Wednesday, December 29, 2010

PLENK Motivating Students

Daniel Pink on motivation:  If you want students to fill in the blanks correctly or jump high or do any rote such as memorizing times tables or a physical task, give them bribes.

 If you want them to use their creative thinking to solve problems:

First, pay them enough.  That darling of the dismal science, Adam Smith, had this to say about monetary motivation: "A slave on the contrary who can acquire nothing but his maintenance, consults his own ease by making the land produce as little as possible over and above that maintenance."  Students who see that whatever they do will get them a pass may work just hard enough to pass.  And if passing is all that they are expected to do, that is what they will do.

Then allow them autonomy, an opportunity to acquire and display mastery of interesting tasks, and a purpose for working alone or in a group.  

Hey, isn't that you?

Friday, December 24, 2010

PLENK Watch This

Everyone needs to watch this:

Friday, December 24, 2010
Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder and the Destruction of American Childhood

Today, a Democracy Now! special with the Canadian physician and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté. From disease to addiction, parenting to attention deficit disorder, Dr. Maté’s work focuses on the centrality of early childhood experiences to the development of the brain, and how those experiences can impact everything from behavioral patterns to physical and mental illness. While the relationship between emotional stress and disease, and mental and physical health more broadly, is often considered controversial within medical orthodoxy, Dr. Maté argues too many doctors seem to have forgotten what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are deeply implicated in both the development of illness, addictions and disorders, and in their healing. [includes rush transcript]

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas

A friend sent me this poem.  I hope you enjoy it.

'Twas the night before Christmas & out on the ranch
The pond was froze over & so was the branch.
The snow was piled up belly-deep to a mule.
The kids were all home on vacation from school,
And happier young folks you never did see —
Just all sprawled around a-watchin' TV.
Then suddenly, some time around 8 o'clock,
There came a surprise that gave them a shock!
The power went off; the TV went dead!
When Grandpa came in from out in the shed
With an armload of wood, the house was all dark.
"Just what I expected," they heard him remark.
"Them power line wires must be down from the snow.
Seems sorter like times on the ranch long ago."
"I'll hunt up some candles," said Mom. "With their light,
And the fireplace, I reckon we'll make out all right."
The teen-agers all seemed enveloped in gloom.
Then Grandpa came back from a trip to his room,
Uncased his old fiddle & started to play
That old Christmas song about bells on a sleigh.
Mom started to sing, & first thing they knew
Both Pop & the kids were all singing it, too.
They sang Christmas carols. They sang "Holy Night”,
Their eyes all a-shine in the ruddy firelight.
They played some charades Mom recalled from her youth,
And Pop read a passage from God's Book of Truth.
They stayed up till midnight — and, would you believe,
The youngsters agreed 'twas a fine Christmas Eve.
Grandpa rose early, some time before dawn;
And when the kids wakened, the power was on…
"The power company sure got the line repaired quick,"
Said Grandpa & no one suspected his trick.
Last night, for the sake of some old-fashioned fun,
He had pulled the main switch — the old Son-of-a-Gun!

— anonymous

  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 

Monday, December 13, 2010

PLENK2010 Supporting Outstanding Volunteers

CBC Radio is running a contest to honour outstanding Canadian volunteers. I heard about Bobby Hayes today, so I looked him up. He is one of the top 10. You can particpate by voting here:
The Top 10 finalists have been announced and now it's time for you to select which two will be the ultimate Champions of Change. Both champs win $25,000 for their cause.

The reason that I chose Bobby Hayes is that he is making a difference in the lives of children who need a compass in their lives: someone to talk to, someone to tell their story to. He said he used to try to get official help for them, but each organization could not/would not help because the kid or family didn't meet their criteria.

So he began using his own money and time.  Soon kids were telling one another, "Go find that Bobby guy.  He'll help you."  His list of kids got longer and longer, so he started the Johua Group.

He sounded a lot like a local guy who was a hero to many people.  He died felling a widow-maker tree when he was getting firewood for the elders of his Nuxalk Nation.  Over a thousand people from all of Bella Coola and distant parts came to his funeral.  There were many young people there weeping because their compass was gone.  Scott Moody was the student who got me writing because he challenged me to find the place in his textbook that showed what I was teaching them.  He was right.  It wasn't in their texts.  It was in their text from two years ago--but they were too far away from that Grade to remember.  So I started writing a book that they could use as a reference text.  Other people were at Scott's funeral because he was a special person who always stopped whatever he was doing to listen to you.

