Friday, January 23, 2009

Monday, December 15, 2008

A tale of two competitions

I dropped by at my son's school to have lunch with him today and after I picked up my food, he led me back to his classroom instead of sitting with his other classmates in the lunchroom. I noticed a sub-section of his classmates joined us in the classroom. It's Sundae party lunch day they excitedly exclaimed. Apparently, the members of the classroom who passed the multiplication test for the trimester won the privilege of lunching in the classroom and eating a sundae courtesy of the teacher. When I looked back at the classmates who failed the test, they were sitting quietly eating and avoided my eyes. I don't know exactly how they were feeling, but they certainly were not happy.

When I looked in the classroom of the kids who won the party, they were mostly who I expected. They were the motivated-to-excel and/or well supported at home group. I believe the goal of the teacher was to motivate everyone to succeed and make an effort to learn their multiplication. However, when she turned it into a high stakes contest (party only once each trimester), I wonder if the pressure and the impression of an insurmountable goal ended up discouraging the kids who NEEDED the motivation and support the most. I think the kids who were eating sundaes were those who would have passed the test anyway.

Last year, I observed a teacher who held competitions in math all the time. Because they happen so frequently, they were low stakes and there were many more opportunities to succeed. It never became a high pressure cooker or ended up looking like an insurmountable goal. She also mix the kids up in different teams each time so kids doing poorly in math would eventually end up on winning teams. I didn't feel anyone felt left out or if they did, they would have another chance in the next few days. I wonder how her math scores compare and how well her students learn. In her case, I wonder if the kids who needed motivation were better serviced. I certainly have a preference for her classroom.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My digital slideshow experiment

I want to post this because I'm just tickled with the ease of Photostory3. I can see how it could be used in the classroom as another medium for literacy learning. It took me about an hour to put this together but I put one together for a class and that took 40 minutes. My 9 year old son did one with no training in 40 minutes. Can you tell who did which?

video video

Friday, December 5, 2008

Where's David?

I'm not really sure how to start this post. I want to talk about a problem that every educator faces and each solution has problems. There is a student in my dyad placement, we'll call him David, who is pulled out of the classroom so to work with various specialists. I think he is on an IEP, but for what I don't know. He has some kind of learning disability and the nature of the disability is not really important for the purposes of the post. The thing is, on most of the days that I'm in the classroom it seems as if Daniel is out of the class more than he is in it. This poor kid is missing the second grade. I have read that having a kid repeat a grade tends to do more harm than good and that makes sense. I am in support of the inclusion model with intensive support in specific areas by specialists. This seems to be the most workable model given the finacial restraints placed on schools. But to see this kid leave the class so often seems sad. I'm wondering if the classroom teacher could meet with the specialists and find ways to differentiate the instruction so that David could spend more time in the classroom?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I'm curious.

So here's the deal, I'm actually curious what you think about this video. On one hand I'm thinking that is so cool, I think that the students would really think that was cool. On the other hand there is a small part of me that sees this guy bouncin' around and I think OMG what a goofball. Do you think this would be a good way to get students to think about and remember the concepts or would they just laugh at you?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Earning It Back.

I was recently involved in a discussion with my sister who is a teacher in Montana. We were talking about classroom management when she surprised me. She said that it is her belief that once a student incurs a consequence like the loss of a privilege, it is gone. There is no chance for them to earn it back. This is different than what I believe. It is my belief that once the student has lost a privilege they can earn it back through good behavior. It is my belief that without this possibility, what incentive does the student have to improve the behavior? My sister however, believes that if the student can earn back the lost privilege then they don't learn from the behavior. I'm sure there are many opinions out there about this and reasons behind them. I'm curious to hear what you think.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Last week CNN featured a story about the impacts of high-stakes testing. One of the side effects born from a culture of narrow assessment is the pressure for students to cheat. I must admit, the innovation these students have demonstrated is most impressive. The reality, however, is tradgic. What will happen if we continue to assess students for purposes other than guiding instruction? What will be the implicit lesson for students?

Click on the link below to view How Students Cheat; a documentarty that explores some of the creative methods student employ to cheat in school. What would you do to begin to address this problem in your classroom?