Saturday, November 27, 2010

Super Summary – Chapter 8 (pgs.169-188)

How Can I Help Slow Learners

This whole book has been a very interesting read, but this chapter was motivating because we all have students like this (slow learners). According to Daniel Willingham, “Americans view intelligence as a fixed attribute………but, in China, Japan, and other Eastern countries, intelligence is more often viewed as malleable. If students fail a test or don’t understand a concept, it’s not that they’re stupid-they just haven’t worked hard enough yet……..intelligence is under their control.” (pg. 169)

The cognitive principle that guides this chapter is:
“Children do differ in intelligence, but intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work.(pg.170)
It is argued that intelligence comes from either genetics (all nature) or from experience (all nurture).
Most researchers seemed to have believed that the range of intelligence was set mostly by genetics,…but during the 1980’s they discovered that over the last half century IQ scores have shown quite substantial gains……huge increases in IQ scores. This was observed in dozens of countries, including the United States. (pg. 176) Upon being investigated, the studies showed that there is strong evidence that the environment has a powerful impact on intelligence, because geneticists agree that the gene pool could not change rapidly enough to account for the change in IQ. The effect is called the “Flynn Effect,” named after James Flynn, who first described it. (pg. 176-177)

Implications for the Classroom
How does this affect our students and our teaching? “If intelligence were all a matter of one’s genetic inheritance, then there wouldn’t be much point in trying to make kids smarter.” (pg. 179)

Daniel Willingham lists several things teachers can do to help our students: (pgs. 183-187)
1. Praise Effort, Not Ability – You want to encourage your students to think of their intelligence as under their control, and especially that they can develop their intelligence through hard work. Therefore, you should praise process, rather than ability.
2. Tell Them that Hard Work Pays Off – Praising process rather than ability sends the unspoken message that intelligence is under the student’s control.
3. Treat Failure as a Natural Part of Learning – Try to create a classroom atmosphere in which failure is neither embarrassing nor wholly negative. Failure means you’re about to learn something. Model this attitude for your students. When you fail, let them see you take a positive, learning attitude.
4. Don’t Take Study Skills for Granted – All students must learn new skills as homework becomes more demanding-skills of self-discipline, time management, and resourcefulness. Don’t take for granted that your slower students have these skills, even if they should have acquired them in previous grades.
5. Catching Up Is the Long-Term Goal- It is important to be realistic about what it will take for students to catch up. If your slower students know less than your brighter students, they can’t simply work at the same pace as the bright students; doing only that, they will continue to fall behind! It may be smart to set interim goals that are achievable and concrete.
6. Show Students that You Have Confidence in Them – Ask 10 people you know, Who was the most important teacher in your life?....most people will always respond with an emotional response such as, “She made me believe in myself…..or She taught me to love knowledge.” In addition, people always say that their important teacher set high standards and believed that the student could meet those standards.

Listed as a footnote at the end of the chapter, Daniel states, “This is not to say that students don’t have learning disabilities. Some do. My conclusions in this chapter do not apply to these students.” (pg. 187)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Michelle Larson's Blabberize

Meet my niece, Rhi! She has a great quote about learning!!
(Why Don't Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham, p. 102)

Melanie Morehart Blabberize

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Section 4

"Cognition in early training is fundamentally different from cognition in late training." This quote leads to the discussion of how do schools prepare students to think like experts i.e. scientists and historians. Teachers must have in mind what their assigments can do for their students. So many times students know their assignments have predictable outcomes and focus on only what they do right. Experts do not just read and memorize, they have actual hands on practice.

Another part of this reading was how experts and novices differ. They both have different "mental toolboxes". Experts in training know as much as experts. The experts reasonings are easier to access because of all of the experiences they have in their "toolbox". Experts can be very abstract in their thinking to accomodate every experience they encounter. Novices focus on the surface feature and don't have as many experiences to draw from. An example of this in the book is when a child does something wrong a novice teacher may deal with this problem from the concrete way of what the behavior was. An expert teacher may draw from their prior experiences and there may be more to the problem than just the behavior.

How does this apply to the students
*practice things until they are automaticity
*thinks of assignments as functional for students instead of surface level
*students need to put in hours of experience in order to be experts in academic fields
*students need to transfer knowledge from their prior experiences to different related fields of study
*students have different learning styles but have the same abilities. (gave example of two different football players both having high abilities but way different playing styles)
*each child varies in cognitive learning styles (complex/concrete/abstract etc)
*treat students differently based on your experiences you have had with a student. Kids react differently (some you need to be very calm with, others react to very strict voices etc.)
*if students are lacking in one cognitive area, use a strength in another area to help them with their weak area.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Section 3 (Pages 87-126)

"Abstraction is the goal of schooling. The teacher wants students to be able to apply classroom learning in new contexts, including those outside of school. The challenge is that the mind does not care for abstractions. The mind prefers the concrete" (Willingham p. 87). Throughout the readings, I have found that the thinking that we want our students to do is not the type of thinking that the mind prefers! This makes our job as educators a difficult, but not impossible.

