Friday, January 21, 2011

I finally read some of that Tiger Mother book

There are excerpts in lots of places, including WSJ, where I read it. What I find most interesting are other people's reactions, especially an African-American perspective on NPR.

I'm trying to figure out if any of my students have tiger mothers, or if there's any part of being a tiger mother I could (or should) apply in the classroom/library. Obviously not the part where Amy Chau calls her kids garbage! Nor can I spend hours one-on-one with a child, badgering her into achieving perfection. But maybe the idea of never giving up?

I let my students slide out of finishing work pretty frequently. I give them a mediocre grade because their work is incomplete, but then I move on, because I don't want to keep the class waiting. Would it be better to make that child keep working on step one until she gets it right? It's hard to imagine making one child sit at her desk working on the same thing until it was perfect while other students raced ahead. But I want to be brave enough to do whatever it takes to really teach kids. Not just coach my kids into doing enough work to get them an S on their report card.

Actually, we should make it harder for kids to read

I read this article on about how using hideous typeface in your presentations actually helps people retain the information you're sharing. Since this was a article, it was more about typography than learner outcomes, but the article is based on an education study [pdf] that definitely messes with some of my assumptions.

If you're like me, you dream of super slick lesson plans that allow information to flow effortlessly through your students' brains. This study suggests that when we make it easy for students to take in information, we also make it easy for them to forget the information--in 15 minutes or 15 days or after they take the test. If we make it a little harder--by, say, writing the information in a jazzy font--we engage their brains better and help the info stick.

I still think the typeface thing seems kind of gimmicky. Although the article points out that it's cheap and easy to implement! And I'd like to tell the guy in the article who worries that the Kindle makes it "too easy to read" that I can give him more serious things to worry about if he's interested. But I like the idea of "desireable difficulties." In what ways do I want my students to struggle, grapple, and wrestle with information?

Sorry--I've been transitioning

I have a new job! Which is why I've been useless at posting to this blog. I'm now an elementary school librarian, which means I have a captive audience of over 500 kids a week! It also means I have to be more of a censor and rule-enforcer and teacher. Also I no longer work with teens. But I have snow days! Like today! So here I am again, with a whole new set of challenges and hopefully a more focused range of topics to explore on this blog.