Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Magic Shop

Jack and I just finished Jennifer Murdley's Toad. This is the second book we have read by Bruce Coville. Mr. Coville has written several other Magic Shop Books. We finished Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher  a couple of weeks ago.  Jennifer Murdley's Toad was excellent and engaging.  Last night, even though it was already late when I was putting Jack to bed, I read an extra chapter, and then another because I had to find out what had happened.  We finished the epilogue today. I love books with an epilogue.

My favorite part as a teacher - the author's note. Mr. Coville wrote about the process of writing the book, how he had to put the book away for awhile and how his friend Jane Yolan (another great author) helped him to revisit the book.  The author's note is a lovely, concise (less than 3 pages) lesson on the writing process.

My favorite part as a parent - Kids seem to get the message from so many places that happiness is all about getting what you want; this book is all about learning to happy with what you have.  I think it would especially meaningful for girls who have had a few too many Disney Princess stories, this book is a wonderfully different perspective on what it means to be beautiful.

I would read this with mature 1st graders - 5th graders.
This book is about a typical 4th grade reading level

Friday, March 30, 2012

Kahn Academy

Jack is watching Khan Academy. You can learn about all kinds of cool stuff. So far he has watched several Fibonacci videos, right now he is watching a video about how plants make leaves at particular angles - "simple rules, complex consequences". Jack loves science, "because it is real; except not in Spanish"

The other night, I was talking with the folks in my writing group and we came onto the topic of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), which is basically the specific knowledge about how to teach a particular subject a teacher must have in order to teach a subject. We were talking about science. One issue that we have found is that teachers don't really like to teach science. Why you ask? Well that is a great question, which another of my colleagues is trying to answer. We were pondering this question: some theories - Scientists believe that science is "tentative" (yeah, tentative like, uncertain, more questions and less answers) But most of the science curriculum is teaching kids a series of labels (so far this year Jack has learned how to label the water cycle, the parts of the plant, the types of rock, the types of soil)

Okay.... So good teachers (that is, those with PCK) seem to know how to ask good questions - this is true in math, science, etc. So what if we left the labeling to the Khan Academy and helped teachers develop their PCK. What if we started thinking about math, science, learning, etc. as "tentative"? Go watch this gal, who knows her math content knowledge, she has a series of videos called doodling in math class that are awesome.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seven and purging and make believe play

Today my sweet boy turns seven.... around this time every year we let go of the old stuff to make room for the toys that inevitably come with birthdays... this year was no different, except it was. Sunday Jack decided that he could let go of his playmobile guys. He has a fairly large collection including a big pirate ship; he has spent countless hours lost in worlds of his own creation and Sunday he decided he was too big for these little guys. My boy is growing up. I feel a little sad.

Since the collection represented not only a big time investment but a financial one as well. I decided to list it on a mommy listserv - within an hour some mom of littler boys had snapped it up. I told Jack he could have the money. Encouraged by the sale, the boy decided he could let go of his car collection, his musical instruments and his finger puppets. Anyway, he still has his vast empire of Legos, a huge collection of action figures and an enormous array of Yu-gi-oh cards. so I guess his imaged worlds are still going strong.

Which brings me to a bit of a professional crossover, I was reading an article by Bodrova and Leong about teaching kids make believe play. The authors point out that "back in the day" kids learned make believe play from each other in multi-age groups (read: running around with neighborhood kids) and today kids don't have those opportunities and so teachers need to help kids learn how to create elaborate play scenarios that can be extended and that allow children to truly "inhabit" their make believe worlds.

I sometimes worry about Jack learning all this since he is an only child, but as they described the highest stages of make believe play it seemed like they had been hanging out at our house on a typical afternoon. The planning and negotiating roles may take longer than the actual play and the child may act out the roles with imaginary partners. I have spent many an afternoon listening to Jack act out elaborate dueling scenarios with his Yu-gi-oh cards and an imagined opponent or talking to his Lego guys as they battle imagined enemies. I get a huge lift whenever I hear his voice change into his special make believe voice. I love that our life is slow enough that Jack has time to create and inhabit his make-believe worlds. Even now that he is seven.

What about you? What do you love seeing your kids do? When and where do they play make-believe?