It is no surprise that background knowledge and schema building are the foundations of reaching high-risk, lower level readers, and yet, I am still surprised by what kids don’t know about the world and how it functions.
And I am kind of angry about it.
Not at the students, mind you, but an inclusive spectrum of the planet to my own backyard. Last week, I was reviewing a Walter Dean Myer’s interview on NPR with all my classes: we listened, talked, whole class, partner, and then to independent work. Now understand, I had given this assignment over the long Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. All I wanted them to do was listen once, listen twice (don’t say chicken soup with rice) and develop their ‘levels of questions’ so we could talk about it after we returned on Tuesday.
First, we never returned due to a tremendous snow/ice storm. Many thousands of people lost power in my area. We’re back now, of course, but that week will cause a ripple effect for a while.
I listened to the interview again, and thought it was worth looking at again. So, back to it.
When talking with a student about it, I asked him what “industry” was. He didn’t know. I asked him about a factory. Nothing. I asked him if he knew where soup cans came from: “The grocery store.” I asked if he knew or could guess where the grocery stores got them, and this stumped him. Now, for those of you who are thinking I was giving this poor child the third degree, I promise you the conversation was safe and gentle. I explained how factories work, and that many of our jobs that exist in factories no longer are in the U.S., and when Walter Dean Myers talks about this, he means that the jobs that we want require more education than ever before.
And how ironic that we don’t get that?
I wish for three things:
1. All parents read to their children, at least 30 minutes a day, from the time they can sit in a lap. I don’t even care if it’s People magazine, or some equivalent to True Romance (listen to the Myer’s interview to understand this reference.)
2. No more negotiations: we have early childhood education for all.
3. The BIG FAT TEST is defeated. Again, I do not mind standards; they are necessary and important. I do not mind curriculum maps, scope/sequence, scaffolding, and reflection. I do not oppose targets, nor do I mind assessing those targets. I want every child to read and write. What I do mind, and am living the pain of now (you all tried to warn me, didn’t you?) is how the ONE TEST TO RULE THEM ALL has taken over, and helped no one really. It’s getting worse.
John Spencer has often written about the factory model of schools, and yet, a young man doesn’t know where a can of soup comes from.
Now, in my own home, my sons struggle with school, for different reasons. My little guinea pigs are a testament to how public education works, or doesn’t, depending on things they have no control over, such as their fundamental personalities. They were indeed, born that way, different as night and day, equally intelligent and creative, but with very different styles. As I look at my rosters of over 125 students, with every level of need or background knowledge accessibility or deficiency, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.
“Levels of Questions” are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and Costa’s questioning skills.