Archive for September, 2011

September 29, 2011

Considerations on Memory vs. Internet

by stryson

Like all good nerds of my generation, I understand the many benefits to having the internet at least partially function as a gargantuan collective external memory. It’s an invaluable resource for reference, especially when one finds oneself in a room full of inquisitive fourth graders who innocently expect their teacher to be a  bottomless well of information in all subjects. It has also become essential in my life as a reference tool for pesky questions that I would not have the concrete reference materials for answering, such as measurement conversions, spice substitutions in cooking, or ways to get rid of ants, among many others. (Thank you, internet, for making me a functional householder.)

These situations all involve information that is not pertinent to my life every single day; they are generally exceptions to the rule. Finding the answers you need in a timely manner requires a certain amount of knowledge of process, and I try to impress upon my students the importance of knowing how to find the information you need, as opposed to memorizing every fact under the sun.

This is all well and good… but.

There’s a limit to the practicality of the internet. Finding trustworthy and accurate sources can be challenging, and even when they’re abundant or the question is simple, there is a certain amount of time involved to look up any answers at all. Certainly, for everyday needs, we still need to memorize a certain set of data. Allow me to offer a parallel. The child counting out all of his addition problems on his fingers will, indeed, finish his homework the same as the next child, but it may take him  three times as long.

Outside of time concerns, there’s a consideration to be made for the interest level that background knowledge provides in our lives.  Our wealth of known information directly influences more than just our reading comprehension (though it does play a huge part in that, don’t get me wrong) or our ability to spontaneously problem solve. It lends content to our everyday conversations with other people. What has historically been referred to as “common knowledge” is growing  increasingly uncommon, and our interactions suffer for it.

So what sparked my ruminations on internalizing facts versus using the internet essentially as your memory? This blog post, which I found incredibly interesting. I also now want to seek out that book and read it for myself.

September 29, 2011

Unintentional Hilarity

by stryson

Last Friday, some of the kids got to go bowling while their parents stayed behind for presentations given by some of our teachers. That morning, I was informed by one of my fifth graders that her “mom is a cheap steak” because she only gave her two dollars’ spending money. I couldn’t help but smile, and she noticed her mistake and ran with it, proceeding to tell me that she was going to “cook her to a golden brown and eat her up.”

September 28, 2011

Cheering activities on a Rainy Day

by stryson

I’m feeling very beaten up and under the weather today. It’s dark and rainy, and I had a dentist appointment yesterday that has left me with a tender mouth. Additionally, it’s grey and rainy. In short, it was the perfect day to start a funny novel with my kids.

I know I’ve mentioned at least once how much I adore Ken Derby’s Top Ten Ways to Ruin The First Day of School. It’s funny, relateable, and a nice, easy novel for starting the year. I used it with my fifth graders last year, and I’ve just begun introducing it to this year’s batch. It cheered me up to see them laughing at Tony Baloney’s Stupid Human Tricks. Unfortunately, as I’ve gone to write this post, I’ve found that this book is currently out of print, but Ken is working on that situation. See his comments here.

Speaking of things that have brightened the week in my classes, I’ve found a typing game that the kids really love: Dance Mat Typing. One of the girls in my homeroom was literally in tears because she was laughing so hard at the interludes. I liked it because they’re so methodical about presenting the keys in the order a normal typing program would.


September 22, 2011

Happy Hobbit Day!

by stryson

Happy Hobbit Day!

What better way to start this day than with a ridiculous, nerdy sing-along with Leonard Nimoy?

For those of you not in the know, Hobbit Day is the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpieces, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In addition to doing age-appropriate readings about hobbits, thanks to, I’ll be using The Hobbit Name Generator for some fun with my kids.

If you’re not in a position to spend the day reading or walking about barefoot, perhaps you can create a hobbit name for yourself and make the effort to eat six meals today. You can’t beat hobbits for lifestyle choices.

September 21, 2011

Morning updates

by stryson

Today is international peace day… or maybe tomorrow is. Both are marked as such on my calendar of holidays. Oh, well! I think an extra day of peace can’t be a bad thing. In any case, today is also World Alzheimer’ Day and World Gratitude day. So – don’t forget to be thankful!

I know, that was a terrible joke. I couldn’t resist.

I should be able to finally start teaching my sixth graders today, though my fourth and fifth graders are not yet done testing, so we cannot begin yet. I feel like the testing is never ending, but I know it seems that way every year.

Things will get more interesting around this blog as my classes get going. I’ve also been looking into some new educational games to share, but I like to play them through before I link them. Look for those to come.

I’m also open to recommendations for books on a fifth or sixth grade reading level. What did you really enjoy reading at that age?

September 19, 2011

Talk Like a Pirate Day

by stryson

Avast, mateys! Don’t ye forget it be Talk Like a Pirate Day!

It also be time for diagnostic standardized testing (we use the Stanfords) for the young mateys. I suspect they’ll have me walkin’ the plank by the end of the day.

OK, I stink at this pirate-talk thing. Here’s hoping it sounds more convincing to fourth graders. Enjoy your day!

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September 13, 2011

SpongeBob Rebuttal

by stryson

I was amused to find a rebuttal to my SpongeBob post in my email this morning.

Bart writes:

Oh, btw, saw your blog entry on Spongebob… I agree, the study could have been more well researched, but for the right age group, it could be appropriate. Spongebob even saved two lives!

I’ll concede a point to SpongeBob, but I’ll also give a nod to the specification that the target age group is important – perhaps another flaw in the study, and/or the viewing audience in practice. (The kids in the study I quoted were of preschool age.) In any case, I stand by the fact that if the concept is to be raised at all, it should be examined more thoroughly and methodically than it was.

September 13, 2011

Small Celebrations

by stryson

Happy birthday, Roald Dahl!

It’s also International Chocolate Day.

Anyone else suddenly have an urge to throw a party? Or is it just me? Roald Dahl was such an influence on my love of reading, and chocolate just speaks for itself.

I have much still to accomplish this morning, but the day progresses so much easier when you start it on a celebratory note.  Happy Wear a Dress Tuesday, everyone!

September 12, 2011

Sloppy Studies: SpongeBob and Executive Function

by stryson

It often pains me when I find a study whose results I feel are actually accurate, but their method is sloppy and therefore discrediting. A prime example is this article in the New York Times today.  I think there’s definitely something to the content of the media children take in, and the logic that a fast-paced, not-entirely-linear program might damage attention seems very sound to me. However, it almost seems like the researchers are their own worst enemy; their sample sizes and choices were hideous, and the differing methods of assessment before and after the study just pain me. Could someone please take this concept and run with it, but do it correctly this time? Thanks.

September 12, 2011

More than I bargained for

by stryson

I used to love it when I had teachers that knew about all of the obscure holidays and themed months and would toss them into lessons, so I went searching for a calendar today to enable me to do the same. Apples 4 The Teacher has a section with exactly the resource I wanted. Great, right? Well, yes – mostly.

I knew that there were many different causes and concepts that claim each month as “theirs,” but WOW the list is long! To top that off, there are 2, 3, and sometimes even 4 things listed on each day. Wow! Clearly, I’ll pick and choose what I share, but I’m surprised, even though I thought I was prepared for a lot.

By way of closing:

Happy National Boss Day!

Happy Video Games Day!

Also, watch out for the full moon tonight.