59 posts categorized "Joy of Learning" Feed

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @medinger and @biblioracle on #SummerReading and #JoyofWriting

JoyOFLearningLogoI ran across two articles about nurturing the joy of learning last week. The first was about how schools should NOT assign mandatory summer reading, something with which I agree strongly. The second was about the importance of nurturing a joy of writing in students, in addition to a joy of reading. This was a good reminder to me, the mother of a child who declares herself a writer. I hope you find these articles useful. 

Yes, yes, yes! The best ? Not mandatory. Don't send home required lists. https://t.co/gMIn95DXmh

John Warner: "As someone who loves and values books and reading and also has been teaching college writing for the past 16 years, I have a request: Please don't do that [send home required reading lists].

Seems paradoxical, I know. Why would a book lover like me discourage schools from requiring students to read over the summer?

Nurturing good reading habits is a long game, and whenever we tether reading to school, we hinder, rather than help, students. The National Counsel of Teachers of English has a list of best practices when it comes to effective reading instruction, including this: "Provide daily opportunities for students to read books of their own choice at school."

I'd like to add a personal recommendation: When not in school, let students read whatever the heck they want."

Me: I agree with John Warner 100%. I think it's fine to provide lists of titles that kids might enjoy, as a helpful tool. But to me, summer reading for kids, as it usually is for adults, should be about reading whatever is of interest at that particular moment. Comic strips, books of amazing facts, instruction manuals, notebook novels, verse novels, series titles, etc., etc., etc. 

JoyWriteA reminder of the need to maintain a joy of in the classroom + a response from to a new book https://t.co/fTy1U5sByR

Monica Edinger: "All of this informs my beliefs when it comes to teaching writing to 4th graders. These include:

  • Creating situations where students feel invested in their writing
  • That they have audiences
  • That they find joy in the work
  • That they understand that there are many different ways and reasons to write — some being completely private, some to figure out a problem, and more.

Of late my impression is that writing instruction in schools is highly driven by testing, common core curriculum, packaged programs, and consultants."

Me: Monica shares an early experience in school that harmed her confidence in her writing for years, and discusses how that experience informed her methods of teaching writing today. She also shares her responses to Ralph Fletcher's new book on "cultivating high-impact, low-stakes writing." This post really struck me because my daughter right now loves to write. But I do worry that emphasis on structure and spelling and the like will take away that joy as she gets older. Monica's post made me realize that in addition to my efforts to keep reading at home as joyful an experience for my daughter as possible, I need to do the same thing with writing. I certainly intend to try!  

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @NYTimes, @RaisedGood, @GCouros, @NoguchiOnK12, @TimDWalk, @Salon

JoyOFLearningLogoThis week I have a plethora of quote-worthy articles related to play, homework, and the joy of learning. First up is a piece about how parents come down on both sides of the debate about homework levels. Next is a piece about how simplifying childhood, by reducing activities and distractions, would helpful for kids' mental health and development. In the third, George Couros responds to a letter published by students at a high school asking for more flexibility in the expectations of the adults around them. Next, from my local paper, a survey by Project Cornerstone (a YMCA group) finds an alarming drop in engagement among high school students. Finally, I have two articles about the need for young children to have time in school for play and recharging. Special thanks to Sandhya Nankani, who was my source for multiple articles. Happy reading!

HomeworkMythThis is a balanced piece (inc. socioeconomic side) regarding the debate + how it divides parents https://t.co/o0FXYK3pt1

Kyle Spencer: "The focus for many anti-homework parents is what they see as the quality of work assigned. They object to worksheets, but embrace projects that they believe encourage higher-level thinking. At P.S. 11 in Manhattan, even parents who support the no-homework policy said they often used online resources like Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization that provides free educational videos. The school’s website also includes handwriting exercises, scientific articles, and math and reading lessons. Sophie Mintz, whose son is in second grade at the school, said that the no-homework policy had afforded him more time to build elaborate Lego structures.

But parents with fewer means say the new policies don’t take into account their needs and time constraints, and leave them on their own when it comes to building the skills their children need to prepare for the annual state tests.

Me: This article linked to and discussed various situations that I was already aware of. But it also covered an aspect of the homework wars (some parents want it and some parents don't) that I hadn't much thought of. Spencer quotes from lower income and/or working parents who complain that while more affluent parents can provide enrichment (tutoring, etc.) for their kids, less well off families rely on the school to provide homework that they see as needed for their kids' development. I've been more familiar with the flip side of the argument, which is that more affluent families are more likely to have a parent available in the afternoons to help kids with their homework, such that homework can increase learning gaps. 

Now, what I really think is that rote worksheets are probably not doing much for anyone's development in the early grades. But I do think that the question of whether and how much homework to require does require input from families of various circumstances.  And for that, this article is a good addition to the discussion. 

PowerOfPlaySimplifying Childhood (more free , less stuff, fewer activities) may be good for Kids Mental Health https://t.co/SgcY9HLQfj

Tracy Gillett: "When children are overwhelmed they lose the precious down time they need to explore, play and release tension. Too many choices erodes happiness, robbing kids of the gift of boredom which encourages creativity and self-directed learning. And most importantly “too much” steals precious time...

Developmental Psychologist David Elkind reports kids have lost more than 12 hours of free time per week in the last two decades meaning the opportunity for free play is scarce. Even preschools and kindergartens have become more intellectually-oriented. And many schools have eliminated recess so children have more time to learn.

The time children spend playing in organized sports has been shown to significantly lower creativity as young adults, whereas time spent playing informal sports was significantly related to more creativity. It’s not the organized sports themselves that destroy creativity but the lack of down time. Even two hours per week of unstructured play boosted children’s creativity to above-average levels.

Me: Parts of this article did hit home for me, especially when Gillett is urging parents to free their children from excessive activities (and stuff) to give them more mental space to grow and develop. This is something that I really struggle with as a parent. My daughter wants to do each thing that comes up (the school play, swim team, softball, karate, playdates, birthday parties). But she gets burned out, too. I certainly listen when she pushes back. However, it may be that I need to push back more directly, too. Food for thought, for sure... 

