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.