Saturday, July 03, 2004

It’s About Time! Lengthen Student Writing

It’s About Time! Lengthen Student Writing Article which discusses some techniques which were successful in getting 4th graders to produce longer pieces of writing.

From the site:

Our goal was to engage fourth-grade writers to write longer and more meaningful pieces of writing given the time set aside for writing. Using a convenience sample with 17 fourth-grade students in two classes in a rural West Texas elementary school, we found that when given time as the constraint, children were better able to stay on task and, in fact, they wrote more than students that were constrained by length.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Teaching History for Citizenship in the Elementary School

Teaching History for Citizenship in the Elementary School. Of all the places to teach history, the primary grades seems to be the best starting point. If they can learn this stuff early enough, maybe it will stick with them.

From the site:

A substantial amount of research and curriculum development completed over the past two decades can be used to improve the teaching of history to young children. This ERIC Digest discusses (1) insights from recent research, (2) insights from recent curriculum development, and (3) connections of research to curriculum development. A list of Web sites which may be used to enhance elementary teachers' history-for-citizenship lessons is provided.

INSIGHTS FROM RECENT RESEARCH

Recent studies on the teaching of history to young children have investigated the development of children's conceptions of historical time (e.g., Barton and Levstik, 1996; Hoge, 1991), children's ability to construct historical narratives (Barton, 1997; Levstik and Pappas, 1987), and their explanations of historical change over time and their ability to interpret, sequence, and date historical events and images (Barton and Levstik, 1996; Foster, Hoge and Rosch, 1999). The following are generalizations selected from the conclusions of this body of research.

Brophy and VanSledright (1997, 23) found that even the youngest elementary students have a sense of history and often bring prior conceptions of the past into the classroom. They note that young students typically have trouble retaining historical information that has not been situated within a context and linked to a prior understanding. They conclude that a barren, textbook-centered approach that treats history as a thin narrative of events that simply happened may prevent students from
"developing the critical, interpretive, and synthetic thinking abilities required for cultivating historical understanding."

Barton's research (1997, 13-16) also revealed that young students, even kindergartners, possess some accurate historical knowledge; for example, that covered wagons came before cars. Older elementary students demonstrate similar understandings -- often gained without formal history instruction -- about clothing, technology, and architecture. Barton determined, however, that pre-fifth grade students "have a very limited understanding of the nature and purpose of the government, politics, and economic institutions." He also found that even when students in the intermediate grades do study these topics, "They tend to interpret them solely in terms of the actions and desires of individuals, and to misunderstand or ignore the role of government and economics." Barton notes that elementary-grade-level students typically know very little about the methods used by historians in the creation of their narratives and, perhaps as a result, uncritically accept printed historical accounts as the truth.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

A Boost To Your Child's Standardized Test Scores

A Boost To Your Child's Standardized Test Scores. Experts lead you through step-by-step activities at home that will increase your child's test scores. For K-6 national standardized tests - IQ's, and IOWA's.

From the site:

Parent's Edusource newsletter provides vital, useful information on everyday educational issues. Standardized test preparation, award winning authors, insider learning tips, home-school activities and education trade secrets of the teaching profession; all to help you help your child learn and excel in school.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

We Can Talk: Cooperative Learning in the Elementary ESL Classroom

We Can Talk: Cooperative Learning in the Elementary ESL Classroom. I love active learning (cooperative learning) assignments. It is great when the kids teach themselves and work together!

From the site:

Language acquisition is determined by a complex interaction of a number of critical input, output, and context variables. An examination of these critical variables reveals cooperative learning has a dramatic positive impact on almost all of the variables critical to language acquisition.

INPUT

Language acquisition is fostered by input that is comprehensible, developmentally appropriate, redundant, and accurate.

"Comprehensible." To facilitate language acquisition, input must be comprehended (Krashen, 1982). Students working in cooperative groups need to make themselves understood, so they naturally adjust their input to make it comprehensible. The small group setting allows a far higher proportion of comprehensible input, because the speaker has the luxury of adjusting speech to the level appropriate to the listener to negotiate meaning--luxury not available to the teacher speaking to a whole class. The speakers can check for understanding and adjust the level of speech easily when speaking to one another, something not easily done when speaking in a large group. Input in the cooperative setting is made comprehensible also because it is often linked to specific, concrete behaviors or manipulatives.

"Developmentally Appropriate." Even if language is comprehended it will not stimulate the next step in language acquisition if it is not in the zone of proximal development (Vygotsy, 1978). The developmental level of any student is what he or she can do alone; the proximal level is what he/she can do with supportive collaboration. The difference between the developmental and proximal levels is called the zone of proximal development. The nature of a cooperative group focuses input in the zone of proximal development, stimulating development to the next stage of language development.

"Redundant." A student may receive comprehensible input in the zone of proximal development, but that will not ensure language acquisition unless the input is received repeatedly from a variety of sources. The cooperative learning group is a natural source of redundant communication. As the students in a small group discuss a topic, they each use a variety of phrases providing the opportunity for the listener to triangulate in on meaning as well as receiving the repeated input necessary for learning to move from short-term comprehension to long-term acquisition.