InnovatorsMindsetThere is Not Only One Road to Success | responds to a HS student petition seeking alternate life paths https://t.co/XgAEPvJBJd 

George Couros: "Katie Martin shared this article on Facebook, with the title, “Student petition says too much pressure to succeed at Naperville North“...

kudos to the students for sharing their voices.  This is not about being soft on the students; personally, I expect anyone who is working toward success to put in the time and effort. I love the Simon Sinek quote,  “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something1 we love is called passion.” This is not about having low expectations; it is ensuring that the students have a voice in those expectations in the first place...

Success means different things to different people, but take note of this statement made by the student petition; “Start defining success as any path that leads to a happy and healthy life1. Start teaching us to make our own paths, and start guiding us along the way.”  Yup.  I don’t know what else to say. It is just perfect, and even more perfect that it comes from the voice of students."

Me: Like Couros, I liked what these students had to say about defining success as paths that lead to a healthy and happy life, instead of defining success as one particular path (e.g. the path to an Ivy League college). I also thought that the Sinek quote was spot on. People don't mind working hard for things that they care about - they mind working hard for things that they don't care about. I am already thinking about how I'm going to protect my daughter from the academic rat race when she is in high school. Articles like this do give me some hope. 

ProjectCornerstoneSilicon Valley teens report big drop in engagement | reports survey

Sharon Noguchi: "Fewer high school students are drinking, having sex, doing drugs and resorting to violence, a large-scale survey of Santa Clara County public school students shows. At the same time, engagement in school has plunged, as has students’ optimism about their future.

This mixed picture of youth well-being emerges in Project Cornerstone’s Silicon Valley youth survey — the first in six years —  of 43,000 youths at more than 180 elementary, middle and high schools in Santa Clara County. The survey was administered last fall, and the results were released this spring...

Among high school students, the drop in school engagement was striking. It fell to 38 percent — compared with 66 percent in 2010, the last time Project Cornerstone conducted its survey."

Me: The student engagement piece was only a small part of this survey, but it was the one that struck me. In seven years, the percentage of students engaged in what they are learning at school fell almost in half. This is consistent with other studies I've seen (see this article for more on the subject of declining student engagement). It's all just so demoralizing for those of us who want to see kids finding joy in learning. As I said above, do already worry about the high school rat race.

TeachLikeFinlandHow Kids Learn Better By Taking Frequent Breaks Throughout The Day via

Timothy D. Walker (in an excerpt from his new book shared at Mind/Shift KQED, in which he describes what he learned teaching in Finland, after having taught in the US): "Once I incorporated these short recesses into our timetable, I no longer saw feet-dragging, zombie-like kids in my classroom. Throughout the school year, my Finnish students would, without fail, enter the classroom with a bounce in their steps after a fifteen-minute break. And most important, they were more focused during lessons.

At first I was convinced that I had made a groundbreaking discovery: frequent breaks kept students fresh throughout the day. But then I remembered that Finns have known this for years—they’ve been providing breaks to their students since the 1960s...

Initially, I thought that the true value of Finnish-style breaks is related to free play, but I no longer hold this view. I’ve concluded that the primary benefit of Finnish breaks is in the way it keeps kids focused by refreshing their brains. Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology, behavioral neuroscience, and music at McGill University, believes that giving the brain time to rest, through regular breaks, leads to greater productivity and creativity."

Me: I am happy to report that my daughter does have three recesses per day (except for the short day of the week). It's not quite breaks every hour like they do in Finland, but it's not too far off. If I ever hear the school talking about reducing recess (which I have not), I will have my ammunition ready... 

Kindergartners get little time to . Why does it matter? Christopher Brown via

Christopher Brown: "As a former kindergarten teacher, a father of three girls who’ve recently gone through kindergarten, and as researcher and teacher-educator in early childhood education, I have had kindergarten as a part of my adult life for almost 20 years.

As a parent, I have seen how student-led projects, sensory tables (that include sand or water) and dramatic play areas have been replaced with teacher-led instructional time, writing centers and sight words lists that children need to memorize. And as a researcher, I found, along with my colleague Yi Chin Lan, that early childhood teachers expect children to have academic knowledge, social skills and the ability to control themselves when they enter kindergarten...

Research has consistently shown classrooms that offer children the opportunities to engage in play-based and child-centered learning activities help children grow academically, socially and emotionally. Furthermore, recess in particular helps children restore their attention for learning in the classroom.

Focus on rules can diminish children’s willingness to take academic risks and curiosity as well as impede their self-confidence and motivation as learners — all of which can negatively impact their performance in school and in later life."

Me: Brown's views in this piece on changes to Kindergarten are consistent with other things I've read (Rae Pica's book, for example). But this is certainly a nice summary to share with parents newer to the discussion, with tons of links for further reading. It always made me sad, when my daughter was in Kindergarten, to see the unused play kitchen and toys, which sat in the back of the classroom... 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


Four Recent Articles About Growing Bookworms: #eReading, Pleasure Reading + #ReadingAloud

JoyOFLearningLogoRecently, I've run across a number of articles that all touch on aspects of growing young bookworms. The first is about how kids prefer to read print books, and how research has shown that kids who have access to electronic devices tend to read less (even if the devices have books on them). The second article is a list of ten tips for parents to encourage kids to enjoy reading, written by a youth service librarian. The third is about how and why teachers should read aloud to older students, and the fourth is also aimed at teachers, discouraging the grading of students' independent reading. Each of these articles spoke to me on one level or another, and I hope that you find them useful. 

Research suggests providing kids w/ #eReading devices can inhibit their #reading - response + tips @ConversationUS https://t.co/4rbl0FOK0b

Margaret Kristin Merga and Saiyidi Mat Roni: "In a study of children in Year 4 and 6, those who had regular access to devices with eReading capability (such as Kindles, iPads and mobile phones) did not tend to use their devices for reading - and this was the case even when they were daily book readers.

Research also found that the more devices a child had access to, the less they read in general.

It suggests that providing children with eReading devices can actually inhibit their reading, and that paper books are often still preferred by young people."

