kitchen table math, the sequel: hours and hours

Friday, June 11, 2010

hours and hours

from Susan S:
The worst part about the hours and hours of project making and coloring is the neglect of basic skills that will be needed for high school.

Somewhere around the end of 7th grade, I realized my son could barely hold a pencil or pen for more than a couple of sentences. There was no flow to his writing. It was just torture for him. I thought I was done with afterschooling only to realize we had to start all over and get him caught up.

Even in a class like social studies, he was expected to write a couple of things in a notebook, but then illustrate the page. Of course, he'd been typing since the 4th grade, so he'd forgotten cursive. But it wasn't just cursive he had forgotten. He was even unsure of certain letters in block form.

When I would receive his middle school journal at the end of the year I would notice basic words misspelled consistently, thus searing the wrong spelling into his brain. It was a nightmare to go through all of that and get him straight.

It took a good 4-5 weeks of writing summaries, bios, etc. every other day just to get him to form the letters automatically and quickly and without fatigue.

I have no idea why they do this. I do sense that they get pressure from upstairs to have a certain amount of project work. I imagine if they didn't have extended response and essays on the state tests, they'd probably not have them write at all.

Like math facts, they believe that these things just take care of themselves.


Liz Ditz said...

I cannot tell you the number of 3rd -8th grade and up teachers who tell me that teaching handwriting (whether cursive or manuscript) is "a waste of time" since students "will be keyboarding".

Anonymous said...

I got that, too, Liz.

I try to remind them that at the moment state tests (with extended response) and the ACT/SATs are all handwritten. That may change in the future, but for now you have to write them by hand and it takes their entire school career to prepare for it. Why they would choose to deliberately cripple kids when they have no idea when or how this great change would take place is beyond me.

As I've said here for many years--Save Your Own.


cranberry said...

I think handwritten essays are here to stay, especially for the SAT. You hear of ringers hired to take important standardized tests for others. Handwriting is impossible to copy for an entire essay, so it's a fine way to rule out cheating.

ChemProf said...

Poor handwriting skills also limit your ability to handle college level science/math classes. We still write on the board, and students still need to be able to take notes. I've had students ask about taking notes on the computer, and I don't have a problem with it, but a laptop is not a good tool for equations or solving math problems. And for organic chemistry, a computer is really slow, even if loaded with the specialized software to draw structures. Lab notebooks are still also written by hand, and need to be readable and kept up to date.

Once again, many K-12 teachers don't actually know what students need beyond school.

palisadesk said...

They don't teach either printing or cursive in my district, either, but a major reason is that neither is in the curriculum. Teachers are reprimanded for wasting class time on "low level skills."

The reason often given by the senior bureaucrats responsible for this policy (and its enforcement) is that kids will be keyboarding instead. This overlooks a couple of important facts:
-- we don't teach keyboarding either
-- elementary students in many schools have limited to no access to computers on a regular basis
-- surveys at the last 2 schools I taught in showed only 5% of students had internet access at home and only 25% had any kind of computer at home
-- the assessments required are mostly constructed-response items that take a lot of handwork to complete

The curriculum designers need to be held to account for a lot of this,at least in my area. You can't expect teachers to spend a lot of time on skills that are not in the curriculum. Many techers do try to include some cursive or printing practice as "bellwork" or an extra activity.

Anonymous said...

Once again we see this bizarre disconnect between the grade school and the middle and high schools. Without the foundational skills they will struggle in the higher grades. You'd think this would elicit a big "duh" from some of them, but apparently not.

Our grade school did teach keyboarding. My son could type faster than he could write by around 4th/5th grade. Once they gave him the option to type instead of write, he chose typing. He just forgot how to write, and on top of it, how to string several thoughts together and put them to paper in a timely manner.

When I've mentioned the sheer lack of practice in writing, they seem surprised. They assume that journaling takes care of the practice, plus they have to be creative and think up their own sentences. This is the only worthwhile handwriting assignment to some teachers. Unfortunately, my son came up with "I played ball. It was fun" as his go-to journaling sentence, over and over again.

Another good reason fora return to narration exercises. Not every kid is going to include all of the alphabet in their journaling.

And so the gaps begin....