kitchen table math, the sequel: by heart

Friday, November 30, 2012

by heart

Speaking of knowing things by heart, when did that expression disappear from common usage?

We know it by heart. A lovely metaphor.

These days any and all discussion of remembered knowledge involves obligatory reference(s) to "spitting," "vomiting," and/or "regurgitating."

I swear, if I have to read one more person saying that "spitting back knowledge" isn't "thinking critically," I will do some copious regurgitating of my own.


Jenn said...

I'm with you entirely. Education - at least old school education that "drills and kills" - is assumed to be completely unpalatable to kids. It's like getting your kids to eat their vegetables. We assume they won't unless we cover them in cheese or disguise them as covert ingredients in brownies. None of these tricks, either in education or eating, solve the problem. Kids (then adults) will go through life thinking veggies and school are things to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Kp said...

"Drill and kill" days are my students' favorite days; those are the days we play games to practice skills or to learn things by heart.

Jen said...

My (inner-city, high poverty, not "education oriented") students were always most amenable to straight up instruction. That is, the best behavior days were the days when we did warm-ups that were quick reviews of previously done work and then went immediately to a teacher-run lesson and shared practice problems.

The more concrete the lesson at first, the clearer the steps, the more they paid attention. We'd do several problems together, with them telling me the steps, repeating the lesson steps. I'd ask questions as we went through, to see how well they'd understood what we were doing and why we could do it.

Then they'd try some problems of their own and generally actually do the work. Often there was time for a game or related activity that gave them an ah-ha, I see it in action moment at the end of the (extended time) class.

When I taught the lessons as I was supposed to, behavior was a much bigger issue. Warm-ups were given to me and were often concepts that hadn't been touched on yet that year. I was not to correct problems in the warm-up, just to write notes to myself about who had what problems, to remediate "later."

The lesson itself had to begin with an "explore" or "discovery," a hands-on activity/problem presented for them to work on in small groups to solve/complete.

This often required a lot of set-up (materials counted and ready ahead of time, distributed around the room, explanation given to whole class or a sheet prepared explaining the activity and/or to "record" their "observations," etc.) and then it required clearing up materials so they didn't distract, pulling the whole group back to attention, discussion of the activity...

THEN a short lesson -- short because theoretically they had just seen for themselves and then responded accurately to high level questioning about the activity. After the short lesson and maybe one or two examples, problems were to be completed without teacher help, though they could help one another. Then we were to discuss several different problems by showing student work starting with a basic (and/or incorrect) solution, a proficient solution, and a "advanced" or unexpected solution.

By that point everyone was confused -- the kids who hadn't gotten it the first time now had seen a bad example and an example they had never seen before. The kid(s) with the elegant solution had suffered through all the other stuff, etc.

Those days? Messy, little learning. But, for the first lesson I'd have been given an unsatisfactory rating, while the second one would get me comments about how well they were working among themselves. If they'd looked at the work they'd have realized there was little to no understanding, though. But that didn't seem to matter as long as it looked good. :-p

Looooong posting. But I didn't see kids hating knowing stuff. Complaining that they had to work hard and think? Sure. But behavior and learning were worst when they kept feeling like they weren't quite sure what was going on, or that other students were getting it and they weren't and I wasn't of any use.