Me: This post is a response to / recap of a recently published study. In addition to discussing the reasons for the results quoted above, it also includes tips for encouraging children to read. The primary conclusions, that kids prefer to read print books, and that access to devices is tied to less reading by kids, matches with my own intuition, and with what I've observed in my daughter. For instance, we have a family rule that she's not allowed to use her tablet in the car if the drive is less than 30 minutes. So, she reads. But if I would let her, she would use the tablet nearly every time.

As for print books, I've just always felt that those would be better for her, and I've never really dabbled in eBooks for her. She likes to see the pictures, and to have a sense of how much of the book is left. She likes to figure out what percentage of the book she has completed (and I would MUCH rather have her figure this out than spot it in the footer on a Kindle). She's also been passing books back and forth with a close friend, something that would be much more difficult for them in digital format. 

CaptainUnderpantsWell-done: Top 10 Tips for Parents of Kids Who HATE to Read | "Pleasure reading should be just that" + don't judge https://t.co/CLbOp7rsR0

Meredith Hoyer: "3. Forget about progress. In schools, the focus is on progress and growth, as it should be. When you come to the public library, you will notice that we don’t level our books, and that stems from the philosophy of public libraries being a place of informal learning. “My child is at an M level and he needs to be reading P level books but he hates to read and won’t read anything I give him,” a parent might say. It is natural for parents to want to support progress. However, once reading becomes a battle in the home, our best advice is to take a breath, forget about reading levels, and gently guide the child back to a point where reading is comfortable, relaxed and pleasant again. Your child’s teacher will focus on development and progress. Pleasure reading should be just that: pleasurable."

Me: I see a lot of these tip-based posts for encouraging reading, and I share them often. But I thought that this one, written by a youth services librarian, was particularly good. The above quotation gives a nice flavor of Meredith Hoyer's balanced, parent-focused approach. I also especially liked tip 4, about withholding judgement, ending with "If your child chooses comic books, joke books, or Captain Underpants, take the long view and let him/her have fun." 

I feel strongly that my job as a parent who wants to raise a child who enjoys reading is to do whatever I can to make reading enjoyable. Meredith Hoyer and I are clearly on the same page about the ways to do that. 

RivetingReadAloudsCoverRiveting Read Alouds (How and Why to #ReadAloud in classroom with Older Students) | @Scholastic http://ow.ly/1ivb309Ngxv 

Janet Allen: "Television shows vie for the best time slots during prime time; reading aloud is prime time in the classroom because you have used the time to get students engaged. While many factors influence whether teachers choose to read aloud with adolescents, the benefits of establishing reading aloud as an important part of your literacy instruction are well-known. Let’s talk about just a few of the benefits my students and I discovered as we make a case for reading aloud.

Enjoyment: When reading a well-chosen text as a read aloud, you provide readers with a risk-free opportunity to experience the "charm, magic, impact and appeal" (Mooney, 1988) of language and story. It helps them see that text has meaning, especially because their comprehension can often be greater during read-aloud time than when they try to decode text on their own. This results in students being motivated to read more."

Me: I like that this article, on the Scholastic education blog, is specifically focused on reading aloud to older kids, and on the reasons that teachers should read aloud. In addition to the reasons (the first of several is quoted above), Janet Allen offers teachers tips for getting started. The article concludes with a pitch for the author's new book, Riveting Read Alouds for Middle School (with Patrick Daley, published by Scholastic). The book includes "35 engaging read-aloud selections for older students: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, humor writing and more."

While I follow a number of blogging teachers who read aloud to older students, I suspect that this is relatively rare in practice. I think it would be great if this book helped inspire other teachers to give it a try. 

PassionateLearnersPlease, YES! Can We Please Stop Grading Independent Reading? asks @pernilleripp  http://ow.ly/Eatc309PQAc  #RaisingReaders

Pernille Ripp: "So just like we would never grade a child for how many math problems they choose to solve on their own, how many science magazines they browsed or how many historical documents they perused, we should not grade how many books a child chooses to read.  We should not tie pages read with a grade, nor an assessment beyond an exploration into how they can strengthen their reading habits.  Number of books read, minutes spent, or pages turned will never tell us the full story.  Instead it ends up being yet another way we can chastise the kids that need us to be their biggest reading cheerleaders."

Me: I spoke the other night to a young man who loved to read as a child, but railed against the elementary and middle school AR program. He said that it had kept him from reading the books that he wanted, because either they weren't part of the program, or they weren't at the approved level for him. His arguments were against how the program as implemented affected him as an advanced reader. But me, I was just wondering why we need to be measuring the reading of kids who love books at all. When I was in elementary school I read constantly, with some guidance from teachers and the school librarian. But even the public library's summer reading programs turned me off, because I wanted to just read, not track what I was reading.

Now, I get that not all kids are avid readers, and that there may be tracking programs that help in some cases. And I get that Pernille Ripp's more individualized assessment approach is probably more time-consuming. But still ... I was pleased to see a teacher publicly calling for not grading independent reading. Teachers can find more information on nurturing readers in the classroom in Pernille's book, Passionate Learners.

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @savitakalhan, @PsychToday + @EDmerger on #ReadingChoice and #Homework

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles that I've shared recently that I thought warranted further discussion. In the first, UK author Savita Kalhan shares a situation that she recently observed in a secondary school in which kids are limited to reading a pre-selected set of books on school supplied kindles. In the second article, for Psychology Today, authors Paula J. Schwanenflugel and Nancy Flanagan Knapp share an article inspired by their new book on the psychology of reading. They focus on the problems with limited students to read within narrowly defined reading levels. In both of these articles, seemingly well-intentioned schools are taking away students' love of reading by restricting choice. In the third article, Paul G. Moss outlines some issues with overloading students with homework, including the creation of negative attitudes. Such negative attitudes, of course, threaten the joy of learning. 

GreatExpectationsSad piece by @savitakalhan  about a secondary school that is sucking pleasure from kids' #reading by limiting choice http://ow.ly/H6w2309BCZT 

Savita Kalhan: "But I have noticed something very worrying, and I hope it is not a trend that is being repeated in other schools.

