1. What was your reaction to the title of this chapter?
  2. How would you respond to the principal’s assertion that testing does not measure diligence, creativity or potential?
  3.   Do you agree that real learning takes “engagement”?  How do we promote engagement in teaching our young children academic skills?

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I eat lunch with the Kinergarten teachers this year. I am amazed when they tell me some of the things that their children are expected to do. I agree with the author that young children are being pushed more and more to reach the milestones of being able to read and write much earlier. It is interesting that so much of education talks about what is developmentally appropriate and, yet this book leads us to believe that there is a lot of curriculum that is developmentally inappropriate.I found her story very sad about the little boy sitting under his desk curled up because he could not think of anything to write about. I have three students thisyear (all boys) who put thier heads down and get very frustrated when asked to write--even though we stress- -picture writing, kid spelling, tell it first, and teach many writing strategies. " Why are we rushing our children?' is a good question to ask. I strongly agree that the NCLB laws have acceleratead the elementary school curriculum and made it more test driven. I, myself, find it hard to squeeze in reading just for fun and holiday projects .One of the teacher in this chapter quotes that "this is a particulary difficult time to be an elementary school boy" - -the author keeps stresses this, I sure hope she has answers by the end of the book.
The title of Chapter 6 didn't surprise me at all. I feel that we do push our children to excel academically from a very young age and the children are missing out on many fun activities due to the fact that there is not enough time to get everything done in a day. As everyone is aware, there is a big push for preschool for 3 year olds, and this too may be detrimental to the boys that are not ready for a school setting. However, if they do not attend, then they may not be ready academically for preschool and kindergarten. We also need to keep the students engaged so that they don't get bored with the overload of academics and begin to tune us out at such an early age that it becomes too difficult to get them back. Being in Basic Skills and following many of the same children throughout the years, I have definitely witnessed the pattern that Costello discusses on page 86 in some of the boys here at Jordan.

I also found the practice of "redshirting" to be very interesting as well as a bit sad due to the fact that the boys, "from families who don't have the resources or the sophistication to game the system" end up getting the message that school is not for them.

I agree that learning takes "engagement". In a great guided reading group, the students are interested in what we are reading about and are ready, willing and able to contribute to a group discussion. In contrast, sometimes when I am pulling lower level books for older students, the students complain that the books are too babyish and/or boring. I am constantly searching for topics of interest to keep the students engaged.
Low-level, high-interest books have improved over the years, but you're right -- it's difficult to find (and write, apparently) books which can be read by our struggling readers but also keep them interested. The true enjoyment of reading only really happens when we choose what we want to read, doesn't it? I like that there are a lot more nonfiction books at the lower levels, as we know that's what a lot of boys prefer. Unfortunately, we really can't purchase the bodily-function or blood-and-guts content (discussed in a later chapter) for the classroom libraries that would keep some of our male students engaged.
Lisa,
I teach first grade and I found that the non-fiction books, particularly by Newbridge, captivate boys, struggling or not. Our library ordered multi-leveled books from Newbridge, especially those that integrated with the science and social studies we teach. It has kept the boys engaged and reading. In the latter part of first grade, boys and girls love the series Magic Tree House because so much non-fiction is imbedded into each story.
Thank you for your input, Marcy. And yes, the Magic Tree House series is a part of our classroom libraries. My now-teenage son was a big fan, probably due to his non-fiction preference. Where are you writing from?
I'm writing from Boston, MA. I teach and live in Brookline, the next town to Boston.
Which school in Brookline? I went to Wheelock College and Boston College, and did two different practica (student teaching and guidance) at the Edward Devotion School! Somers Point is near Atlantic City. (Sorry for the personal chit-chat!)
It should be called "The Fit Our Mold Grade" and I guess we must reassess the work we're assigning if it borders on being developmentally inappropriate for many kids. Tyre quoted Costello as saying too few allowances are made for individual develomental timetables, yet I was relieved to learn that boys are only weeks or months behind the girls, and not years. That was hopeful. Right?
Haven't we all seen the progression of a frustrated child turn to class clown, then a behavior problem, then in special ed. by high school? That doesn't mean an "open classroom" will resolve the problem; but an alert, concerned, teacher who can think out of the box and has a wealth of methods in her backpack might. Then again, are we allowed to think out of the box or must we follow the grade-assigned standards, curriculum, and methods our districts have developed? I remember when Whole Language was the method de jour.

It scared me when I read that between the 60s and 80s learning changed so much that one fourth of the Navy's recruits couldn't read at a ninth grade level.Then I thought maybe one fourth of Mainland's graduating class can't do any better in 2010. Does anyone have the statistics on our high school grads?
We might not need to measure diligence, creativity, and potential, but we do need to foster these attributes along with the basic skills, and "believing in blocks" sounds pretty darn good, instead of teaching in a "cram-school." Yes, I agree that real learning takes engagement. Maybe we don't have as many kids with ADHD as we do un-engaged kids.

A happy marriage of standards and engagement means we need to scrutinize our standards and improve our methods. Parents accept the government-decreed standards we're testing for and then insist their children be pushed through programs, in hopes their children will score well, that may turn them off to learning. I agree that "failure breeds failure," and when kids view homework as a punishment we've got problems. We've got even bigger problems when we punish the disadvantaged who can't do their homework.

If George Leonard thinks "To bore a child is as cruel as beating him" I wonder how he views frustrating a child. All this comes back around to kick us in the butt too, because as teachers we also seem rather frustrated.
Some of you may have read Diane Ravitch's commentary in the Press today. I am quoting her:

"This poor substitute for a well-rounded education, which includes subjects such as the arts, history, geography, civics, science and foreign language, hits low-income children the hardest, since they are the most likely to attend the kind of "failing school" that drills kids relentlessly on the basics."

Talk about not engaging students!
For the whole commentary: http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/opinion/commentary/article_c52a5...
Diane Ravitch has done a complete turnaround. She was all for testing and accountability. Because of her new philosophy, schools will soon turn around... For me, formative testing tells so much more about the student that a paper and pencil test could never tell me. I have worked very hard to individualize what each student needs. I love integrating curriculum and taking the very best of what I have learned the last 30 years and making it work for students. Integrating curriculum, making it engaging and meaningful for students, was what life as a teacher was all about 30 years ago. I stick to this engaging curriculum, no matter what the new trends are. My students learn to think on a high level, even in first grade. The paper and pencil testing is so out of hand.
Lisa,

I teach at Driscoll, right down the street from Devotion. Thanks for posting Diane's article!
I remember Driscoll! Brookline was such a model school district; I loved it there.

Diane Ravitch was on Diane Rehm's show last week (?) for an hour. I remember her as an Undersecretary and am so glad she's had a change of heart.

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