Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why Don’t Students Like School - Reflection

As ponder the ideas in the book Why Don’t Students Like School, the types of memory , Einstein’s idea that imagination is more important than knowledge, praising students for their effort more than performance, answering whether the intelligence is due more from nurture or nature, and students need the basics before they can work to achieve at higher critical thinking levels.

I think that what Einstein was referring to was that if anyone that has imagination will be able to develop the knowledge. Someone that has imagination will have curiosity and hence they will develop the knowledge on their own.

It was very interesting to me to read of the different types of memory as limited resources and as one fills up, the only option is for the extra information to flow over into the other area. While making sense, it is such an abstract idea to me that it is difficult to understand.

I did relate very much to the idea of praising students for their efforts rather than their performance. I think that in approaching it in this way, it allows all students to improve. This praises gifted students for their efforts as much as it does students that are challenged.

The nature versus nurture question is much like the memory idea to me. It is such an abstract idea that seems to not have a specific answer that you can point to, to “prove” the answer to the question. I don’t know that I’m convinced either way on this one yet and I tend to think that it is a combination of the two.

I absolutely think that we need to get back to some of the idea that students must have the basics before you can expect them to perform at the higher thinking skills of analysis and synthesis. If you don’t know the basic ideas of the topic, I don’t think that you can analyze or synthesize the information effectively.

The book overall has given me some new tools for my teaching belt. It has made me evaluate what I’m doing in the classroom and the way that I approach each individual student.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Final Reflection

Why Don't Students Like School?
Daniel Willingham's idea that people enjoy mental work if it is successful is quite practical. It is a contributing factor to a child being a poor reader. If you do not like to read, you will not read. If you do not practice, how will one ever become a good reader? His comment that the brain is designed to save us from thinking was definitely food for thought. Redesigning the way we encourage students to think so they get that satisfying zing is great advice. Determining how to do so on an idividual basis, however, is a rather daunting task. Being sensitive to that will be helpful.

The importance placed on background knowledge, that higher order thinking cannot occur without a certain base knowledge, is comforting. We are encouraged by the suggestion of incidental learning to improve background knowledge. Wording grammar sentences and math story problems to include history or science facts is easily done.

Willingham's explanation of working memory and chunking was helpful. The demonstration with the lists of letters and how much easier it was to remember when they spaced between familiar acronyms was impressive. We just need to decide what is important to relate to what and which information is necessary for students to know. What about that statement, "For reading, students must know whatever information writers assume they know and hence leave out."? Hey, a piece of cake, right? The ability to read a daily newspaper was mentioned. That is becoming an obsolete task, which brings up a whole new issue. Real life reading is changing completely. Reading electronic media is not quite the same as reading a book for pleasure or a classroom text. But, I digress. We owe it to our students to give them a general base of information on which to build. Then, encourage them to read within their ability range, something of interest, so they will find success and pleasure in the experience.

"Understanding is remembering in disguise." I love that line. I have often been frustrated by giving example after example...same concept, different scenario...only to have some of my students look as if I were speaking to them in Greek. I need to find multiple examples to which my sudents can relate and engage them in comparison and contrast. Expecting them to be able to do so can foster a deeper understanding.

I had mixed feelings about the lack of evidence to support the effectiveness of implementing a variety of learning styles and multiple intelligences. Let me clarify, there is no research to prove that teaching a non-visual concept in a visual manner is any more effective to a visual learner. I imagine those of us who have been incorporating auditory, visual, and kinesthetic elements into our lessons will continue to do so. It just feels like the right thing to do. But Willingham's recommendation to 'save your money' when it comes to buying a book or hiring a speaker to address it in professional development probably isn't very popular advice among those disciples. It causes me to question some of the other elements of our professional development over the ages. Questioning anything is a good thing, though, right?

I am still pondering the idea from Chapter 8 as to whether it is nature or nurture that makes us who we are. The thought that genetic characteristics make us seek out different environments makes a great deal of sense. That genetics and environment do interact is, indeed, key. And if we all take hold of the belief that intelligence is malleable, that with enough hard work, anyone can be smarter, what a gift that would be to our students. We have to make them believe that. This is the one that is so essential, and yet, so easy for any classroom teacher to implement. We must praise our students for their efforts rather than their ability.

When it comes to self-improvement, I am all over the teaching diary idea. Self-reflection can be a powerful tool, if we journal honestly. It feels good to put it out of our minds and onto paper (or in cyberspace) and is so helpful when we go back and read it. A frustration with a lesson one day may have an obvious solution a week or month later.

