Have you ever been driving somewhere with the family, and turned the music off or told the kids to stop playing their game because it occured to you they might not know the lyrics to the star spangled banner? Or what city and state they live in? Or what your phone number and address is? When this happens to me what inevitably follows is a barrage of question and answering until I am satisfied they have it, and I can rest easy the rest of the drive. I’m sure they love it.
Assessment is merely the process of finding out what your children know. It would be foolish to think you can teach someone anything without also knowing what it is they KNOW. Considering there is infinite knowledge in our universe, narrowing it down to what they DON’T know would probably help speed up the process. 🙂
But assessment, or testing, doesn’t have to happen as a seperate event. You can assess while you teach. The assessment can even be used as a teaching tool, as they learn while you figure out what they need to know. An easy way to do this is a simple line up exercise. When they are lined up to go somewhere (or sitting on the couch waiting, if you’re at home) just give them some questions. The correct answerer goes to the front of the line. Then, keep going. Ask the same question two or three times. Answer some questions if they don’t understand. Discuss. Repeat. Learn.
I use this with my class, and my kids. I’m thinking about using it with my wife as well. Honey – what’s the capitol of Indiana? 🙂
Creativity is important in our lives. I saw a little post the other day that said “EARTH, without ART, is just….EH…”
I thought that was clever, and a little true. Without the creative parts of our lives, we would tend toward the type of distopian futures we see in George Orwell books. It’s our creativity, and our differences, that make us unique.
Top three reasons we should keep creativity and artistic expression in our schools, in an age where time is money and our time is constantly running out toward the MSP and HSPE testing time.
1) It will help on the MSP and HSPE. To me, that’s the most convincing, because it’s important for our kids to do well on those mandatory tests, if only for them to feel good about what they are learning and feel they are doing great. The test is not the be all end all of their education, but it’s another pat on the back for them when they do well. When the artistic side of the brain opens up, it allows for quicker and easier recall and understanding of concepts. Cool stuff.
2) If our job is to create fully functioning human beings for our world, and humans who will interact with and improve our society, creative expression is going to be important in their lives. It’s very important to teach them to use word processing programs for future employment, yes, but also to use photoshop and blogging software and to listen and appreciate music. To be a total person, you can’t just rely on the worker aspect.
3) It’s fun. Especially for those kids who aren’t as analytically minded, if you don’t feed their souls they will not love school. And we want kids to love school like I do. Learning is living!
They say that Pride goeth before a fall, and I think that’s true about self pride. But pride is an important commodity as parents and educators. We feel pride at our students and children’s accomplishments, and there’s a little bit of self pride in there as well, because you KNOW there must be at least a LITTLE bit of you inside that accomplishment.
It’s okay – no, it’s NECESSARY – to be prideful of our young charges. They need that pride to keep going. They feed on it. I think sometimes we forget to show them that pride – even the ones who don’t always make us feel prideful. In the elementary years there are many learning opportunities, and even though sometimes it takes doing it WRONG for the child to learn not to do it.
For instance, I had a young student try stealing for the first time last week. I know he’s not a theif, it was almost like he needed to try it. Needed to see what it was like and see if he could get away with it. Now that he’s been scolded and told that it is wrong, he’s not tried it again. When they do things like that, they are still good kids, and they need to feel our pride in them still. That pride keeps them believing they are great, and greatness comes from belief.
I am extremely proud of all my students, and exceedingly proud of my kids. The girls are getting so grown up now – they actually wore heels and earrings to our recent father/daughter ball outing. It was a fun night with my kids, and I couldn’t have been prouder.
The trick is keeping that pride the next day, when they’re whining about not having enough of the right kinds of cereal. 🙂
I love the years/ages when kids are excited to go to school. The younger ones get up every day pumped to get to school. They can’t wait for the bus. Can’t wait to get there. It’s not WORK for them. It’s exciting. They get to do things and learn things. Kids understand on a subconscious level that it’s better to be active and have things to do, than to not. If they had to stay home all day, what would they do?
These days, I tend to never have a second to sit down and do nothing. But I should count my blessings! I’ve got things to do!
Many times I have bemoaned the fact that I’m so busy. I think – “I’d be so much happier if I had a lazy day to do just nothing. I’ll lay around all day.” But if I think back on some days in the past where I actually DID do nothing all day, I think I felt even lousier at the end of those days than any other. I wasn’t satisfied. I just felt kind of numb. I don’t want to be numb.
I want to be energized with life and challenges. I think I know how the kids feel. I WANT to go to school today. If I’m not teaching, or learning, or challenging myself or others I’m just going to be numb. And that’s no FUN!
Just because an idea is an old one, does not make it a bad one. And it does not necessarily make it a good one. The wheel is still a pretty great idea, but maybe one made of stone isn’t so awesome. It took new thinking to say “hey, lets try something else.” And it worked. Some day, someone is going to try making Wheels from compressed air molecules. And that might not work so great (or maybe it will?). But someone else might think of a new way to make a wheel, and it works. If it works better than the old, should we stick with the old rubber models just because that’s the way it’s always been done?
