kitchen table math, the sequel: crayola curriculum

Monday, May 21, 2007

crayola curriculum



source:
Making Curriculum Meaningful
21st Century Collaborative



The term "crayola curriculum" appears to have originated with Mike Schmoker.

More on the crayola curriculum from Donna Harrington-Lueker:

Talk to teachers, review messages posted on e-mail groups and browse professional journals, and you'll find high school assignments that are long on fun and remarkably short on actual writing.

For example, someone who teaches an honors class for high school freshmen posts a short-story project that allows students 13 options, only a handful of which involve actual writing. Among the choices students are offered: create a map to illustrate the story's setting, make a game to show the story's theme, put together a collage from magazine photographs, or assemble a scrapbook or photograph album for the character.

Teaching Arthurian literature? Have your students design a coat of arms. Need an alternative to a book report? Have students draw the design for a book jacket.

While such activities may be more entertaining for students, and less work for the teachers in terms of grading the projects, kids are often showing up at college unable to write.

[snip]

Nor are English teachers the only ones at fault. Students don't appear to be writing substantively in other classes either, says Will Fitzhugh, editor of The Concord Review, a journal of academic writing for high school history students.

Fitzhugh's evidence is anecdotal: Too often, he says, high school writing is creative and "entirely self-referential" (involves students' writing about themselves). And with all of the anxiety about plagiarism on the Internet, teachers appear to be assigning few if any research papers — at least not the rigorous 20-page analyses that Fitzhugh's journal publishes. Recent papers selected for publication include such serious titles as "The Outcome of that Discontent: Oscar Micheaux, Motion Pictures and the Race for Dignity" and "The Treason Debate: Ezra Pound and His Rome Radio Broadcasts."

Still another culprit is the fascination with PowerPoint presentations, Fitzhugh says, which typically involve spiffy graphics and soundtracks paired with a single sentence, perhaps a paragraph or a bulleted list of items rather than sustained analysis.

If high schools are really serious about turning out students who can write well, they have to do more than supply their teachers with red pens. They have to think seriously about class sizes and workloads. If an average English teacher sees 150 students a week, assigning even a 10-page research paper means having to read and critique 1,500 pages. A 20-page paper — the kind Fitzhugh is accustomed to printing — is nearly impossible.

Under such circumstances, maps, collages and posters make sense: They're easier to grade, and they don't raise nearly the fuss a research paper would.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

If an average English teacher sees 150 students a week, assigning even a 10-page research paper means having to read and critique 1,500 pages. A 20-page paper — the kind Fitzhugh is accustomed to printing — is nearly impossible.

I've done similar math myself. My version is to assume you want one three page paper per week per student. Which I *do* want as part of a high school curriculum.

Then I do this:

*) Assume 5 minutes per page to provide constructive feedback. I've edited an on-line technical magazine, and this is reasonable (or optimistic!) based on my experience. This works out to 1/4 of an hour per student per week, just for grading.

*) So ... 150 x 0.25 = 37.5 hours per week *JUST GRADING ESSAYS*.

This can't be done.

Cutting the papers to 1 page per week is still pretty bad ... 12.5 hours/week just grading these papers. You still want/need to budget time for the teacher to actually *prepare* for class (and then actually teach it).

Our current time-budget for high school English (and probably other subject) teachers does not allow enough time for the teachers to assign reasonable homework assignments and also to give feedback :-(

-Mark Roulo

Catherine Johnson said...

I need to get this "up front" (are you "registered"??)

If you want to post on the main page, please do!

Anonymous said...

Hi Catherine,

I'm not registered.

Feel free to pull/copy it to the front page, however :-)

-Mark Roulo

rightwingprof said...

Red pens? Don't you know? They're patriarchal and damage students' self-esteem!

And no, I'm not making that up. I've been chewed out for using red ink.

Independent George said...

I think I might have shared this story before, but in high school, my classmates and I chipped in and presented our American History teacher with a gift of about 400 red pens. He was a notoriously difficult grader, but, worst of all, his acerbic commentary was always spot-on (think Simon Cowell with a sonorously dry, deadpan delivery).

It took us a while to make the adjustment (we were honors students accustomed to being told that everything we touched turned to gold); Mr. J never pulled any punches. In the end, we learned so much more as a result, and were grateful for his efforts.

Anonymous said...

"long on fun"

Arrrrrggggghhhh

Because LEARNING something for real isn't fun.

LynnG said...

Grading is one aspect.

A second -- who is supposed to be teaching research?

Other than tell kids to go to google.com, there is no serious effort to teach kids how to research.

Kids get to high school having no idea how the Dewey Decimal system works, how the library is organized, and how to find a book that contains information relevant to the subject.

Actual research has disappeared from the curriculum. No one expects a kid to use books, despite their general availability and reliability. The internet is not a source, it is the only source.

Catherine Johnson said...

And no, I'm not making that up. I've been chewed out for using red ink.

One of the middle school teachers just returned a paper to a student with the comment "Not bad."

No one is happy about this.

Catherine Johnson said...

Actual research has disappeared from the curriculum. No one expects a kid to use books, despite their general availability and reliability. The internet is not a source, it is the only source.

That reminds me - I have to pull the 8th grade assignment so Ed can look at it.

Supposedly they do something resembling a research paper in 8th grade.

I don't THINK it's Google research.

Forty-two said...

For example, someone who teaches an honors class for high school freshmen posts a short-story project that allows students 13 options, only a handful of which involve actual writing.

My sophomore year Honors English class was like that, and we all hated it. Everyone felt she was wasting our time and we didn't respect her because of it. Our junior AP class was a breath of fresh air - the only assignments given were to write essays (one every 2-3 weeks), and we felt that was a worthy use of our time and effort.