The use of eReaders, in some schools, has taken the place of paperback books almost completely. I know of one very large secondary school where every Year 7 and 8 pupil is given a kindle preloaded with books. Older years are given a nook. They are used for lessons as well as for reading for pleasure, apparently...

The kids are NOT allowed to read anything else other than one of the books on the school kindles. If they are caught reading a paperback book, they are given a detention!"

Me: I found the situation documented by Savita Kalhan simply horrifying.Talk about taking away the joy of reading. It's bad enough to expect kids to read from a pre-installed set of titles. But to punish them for selecting their own outside choices. Words fail me. Savita theorizes that this policy is due to the need for the school to be able to measure and document what kids are reading (to justify the expense of the devices). What I know is that if my daughter's school had a policy like this I would speak up, very loudly.  

PsychologyOfReadingYes! Why you should use passion + curiosity, not #ReadingLevels to help kids find good things to read @PsychToday https://t.co/6XJ2RxB2x2

Paula J. Schwanenflugel, Ph.D., and Nancy Flanagan Knapp, Ph.D.: "Most school reading incentive programs require students to read texts within a restricted range of their measured reading skill levels, either within the Lexile range just mentioned, or, if using another rating system, within five months of their measured reading levels... Many schools now even restrict the books students can check out from the school library to those at such “appropriate” levels...

Myth #1: Each text has a discrete, accurately measurable reading level...

Myth #2: Each reader has a discrete, accurately measurable level of reading skill... 

Myth #3: Readers should (almost always) read texts very near their reading level...

Passion, curiosity, and knowledge are at least as important as reading levels in helping children find good things to read. "

Me: There is a lot of detail in this article (excerpted from a new book), so please do go and read the full piece. There's quite a bit on the benefits to kids of reading above and below their suggested reading level. To me, forcing kids to read within some narrow range is clearly a way to take away the joy of reading.

I let my daughter, who is in first grade, read anything she finds lying around the house that catches her eye. (We have a LOT of books lying around the house). When something is too difficult for her, she'll plug away for a bit, and then get bored and find something else. I did teach her the five finger rule, and she finds that useful in identifying the books that she's not ready for yet. As for books that are too easy for her, I want her to enjoy those for as long as she likes. We just pulled a bunch of easy readers to donate to a book swap at her school. She was happy to jettison some of them, but some she kept because she loves the characters (Amelia Bedelia, Elephant and Piggy, Dodsworth, and, yes, Sponge Bob). 

If more schools could focus on what makes kids LOVE reading, the world would be a better, and more literate, place in the long run. 

HomeworkStrikeOverloading #homework reduces performance, stresses students + creates a negative atmosphere in classroom @EDmerger https://t.co/T0KMglJMHc 

Paul G. Moss: "Despite a new surge in notification tools, homework assignment still remains a lawless enterprise, with even the best of willed teachers being reduced to mavericks, having to set work for their students with no idea of how much work they have already been set by other teachers. The teacher cannot tell if they may be overloading them, and this results in a range of issues...

Students spend a long day at school, and the amount of energy it takes to then have to work at home and carry on the effort should not be underestimated. Students who are overworked face the very real possibility of burning out, either physically, mentally, or probably both...

Another issue that stems from overloading students is the creation of a negative attitude towards homework. Understandably, getting students to buy into the policy is impossible when the overarching perception is that the process is unfair, inequitable, and exhausting. "

Me: This article was written with middle and high school students in mind, responding to the situation where different teachers are assigning homework, and the overall homework load is too strenuous. [This was the situation in Greg Pincus's The Homework Strike.] I worry about this issue in my daughter's future. But the problems of excessive homework (reduced performance levels, etc.) certainly show themselves in elementary school, too.

My biggest concern in this is the last point from Moss that I quoted above. Overloading creates a negative attitude towards homework. And, I would argue, towards school and learning in general.

As with reading, if more schools had a focus on (or just paid more of attention to) fostering the joy of learning, students would be much better served. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


On Homework and Our Own Recent Experiences

Sandhya Nankani shared a Washington Post article by Valerie Strauss with me this week that I want to highlight here. It's about the positive outcomes that a Vermont elementary school has been experiencing since replacing homework with free reading time. Principal Mark Trifilio did his research, and then proposed an experiment to his school's teachers:

"stopping all homework in every grade and asking students to read on their own at school — or, if they were not ready to read on their own, to do it with a parent or guardian. He said he was surprised when every one of them — classroom teachers as well as those who work with special-education students and English-language learners — signed on to the idea."

Here is the school's policy, posted on their website, which I LOVE:

"No Homework Policy
Orchard School Homework Information
Student’s Daily Home Assignment

1. Read just-right books every night —
(and have your parents read to you too).
2. Get outside and play —
that does not mean more screen time.
3. Eat dinner with your family —
and help out with setting and cleaning up.
4. Get a good night’s sleep."

They are only six months in, but Trifilio has declared the experiment a success, with most parents (excepting a small minority) happy with their kids having more time for family and for other interests. Please do go and read the whole article

This article was particularly timely for me because I recently had the harrowing experience of having my first grade daughter sobbing  and begging not to have to do her homework one night. It wasn't that the work was too hard for her. It was just not how she wanted to spend her time on that particular evening. The complaints rolled off of her. "It takes up too much time." "I have other things I prefer to do." "This is boring." "I don't WANT to." "WHY do I have to?" There was even an "I hate homework" song. 

She did get through it, and most days are not nearly this bad. [And yes, I did let her teacher know that the homework level had made her cry, and we do like her teacher very much in all other regards.] I've been making extra effort since then to make sure that she's not too tired when homework time rolls around, which makes a big difference. But this isn't easy, either, because it cuts into my work time (I have to pick her up from after-school care earlier) and because she has other afternoon activities that we value (karate, school play, Girl Scouts, time with friends). 

