- Betty: So the Spanish became very rich. Think about the cause and effect...The natives became what? The Spanish became rich on account of what?
- Se: Of their lives
- Betty: Is that fair?
- Se: No! That's a big trade. Is like a bully
- Sb: Good connection
Rocuns hav clas and tay halp tam clam. The rocuns coud clam on the trees.
“Raccoons have claws and tail [that] help them climb. The raccoons could climb on the trees.” This is a first grader’s sketch and write done from observation of photographs in science class. Some children spent the bulk of their time adding details to their drawings, which resulted in sparse written descriptions but vivid images that (I feel) show many of the understandings about animal diversity and structural adaptations touched on in the lesson. One of the interesting parts about having to “grade” this work is that literacy and science are assessed within a single rubric, so children whose writing is less developed are penalized even if their scientific understanding is superior.
It seems unfair that drawings are not considered sufficient evidence of learning in science class. It also seems wrong that children who wrote what (to them!) were very obvious statements (“raccoons have tails”) received higher science marks than kids who turned in anatomically precise images showing these very tails in action. Sigh. Sure, drawings may require more interpretation and close observation from the teacher, and I can empathize with the impulse to rely on “writing to prove learning” across the content areas (and with such young children) while continuing to insist that it is misguided. Drawing is a way of seeing, the arts are a valid way of knowing.
I’d like the sort of school which has fascinating old buildings and cosy little classrooms with wooden bench desks. I want to learn in a building with soul, not the lifeless, faceless portable buildings equipped with nothing but an unreliable electric heater! I’d like the sort of school which has a variety of teachers ranging from the romantic old fools who get all doughy-eyed about literature to the new modern sort who are maths and science geeks and proud to be so.
Sam Sherburn, age 15, year 10, Queen Elizabeth’s high school, Gainsborough
On its best days, my high school reminded me of this, what with our turtle pond courtyards and the layering, over decades, of just these kinds of teachers. The biodiversity of my school’s staff was a great influence and something I missed after graduation. In a given school-day (well, if I wasn’t absent), Rae and I socialized with a kaleidoscope of adults, individual teachers cherry-picked from the different departments and wings of our school for their personalities and unique styles of staking out a domain, whatever that domain might be. It was fun to socialize without stressing out, all self-conscious about my performativity, and it probably goes without saying that this freedom to just “do me” wasn’t possible with peer cliques, whose tribal behavior I scorned at the time. But since you weren’t ”marked” by associations with grownup tribes, I moved freely among groups of teachers, chilling with the individuals I liked who seemed to like me back. The romantic old fools and the new modern sort of teachers created an ideal habitat for the multitudes within my (vast, I tell you) teenage self. Every teacher who generously shared their particular niche with me was sheltering that part of my person from the homogenizing climate of high school. I’m so grateful for their friendship and hospitality.
And… Sam’s spelling of doughy-eyed is perfect.
Naomi Shihab Nye reading a completely-found poem, snippets of her son’s speech before age three.
Claire’s bookmark poem, first grade with Mrs. Gonzalez
A 5th Grader & relative density.
- Me: Do you think you could do anything to the clay to make it float, based on what happened last time?
- Student: Turn it into a cog [cork]. No, I’ve got it! Turn it into a shell. Cover the clay over the shell, and when it turned into a shell, it would float.
- Me: So you think if you modeled it after a shell and made it shaped like a shell, that would float?
- Student: Because the shell we used last time floated, but [the shell] today sank. Because it’s heavier than the shell we used last time.
- [frustrated because he cannot get the clay to pick up the shell’s pattern; when he tries to pull the plasticene off it doesn’t keep the correct shape. I finally make him a boat shaped like the shell.]
- Student: It floats!
- Second Trial
- Me: Could you do something to your mollusk shape to keep it afloat?
- Student: I have an idea. Keep the water inside the clay. [it sinks]
- Me: I see you’re opening up your mollusk again.
- Student: I think this one is gonna sink because all the previous things I tried to do sank. [it sinks] The water got into it! Because of here! [starts pinching side holes closed] Maybe if we close here… [sinks]
- Student: Where is the water coming from? [pinches side hole closed again, it floats]
- Me: Wow, you’ve done it!
- Me; Can you summarize what you’ve figured out so far?
- Student: It floats because it’s open and the sides of the lip are pinched together. The first time we did it some water got in because the sides of it wasn’t pinched enough. And the second time we tried we pinched the sides a lot and when we put it in it floated, because of the way how the sides were pinched. For clay-doh, I would summarize that if you want to make it float you have to make a boat with an open shape and then close it a little and pinch the sides. It could be flat or it could have pinched sides, but it can’t be flat all the way or the water will get inside. You have to make sure all the sides are closed. Last time they all floated because the sponge is made of a type of material that makes it float. The clay is heavy but if you shape it in the right way it makes it float.
- Me: Are there any questions you still have after today’s activity?
- Student: How come clay that is heavy can still float?
- I think he's just on the cusp of figuring out relative density with this question. Wish I could go back for a third lesson!
One student’s responses to short story/bullying unit
The idea for this humanities unit (and many of the materials I used) came from the awesome Scholastic book with the purple cover, Enactment Strategies That Work. I’ve typed up this student’s work just as he wrote it. Most of the written reflections were Do Nows. The written components give an idea of the students’ thinking and learning, but the heart of the unit (application, in an enactment context, of the ideas re: bullying that students were wrestling with) is not represented here. Of course the best part of the unit was the enactments, but I didn’t have the foresight to take video.
Written Reflection- Imagine that you are a social worker meeting with Rachel [the bullied student]. What questions will you have about her situation? What will you say to her?
• Why they was laughing at her? • Did the teacher do something about it? • What did she did? • Do kids laugh at you? • Do you like that knew school? • Would you like a transfer? • Do they teach respect in that school? • You should inord [ignore] them and tell the teacher.
Written Reflection- Why do kids get left out?
• Cause they act immature • Cause there snitchest • Cause there not “cool” • The way they dress • Because the whine and ruin the moment • Because there embarrassed with who they hang out with • Cause of there personality • Because people don’t like them