New thinking is progress. And just like sharks, if we don’t progress we die.
We need new thinking in education, just like everywhere else. We need new thinking in parenting. If something works better, we should do it. Just because we’ve always learned our multiplication facts the same way, doesn’t mean we always should (even if all the parents say “This isn’t how WE did it.” or “I don’t understand this NEW way of doing it.”)
If something is working in your class or with your kids or anything in your life – KEEP DOING IT. But if something else would work better…lets keep progressing.
There’s certainly challenges in my life. It seems like they crop up every day. Some days there’s little, some days there’s a lot. But every day brings at least one. It’s really just life. Challenges are what life is all about.
Most days, the challenges are your standard variety. The normal day to day parts of the job that people have to deal with – this student needs some extra multiplication help, this person needs an email to clarify something, the bank seems to be short $50 – minor annoyances that we are there to fix. The lightbulbs need changing. The laundry needs done. Pretty routine.
But some days the big ones creep up on you. The car won’t start before work in the morning. The car breaks down or you get into an accident. The kids have stomach flu, or worse. There’s an emergency at work. And of course, life threatening illnesses that are the world changers. They’re out there, waiting for us. They can happen at any time.
I used to be scared of these things happening. I used to dread them, and when they DID happen – trying to get ready for work and suddenly the kids are throwing up all over my jacket, for instance – I would get upset and frustrated and flustered.
But I realized something in those moments that make me change my perspective. Just a change in thinking about these instances made me change the way I approached the challenges of life.
When we play videogames, there are challenges all over the place. There are things we need to figure out, bad guys to defeat, and obstacles to overcome. If there were not, we wouldn’t even bother playing the game. A videogame where you just had to walk from point a to point b, and then it was over, with no challenges in the way, would be boring and mundane. Why even bother putting the game in?
When the challenges in life come up, remember – this is your chance to pass this level. This is the moment where you meet the big “boss” of this stage, and you can defeat him. The way you handle the situation will determine whether you make it past, or have to repeat the level until you do it right. Embrace the challenge. Otherwise you’ll never get any farther than you already are.
It’s a simple act. Step outside. Do something different. But it always seems so hard to make the first step. First steps in anything are, classically, the hardest ones to take.
Life is about making first steps. Every first step you take is a new experience you’ve put under your belt. That first time you tried turnips. The first time you went ice skating. The first time you wore neon green. You don’t think about it, but you get up every day when you probably don’t want to. You make a choice what to eat, what to get dressed in…and if you always did the same thing you’d never take any first steps. But then would you be experiencing everything life has to offer?
I think as teachers and parents we think we’re done with our “living” and focus on teaching the young ones about it. But the best teachers are the experienced ones. The best instructional tool is being a great example.
I want my kids to be lovers of life. I want them to be first step takers. I want them to experience everything, the good and the bad. And that means I have to show them what a first step taker looks like, acts like…what he does everyday in everything.
I think I’ll take that first step, and choose to go outside now. Maybe I’ll go bird watching. I’ve always thought about doing that.
It seems that I count a lot. It’s a fundamental skill and idea in our society to use numbers (and a system of numbers based on increments of 10) to conceptualize an amount. It can be an amount of objects, and amount of time, and amount of money…if we want to keep track of anything we have to count.
I’m often counting down to motivate kids to quickly finish a task. “Okay, put away all your materials! 10, 9, 8, 7….”
Sometimes I mix it up – “100, 90, 80, 70….” It’s effective, and all my kids know how to count down from 10, I know that! 🙂
But when we engage with kids, and spend time with them, we need to make sure we don’t count down the time, instead of making the time count.
Every second you are with a young mind – as a teacher or parent or uncle (you get the idea) – is an amazing opportunity to take advantage of filling that mind with knowledge and wonder. Make your time count each day. If you are just filling the void with things to count down the time – “okay, now just write some sentences” or “just sit down and watch TV” you are missing the opportunity of the day!
Make your time count each day.
I remember very little from my elementary education years, if you figure that there were about 1000 days in K-5, and I probably remember maybe 200 individual days or events. I do have some knowledge of the things I learned (I remember the ABC’s, how to count, and that the united states has 50 of them – so don’t get discouraged teachers. It IS sinking in.)
But the day to day stuff is pretty much lost to me, except for some very specific memories –
– asking a girl to be my girlfriend (she declined)
– Any time I was made fun of or embarrased
– Meeting friends for the first time
– The talent show in 5th grade
– Mrs. Phillips singing “Peanut Butter and Jelly”
– and on and on (that’s maybe another blog post – “elementary memories”
The point is, memories are made each day in our classrooms, and we don’t even know it. We usually don’t even know it when they happen (like the girl I heard talking to a boy yesterday, asking “if you could go out with anyone in the class, who would it be?” with a hopeful tone to her voice (he was WAY too young to know how to respond to that).
Next time someone asks you what it is you do, if you’re a parent or teacher or mentor or friend, tell them you’re a MEMORY MAKER.
Now, excuse me. I have a few memories to make myself.
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