This book was a good choice for me, but I also look forward to reading some of the other recommendations when this course is completed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reflection Post

One key concept that I learned from in the book was the Method for giving and getting feedback. It suggests you find a teacher partner and tape yourself teaching a lesson in your classroom. After you have taped a lesson you sit down and analyze how your lesson went in the classroom. In the past I would have read this and thought I do not want other people looking at what I am doing. Now I have a better understanding of how it works and how I can use input from others to help better myself as a teacher. As I watch a lesson that I have taped, I notice all of the little things that weren’t so obvious before. I can see how kids respond to my interaction with other students and how I need to recognize the needs and the strengths of all the students. I also have discovered from this book that I need to recognize how students learn and try to incorporate different strategies to help all the students in my classroom.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Section 5/Chapter 8 Summary

How Can I Help Slow Learners? This chapter spent the beginning of the chapter explaining how students think of themselves in different ways based on their ability. Some students think that learning is genetic/nature and others think it is environmental/nurture. Students that think it is genetic may be afraid to work hard as it makes them look like they aren’t very smart. The last part of the chapter was spent explaining how teachers can help all students believe that their hard work will pay off to increase their intelligence.

I thought that the studies that they conducted on twins to try and decide if intelligence was based on nature or nurture was akin to answering which came first, “the chicken or the egg”. Were the twins, although raised in separate homes, similar in intelligence because they sought out similar environments to surround themselves with based on nature, or were they similar in intelligence because they were genetically similar.

The quote that had the most impact on me was, “The results showed that those who had been praised for their ability (“you’re smart”) were more likely to describe a fixed view of intelligence than those who were praised for their effort (“you did well because you worked hard”), who were more likely to describe a malleable view of intelligence.” I liked this quote because it gives me suggestions of how to work with students.

I enjoyed the latter part of the chapter the most when the implications for teachers were discussed. The idea that it is important for students to believe that their hard work can pay off to help them become smarter is crucial. The message that it is important to praise a student’s efforts rather than high performance was to me the most important message of the chapter. By praising effort that leads to high performance a teacher is giving the student the message that they are in control of their intelligence.

My final thoughts on the chapter were that the Implications for the Classroom section are vital to helping all students reach their full potential. Those main ideas:
• Praise Effort, Not Ability
• Tell Them That Hard Work Pays Off
• Treat Failure as a Natural Part of Learning (by role modeling it as we all have times of failure)
• Don’t Take Study Skills for Granted
• Catching Up Is the Long-Term Goal
• Show Students That You Have Confidence in Them

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Section 4 Summary

The first section I read was about what makes individuals smart and how to deal with slow learners. From the information I read it discussed if students were a product of genetics or their environment. The example that was given about the basketball twins made this clear to me. I believe that by genetics the two boys are both given opportunities to be successful in sports. The students’ ability to do well with academics can be a factor from genetics or from their environment. This section also listed certain strategies you can use for slow learners. I believe that by praising effort, and not ability can help the students to be more successful in school.
The next section talks about ways to become a better teacher in the classroom. The best skill is for you to practice your teaching skills and analyze how you do in the classroom. You need to consciously try to improve, seek feedback on your teaching, and undertake new activities to show improvement. The main activity listed in this section was to get a partner teacher and tape yourself teaching in the classroom. Then with your partner analyze your lessons and think of ways to improve the lesson and activities. The main idea is to understand everyone has room to improve and it is a process to go through as a teacher.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Section 3

Chapter four begins by describing abstract principles and the need for concrete examples. The guiding principle of the chapter is: “We understand new things in the context of things we already know, and most of what we know is concrete.” The author then claims, “Understanding is remembering in disguise.” One must pull old information into working memory and relate new information to what is already known. Our knowledge builds on basic facts as we add new knowledge. Two factors play into this equation: 1.) there are degrees of comprehension and 2.) the knowledge may not transfer. It is important that we, as teachers, work to ensure that our students develop a deep understanding of principles instead of just memorizing what we say. It is also important that our students are able to apply these principles beyond the particular problems or examples that we cover in class.

Chapter five builds on what was learned in chapter four, illustrating these exact principles. It explains the capacity of our minds and the limits that our working memory has. The guiding principle of this chapter is: “It is virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended practice.” The author then explains the importance of practicing to “gain competence and improve.” It is important to practice basic skills and ideas so that more capacity is available in working memory to solve the task at hand. The examples used to illustrate this point were tying shoes and driving. Two things, that when they are first learned require a large amount of concentration and working memory. Yet, as time goes on they require less thought and become “automatic processes” thus requiring less working memory. It should be noted that this principle works best when the practice is spread out over time and not crammed into a short amount of time. The author ends the chapter by explaining that practicing mental processes provides three benefits: it helps the processes become automatic, it helps the memories to last, and practice improves the likelihood of transfer.

