history repeats itself--first it's woe the CMT now it's Common Core, magical thinking in our schools, Miss Cambridge's 4th grade long division story, Patty learns long division, see Isabeltellsherstories.com, teach for transfer!!, why do some teachers bewail the Common Core--one idea
Fourth Graders! Today we will begin our Adventures with Long Division! With a swish of her skirts and a scratch of taffeta on nylons, Miss Cambridge pivots on her sturdy lace-up shoes and fills the board with an avalanche of marks.
Then you bring this number down…like so! She waves her chalk in the air and aims it at the numbers. And then you add this…She piles numbers on top of numbers…to this!! But! Carefully. Carefully. Watch the digits. Always watch the digits! She stands aside.
My eyes glaze over at the array of numbers, arrows, little x’s, and slash marks.
Patricia, come to the board!
Just then the lunch bell shrills. We’ll have Patricia show us how to do long division when we get back. Class dismissed.
(We walked home for lunch back in the day. Thank God.)
I’m dead. I moan to my mother as I came through the kitchen door. We started long division today.
Relax. She smooths a sheet of newsprint on the table. I’ll show you a trick.
Remember this phrase: Dad makes scrumptious brownies. She writes Dad. Makes. Scrumptious. Brownies. Then she underlines the first letter of each word. These first letters remind you what to do in what order. D for Divide. M for Multiply. S for subtract, and B for bring down. Watch.
Camels are the main mode of transportation in the desert. They get very thirsty. So, at the oasis…Mom draws a little pool of water surrounded by palm trees and camels…a camel drinks twenty-six gallons of water in ten minutes, how many gallons can it drink in one minute? This is important for a camel driver to know, says Mom, just in case he needs to jump on his camel after only a minute of drinking. She pauses. So: Dad makes scrumptious brownies. Divide. Multiply. Subtract. Bring down. 2.6 gallons.
She hands me the pencil. Here. You do one.
I’ve got it.
Back at school Miss Cambridge writes a problem on the board. A caravan of six camels is carrying 348 pounds of exotic rice to Egypt. The rice has been divided equally. Each camel carries the same amount of rice. What size is each camel’s load? She hands me the chalk.
I write out 348 divided by 6 and think Dad and divide 34 into 6, Makes and multiply 5 times 6, scrumptious and subtract 30 from 36; brownies and bring down the 8. I stare at the 48, picture the words Dad Makes Scruumptious Brownies, and start the process again.
Miss Cambridge looks very pleased with herself.**
* This will ruin us is something I would hear back in 1985 when the CT Mastery Test was implemented. (Yes, the very same test which has a halo around it now.)
**THEREFORE, WE NEED SOMETHING LIKE THE COMMON CORE; IT–AND THE ASSESSMENTS THAT MESH WITH IT–HELPS US KNOW IF OUR TEACHING HAS SUNK IN. Miss Cambridge taught–or thought she taught–all 7 of us over the years. Seven kids learned long division in exactly this manner!! Or didn’t learn it, actually.
Just because teachers teach something is no guarantee that students have learned it. Or continue to know it the next week. Students learn tons, but as to whether they’re learning what the teacher’s teaching requires the instructional booster shot called teaching for transfer. And it isn’t fancy stuff. Rather, it’s a constant over-seeing, an attention to the degree to which the student is taking the responsibility for doing whatever it is on her own. Doing it without cueing by the teacher and constant prompting. And then a re-teaching when it’s deemed that the kid didn’t get it.
Magical thinking is the assumption that there’s an immediate causal relationship between any one lesson and the learning of the lesson. Students in affluent districts have parental back-up plans in place to shore up the “Miss Cambridge” line of thought. This keeps the teacher from recognizing the inefficacy of his instruction. (The teacher spouting off in the YMCA for all of us to listen to and get a bad impression of the teaching field, the one who said that the Common Core was ruining her school district, comes from such a district.) In less affluent districts, poverty and ethnicity gets factored into the magical thinking and is used to account for the fact that the great teaching is not taking. Another story. CAVEAT: I AM NOT ANTI-TEACHER. I have written a series of stories about high-performing, high-poverty schools that DO NOT engage in this spurious line of logic. See earlier entries in WWWW.
(For another iteration of the Miss Cambridge story: Lately I’ve been focusing on isabeltellsherstories.com in order to revise my novel, and get it ready for, um, whatever it will be ready for. After the YMCA diatribe I came home and suddenly found Isabel telling the story of how she learned long division. It was a version of my Miss Cambridge experience. I love how writing works. Isabel decided to have this entry, not me. I was merely taking dictation. (Is the Isabel story true, you ask. No, I’d answer, but it all happened.) You’ll find the Isabel Scheherazade at http://www.isabeltellsherstories.com. Make sure to scroll back and use the calendar and the back arrow to get to the beginning. :)
blog, Education, ignorance of facts yields belief in dragons, Krista Tippit, Martin Reese-Our Cosmic Habitat, NaBloPoMo, NPR, PATTY, Sessions with Phil Nye the Science Guy, Ted Talks, The Onion on Congress and Plonks, United States Congress, Where There Be Dragons tours
(NaBloPoMo) “There Be Dragons,” One Congressman Mutters to the Other (an utterance I imagine one of them making when I watch a span of legislators talking amongst themselves as someone testifies about affordable health care for all or the use of alternative energy to combat climate change. How to Help Congress? I Have a Suggestion. (A 420 Character 9-Line Poem by Patty)
So scary that ancient maps drew Dragons to symbolize the unknown;
travel there was to go “where there be dragons.”
