Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Controlling Laptop Use in Class

     "Put Away That Laptop: Professors Pull the Plug" a four-minute report on Weekend Edition caught my ear Saturday morning.  
     From requiring students to have laptops in class to banning laptops from class, teachers are upset with the way students are using their laptops in class.  Ebay, shopping, email, and browsing instead of taking notes are getting in the way.  Yet students complain that teachers need to move beyond "Death by Power Point" classes.  As mentioned in this Weekend Edition piece, here is what one professor did to make his point.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Shakespeare's 446th Birthday Celebration

     This past week our elementary and middle school students and teachers donned their best face-painted Shakespearean moustache to make ready for an assembly that included a prelude to The Tempest (this year's middle school production), a scene from The Tempest acted by the eighth grade leads, a happy birthday sing, and a large cake with the bard's portrait iced on top.
     An unforgettable part of the assembly was when teachers were pitted one-on-one, using Shakespeare insult language.  It was hard to contain the laughter from students AND teachers.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Genius in All of Us

     I loved Carol Dweck's book Mindset, especially when she writes about "growth mindset" trumping "fixed mindset" and how intelligence can be nurtured over years rather than thinking you get what you get when you are born.  
     Here is a new book about intelligence, The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About, Genetics, Talent, and IQ is Wrong by David Shenk.  While you are at amazon, use the "Click to LOOK INSIDE" feature and be sure to read the first chapter; it's right there, free.  If you do read the first chapter and you are a baseball fan, you'll love what Shenk says about Boston Red Sox superstar Ted Williams.  
     Also, you can read this NYTimes review by Annie Murphy Paul.  

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Test Prep For 4-year Olds?

    In the February issue of New York Magazine the cover article "The Junior Meritocracy" talks about testing 4-year olds for admission to New York City schools.  Four-year olds?  Yup.
     The idea of selling a book to prep preschoolers to take these tests is capitalism at its worst.  $499.00 will get you a copy of the Aristotle Circle workbook.
    "Tips For the Admission Test . . . to Kindergarten," and "Connecting Anxious Parents and Educators, at $450 an Hour" recent NYTimes articles tell a sad tale for our children. . . and their parents.
     How did we get to this point?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Teaching About Greed

     I read to the middle school students the other day Leo Tolstoy's "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"  It is an eloquent story that can help teens understand the obsession and destruction of greed.  And of course, for us adults, the Oliver Stone 1987 movie Wall Street character Gordon Gecko played by Michael Douglas brought greed to the big screen and in an image that updates Tolstoy's farmer.
     Another story "The Fisherman and His Wife" by the Brothers Grimm is excellent for teaching greed to younger children.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Students Who Imagine, Write, and Enjoy Their Work

     You may have noticed that my beaver, Paddlefoot, holds my office door open.  He's not just a doorstop; he is a welcoming friend to all who pass my door.  My littlest friends, the pre-two-year old sibs of enrolled students, are fascinated by the beaver sitting against my door.  I catch myself staring at the toddling tots as they cautiously approach Paddlefoot and size up whether this furry, buck-toothed rodent is real.  With their imagination’s a swirl, some will walk away only to come back relatively soon to explore some more.  Others creep closer and touch Paddlefoot with the encouragement of Mom or Dad. 
      This time of the year, Lower Elementary students share their own stuffed-pet friends with each other.  They bring their fluffy friends into class where these cute, cuddly creatures provide an inspiration for telling stories and creative writing. 
      As part of the occasion, I was invited to introduce Paddlefoot to the LE students.  It was fun to tell them about New York's state animal that weighs around 40 pounds and let the students know that beavers have a reputation for being affable and practical jokers.  At one point, I stopped mid-sentence, opened my eyes wide and said, "Paddlefoot, what did you do?"  After lifting him off of my lap, the students could see that he left something in my lap.  The students erupted into giggles and the teachers rolled their eyes when the mischievous Paddlefoot misbehaved during his visit.
      When I asked the class the question, “Why do beavers dam streams to make ponds?”  Here is the answer I got from an eager second grader: “Beavers build their lodges in the middle of the pond to protect themselves from natural predators.”  My response was, “Wow, great answer.  How did you know that?”  Whereupon he said, “I just watched a nature program about beavers.”  Gotta love the television!  It does teach sometime.
      Here is proof that stuffed animals can inspire six-to-nine-year olds’ writing.  One of the third graders stopped by my office the other day and asked if he could read his stuffed-pet-inspired story to me.  Delighted, I said, "How exciting and what a treat.  Have a seat and please do share your story with me.”  Reading from his beautifully illustrated paper, the main character — the stuffed animal of my reader, Leapy — with his friends Jumpy, James Bear, and John were in a battle in their battleships.  At one point, my friend had to stop reading so that he could demonstrate how the battleship caused the enemy ship to crash.  Using both hands, he maneuvered them in a way that made the story even clearer.  He could tell that he was entertaining his audience.
      The idea that young people can be intrinsically motivated to exercise their imagination, work hard, AND enjoy the whole experience is part of what a Montessori education is all about.  You might read Daniel Pink’s newest NYTimes bestselling book Drive to hear him explain what motivates people and read the endorsement he gives to the Montessori philosophy.  How wonderful it is to see students (and adults, for that matter) eagerly busy enjoying hard work just for the sake of mastery of a skill.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Interviewing Daniel Pink

     As part of my time at the American Montessori Society (AMS) Annual Conference in March, I had the opportunity to sit with bestselling author Daniel Pink and interview him for an article I was assigned to write for Montessori Life magazine.  Our time together was spent just before his conference closing keynote address to over 1,000 Montessori educators.  The article is scheduled to appear in a future issue of Montessori Life.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


     Check out this nifty website. 

     Readability cuts out all of the distracting stuff surrounding articles you would want to read on the Internet.  See the "BEFORE" and "AFTER" in the image to the right.

     It's simple to install and use and makes for reading without flashing distractions.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Parent-Child Love

One section of the NYTimes that I read faithfully is the Sunday Styles, Modern Love column.  Various writers comment on the different kinds of love we bump into in our modern world.  On Sunday, February 28 a particularly poignant piece caught my attention and heart.  "A Family Label, Ungarbled" by Harriet Brown is honest, beautifully written, and uncovers a description of parent-child love that we often take for granted.  See if you agree.