I've been catching up on a host of links that I saved and shared over the past two weeks. These four struck me as worth sharing in slightly more detail. They cover the homework debate, a specific example of school reform, giving kids reading choice to help them fall in love with books, and incorporating play in teaching (and believing that all play is purposeful for kids). I welcome your feedback on these and other reading and education-related topics.
Jesse Singal (summarizing an article by Kirsten Weir): "The short “answer” to the homework question is: Yes, homework helps kids learn stuff, but it’s easy to reach a point at which, by causing kids to stress out and become less engaged with their schoolwork, it can have diminishing or even negative returns. As for the idea that homework “might confer [nonacademic benefits] such as the development of personal responsibility, good study habits and time-management skills,” the there just isn’t hard evidence to support this notion (though that doesn’t mean it’s false,either)."
Me: What I found most interesting about this piece (and I need to find time to go read the original article that it references) is the idea that the "homework debate" boils down to a lack of communication between parents, teachers, administrators, and kids. Based on my limited experience as a parent of a child in elementary school, I can easily see this being the case. I need to do more reading and thinking about where various stakeholders are coming from in this (though I've read enough to personally believe that less homework is better for elementary school kids).
Richard Grant: "The BRI philosophy is that any student can succeed, given the right tools, and nothing is more vital than reading. Mr. Cormack was able to inspire most of the teachers with a new sense of mission, focused on literacy. The few who weren’t inspired were let go, or left of their own accord...
“There’s no magic bullet here,” says Ms. Guynes. “We’ve proved that leadership and money can make a difference, but not without an enormous amount of hard work, teamwork, commitment and determination. We set the highest expectations for our students. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case in Mississippi schools.”"
Me: I liked the idea that a core focus of this project to turn around a failing school was on getting kids to spend more time reading, and appreciate reading.
Pernille Ripp: "So let our students choose to read. Whatever that may look like. As good teachers we know what to do. We know how to challenge them. How to make them reflect on their journey as readers. How to help them stretch into harder books and protect them when they get too far out of their comfort zone. Let our students fall in love with books so that we can help them discover more books. So that they will leave our classrooms and choose to read, even when they are busy. Even when life gets hard. Even when school is over. Let our students fall in love with reading so that they will choose to be challenged, and not because a teacher forced them to, but because they felt they were ready."
Me: This is a wonderful post that Pernille Ripp wrote in response to someone who said, on Facebook, that the job of schools is to push kids to read outside of their comfort zone, and that kids shouldn't be aloud to read popular titles like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I wouldn't have been able to let that remark pass by either, but Pernille is much more eloquent in her defense of free choice than I could ever be. Reading her post will brighten your day.
Kristine Mraz: "ALL PLAY IS PURPOSEFUL even, brace yourself, the play that looks purposeless to us as adults. Because, it is not about us, it is about what play does for children and ALL play has a purpose for children... Our goal of this book is that every teacher in every school see that play is purposeful and necessary and seek to provide ample time for it for every child. (and by the way, we don’t say play is just purposeful for 5 year olds- this book is for the teachers of older kids as well!)"
Me: Purposeful Play is a book by three teachers, written for teachers, on how and why to help kids do more learning through play. I hope that it is widely read.