So, is it just fear of the unknown
that creates Congressional enemies of Affordable Care for All
(like the rest of the developed world has)
or Carbon Sequestration to Combat Climate Change?
Nix the dragons w/: Ted Talks, Sessions with Phil Nye the Science Guy, or NPR.
Make Known the Unknown.
Let’s learn facts. Or it’s all going to be too close to what the Onion portrays Congress to be in this piece:
Rep. William Cummings (D-VA) defends his use of the slang word “pronk” as a legitimate catchphrase.
the frameborder=”no” width=”480″ height=”270″ scrolling=”no” src=”http://www.theonion.com/video_embed/?id=100″></iframe><br /><a href=”http://www.theonion.com/video/congress-debates-merits-of-new-catchphrase,14227/” target=”_blank” title=”Congress Debates Merits Of New Catchphrase”>Congress Debates Merits Of New Catchphrase</a>
But, I think the guys in an early Congress had an excuse for believing in dragons. They didn’t have access to Ted and his Talks.
Another Idea: our fearful, non-productive Congress could seize the dragon by the horns (oops, mixed metaphor; but, um, I like it; so it stays.) and go on one of the study abroad programs organized by this amazing company, or ones of its ilk. The company’s called Where There Be Dragons:
Who We Are
Dragons programs are authentic, rugged and profound student travel adventures that expose the beautiful and complex realities of the countries in which we travel. Featuring extended itineraries, Dragons programs encourage deep immersion into strikingly different physical and cultural landscapes, combining the best in experiential education, travel, service learning, and physically and intellectually challenging experiences.
While Dragons programs vary in their focus—with some trekking and wilderness intensive, others strong on service and development studies, and still others language-oriented—all Dragons journeys are designed above all else to be fun, safe and honest educational experiences.
A Global View of the American School, DianeRavitch, Education, Education reform, Eric Hanushek: Endangering Prosperity, poor academic achievement endangers economic prosperity of nation, school reform, Standardized test, teacher, United States
All These Warnings for a Tea Leaf Ducky. What About the Other Stuff, Like How Poor Academic Performance Could Endanger Our Country’s Economic Prosperity? (A 420 Character, 9-Line Poem by Patty) NaBloPoMo
Rubber duckies come with warnings,
like this little loose tea infuser,
but I want such signage attached to Diane Ravitch‘s comments
disparaging school testing: She says, “don’t pay attention to them.”
But if I do, I see that while tests of U.S. students are improving,
and we KNOW that poor academic achievement
- Why Do We Rank and Rate Students, Teachers, and Schools? (dissertationgal.com)
- Diane Ravitch: Why Do We Treat Schools Like Sports Teams? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Book Review: Reign of Error (independent.com)
- Historian Ravitch Trades Fact for Fiction (educationnext.org)
- Indeed, we’re still a nation at risk (denverpost.com)
- City Journal, The Closing of Diane Ravitch’s Mind (robertbyron22.wordpress.com)
- An Unfair Attack on Education Reform (edreform.com)
Much as I love Sam Cooke and this song, it just won’t work if we don’t know stuff, and if we don’t know that we don’t know.
Parts of this book you read like you read a story. Other parts you read like you’re reading a non-fiction book on spiders. 4th Grade teacher, Mr. L* and a small group are discussing Spider Boy by Ralph Fletcher.
A student raises his hand. So, like here, when Mr. Fletcher has Spider Boy starting school we know it’s got a beginning, middle, and end? But here, when he’s reading the letter from his old pal and it’s got this list of gross spider facts, that’s like my “Guinness World Book of Records?”
Right, and you use different strategies for the different types of text. You know that the character, setting, events parts will push the story along and the just-the-facts about spiders will pause the action and have explanations like you find in your science book.
All during the day, I hear, Read this like you do a poem; a social studies book; a feature article; a personal essay. The kids know that depending on the kind of text, they’ll use different tactics.
It’s like that basketball story, says Mr. L.
Here’s the basketball story–it came from my family, and I’d told it to Mr. L.
Jack stands under the basketball hoop and rockets the ball back to Doug. They’re warming up for the rec game down the road. He talks as he tosses. So, you’ll need to read this team, Doug. Doug hasn’t played them before and doesn’t know their usual defense.
Read, Dad? asks Doug as he arcs the ball.
Right. The other team’s defense is like a book. You need to read what they’re doing.
Like, maybe they’re playing zone? That’s like a book?
Right. Different books give you different information. Jack dribbles the ball to Doug. So, when you look at the team on the court and you read that they’re playing a zone, what do you need to do?
Pass, penetrate, and, he pauses to jump, shoot from the outside!
Jack continues his book review, so to speak. And what do you do if you read that they’re playing man-to-man?
Pass, screen, Doug dashes and lunges. Cut to the basket! He zigzags in and grabs the ball.
Pressing defense, Doug? What if you read their book and it’s a pressing defense?
Spread the floor. Back cut. Keep your head up. Look ahead for an open man.
Jack nods and stows the ball in the car. Game time, he says, and off they go to read, er, play the game.
*** *** ***
Mr. L tells this story to his students to help them anchor the over-and-over-moves they need to use when they read the page. Moves that help them narrow their focus, anticipate, and deal with new texts. It’s an anchor story that shows them that any «reader» needs to bring background knowledge to any «text» so as to better notice, retrieve, and gather information and help them deal with new situations, be they on the court or on the page.