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Greek Mythology Like Never Before

67a1408b76d203375d97ad21f6a535a9.jpgMy fourth grade students have been studying Greek Mythology over the past few weeks, and it’s been so much fun. I’ve taught this content before, of course, but never quite this in depth, and never with some of the techniques we’ve been using. Boy, what a difference!

Some of the changes this time around:

  • more versions of the same myth (in particular Hercules’ Quest: when we view the Disney film it will be the fourth version we’ll examine)
  • more myths (Psyche & Eros, Arachne, Medusa, and others)
  • incorporating drama into our study (tableaux of various scenes, forcing students to deeply explore the characters’ feelings and actions)
  • incorporating more art into our study (resulting in some wonderful projects)
  • allowing students to not only choose various ways of expressing their learning, but letting them create the various choices (and they were so much more engaged in the activities they designed themselves)

Just spending more time in Ancient Greece has been so beneficial to the students. They’re seeing recurring themes including jealousy, vanity, bravery, and sacrifice. They’re drawing parallels between characters and stories and they’re becoming quite knowledgable.

As an added bonus, the Rick Riordan books (the Percy Jackson series) have been flying off the library shelves, as have the other mythology books. The students are excited!

I’m so pleased with their enthusiasm and their level of commitment to their work. I believe we’re building a strong foundation for future learning as they’re developing a love of these ancient tales. I don’t know if this work will show up in the form of growth on their end of year standardized tests, but I know it’s beneficial. For that reason, I’m feeling successful and yes, a little bit proud. I can’t help but feel a bit like Zeus on Mt. Olympus, looking down at the mortals with affection and feeling pleased with their successes.


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Throwback Thursday – State Testing Edition

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My little fourth graders are doing their state assessment this week. I don’t want to get into too much detail about it, but needless to say I have some strong opinions about what they’re being asked to do. Long story short, the munchkins are working hard and I’m proud of them. Enough said.

So, this week of standardized testing made me flashback to some of my own testing experiences over the years, stretching all the way back to the second grade. That one was a doozy. We were doing some inane multiple choice fill in the bubble test and it was a BIG DEAL. Such a big deal that our desks were scattered all over the room, I guess to prevent us from cheating. Anyway, I finished early (which would become a pattern) and was sitting quietly waiting for the time to be called. I happened to have a tissue, and I folded it neatly into the shape of an envelope on my desk. I was feeling pretty clever. Alas, the student teacher (I will never forget her name, she scarred me) swooped down and grabbed my precious tissue envelope and threw it away, giving me a mean look. What? Did I skew the results of the test with that tissue? Wow.

My next big test memory occurred in my freshman year of high school. In those days the freshmen were still in junior high, and we had to sit for some end of the year state test. We were all housed together in this weird room behind the stage. It was the first and last time I ever sat foot in that room. To this day I have no idea what it was used for other than that test. Continue reading


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Daily Prompt: Learning Style

As an educator (I teach fourth grade students) I think about learning styles a great deal. Every day I am charged with teaching children concepts that are often confusing and difficult to understand.

I have been teaching for quite a while, and I know that different learners need different experiences, but in a classroom of approximately 30 students, I cannot offer 30 individualized lessons, that’s why I have to mix things up. Besides, when we are confronted with new experiences, we don’t get to stop and request that they be presented to us in a particular style, now do we? fluteSometimes we have to gather information by hearing it, other times by reading it or attempting to perform some task. Experience with all of these is important, even if someone is clearly stronger in one area than in others.

There are those who would propose that we can learn anything by reading a book on the topic, however, would a book be the most effective way to learn to play an instrument? Wouldn’t you have to hear the notes and watch how the instrument is manipulated in order to produce certain sounds?

Likewise, it would be difficult to become a proficient athlete without actually suiting up and trying out different movements and routines. I can read about ice skating all day long or watch a fine skater perform, or listen to a lecture on skating, but I will not learn to skate until I get on the ice and start moving.skate-feet_1572988c

I consider myself to be a very visual person. Many people are visual learners, which I believe is why so many of us are horrified by the idea of losing our vision. Our main method of taking in information would be eliminated, and we find this terrifying. At least I do. When I see things I can often make sense of them. Reading is an excellent way for me to learn, and when there are visuals, either photos, charts, maps, or better yet video, involved, I learn even better.

Still, I do believe in the age old saying (attributed to I don’t know whom and I’m too lazy to go searching, sorry) “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, let me do it and I will learn.”

I find this to be especially true when I take quilting classes. I have been a quilter for well over twenty years, and I have taken class after class after class. It’s not because I’m incompetent. It’s primarily because I enjoy the company of other quilters, and I like to see how they interpret the same ideas using their vision and their materials. 6a00e008d551a88834017d3e9c7ce4970c-piI also learn something new with every class I take, sometimes from the instructor and sometimes from the other students. I listen to them, I watch them demonstrate the technique, then I practice the technique. If I wish to go in a slightly different direction with my work I’m generally encouraged to do so.

All of this is done in a supportive, non-threatening atmosphere. There is no test at the end. No panel from the state will be walking through to see how I’m doing, and the teacher’s boss isn’t breathing down her neck with a check sheet to make sure she has covered the same topics that every other quilt teacher has covered, whether they apply to this class or not. At the end of the class I evaluate my own progress. Have I accomplished what I sought out to do? Do I need more practice with this technique? Is there something else I should try to improve my work? What do my peers think? What does the instructor think? How will I incorporate their feedback? Ultimately, it is up to me.

I wish I could provide more of this type of learning atmosphere to my students. I wish I could provide more time for exploration and discovery, more materials for them to manipulate and experiment with, and more options for showcasing and sharing their knowledge and learning process.071116_standardizedtests_wi-horizontal I wish I could limit the number of standardized tests they are required to complete, and I wish I could eliminate some of the content I’m expected to cram into their fragile heads each year, in order to spend more time on topics of importance that fascinate and engage them. My biggest wish, though, is that they will continue to love learning, for the sake of learning, not for the sake of the test or the grade. If I can help them do that, I have succeeded.

What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?

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