Here's what I know. If our elementary school established a policy like the one at Orchard School in Vermont, I would be absolutely thrilled. Many (though certainly not all) parents I know would be equally thrilled. My daughter would literally turn cartwheels if she could read instead of doing worksheets. She would undoubtedly read more. Her reading ability would improve, and she would enjoy reading even more. I think that she would spend more time writing, too, because that's something she likes to do when she has the time. Our evenings would be more peaceful. We would have more family time. And we would have more flexibility in managing my daughter's other activities, especially time with friends.

While none of this seems very likely at the moment, articles like the one this week from The Washington Post give me hope. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @thebrodybeat + @PeterFonagy + @Bookopolis | Raising Readers by Reading Together

JoyOFLearningLogoLast week I was fortunate enough to come across three different articles, all aimed at parents and focused on the benefits of reading with kids (or at least encouraging kids in their own reading). In the first piece, Sharon Brody shares a nostalgic view of reading aloud to her sons, long after they could read on their own. In the second, Dr. Peter Fonagy suggests reading together as a concrete way that parents can bond with their children. And in the third, Kari Ness Riedel encourages parents to stay engaged with their kids' reading, even as said kids move into elementary school. She does mention continuing to read aloud to kids at this time, but also offers tips for talking with kids about their own reading. All three of these articles are well worth your time. 

SeriesOfUnfortunateThis piece I LOVE! "Keep reading (aloud) to the kids until you cry yourself silly, people"  @cogwbur @thebrodybeat https://t.co/9zRMWylwCq

Sharon Brody: "I ask only this: consider, at least, that you have options. The magic of being read to does not disappear just because it’s no longer a practical necessity. We took the read-aloud game into quadruple overtime...

The overarching perks? Beyond the pure fun, family reads helped make my sons the readers and thinkers and listeners and dreamers they are, and helped forge unbreakable bonds. The older the kids became, and the further they traveled from the land of pretend, the more they seemed to appreciate the oasis of the read-aloud."

Me: An old friend who knows of my interest in this matter sent me the link to Sharon Brody's piece for WBUR. Brody waxes nostalgic for the years she spent reading aloud to her her two sons, long after they could read on their own, and of their particular enjoyment of the Series of Unfortunate Events books. The benefits that she talks about, like having a shared family experience and vocabulary, are things that I hope for with my family. And her tears over the final book that she read aloud to her boys (because they were getting older and busy) made me determined to appreciate every moment that my daughter still wants to snuggle up against me to listen. 

TigerWhoCameToTeaHow to bond w/ your child through #reading + why reading together is worth making time for  @PeterFonagy @Telegraph https://t.co/IAFx6Llc2X

Peter Fonagy: "There are many ways in which parents can interact in this way, but there are certain activities that can support it. There is good evidence that ‘book sharing’ is one effective way of building this kind of behaviour in parents who struggle with it – perhaps for reasons of temperament or the way they were themselves brought up.

For anyone in the vastly busy day-to-day, having some time to read together perhaps at the end of the day can create a space for the kind of meeting of minds between parent and child which is developmentally so helpful to children...

Reading with your child can feel like a hard ask at the end of a day – particularly when it’s a book that you’ve read to them a hundred times, and which you never particularly liked in the first place – but it is an activity really worth making time for, especially if you can steer them towards a book that you can both love (The Tiger who Came to Tea was my favourite). 

Remember, with each minute you can help them maintain their interest in your story telling, you have improved their ability to focus on the things in their lives which are important."

Me: Professor Fonagy is a British psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist who has published a variety of scholarly work. This Telegraph piece, however, is designed to give parents a concrete way to interact with their children. Dr. Fonagy cites academic research, as one would expect, but also speaks powerfully of the benefits of finding joy in reading. There is no question in my mind that reading together has helped me to bond with my daughter, both when she was an infant and now that she is in grade school. 

BookopolisLogoHow to Stay Engaged w/ Your Reader as They Grow even if you can't read everything w/ them @Bookopolis @ReadBrightly http://ow.ly/bR7R3088wWj 

Kari Ness Riedel (who runs a reading community for kids): "What can we actually do as parents of school-age children to engage them as readers beyond signing off on their nightly reading log? It’s wonderful if you have the time and passion to participate in a parent/child book club. Or if you can read all the same books as your kid and compare ideas. But this isn’t realistic for many parents.

A simple and effective thing you can do is ask your kid about what they are reading... From my experience, what you ask, when you ask, and how you ask matters." (Details follow) 

 Me: I am still reading with my six year old, of course, and I intend to keep reading with her for as long as I can. But I've also been happy to see her starting to read books on her own. I so want for her that experience of being lost in her own book. Kari offers what I think is good advice in how I can share a bit more in the books that she is reading by herself. For parents who aren't already reading lots of children's books themselves, these tips will be particularly valuable. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @TonySinanis + @cherandpete on #Reading + #Math

JoyOFLearningLogoLast week I found two articles related to the joy of learning that I thought were worth sharing in more detail. In the first, father and teacher Tony Sinanis urges educators to look more closely at school practices that take away the love of reading. In the second, math teacher Mr. C. shares his approach to moving from textbook-based math to real-world math, and the positive response from students. I'm encouraged to see these two teachers both encouraging others to make learning (whether reading or math) more joyful for students. 

HackingLeadershipGreat points here! A plea from a father to other #educators: Let's Not Kill The Love Of #Reading http://ow.ly/qOqa307H1UA  @TonySinanis

Tony Sinanis: "The list could go on and on but the point is that somewhere along the line the reading Paul was doing became more about meeting someone else's expectations than they were about nurturing and growing his love for reading...

I do believe that some of our instructional practices (many of which I was guilty of using as a teacher myself) are actually killing the love of reading instead of nurturing it. When did we stop reading for the joy of reading? Although I am not a literacy expert or reading specialist myself I do think there are some things we could do to help grow a love of reading..."

Me: In this strong post, educator Tony Sinanis writes from a father's perspective about various educational practices that he's seen that appear to be taking away his son's love of reading. He offers suggestions based on his experience, and also references several other articles on this topic (including one by Pernille Ripp, whose work I share frequently). 

