kitchen table math, the sequel: pop quiz

Saturday, February 11, 2012

pop quiz

from Tips for Teachers:
In the third of the Tips for Teachers series of Spring 2010, we read and discussed "How Knowledge Helps", by Daniel T. Willingham.... We started our discussion with one member stating that he heard from many high school teachers that a number of their students lack simple basic knowledge, such as being unable to complete the rhyme, "Mary had a little ____"
Does Knowledge lead to New Learning?Tuesday, 09 March 2010 18:38
I'm sorry to be a crank about this,* but I distinctly recall, back on my home planet, everyone knowing Mary had a little lamb.

* No I'm not.


Anonymous said...

... with mint jelly.

-Mark Roulo

palisadesk said...

Well, they don't know "Mary Had A Little Lamb" any more.

A couple months ago I was giving some technology lessons to 3rd and 4th graders in the computer lab on how to use spell check. I prepared some documents in advance (the idea was to make them "easy" passages that all the kids would recognize) -- with some spelling errors included which the students had to correct, using the spell check feature of Microsoft Word.

The first easy passage to correct was "Mary Had A Little Lamb," with lamb, followed, school and a few other words spelled wrong.

I was amazed to find that only two or three of the students had ever heard the poem. The second "easy" passage was "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" and not one of the students recognized that one.

This is a relatively high-performing school, too. The students learn many poems by heart but obviously the anthologies have changed in recent years.

Jen said...

And in an urban district like mine, the only kids who know nursery rhymes, simple folk song type songs, etc. are those who had either a highly educated, kinda bored, stay at home parent or grandparent OR had a teacher who taught them in kindergarten. I know one K teacher who teaches many, many nursery rhymes and little poems as part of the morning routine of alphabet sounds, weather, lunch menu, etc. But I'm not sure if that has the same effect as hearing it in a more, well, individualized and loving setting.

Anonymous said...

I'm 39 and don't know Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, at least not that line or title.

Kids stopped knowing Mary had a Little lamb when phones stopped being touch tone land lines whose 6 5 4 buttons played the notes.

palisadesk said...

"Stopping By Woods" is a well-known poem by Robert Frost. The most famous lines come at the end,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep

Those lines are quoted a lot in various contexts... A song by Celine Dion, films and book titles, such as "Before I Sleep: The Last Days of Dr. Tom Dooley" (an early hero of mine), it's used in eulogies -- I just recently watched a documentary of the Kennedy years and someone read that verse aloud in the context of the Kennedy funeral.

You've probably run across it somewhere. Here's a link to the poem:
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening"

I selected that poem because it was easy to read AND I knew it was in a gazillion basal reading series for years. I have several copies of schoolbooks with that poem, among others of Frost (the other most common one is his poem about 2 roads diverging.. entitled "The Road Not Taken," which is more of a junior high-high school selection).

So, I did not expect every student to recognize it, but I was startled that NONE of them did (out of maybe 60 kids), especially since many of them do read a lot and poetry and memorizing poetry are big features of the school program.

I guess nowadays they read rappers and popular lyrics rather than Robert Frost. I wonder if they read Ogden Nash?

Glen said...

My grandfather introduced me to Robert Frost when I was a little kid. Since then, I've often heard people use the expression, "And miles to go before I sleep," to mean, "Well, I'd better get back to work." My grandfather used to use it, and so did my mother.

When I've used it myself, though, to college-educated coworkers, it has never elicited even the slightest glimmer of recognition.

FedUpMom said...

I've been reading A Child's Garden of Verses with my 8-year-old. She has language delays, and I think the exposure to meter and rhyme is good for her.

My husband is a linguistics professor, and he reports that every time he teaches Greek Meter, he gets a few kids in the class who have no concept of meter, in English or Greek or any language.

Jen said...

The meter thing is interesting. There are also people who have "no rhythm" for music or sense of the beats.

Many moons ago a friend and I were taking a class to teach aerobics. My friend, who could easily clap out the beat, was unable to understand why it wasn't okay to count out 8 beats starting just anywhere. She truly couldn't understand how it annoyed people who could hear it when she'd start counting with a 1 on a 3rd beat and just go from there. When talking about it, you could tell that she felt that she was the butt of a very elaborate practical joke, with people saying they could hear something that clearly was NOT there to her!

It took many, many days (weeks) of practicing whenever music was on before she could hit a down beat with even a 60% accuracy.

Note: while I can start counting at the right time in music, I have no idea if I have stomped all over the accurate meanings of terms beat, rhythm, meter, etc. as I used them above!

FedUpMom said...

The impression I get from my husband is that his meter-less students don't have an innate problem with rhythm; they've just never been taught about poetry before.

lgm said...

Exactly. Poetry is not taught in the elementary here; in the upper grades it is only taught in honors.

Of course one has to know poetry to score a 4 on the state ELA exams, so it comes down to access - either your parent explained poetry, or s/he arranged a tutor as part of the test prep, and you won your honors English seat by merit, or you had another in. Ignorance of meter just means that the student didn't have access to instruction.