Friday, November 5, 2010


This might be a dumb question...but can someone tell me where I find out which week I am the Super Summarizer? I read it once and know I can not find it. I am not sure what week I have and I do not want to let the group down :) Thanks!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chapter Two Summary

I was pleased to see the statement made in Chapter 2 that supported extensive factual knowledge being required for our students to develop the ability to analyze and think critically. Especially with the technology at our fingertips, we seem to have given up on students learning or memorizing facts because they are so easily accessed. We allow our young people to use calculators on the Dakota STEP test, even. They seem to have fewer experiences with memorizing anything.
Willingham had some excellent examples in Chapter 2 for explaining why background knowledge is vital to comprehension. Of course it provides the vocabulary, but we need the conceptual knowledge to put the words together and make something that we can understand and apply. Background knowledge also allows one to bridge logical gaps omitted by the author. One of my favorite lines in Chapter Two states, "For reading, students must know whatever information writers assume they know and hence leave out." We need to provide a solid foundation of knowledge for our students for them to make the most of what they read. Background knowledge allows chunking. I really liked the author's string of 18 letters that seemed impossible to memorize, yet when they were spaced differently, one could make a connection with certain groupings and therefore create more room in your working memory. X CIA NCAA is much easier to remember than XCI ANC AA. Background knowledge also guides the interpretation of the ambiguous sentences, as in the laundry example. Vague descriptions can be memorable if they have some relevance.
The author makes reference to the fourth grade slump. At this age, background knowledge becomes more important as being a good reader relies more on comprehension than on decoding. That gap widens between privileged and underprivileged children.
An interesting point to ponder was the statement that having factual knowledge in long term memory makes it easier to acquire still more factual knowledge. And the observation was made that best exposure to new vocabulary and ideas would come from books, magazines, and newspapers over the television, video games, and social networking sites with which most of our students are engaged.
Early on in Chapter 2, the author quoted Albert Einstein, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." He later said that Einstein was wrong, that knowledge is a prerequisite for imagination--the type that leads to problem solving, decision making, and creativity. I agree with the statements that "…facts without the skills to use them are of little value", however "…one cannot deploy thinking skills effectively without factual knowledge."
A chief issue for educators seems to be the evaluation of which knowledge takes priority to be taught. We must also ensure that our students have the necessary background knowledge to carry out the critical thinking tasks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Hi Group-
I'm not sure if this is the correct forum to ask this question, but I thought it would be easiest. Anyway, I am wondering if the reading sections match up with the chapters in the book. I see there are pages listed, but I am reading this on a kindle which doesn't provide the page numbers, so I just wanted to double check before I am supposed to be the summarizer.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chapter One Summary

The first chapter addresses the question: Why don't students like school? Willingham studies the question from a cognitive perspective. He contends that if a student does not or can not experience the pleasure of solving a problem, he/she will become disinterested in a class or school itself. The problem can be any aspect of an assignment or curriculum. Students must have the appropriate background knowledge so that they can understand the problem first and then use their working memory to solve it. As a teacher, one should start with the information you want the student to know by the end of the lesson. You need to think about what the key question for that lesson may be in a way that will respect the abilities of your students. If the question is too hard, a student may walk away frustrated. If it is too easy, another student may be too disinterested to bother. The lesson may have to be individualized or have the students grouped to ensure success.

Willingham suggests that teachers should pose a problem that the student will find interesting enough to want to find the answer. He also suggests that you ". . . use the technique not only at the beginning of a lesson but also after the basic concepts have been learned." Once the student has the background knowledge, the technique will lead him/her to experience the pleasure of solving the problem using their working memory. The science demonstration explained on page 21 is a good technique to use before, during, and after the lesson. I found this technique very interesting and I'm planning on using it in my language arts class when we read a novel set during World War II.

How could you change a lesson that you teach every year, or have already taught this year, so that you allow a student to use his/her working memory to solve a problem?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Cover

I chose this picture because sometimes I think my students believe they will look like this before class finally ends!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Cover

I chose this image because it shows just a bare and empty classroom. I think this type of environment does not benefit the student. The classroom needs to be more inviting and encouraging to students. Students want to learn but they need to be given the tools and skills necessary to be successful in school.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Cover

I chose this picture because the girl looks so disengaged. I don't know why she is disengaged-is it the subject, the teacher, or what is going on in her life. It is very difficult to determine why some students are so disinterested in school.

Book Cover

I chose this image to represent the way some students feel in the classroom environment. I realize this is only one of the elements that may cause some children to dislike school.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Book Cover

I chose this image as I think it shows how some students feel about school. It seems to them that they are always having the negative things about their school work pointed out and not feeling that the positive traits that they exhibit are noticed.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Welcome to Literature Circle Twenty-three!

Your Super Summarizer schedule is as follows:

Section One--Due October 28, Sheryl Nielsen
Section Two--Due November 4, Lark Bennett
Section Three--Due November 11, Lacey Bodensteiner
Section Four--Due November 18, Melissa Nore
Section Five--Due December 2, Kirk Guymon
Section Six--Due December 9, Danelle Johnson