Bobby Hayes is doing naturally the kind of thing that is recommended to parents and teachers in Hold On To Your Kids by Neufeld and Maté.  If your kids seem perfectly happy with their friends and ignoring you, there are things you can do.  The book tells you how.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

PLENK Education Theorist Feuerstein

When we were looking at the lists of education theorists, I just glazed over. It was 'way too much data. However, I was reminded of the work of Reuven Feuerstein today by Maté and Neufeld. These two doctors have written a book on parenting called Hold Onto Your Kids. I recommend it to all people who have children of any age and to teachers of students of all ages, too.

In their chapter on how to draw your children (or students) to trust you and attend to what you have to share with them, they talk about orienting the child. They mean by that to help the child/student to be aware of the context in which certain facts will be important for them to learn. That means setting the scene in time and place and in the social context.

This is something that some parents are already doing. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about successful and unsuccessful geniuses.  In the chapter "The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 2" he gives examples of how those parents prepare their children for new experiences and explain how to talk to those in authority, such as teachers and doctors, to advocate for themselves. 

In 1945, Reuven Feuerstein was working with children in what we would call "Special Education" classes.  He was successful as a teacher when he did certain things with them.  From this he developed what he called "Mediated Learning": that is when the adult acts as a mediator to help the child think through a problem, rather than as a teacher laying the given solutions on him.   One of the important steps, he said, was to ready the child to the lesson by orienting him in time and place.   He has developed special activities to help students think about and understand various aspects of problem solving.  

You can read about Feuerstein's theories here.

All that may seem obvious, but very often what is obvious is taken for granted.   Think about that for a moment.  Are we granted problem solving at birth?  Are we blessed by fairy godmothers at our birth? No, we have to learn about how to solve problems bit by bit over time.  So we miss from whom we learned it or when or where.  But someone showed us the way at some time.  We are not Red Knot sandpipers whose children fly from the Arctic to Tierra Del Fuego alone after their parents have left for the south.  

When I was a child, I had to make certain trips on the train all by myself to my grandmother.  Before a trip, my mother would draw me a map and rehearse what to expect at each part of the trip and who would take care of me.  Mother would put me on the train, the Conductor would look out for me, and Grandma would collect me as I stepped off the train.  I was a calm, confident traveller  because I had been prepared.

Because of my mother's way of orienting me to new experiences, and because of Feuerstein's work, I wrote my high interest/low vocabulary booklets on Marathon, Thermopylae and Troy with an introductory activity about where and when the events happened. 

Another reason is that I remember, when I took Grade 5 social studies, I could answer all of the questions on the tests, but I knew I was not really understanding it because I really didn't understand the time-period.  It was not until much later that I began to have a feel for life in the Age of Discovery.  When I taught a Grade 11 course on the entire twentieth century (divided by a chapter a decade), I selected movies to show as an introduction to the new decade.  Each of those decades had its own particular music and dress-style that expressed the mood and issues of the time.

I just find that it is very telling of the importance of this idea that doctors, a journalist, an educator, and parents all find this to be an essential idea.

P.S. Gabor Maté has written a handful of excellent books on addictions, attention deficit disorder, and the effect of stress on health. Boy, did these books ever explain a lot in my life and they will probably help you with yours. Unless, of course, you are among that very small group whose lives are perfect in every way.

Feuerstein, R.  Google him.  Wikipedia has a long list of his books.
Gladwell, Malcolm.  Outliers.  Penguin Group,  Canada, 2008
Raymo, Chet.  Skeptics and True Believers. Doubleday, Canada, 1998
Neufeld, G and Maté, G. Hold On To Your Kids.  Vintage, Canada, 2005

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

PLENK2010 I have another blog.

I have another blog just for educational topics. I call it Educhat.

In it I waffle on about teaching grammar, mathematics etc. This one I intend to use for a number of different bees in my bonnet, but in Educhat I will stick to education. It is for educators, parents, students and anyone else curious about these topics.