Monday, March 30, 2015

Are Introverts Worse at Friendship?

I had to teach a lesson that included a 25 question "Friendship Quiz" to third graders. The students were asked to rate themselves: 1 - Never, 2 - Sometimes, 3 - Most of the time, 4 - Always.  I must say, at the outset, that some of these statements seemed above the level of third graders, who are mostly 8 and 9 years old.  But some of them also made decidedly uncomfortable.  Remember, this quiz is titled "Friendship Quiz", so if you think of yourself as a good friend, you want to score pretty high.

Some of the statements that were to be rated:
I enjoy meeting new people.
I enjoy group activities.
I can carry on a conversation with someone I have just met.
I am able to find something I like in most people.

It seems to me that the quiz favors extroverts and that it would leave introverted students feeling as though their less gregarious characteristics mean that they aren't good friends.  There is a scale at the end of the quiz.
     75 - 100 points - You probably already have a lot of friends and are able to get along well with them most of the time.
     50 - 74 points - You have the potential to make friends, but you are probably having some problems  in some of your friendships.
     25 - 49 points - You have much room for improvement in your ability to make and keep friends.

And it was clear that some of the students NEEDED to rate themselves highly on everything.  One young lady gave herself straight 4s.

So, I have several questions about this lesson.  Is it appropriate for third graders?  Reading level: It seems to me that it was worded as though it was intended for older children or adults.  One of the statements was "I avoid criticizing friends."  Quite a few of the students did not understand the word 'criticizing'.  Emotional awareness: again, it seemed to me that some of the concepts might be unfamiliar emotionally to third graders.  How many third graders actually think about their ability to carry on conversations with strangers?  What about the kids who are told to not even talk to someone they don't know?

Then there was the one that was in specific conflict with something they had been told earlier in the year:  I am able to keep a secret.  Evidently, they had been explicitly told that "there are no secrets" at their school.

There were, as I said, 25 statements to this quiz and a number of them, including others not detailed here, made me a bit uncomfortable.  Not only would they make introverts feel as though they were bad friends, the level of introspection might make all the kids a bit anxious about their personalities and their reactions to normal events (meeting someone for the first time).

And a final question: given that the quiz made me uncomfortable and that I thought many of the questions were not worded in a helpful way, is there any way I could have gracefully gotten out of teaching the lesson?  I am a sub and this is a really nice school.  I enjoyed the day with the class.  I really don't want to alienate the teacher.  But I also don't like some of the messages the lesson has.  What should I have done?  What could I have done differently?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Debunking the 10,000 Hour Rule; Embracing the Joy of Doing

When my older daughter was young, she took gymnastics classes. She was good enough that she joined her local gymnastics team. She was good enough to compete at ranked levels. But I questioned whether it was even worthwhile for her to participate, because I knew, from her physique, that she was probably never going to be good enough to be competitive at a national level. Why put in all those hours if it would never be enough? Why?
Because she loved it.  And now that she is grown up, she still does.  She even coaches gymnastics in her "spare" time - while she is working on a Ph.D. in biology. 
I STARTED writing music at the ripe old age of 59.  I am enjoying it tremendously.  Will I ever reach "genius-level" excellence?  No.  Does that mean I should stop even trying?  
I agree that the 10,000 hour rule is a myth.  But I also think that it is time to validate reaching non-genius level excellence. There is a lot of enjoyment to be had from the pursuit of something you are drawn to.  It is great if other people like what you have done and I won't deny that I would love to have my musical entertain an actual audience.  But genius-level excellence is rare and if you don't have a huge amount of time or a huge amount of natural talent, you can still have a huge amount of fun.   

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Writing Sentences

I was teaching a literacy lesson today for third graders.  There was a reading selection and then 3 pages of worksheets about the lesson.  I went over the directions for each section of the worksheet, slowly and carefully.  I emphasized that the students were to write their answers in COMPLETE sentences.  I reviewed what a complete sentence was: it begins with a capital letter; it ends with punctuation, and it expresses a complete idea.  I gave and elicited examples of complete sentences and sentence fragments.  Then I let the students work.  They worked very well and were completely focused on their work.

When they finished, they were to bring their work up to me to review, before turning it in.  AT LEAST two-thirds of them had failed to write complete sentences.  WHY??? Did they not understand  the directions? No, they understood the directions. Did they think that their sentence fragments were sentences?  No, they realized that they were not complete sentences.  WHY didn't they do the assignment correctly?  Blank looks.  So, I sent them back to re-do it.  And re-do it.  And re-do it.  Some of them took three or four tries before they were even close.

Oh, and these were gifted students.  I really don't understand why this is so often the case - and it is.  Not just in schools for gifted students, but for kids in a lot of elementary school classrooms.  They learn to spell a word for spelling instruction, but they spell it wrong in writing class.  They learn correct grammar on worksheets, but fail to use it in an essay.  They know how to write complete sentences and they know they are required, but they don't write them.

I am still puzzling out WHY???

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dividing by Decimals

I taught a math lesson today where the premise was that the cost of making a cat's eye marble was $0.312.  The idea was that the students were supposed to figure out how many dimes that was (3.12), how many pennies that was (31.2), and how many tenths of pennies (312) - only this made absolutely NO SENSE to the students.  One student insisted (correctly) that it would take 4 dimes to pay for the cost of that marble and he absolutely could NOT understand the idea of cost using a fraction of a dime.  I thought maybe the money comparison, especially when taken to the thousandths place might be the problem, so I tried explaining the concept using distance instead.  Some of the students were able to understand the problem, once the units were changed, but a lot of them were so confused by the money example that they just gave up.

I have never taught this lesson from this particular book before.  Is this a standard way of explaining division by decimals?  I don't recall having so much difficulty with other textbooks.  Is this part of Common Core?

I probably won't be back in that class tomorrow, but if I were, is there a way to help them understand it, now that they are already confused?