Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How to ration high grades, part III

In addition to the strategies enumerated in Part I and Part II, there's also the strategy of making successful completion of homework dependent on paying attention in class:

1. Expect students as young as 8 to follow oral directions about which worksheets to rip out and put in their bags for homework. Anyone who fails to pay proper attention can then be given an incomplete.

2. Rather than basing homework questions on the material in a textbook, article, or information sheet that goes home in the student's backpack, base these questions on material that was only addressed during class time (e.g., "What did we learn in class today about rocks?"). That way, anyone who failed to pay enough attention during class will under-perform on the homework.

By favoring those who pay attention in class, you can keep high grades from certain students who might otherwise have earned them, specifically:

1. The bright kid who is bored in class and tends to space out.
2. The dreamy, developmentally skewed math/science/computer buff whose analytical skills far exceed his or her organizational skills and ability to pay attention.


Marcy said...

I have to say, while I can't recommend that all smart kids start biting their classmates, the fact that my 9 year old has a taste for human flesh helps in the classroom. He gets the assistance with organizational stuff and focus that non-biters don't get.
It's a strategy. Maybe if more kids WERE encouraged to bite their teachers when bored....

TerriW said...

Well, I suppose the question is:
What does the school think it is teaching? Do they want to teach children about rocks, or do they want to teach children to pay attention in class?

It seems to me that it's the latter, and if they happen to learn something about rocks in the process, that's the gravy and they are grading accordingly.

Skills trumping content.

Katharine Beals said...

Marcy, fantastic story! Bite when bored, and you'll outperform your non-biting classmates!
TerriW, great point about how this is yet another example of skills over content; I hadn't quite made the connection myself.

Cranberry said...

I don't know many 8 year olds who are truly inspired by grades. Giving lower grades to the spacey alarms the parents, but I don't think it does anything to teach the child to pay attention in class. If anything, the child decides, "that teacher doesn't like me."

Then the strategy (if it is a strategy) really backfires, as it did when my eldest began keeping track of the number of times the teacher s forgot to return homework, forgot to assign homework, gave the wrong assignment, left the wrong assignment with the sub and then blamed the class, and so on. That leads to disdain and lack of trust, which is corrosive.

Also--eight? Giving grades in second or third grade? I have a difficult time believing that negative feedback is effective at that young age, unless the intent is to teach a poor self-image.

Beth said...

I think calling it "skills over content" is too generous. I'd call it "compliance over content".

Really, I think compliance is the only subject still taught at school -- compliance, conformity, and passivity. We should allow students to major in these subjects.

It's not hard to pay attention in class if the class is interesting, or you want to learn the material. It becomes hard when the class is repetitive and dull.

I think I'm ready to bite when bored too.

lgm said...

LOL. My fav was when the teacher told me that the instructions were written on the board and my child has no excuse for not getting them in the planner. Not only were the instructions in small letters low on the board and written there AFTER my child was dismissed (but before bus riders dismissal), they weren't visible from my child's desk even when the adult aides to the sped. children were not in their seats blocking the view- too much of her classroom furniture in the way. We came to an understanding that involved my child not receiving any further penalties. Some people really should go on to new careers - maybe with the KGB.

ccampboyle said...

The reading specialist had come to my house to do a reading assessment on my low verbal, low functioning son with autism. Because my son is "not testable" this involved her watching me work with him. At one point she said to me "How do you know he likes it?" and I said "Because he doesn't get up and walk away." Boy, was she startled. When someone really doesn't care about social praise, you can tell what is effective teaching.