Learning

Summer Slide – A reality or media construct?

I just read Alfie Kohn’s take on the Summer Slide.  He puts forward an interesting argument and correlates the ‘fear’ of loss of progress over the summer with the same fear of what will happen if teachers don’t assign homework (hint: Mayhem! Chaos! Kids Gone Wild!).

He summarizes his argument:

By the time September rolls around, kids may indeed be unable to recall what they were told in April: the distance between the earth and the moon, or the definition of a predicate, or the approved steps for doing long division. But they’re much less likely to forget how to set up an experiment to test their own hypothesis (if they had the chance to do science last spring), or how to write sentences that elicit a strong reaction from a reader (if they were invited to play with prose with that goal in mind), or what it means to divide one number into another (if they were allowed to burrow into the heart of mathematical principles rather than being turned into carbon-based calculators).

Summer learning loss? It’s just a subset of life learning loss—when the learning was dubious to begin with.

His summary is really a blueprint for what parents can do (and teachers can support) in order to use the summer break as an opportunity for growth rather than loss: Do experiments, swing in a hammock and write a story from the perspective of something around you, bake something or make something that has you using your math skills, for real. Most importantly, focus on the process of having a summer vacation and all that entails: rest, experiences, creation, re-creation, and play.

As Kohn points out, the ‘summer slide’ is evident when standardized test scores are compared. But what about the skills that can not be measured on such a test?

My take on combatting the slide? Here are some Summer Learning slides I shared with the parents at my school:

With the exception of the ‘knowing’ slide, which gives details of websites in which students can practice traditional academic skills, the tools suggested focus on the idea of creating and documenting based on experiences. The more children see, do, touch, feel, experience, and try, the more they will have to speak, write, and create about.

In addition to technology, get outside, and read (read outside or just read and then go outside or vice versa). If you are needing help with summer reading, look no further than my favorite book blog: One Page To The Next.  Last summer she posted on Summer Reading for Book Enthusiasts. This summer, her Summer Reading post is another great spread of excitement for readers.

If you are still looking for ideas, my other favorite blog Engage Their Minds has a wealth of resources under the category “Summer Slide

Finally, I love this list of ideas for experiences for kids from Ranger Rick.  Take a look and download from here – and then make a digital book, i-movie, podcast, artwork, poem, rap song, comic book, or ??? about your experience!

RR_SUMMER_BUCKETLIST_working

Math, Mindset

More on Mindset

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about developing a growth mindset , in particular in math class.  Engage their Minds chimed in with more great resources for developing a growth mindset.  It’s something that clearly people are thinking about.

One of the ideas I had was to follow in the steps of the Khan Academy and add an inspiring quote or statement to printed papers I gave my students to encourage them as they learned.  I was going over the types of fraction work my kids needed and was about to print some customised worksheets for them to practise from Math-Aids.com when I noticed that at the end of each worksheet is a box for you to add instructions or other text.  What a perfect spot for a growth mindset quote!

And then I thought, why not let the kids create both their own learning pages and add their own words of encouragement?  So I did.  And they were great!

Give it a go!

IMG_9396 IMG_9397 IMG_9399

 

Learning, Math

Failure is a Prerequisite…And 2 Math Gems

Have I mentioned I love Gaping Void?  Good.

Here is one of their latest posts:

Failure

 

The cartoon was accompanied by the text: “it’s something we tell our children every day”.  

Do we?

Sometimes I wonder.

My kids use Khan Academy for math.  At the moment we are working on fractions (fourth graders) and we have just started to move into unchartered waters for some students.  They are unsure.  They don’t know what they are doing.  They are scared to fail.  I can see it in their hesitation, their avoidance of tasks that are deemed “too hard”.  So, what to do?

Today, I decided to show them the coaches report that I generated for the links we are working on at the moment.  It looks like this:

Khan Academy

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, red means “struggling”, grey is “not yet started”, the pale blue means “practiced”, slightly darker blue means “level one”, darker still means “level two”, and the darkest blue is “mastered”. When I pulled this graph up, there were a few gasps around the room.  Struggling!  Red! Oh no! I got everyone’s attention on the board and said, “There are some people I am very concerned about according to this graph.  Do you know who they are?”

Of course, “the red people” was the chorus around the room. When I asked why, the response was that those people were not doing good, that they didn’t know, that they were failing.

No, I told them.  They are not the people I am concerned about. I am concerned about the grey people – the ones who are yet to try.  If you are in the red or in the blue, I know how to help you, how to move you on from where you are at. If you won’t try or haven’t tried, how can I know how to help you?  You might fail, yes.  But you might succeed too.  And I know that if you do move to the red, you won’t be there for long because “failure is the prerequisite for learning”.

I promised you “2 math gems” = and here they are:

 

Gem #1

If you are at all like me, you have written a test for students that requires them to show their work. Well, last weekend, I read this article that invites students to choose whether or not they show their working.  The ideas behind this option are sound and really made me question why I ask this of my students and wonder what the consequence is on thinking in my students.  The author, David Ginsburg, goes on to suggest mixing up the usual “show your thinking” question with a different take on the format: He suggests giving students a completed equation and asking them to explain why it is or is not correct.  This naturally means they have to explain their thinking.

 

Gem #2

Via one of my favorite blogs, Engage their Minds, I was introduced to the math version of Would You Rather…? It is awesome – and just happened to have a fraction problem up today which suited us perfectly.

Would You Rather....?

A quick run-through of the site shows me that some decent math skills are required but there is also the element of personal choice BUT you must explain your choice MATHEMATICALLY (not just based on personal preference).  It is really cool – check it out. I can see kids making these for each other too.  And if you have younger kids, Terri from ETM, has created some Would You Rather questions for Valentines Day with a slightly lower level of math skills needed.  Check it out!