Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reflection for September 23: Work to Stay a Step Ahead

Ran into a seventh grade sub today and asked how the day went.  He said it was the easiest and hardest teaching he had ever done.  Easy because the students were well behaved and had the disposition to learn and hard because the students were so engaged and sharp he had to work to stay a step ahead.  I love hearing that about our students—and better yet, it is true.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Riff for September 21: Bloom's Taxonomy

I walked into Madeline and Kara’s first grade class during snack time.  Madeline was reading a fiction book featuring a box turtle that slowly walked down to a pond and stuck out his neck to drink because box turtles do not swim.  She then asked her first graders what facts they learned about turtles from a fiction book.  One student volunteered that turtles move slowly.  Another observed that box turtles do not swim.  I then asked why an author writing fiction would put in real facts.  One student answered so the reader could learn facts.  Another stated that it makes the story more interesting if it seems true and real.

One of the seminal pieces in education is Bloom’s Taxonomy.  The Taxonomy helps teachers understand that the most basic questions are at the bottom of the Taxonomy; the most sophisticated questions at the top.  See it below:

Note that our first graders were not being asked to just remember or even just understand.  They were being asked to analyze—first what was true and second why an author would try the strategy she did.  Most schools stop at remembering.  It is great to see our first graders meet the challenge of climbing Bloom’s Taxonomy with such grace.  This is how creative thinkers are molded.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Reflection for September 16: Welcome Lunch

I just had lunch with the new fifth graders and it was gratifying to hear what they said about their first few weeks at Duke School.  

“The teachers teach; they don’t just give a reading assignment and workbook pages to complete.”  

“The other kids are really nice. I have three to four good friends already and I have only been here, for like, three days.”  

“I love the projects that we do at school, because I can work with my classmates and learn more.” 

I should have taped the lunch; Duke School would sell itself.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 8 Riff: Meeting Needs

As I visited classes over the last few days, I have focused on bulletin boards. Two in particular caught my eye. I instantly thought back to my student days and compared and contrasted them. I liked how they told of the continuity of program and maturation of students.

The first picture comes from the 1st grade and illustrates the student’s goal for the year. The second picture is created by an 8th grader describing a mythical beast adapted for life in a closet.  Note the similarity of the assignment—illustrate an idea that is important to you.  Notice the care both students put into their work and the efforts they made to communicate. These attributes are shared by the 6 and 14-year-old students. Note the pedagogical similarities. Both assignments gave the students autonomy to create within a framework.  The first graders had different goals for the year, but each picture spoke to that student’s dreams. Likewise, the 8th grade closet critters were different but all shared adaptation to life in the closet. (Don’t you love the fact the critter hydrates on human foot sweat.  A graphic, if somewhat gross, image.) Both assignments called for creativity, and both asked students to apply and synthesize knowledge.

However, the assignments also showed the difference between 1st and 8th graders.  Most prominently, the 8th grader can write—no dictation to the teacher required.  Obviously the 8th grader’s drawing is more sophisticated with more details.  On the other hand, a bit of exuberance in the art was lost.  The older student’s work was more academic; indeed it applied one of the cornerstones of evolution, less than two weeks into the year.  The first grader was doing important and foundational work. 

Duke School is meeting the needs of both these age groups with similar and yet very different assignments.  My fervent wish is that Sophie learns to read better and learns tons about turtles. Also, I hope that all of us continue to live under the illusion that no yet undiscovered animal resides in our closets.    

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 6 Reflection: Composure

Everyone, and I mean everyone, was quiet and composed while in closets and bathrooms waiting out the tornado warning.  It was gratifying to see.

September 6 Reflection: Progress

I wandered into a sixth grade project time as students wrestled with the question “how do we recognize human progress?”  One student talked about tools for hunting. The student pointed out that as hunting technology improved from rock to spear to bow to gun, hunting could take place at farther and safer distances.  Another student agreed and then pointed out that hunting technology also led to increased danger as people could more easily harm one another.  Sixth graders discovering the plusses and minuses of progress…that is great. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 1 Reflection: My Favorite Book

Wandering through the preschool building, I see the Older Preschool children sitting on the rug in the shared space. They are staring intently at Sandy who is reading Jane Brett’s version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  She introduces her eager audience to Brett’s wonderful illustrations and attention to detail.  She shares that her daughter, Ella ‘08, loved that book so much that they must have read it 1,000 times.  Sandy told the children that sometimes she hid the book to avoid reading it every night.  The preschoolers nodded; they understood, but they will still ask their parents to read their favorite book to them tonight.