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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why Don't Students Like School (ch. 3)

I once read or heard, "When you start hearing the same thing from multiple sources, you might want to pay attention."

Well, Willingham is now the third or fourth person I have read this year who is pushing the use of stories (or story-form) in the classroom.

First was Dan Roam - The Back Of The Napkin

Second was Dan & Chip Heath - Made To Stick

Third was a metacognitive moment listening to Ken Robinson, and reading The Element.  Robinson demonstrates (rather than lecture about) that through story telling, one remembers things best.  Robinson does not really espouse quantitative research, but rather, through stories provides a qualitative research method that rings true for many people.

And now - Daniel Willingham.

Talk about a panel needed at an ISTE convention!

Chapter 3 discusses why we remember things, and why we forget other things.

"Memory is the residue of thought."

Thinking takes place in the "working memory" of the brain.  Calling upon the "long-term memory" makes the process of thinking easier and more efficient: thus the need for certain things (basics like mulitplication tables, states and capitols, etc.) to be memorized.

Things can't go into long-term memory until and unless they have been through working memory.

Attention, emotion, repitition, and wanting to remember things is good, but not enough to ensure memory or learning.

Thinking about meaning is what works.  But structuring lessons to ensure students are thinking about the right things is of equal or greater importance.  One has to think about the "right aspect of meaning" in order for things to be learned and remembered.

Learning = things that end up in long-term memory.

Organizing a lesson plan in story-form will help students comprehend and remember.  The story must focus on the meaning we want students to think about.  Story does not mean lecture.  Stories should not provide too much information; leave room for inference (the need for background knowledge is necessary too).

The four Cs of an effective story: Causality, Conflict, Complications, and Character.  All of these wrap around action wherein the storyteller shows rather than tells a story.  Follow the formula (don't reinvent a proven story form).

Why stories work:
  • Easy to comprehend
  • Interesting
  • Easy to remember

Favorite quotes"

"Trying to make the material relevant to students' interests doesn't work."

"Effective teachers have both qualities (style and organization).  They are able to connect personally with students, and they organize the material in a way that makes it interesting and easy to understand."

"My intention here is not to suggest that you simply tell stories, although there's nothing wrong with doing so.  Rather, I'm suggesting something one step removed from that.  Structure your lessons the way stories are structured, using the four Cs: causality, conflict, complications, character.  This doesn't mean you must do most of the talking... The story structure applies to the way you organize the material that you encourage your students to think about, not to the methods you use to teach the material."


In movies, the conflict usually does not present itself until 20 minutes into a 100 minute film. Characters are introduced first.  Situations that identify causaility are hinted at.  Complications are the subplots of conflict.

When it comes to teaching, we must forcus on the questions instead of the answers to keep the answer interesting.  We focus so much on the answers, and students are conditioned to "get the right answer" that little appreciation is given to why the answer matters.

Using mnemonics help people memorize material they need to develop background, or material that, on its own, is not meaningful in and of itself - but must be present in order for other things to be understood. (Multiplication tables, vocabulary, states and capitols, countries, land and water forms, periodic table, parts of speech, etc.).

Great example of how technology can prevent learning is given.  I don't know of any teacher who has not experienced the example given about students focusing on the whiz/bang features of a tech tool instead of the content of the lesson which was to be presented using the tech tool.

Attention grabbers at the beginning of class may be the wrong time for them.  Very interesting viewpoint.

Discovery Learning usually leads students to think about the wrong things, unless done exceptionally well.

Make thinking about the meaning unavoidable. 

Use mnemonics when necessary, then apply the new memories to think about the meaning of something the memory is a prerequisite for.

Organize a lesson plan around the conflict.  The conflict is the question that makes the answer interesting.

Posted via email from rrmurry's posterous


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