Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Super Summary by Maria Carmen King

Why Don’t Students Like School?
When I chose this book, I thought it would be about strategies or tools for teachers to use when we know the reasons that students had for not liking school, so when I began reading it I felt disappointed. As I read the book’s chapters I discovered that I like it and that it contains very good and valuable information. The book is about the mind of the child and how it works.

Mr. Willingham gives a clear explanation and reasoning to every concept he presents. He focuses on the cognitive learning and difficulties some people experience concentrating and thinking. From the first chapter to the last, which it is dedicated to teachers, Mr. Willingham gives reasons for problem, ideas, and how to fix it. One of my favorite parts on this book is the “Implications for the Classroom” part that he includes in every chapter, which I found very useful.

I found myself relating to the concept of this book when I started with this class. I was so overwhelmed by my incomprehension of what I was doing and the quantity of work I had. That fear I had, could be the same fear many students have in school with certain subjects that are new to them.

Reading this book was good for me because it made me realize how difficult is for some students the whole concept of learning and how different every mind works. I like the concepts of this book and the ideas to solve different problems. I know that I will use this book as a reference in my classroom when problems approach or when I feel that the concept I am teaching is not going as I thought it would.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Final post

One of the key concepts in "Why Don't Students Like School" that I thought about long after putting down the book was how to free up space in working memory. Willingham's description of working memory as a box that "can only hold so much stuff" simplified what I've been wondering about for years: why do some students seem to get it while others struggle? My ah-ha moment came over Christmas break while I was trying to teach myself how to crochet. I struggled along for several nights alternately concentrating on my "So You Want to Crochet" book and pulling out my knotted stitches. After several more nights, I was able to complete a small project. After even more nights of practice, I was able to divide my attention between crocheting and watching "Will and Grace" at the same time. Hurrah! I cleared out some space in my working memory! (sidebar: now when I feel like vegging out in front of the TV, I can justify it by telling myself I'm improving my working memory)

The implications for my classroom: how can I reconcile my long-held belief that deep understanding and practicing basic skills are at odds? There must be a happy medium.
According to Willingham, deep knowledge is the goal, but proficiency requires practice. Now I'm constantly asking myself, "What do my students need to understand and what do they need to be able to do?" My confusion is which comes first. Do they need deep understanding of a concept before they are required to do/practice it, or will deep understanding come with practice? For example, do my students need number sense to practice their math facts or will number sense come because they practice their math facts? Maybe it doesn't matter; the bottom line according to Willingham is that my students have to do both.

I appreciate this book because it read like a novel, but once read, it can be used like a reference book. It has more information than my feeble working memory can hold, but I can see myself referring back to it in the next few weeks/months/years.