My own daughter is only six, but I already worry about the practices she will encounter in school that I fear will dampen her joy of reading. (Reading logs, accelerated reader programs, book reports, etc.). I do whatever I can at home to make sure that reading is something she enjoys and looks forward to. But I shouldn't have to guard against my daughter's school HARMING her love of reading, should I?

I think that Dr. Sinanis does a nice job of discussing this issue without blaming teachers, by focusing on how the drive for accountability leads to practices that book-loving parents can see are not helpful. 

Teaching math? Get REAL! | Teacher Mr. C shares his journey from #math textbooks to real-world lessons @cherandpete https://t.co/n7F5Cx93it

Mr. C.: "(After putting away the textbook and taking kids outside for a snow-based lesson) The students were completely engrossed in their math and really seemed to be getting it. Their computations were based on something that was relevant, tangible and real to them....

Over the course of the following years I slowly strayed further and further from the math text to the point where I am today; the math text collects dust on shelves in the back of my room. Finding content is easy! Math is all around us and we have tools at our finger tips to bring real math to our students!"

Me: This post (via Dr. Doug Green) caught my eye because I try to do this with my daughter. Not only is real-world math more fun for kids, using real, tangible examples reinforces constantly that math is important in life. So much better than dry worksheets (no matter how those worksheets strive for relevance by using the names of kids in the word problems). 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


The Homework Strike: Greg Pincus

Book: The Homework Strike
Author: Greg Pincus
Pages: 272
Age Range: 8-12

HomeworkStrikeThe Homework Strike by Greg Pincus is a sequel to The 14 Fibs of Gregory K (reviewed here), though it's not necessary to have read the first book. Gregory K., math-impaired middle child of a math-loving family, is now in seventh grade. He loves writing, especially poetry, but he finds himself with little time to write, because he spends 3 hours or more each day doing homework. Gregory is struggling, burned out, and, eventually, angry that homework is taking away time for the other pursuits that he and his friends enjoy. And so, with some subtle encouragement from his history teacher, Gregory goes on strike. It's when he's on strike that Gregory finds himself working harder and learning more than he would have ever imagined. 

The Homework Strike is a timely take on an issue that is getting attention around the country. While I don't know of any actual student-directed strikes (yet), there are certainly schools that are experimenting with reducing or eliminating homework. And there are plenty of news stories and even entire books about how homework is leading to burn-out among students, especially those in middle school and high school. Regular readers know that reducing homework levels is an issue near and dear to my own heart. The Homework Strike is a book that would have caught my attention on this front alone. The fact that it's written by a friend and features characters that I enjoyed in a previous book makes it, for me, that much more irresistible. But I shall endeavor to be objective. 

The Homework Strike is something of a primer for social activism via strikes, without feeling like a primer. What keeps the book from feeling didactic in this regard is Gregory's strong first-person voice. Gregory is figuring everything out as he goes along, with some support from his teacher and his parents. Some references are mentioned, and Gregory does read them and refer to them, but this is all in the context of Gregory's journey. References to Click, Clack, Moo and Yertle the Turtle are a bonus (as is a quote from The Princess Bride movie). Gregory's parents are realistically concerned, and impose grounding at one point over grades, but are ultimately awesomely supportive.

The author uses The Homework Strike to make what I find to be valid points about the negatives of homework, while defending the efforts and intentions of teachers themselves (a potentially fine line). Only the heavy-handed school principal really comes off as a bad guy (and someone had to be the bad guy). Particular attention is paid to the difficulty of homework for kids who have learning challenges (one character is revealed to by dyslexic, for example, and requires extra time), and to the many creative interests that kids might have outside of school (writing, painting, making videos, etc.). While I might personally have liked to see Gregory dig up some of the research that has questioned the value of homework, I can see that this could have bogged down the story for middle grade readers. 

Here's one of Gregory's friends on the impact of homework:

"I have a theory that they removed two hours from the day this summer while we weren't looking," Benny chimed in. "That would explain why I no longer have time for reading for pleasure, watching TV, or practicing violin." (Page 23, ARC)

And here's Gregory:

"Gregory knew his friends were probably right about, well, about everything. But school was hard for him -- he left a day of it exhausted and drained -- and homework was harder. He even kind liked school, really, or at least the best classes were enough to make the other classes tolerable. But it just all seemed off to him somehow. Like there was so much attention focused on knowledge he'd never need and skills he wouldn't use, and no time to develop the ones he felt would be important where his life would take him." (Page 42, ARC)

I love Gregory's group of friends, kids who don't fit in to any of the traditional groups (jocks, popular kids, stoners, etc.), but who are ok because they have each other. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses, academically and otherwise. And I like that these friends support Gregory but don't blindly follow him into going on strike. I also enjoyed a running theme through the book about whether or not something would make Gregory's calf hurt. You see, his best friend Kelly moved away after the first book. Kelly would always kick him in the calf when she though he was doing something stupid. Even with her living far away, Gregory still gets phantom pains when he knows that she would have kicked him for something. She's like his (painful) conscience. 

There is some risk that The Homework Strike will make elementary school kids worry about the homework burden that is to come with middle school, but I'm pretty sure that they'll be hearing about this in the real world anyway. [My daughter is in first grade and I already have a sense of which teachers give a lot of homework in the upper grade of her elementary school.] The Homework Strike just might give them some ideas for coping, together with positive messages about standing up for yourself and being loyal to your friends and family members. It's really more about larger issues like the relative power of kids vs. adults. 

I think that The Homework Strike is a book that belongs in school libraries everywhere, not just for the messages regarding homework and control, but because Gregory is such an engaging and realistic character, with a strong family. There are fun poems at the start of every chapter, too. This is a book that will particularly speak to kids who feel like outsiders at school (and isn't that most middle schoolers?), and to anyone who has ever felt powerless. Highly recommended for kids age 8 and up, and for their parents, too. [My six-year-old noticed what I was reading and had me read a chunk of this book aloud to her, too.]

