printed out, such as, school lunch menus. ;)

Have Fun Teaching

There are many great teaching resources out there in this huge cyberworld of ours. It is very hard to narrow them down enough to see which ones are the best. One of my faves is Have Fun Teaching. There are sources for every types of learner. They have worksheets, coloring sheets, flashcards, fun activities, videos, songs, oh the list goes on! I love the songs about counting, ABCs, and other subjects with their catchy beats. Check it out!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Arts and Humanities~To be or not to be...

When my kids began school and I started hearing about all this A and H stuff I thought it was a bunch of nonsense. Lets get rid of that and focus on what is really important to get these kids reading and understanding math. After starting college and having to take some of those dreadful courses myself I thought maybe a little A and H but we need to focus on the main content to get those scores up! Now here I am still rather wet behind the ears but with enough experience to think...Arts and Humanities is such as great thing! It really helps the kids in reading and helps get those test scores up! See a pattern? 

In the last couple of years I've had the pleasure of working with many different children with many different learning styles. Some of those kids have some learning challenges that makes them feel pretty bad about themselves (no matter how we tell them how great they are). Children with learning differences in reading and or math often excel in other areas such as art or music. When arts classes are offered they have a chance to explore what they are good at and develop a passion for it. The passion leads to wanting to learn more about what they love which gives them incentive to study harder or try a little harder. See the patten there? I am not a artist or a musician so it was harder for me to see where these classes could possibly do any good. Have you seen a child with learning differences come out of a music or art class smiling from ear to ear? It is awesome. They feel good about themselves. That is a big issue when a child feels so miserable about themselves for what they feel should be a simple task that is not simple for them. The arts classes reaches so many learning styles and I've seen the difference it has made for so many that I now give these classes a big thumbs up. 

Now if we can just get these kids outside more....but I'll save that for another blog.