Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Thinking About School and The Importance of Being Little

I read The Importance of Being Little just as school was letting out for the summer, back in early June.  I knew right then and there that this is a book that so many of our teachers should read. And so many of our administrators.  It makes me sad to see our kindergarten students with little opportunity to engage in play or act like kids.  Already at the age of five they are talking about data and their test scores.  

I sticky-noted so many places in this book.  And then I tried to compose these notes into something coherent. Here are the notes I took, and if you are in education this book should be appealing to you.

  • While the number of words children knows is important (we've seen the research....)it is more than just knowing words. It is the process which children use to think properly, through their use of words and the conversations they have.
  • Today's play is dull.  "Complaining about excess screen time is like shooting a fish in a barrel but it's hard to mount a case that decorating virtual cupcakes on an iPad represents American childhood at its best (154)"
  • Avoid using the word bully. Bullying is one of the most overused words in the school lexicon in a time when real bullying has declined dramatically.  True bullying requires a pattern of chronicity and intentionality that describes older children, not preschool and kindergarten age children.
  • Technology's education enhancing properties are exaggerated.  We've heard for centuries that books would become extinct.  At one point we also heard that film strip viewers were going to revolutionize education.  We're putting the cart before the horse.."we've allowed technology in classrooms to drive children's experiences rather than insisting on the reverse (174)"
  • "for every hour of overstimulating television exposure before age three children had a 10% greater chance of attention problems in elementary school. With two hours, the risk increased by 20% (176).  Normal or slow paced shows don't show the same effect.  
  • "there is a critical window for language learning, which, if missed, will never open fully again.(227)."
  • "And no matter how much we convince ourselves otherwise, they simply can't learn language adequately from a screen (227)."
  • we are very focused on literacy development, but may need to adjust our time frame. Slower progress in reading in exchange for broader subject matter coverage in early grades  may be a better choice because this will payoff in reading comprehension in later grades.
  • Stella's parents weren't impressed with their daughter's kindergarten teacher, until the witnessed her interacting with their child.  The fact that she knew and loved her student off-set any out of date pedagogic practices.  A child's relationship with their teacher is more important than up to date pedagogic approach.
  • Young children need physical and and emotional affection from adults who look after them.We can't ask them to exempt themselves from this human connection because we feel jealous or uneasy (265).
If I had my own copy of this book I would have highlighted the heck out of it.  There are just so many important bits of information in this one.  And as I think about going back to school, I am wanting to skim this book again.

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