Publisher:  (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @MsSackstein + @NaomiSRiley + @C_E_Platt

JoyOFLearningLogo Today I have three fairly diverse articles, all of which inspired me to want to blurb and comment. The first is a call from a teacher and parent encouraging other teachers to replace traditional reading logs with something more conducive to nurturing the joy of reading. The second is about screen time, and ways that kids' joy of learning can be enhanced through more time spent playing offline. The third is about using fictional role models to help math and science-loving girls to overcome negative messages from society. All three articles are worth your time. 

HackingAssessment#ReadingLogs Suck! says teacher @mssackstein | They make it about compliance and not about a love of reading http://ow.ly/pn9F305YXjh 

Starr Sackstein: "The mere act of assigning accountability logs to the experience has made it about compliance and not about a love of reading...

We must be mindful in what we ask students to do on their free time and really make sure it's something worth doing. Do we want them to love reading and spend time doing it because the enjoy it or do we want to monitor their every move and determine how they will interact with text?"

Me: My daughter does not have a reading log this year (for first grade). I am tracking what books she reads or (mostly) has read to her, using a simple list format that first picked up from her kindergarten teacher. But I don't strive to read a certain number of books per day, or for a certain time, or anything like that. I still feel like everything I do at home around reading should be centered on what maintains and increases her joy of reading. I'll fight back on school reading logs when and if I have to, but so far so good. I am glad to see Starr Sackstein encouraging teachers to stop using reading logs, and hope that this article gets widely read. 

#Screentime: the menace parents just won’t face (b/c it would cut into our alone time) | @NaomiSRiley @nypost https://t.co/HNqhkdQYrg

Naomi Shaefer Riley: "There is no doubt that for many kids screen time has cut into the hours that were previously devoted to physical activity, reading for pleasure and even sleep — all of which have fallen precipitously in recent years. But despite the best advice of doctors, not to mention our own sinking sense that screen time is changing our kids for the worse, parents won’t do much to limit kids’ access to these devices. Cutting back isn’t the same as buying more expensive groceries or the right sippy cups or attaching GPS devices to our kids’ backpacks.

At least initially, changing our kids’ screen habits would not only cause them significant discomfort and annoyance, it would also cut into our own ability to be left alone. Obsessing about plastic containers of soup is so much easier."

Me: This article isn't directly about the joy of learning for kids, but it strikes me as related in that when we get our kids away from screens, they are going to spend more time reading for pleasure (as noted above), building structures out of blocks, and playing physical games. I've certainly noticed this with my own daughter. If I would let her, she would be on her device all day long. When I tear her away she complains for a bit, but then she moves on to activities that I think are better for her, physically, mentally, and in terms of sparking her creativity. 

IvyBeanFossilOn Raising a Scientist (Who Happens to Be a Girl) + how fictional role models can help http://ow.ly/SQSd30615BN  @C_E_Platt @HornBook #STEM

Cynthia Platt: "Because these days, the commentary on her interests isn’t aimed predominantly at my husband and me anymore — it’s aimed squarely at her. Grownups expressing surprise that she likes science and math — or telling her that girls don’t really like these subjects. Her peers teasing her about doing math for fun...

Let’s face it: girls are as interested in these STEM areas of study as boys are. Everyone is interested in them, right? It’s cool and fascinating stuff! Just the most cursory research will tell you, though, that while girls do just as well in science and math classes as boys, by the time they’re out of school they only make up about 29% of the workforce in STEM fields.

This strikes me as a failure on our part as a society. We educate our girls in STEM, but then remind them — in ways both subtle and anything but — that they don’t belong there."

Me: This piece really resonated with me. My daughter currently loves math and science (and reading), and the idea of random adults questioning her choices, or kids teasing her at school, makes me sad. But I was reassured by Cynthia Platt's explanation for how her daughter has remained unbowed by such negative feedback. She has fictional role models showing her the coolness of girls doing science, kids making things, and kids staying true to themselves. I hope and intend that books (and carefully selected shows) will help my daughter to stay true to her own interests, too. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @E_Sheninger + @MsSackstein + @UnleashMind | #Play #Homework #Testing

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have articles that take a positive stand regarding three things that are well known to impact the joy of learning in students. First, an elementary school principal argues for more play in school. Next we hear about a Vermont elementary school that has abolished homework. Third, an elementary school teacher shares her strategies for helping to keep testing from harming kids' sense of personal worth. Each of these is a small data point - a voice in the wilderness calling out in on behalf of kids against the relentless pressures heaped upon them. But they are a start! Hope they brighten your day. 

"Seemingly endless positive impacts ... on kids" | On The Need for More #Play in #School per principal @E_Sheninger  http://ow.ly/1sJC305e8H0 

Eric Sheninger: "Play has a magical effect, at times, of taking away some of the stress and pressures of life. It is in these carefree moments that kids and adults develop and enhance certain skills that will play a huge role in personal and professional development.  I find myself reflecting on the seemingly endless positive impacts that play has on kids and yet it is being cut from schools across the world.  Ask any young kid what was their favorite part of the school day and they will respond in no specific order – recess, gym, or art.  

Our kids need and deserve more play, not less! Recess in particular is needed not just in our youngest grades, but also even through the middle and high school years."

Me: Eric Sheninger both cites research on the positive impacts of play and offers concrete suggestions for schools on how to incorporate more play throughout the day. I hope that this article is widely read!

TheHomeworkMyth#Homework Abolished for Children in Vermont Elementary School to Make Room for #Play, Sleep, Family @UnleashMind  http://ow.ly/HZZ8305iZVD 

The Mind Unleashed: "The principal of the Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont, a kindergarten-through-5th grade school says that he’s observed more anxiety among students in the last decade. The school opted to do away with homework this year, based in part on the book, The Homework Myth...

Alfie Kohn, the author of the book says that, “Homework may be the greatest extinguisher of curiosity ever invented.” He also argues that there is no real evidence that homework causes better academic learning. There is research to support his claims that go back to 1897, where a study proved that assigning spelling homework had no effect on children’s spelling proficiency later on. (Joseph Mayer Rice in Gill and Schlossman 2004, p. 175.)

