Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let's banish all worksheets

Recently I had the joyful opportunity of covering a 6th grade class to start the day. The lesson was harmless enough. We were to read the Science text together on the topic of Earth's history. It was a quick survey of archaeological science in terms of fossil dating and making predictions about the observations and artifacts included within our earth. After reading a fairly engaging section of text, the teacher asked that the students work on a worksheet. I'm thinking, what was the buy-in for participation in that worksheet? Probably Zero!! Now, to be honest, I didn't even read the worksheet, because the actual sub came in and I had to run, but I got to thinking that maybe there was a better way to solidify that learning. For example,

The teacher could have focused on this California Reading Standard:

2.8 Note instances of unsupported inferences, fallacious reasoning, persuasion,
and propaganda in text.

...because this text was ripe with inferences.

They could have written a simple 3 column chart with observation, inference, and analysis at the top and listed all the observations included as well as inferences made by the authors of the text. The final column could have included their analysis of the validity of the inference. Was it supported sufficiently or not?

They also could have focused on writing standards of expository composition, research report, or persuasive composition. Any short writing piece that would contribute to one of these genres would have been a more authentic task than filling out ANY worksheet. I'm confident it would have also been more engaging, especially if time was allotted for students of differing opinions to state their cases in small groups or before the class for everyone to judge their logic and thinking.

Basically, I don't see a lot of learning accomplished through filling out worksheets unless there is some opportunity for engagement, discussion, and academic discourse.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Change or Die - Most choose Die

At least, that's what Doug Reeves says in his book Leading Change in your School quoting Alan Deutschman from Change or Die: The three keys to change at work and in life.

Thus change is defeated by anxiety almost every time. In fact, he concludes the odds against change - even when change is literally a matter of life and death - are a staggering nine to one.

Sadly, I can see why this is true. I know that a good diet would include lots of fruits and vegetables, but that chocolate chip cookie is extremely hard to resist. This is good to keep in mind when seeking to foster change efforts both personally and professionally.