I've been catching up on some links that I saved over the past week or so, and I have four that relate, at least tangentially, to nurturing the joy of learning in kids. The first is about how classrooms tend NOT to challenge the kids who are already above grade level in some area. These kids will end up bored, the opposite of joyful learners. The second is about the harmful effects of homework for elementary school kids. Regular readers already know what I feel about that, but it's a nice summary. The third is about the positive effects that a North Carolina teacher observed in her students after implementing pedal desks. Kids who are more engaged and more able to burn off excess energy can reasonably be expected to be more joyful learners than otherwise (as long as no one is forcing them to use the pedals, anyway). The final article is about programs that implement playful learning opportunities in public places, to encourage parents to interact more with their kids. Happy reading!
Anya Kamenetz: "Every classroom has a few overachievers who perform above their grade level and don’t feel challenged by the status quo. A new report suggests they are surprisingly common — in some cases, nearly half of all students in a given grade...
“I think aiming for grade-level achievement for all students is still an important goal for K-12 schools — but not to the detriment of growth and achievement for all students, including those that are achieving at the highest levels,” (Lynda) Hayes says."
Me: This article takes on an issue that I have with our educational system. Yes, it's important to work to bring the under-achieving kids up to grade level (and much more work needs to be done here). But it often feels like there is emphasis in the U.S. on closing the achievement gap at the expense of high-achieving kids. And this is a waste, both for the individual kids affected and for our ultimate productivity and success as a country. I think that there is a lot of room for improvement, in general, in challenging all kids.
Maria Onzain: "While homework has a significant benefit at the high school level, the benefit drops off for middle school students and “there’s no benefit at the elementary school level,” agrees Etta Kralovec, an education professor at the University of Arizona...
According to research, there are a number of reasons why teachers shouldn’t assign homework to elementary school students:
1. Homework can generate a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school. Children who are just beginning at school have so many years ahead of them. The last thing teachers should do is to turn them against school. Instead, young kids should have fun while learning."
Me: While the content of this article is similar to other things I've been reading lately, Onzain does provide nice, concise lists of reasons why assigning homework to elementary school kids is a problem and things that schools and parents can do instead. To me, reason #1 shown above is the most important. Homework can have a negative impact on kids' attitude towards school, and learning in general. This is the LAST thing that we should be doing to elementary school kids, taking away their joy of learning. Sigh.
Annie Flury: "Bethany Lambeth who teaches maths at Martin Middle School, North Carolina, said the children were not able to stop moving about during lessons. So she put bike pedals under their desks as a way to divert their energy and found their grades improved too...
Within a week some students started to say they thought they were focusing more and Ms Lambeth noticed that they were more engaged in conversation in class. "They were able to recall a lot more of what I was saying and because they participated more they understood more and they did better in tests." As a result she says their test grades demonstrably improved from when the pedals were introduced in April compared to earlier in the school year."
Me: If pedal desks help kids feel more engaged AND presumably improve their health, I am all for them. Obviously they should be optional, but I think this (along with standing desks) is an idea with a lot of potential for middle school kids. For elementary school kids, I think they should be moving around and playing and having lots of recess, so the pedal desks wouldn't be as necessary.
Anya Kamenetz: "In a small study published last year, signs (with questions for parents to ask their kids), placed in Philadelphia-area supermarkets, sparked a one-third increase in conversations between parents and children under 8...The supermarket study is one seed of a much bigger idea about creating opportunities for children to learn in the wider world; to leverage caregivers as teachers and, in the process, try to level out stubborn inequities...
(A pilot project called Urban Thinkscape) is bringing playful learning experiences to families that may not otherwise have the resources or knowledge to seek them out. Hassinger-Das and her team have future plans to bring Urban Thinkscape to other "trapped spaces" in the city, like doctors' waiting rooms and laundromats."
Me: These types of programs make a lot of sense to me, and I'm encouraged that people are working on them.