There has also been a global push toward allowing children more free ‘play’ time, since this natural state of curiosity allows learning to happen organically, without force or the ensuing frustration.

There are also great men and women in history who have proven that intellectual prowess need not be gleaned from a system which tends to indoctrinate us against our most basic, inborn genius."

Me: School by school, the pendulum does seem to be swinging away from increased homework... I can hope, anyway. 

HackingAssessmentTips for #teachers to keep #testing from taking away kids' feelings of value from @mssackstein  http://ow.ly/n2PR305iX1q 

Starr Sackstein: "Living my life in a solutions-based model, I'd be lying if I said I haven't told kids that the tests are bad. The truth is these tests don't accurately assess our kids, the lowest functioning ones especially, so we need to remind our students that no test cannot define them...

All students have the right to feel like they have something valuable to offer the world and it's our job to ensure that no test takes that away from them. There is more to each of us than our score on any given exam and we must keep this in perspective."

Me: Recognizing that testing is inevitable in most classrooms today, Starr Sackstein includes a list of ways that teachers can try to mitigate the negative effects of testing. For example: "Do your best to align actual class learning with some aspect of critical thinking. Although it may not look exactly like the test, the skills are the same." My daughter, in first grade, has yet to get bogged down by testing, but I know that it's coming, and I expect to have more personal thoughts to share on this in the future. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @E_Sheninger + @PernilleRipp + @MsSackstein | Cases for Rethinking #Homework

JoyOFLearningLogoToday, coincidentally, I have articles from one principal and two teachers, all three calling for changes to homework practices. I suppose, really, this isn't coincidental. As the school year is coming into full swing for the fall, homework is becoming more and more of a pain point for families. I'm encouraged to see these experienced educators calling on other educators to at least consider the impact that homework has in hindering the joy of learning for elementary school kids. 

UncommonLearningYES "If your #homework practices make kids dislike school and/or learning ... something has to change" @E_Sheninger  http://ow.ly/gQlw3055lfh 

Eric Sheninger: "The reasons for this post are not to debate the many issues I have with homework and the lack of reliable research to support it’s use. There will always be two sides to this debate.  It should be noted though that in my line of work I am able to make a pretty compelling case against current homework practices. However, I think we have to take a hard and objective look at the impact it is having on our kids. Current homework practices are making students dislike school and learning.  This is a fact.

"If your homework practices make kids dislike school and/or learning that alone should tell you something has to change..."

If you currently work in a school consider this. Regardless of your views on homework, please take the time to reflect on whether it is actually having a positive impact. If homework makes kids dislike school and/or learning it is obvious there is a problem. Parents also need to be proactive."

Me: This piece by a school principal who is also a parent is a nice summary of the homework issue, and includes links to various other articles. I'm encouraged to see more and more people speaking out on this, and more and more schools reducing the amount of homework. My own daughter is in first grade and the need to spend time doing homework before she is too tired has become a real scheduling issue and source of stress in our household. I shudder to think what will happen in later grades... 

PassionateLearnersAre You Doing Your Own #Homework? | @pernilleripp challenges other teachers to try it https://t.co/ApXuncRPVn 

Pernille Ripp: "So if you are still giving homework, I ask you for this simple task; do it yourself.  Go through the motions as if you were a student and then reflect.  Was it easy?  How much time did it take?  What did you have to go through to reach completion?  In fact, if you teach in middle school or high school, do it all, truly experience what we put our students through on a day-to-day basis. I would be surprised if the process didn’t shape you in some way."

Me: Pernille Ripp stopped giving homework except for reading. She has had little pushback, and a lot of relief, from parents. She warns that certain kinds of busywork homework contribute to killing the joy of reading for kids. And yet ... most teachers still give it. Sigh... 

HackingHomeworkYES! It's Time to Lighten the Load and Stop Giving Traditional #Homework says teacher @mssackstein  http://ow.ly/kdgx305ae1M 

Starr Sackstein: "First, there is nothing about sending students home with worksheets or numerous math problems every night that helps to develop responsibility. What it does instead is create irrepairable damage that increases a student's likelihood to hate math or whatever content area is being forced upon them beyond the school day.

Next, consider that students have spent up to eight hours in school if they are involved in extra curriculars and then we expect them to go home and do more work that then eats up much of their personal, family and play time. Even adults get a break after a full day of work. We mustn't discount the necessity of down time."

Me: Teacher Starr Sackstein talks specifically about how making kids drag through math worksheets can make them hate math. She suggests that parents find ways to show kids how the things they do, and the things that they love to do, ARE learning.  For example, she talks about practicing math while playing Pokemon with her son. Of course, not all parents have the time or resources to consciously integrate learning into other activities, but I agree that it is the ideal way to foster a love of learning.

Today I supervised my daughter through her daily first grade homework (math worksheets, vocabulary worksheet, and guided reading). I watched her whip her way through the math sheets, her lack of interest clear in her sloppy writing and occasional errors in solving the precise problem that was asked. And she LOVES math. Thankfully, she still loves math, but I can't help feeling that it's in spite of, rather than because of, these worksheets.

Only when we were finished with the homework could we do what she wanted to do, which was for her to read bits of a Magic Tree House book (the one about the Titanic) aloud to me, pretending that I was her little sister. Do I have to tell you which part of the afternoon was more enjoyable? 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @anya1anya + @mariaonzain + @AnnieFlury

JoyOFLearningLogoI'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!

What Do Teachers Need to Challenge Every Kid in the Classroom? Inc. kids above grade level @anya1anya @MindShiftKQED https://t.co/jRrP9dnO0h

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. 

Research Finds Effects Of #Homework On Elementary School Students, no benefit @mariaonzain @lifehackorg http://ow.ly/6zY9304OMdS @drdouggreen 

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. 

This is anecdotal but encouraging: Pedal power boosts N Carolina pupils' performance http://ow.ly/kG7T304OPbg  @AnnieFlury @BBCNews via @drdouggreen

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. 

How To Spark (Playful) #Learning Everywhere Kids Go — Starting With The Supermarket @anya1anya @npr_ed https://t.co/YMk2CDpJTx

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. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links.