Tuesday, January 11, 2011

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Final reflection

I was disappointed with the title. I thought that I would magically find the answer as to why kids don't like school. I found some meaningful messages in the book; some of the tenets I have believed in for years, yet my adminstration doesn't find them "old-fashioned."
Willingham's assertion the we understand new thing in the context of things we already know really hit home for me. I understand some of the basics of computers, but this class challenged me when I faced new tools to use. I feel that a teacher needs to find the highest level of all students' knowledge and understanding and begin from there. Too many times I assume all students have what I consider background knowledge only to find out that some students are sadly disadvantaged. More needs to be put in the students' working memory so that building can begin.
I totally agree with Willingham that students need the opportunity to practice their skills to build more working memory. Homework is still a valuable tool to implement, no matter how many activities students/parent sign up to do after school. Continued practice is a must! Once a practice is automatic the student can move on. I think sometimes curriculum demands that we move too fast and students don't get the material into their working memory.
Willingham's principle that children differ in intelligence, but intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work is encouraging. Each child comes to the classroom with different backgrounds, but it is possible for each child to catch up if needed.
I felt Willingham had some valuable information, and I'm glad I read his book. I still don't know if I could answer the question why don't students like school?

Sunday, January 2, 2011


There were quite a few concepts in, Why Don't Students Like School? that I think will affect the way that I approach teaching in my classroom.

First, the concept that people are naturally curious. I don't know how many times that I have wondered why the kindergarteners in our school seem so excited to be there and anxious to learn when compared to my middle school students. It seems that as the years go on the students become less enamored with the idea of learning, yet they still are curious and want to think about the things that interest them. Chapter one in this book made me think about how I approach teaching in my classroom, and made me think about different ways to use questions and inquiry based learning to engage my students.

Second, the fact that background knowledge is important. While I read the chapter that focused on background knowledge I couldn't help but think of my students who struggle. This also tied in with the idea in Chapter 8 that intelligence can be changed. While I definitely have students who are behind, hopefully helping them to reframe their thinking from "I'm stupid" to "I just have to work harder to catch up" will help them get closer to success.

Finally, one thing that really struck me was the disregard of learning styles in this book. I, and probably most of you, have been inundated with information about different learning styles the last couple of years and I have never really embraced the idea. Sure, I know there are ways that I learn better, but it is still possible for me to learn new things in different formats. I found the chapter that discussed learning styles and their lack of credibility refreshing.

I really enjoyed this book and appreciated its reliance on science and case studies to make its points.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010