Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I don't really blame the idea behind "common core".

...but man, are they ever dumb.

I get the idea behind so many of these "new methods" of teaching.  I do.  And in theory I could applaud it, if it wasn't for the fact that...this isn't about theory, it's about practical teaching.

I do a lot of research about teaching and so even without practical experience, I see a lot of what is going on in modern classrooms today.  And I don't blame the basic idea of what they are trying to do.

Take math, for instance.

The idea is, they want kids to internally understand what they are doing when they are doing math.  Makes sense.  Good idea!  ...Except, kids just aren't into abstract thinking.  You're going against their natures and the way their brains work.  It takes years of brain development to really completely internalize something as abstract as math.

Laudable goal that ought not to be ignored, but you gotta work on the level that works.

Children *are* pretty good at memorization, on the other hand.

As long as internal understanding *is not ignored at the proper time*, there is absolutely nothing wrong with memorization coming first.

Teachers are really just spinning their wheels and wasting valuable time with what they are doing now.

Scarlett is going on five and she is already learning math facts...and she loves it.

We have a wide variety of school material, and the other day she had a book that was teaching about number lines.  Number lines are supposed to give a visualization of what is happening when you are adding and subtracting.  First, I had to teach her what a number line was.  Check.  Then we had to go over how to use it.  Check.  Then she had to use it.  Check.  Right answer, check!

But...we came to problems which she had already knew...and instead of remembering that she knew the answer, she felt that she had to go through the process in the same way as the other problems.  Step backward.  No check.  Bad, fail, no good.  Naughty number line.  Number lines suck.

She wasn't internalizing anything or understanding how to add or the reality behind addition; she was merely going through rote steps, just the same as any other math process out there ever taught.

Oh, you say maybe she's too young still.  Yeah.  Explain to me why kids use their fingers to add for years and years, or their whole lives, even when they shouldn't need to anymore.  If they get the concept of it, it's because they already understood to begin with.  Visualizations or manipulatives become crutches.  Explain something visually and it is either understood or not.  If you need to spend months on learning the basic concepts, it's because the brain isn't ready to understand the basic concepts yet.  I read about teachers who "don't even touch" memorization before they have spent one half to three fourths of a year "establishing the basic concept".

Months of going through the idea that you can add up chocolate chips on top of cookies to show the idea of multiplication??  Seriously?  You need months for that?

Um.  No.

Teachers are proudly proclaiming that they are "teaching multiplication" from the first grade.  What progress in our schools!  Wait.  No.  No, they're not, they're just giving kids fun activities that are supposed to "establish the basic concept"...which is a fine thing to do, limitedly.  Kids like playing with manipulatives and things will eventually click...they do need the concrete understanding.  But what a waste of effort and time if you're really focused on this for months or years.  Not entirely wasted, no, but don't fool yourself that they are going to learn anything any faster or that it will be somehow cemented in their little minds any better when they do eventually get it.  Eventually they'll need to learn the rote methods and eventually they'll either need to know the facts or not and when they don't, they get to waste a lot of valuable time *later* when they have to figure out each problem the only way that they were taught to begin with.

Kids are sponges and establishing habits early is important and very vital.  I still use the methods that were first taught to me, and that actually annoys me because I picked up some bad habits from sitting next to a special needs girl who needed instruction in the way that kids are being taught today.  It's a disservice that affects kids for the rest of their lives.

1 comment:

Jessica P said...

Common core is SOOOO STUPID all the teachers hate it, as do parents.

A good theory, horrendously executed.