Willingham offers both explanation and suggestions to overcome the difficulties of teaching abstract concepts. "We understand new things in the context of things we already know, and most of what we know is concrete" (p. 88). Because it is easiest for us to understand things using our prior knowledge, it is important that we expose our students to a variety of different situations so that they may increase their background knowledge. This relates directly back to our discussions for Section 2. "[Students] understand new ideas (things they don't know) by relating them to old ideas (things they do know)" (Willingham p. 88). Willingham goes on to tell us that in order to help students learn abstract concepts, we must help students utilize their own connections, make analogies, and make comparisons between concrete examples (p. 89-91).

Willingham also tells us that their are differing levels of knowledge and understanding. "...Even when students "understand," there are really degrees of comprehension. One student's understanding can be shallow while another's is deep" (p. 92). As educators, we see this in our classrooms all of the time. Many of the answers we get from students sound great. The answers may be correct, but we question the true understanding that the student has. On pages 93-95, Willingham defines the three levels of knowledge as rote (correct answers, no understanding), shallow (some understanding, but only in that specific context), and deep (knowledge is "richly interconnected"). In order to have deep understanding, students must be able to transfer knowledge from situation to situation (p. 97). Many times our students are unable to transfer knowledge because of surface structure. They get caught up in the wording, the names, etc. of the problem and are unable to get to the deeper structure (p. 98).

In order to move students to a deep knowledge of abstract concepts, we must focus on three main strategies:
1. "Provide examples and ask students to compare them." We need to give our students a variety of experiences and examples from which to explore and compare (p. 102).
2. "Make deep knowledge the spoken and unspoken emphasis." Pose a variety of questions both in oral discussion and assignments/activities. "The low-level facts are important...but if that's all you ask about, it sends a message to students that that's all there is" (Willingham, p. 103).
3. "Make your expectations for deep knowledge realistic." Deep knowledge is the ultimate goal, but we also need to be aware of where are students are at in the process. Give students time and opportunity to practice. Deep knowledge and understanding takes time (p. 104).

Willingham also states that practice is essential to deeper understanding. He goes on to elaborate further on what kind of continued practice is beneficial to our students. "It is virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended practice" (p. 107). He states that there are three reasons to practice: "It reinforces the basic skills that are required for the learning of more advanced skills, it protects against forgetting, and in improves transfer" (p. 108). Because our working memory has limited space, it is important to practice new skills and concepts so that we can chunk the information and it becomes automatic (p. 111). Basic skills such as letter sounds and math facts need to become automatic. "The processes that need to become automatic are probably the building blocks of skills that will provide the most benefit if they are automatized" (Willingham, p. 124). These processes/skills are essential if a student is to complete more advanced skills/activities. Even though Willingham believes practice is essential, he does not believe in a 'drill and kill' format. He says that practice of a skill does not necessarily have to occur in a short time span. Practice can be spaced out so that students can also practice applying what they know and so that the practice does not become boring (p. 124). Most importantly, Willingham states that we must integrate practice into more advanced skills. "You may target a basic skill as one that needs to be practiced to the point of mastery, but that doesn't mean that students can't also practice it in the context of more advanced skills...Think of as many creative ways as you can to practice really crucial skills, but remember that students can still get practice in the basics while they are working on more advanced skills" (Willingham, p. 125).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chapter 2: Super Summary

Chapter 2: How Can I teach students the skills they need when standardized tests require only facts?

Concern about fact learning has intensified in the last ten years as the new emphasis on accountability in education has brought an increase in the use of standardized tests. (p. 26) It is also true (though less often appreciated) that trying to teach students skills such as analysis or synthesis in the absence of factual knowledge is impossible. (p. 26) I find these two quotes interesting as that is how I feel as an educator being pulled in two different directions when in fact it is one direction most teachers are trying to take their students and that is through the stages of higher levels of thinking by building a solid foundation so the student can explore/investigate more of the unknown independently.

The very process that teachers care about the most—critical thinking process such as reasoning and problem solving—are intimately intertwined with factual knowledge that is stored in long-term memory (not just found in the environment). (p.28) This factual knowledge can be built by real life experiences and opportunities before most students enter the classroom. When students have a foundation of knowledge before entering the classroom; school and learning as gaining more knowledge is easier for them.

All kids need real word experiences to build upon. Teachers can give experiences by reading books, watching videos, use of interactive web 2.0 tools with the computer. Trying to tie together separate pieces of information from the environment is called chunking.(p.34) I learned that background knowledge allows chunking, which makes more room in working memory, which makes it easier to relate ideas, and therefore to comprehend more material which enriches vocabulary, bridge gaps of the unknown and can help guide the interpretations of non-sense sentences.

People who can really help teachers and student are the school librarians; who are a vital part of schools as they can lead students to books at their level and in their interests. We need student to read on their level for enjoyment but also to increase their own reading vocabulary and skills, books too easy don’t increase vocabulary and books too hard are not understandable and become frustrating.

Trying to level the playing field is a teacher’s greatest challenge. There are no shortcuts and no alternatives to trying to increase the factual knowledge that the child has not picked up at home. (p.50) Knowledge can be learned incidentally; teachers use this opportunity all day long to add facts or to question more about what is begin taught. As well as, early intervention is the key to higher order learning; if a student is falling behind catch the student and begin an intervention to keep them on level if possible or they will always be behind their classmates.

As any teacher knows, just drilling would do far more harm by making students miserable and by encouraging the belief that school is a place of boredom and drudgery, not excitement and discovery. (p. 51)