Monday, December 27, 2010


The very first chapter of this book really caught my attention. I must say I really had to reflect when the author stated that we do not like to think but rather we prefer to rely on our memory. This information got me thinking (rather than relying on my memory only) about my students and why they may not attempt certain aspects of my class. If the vast majority of my students do not like to think but rather rely on their memory then I as a teacher must have to find ways to trick their minds into going back to their memories and then move them forward into thought. I have always had "hooks" that I use to teach students new information by relating it to something that they already know but now I am looking at my hooks in a whole new light.

My most common hooks is story telling. I use stories that are analogous to what we are learning. I know that the stories work because students will see me years later and can retell the story. The part I am not sure of is if the students move on past the story or if they get stuck on the story and miss the concept that I am trying to teach. I really like the 4 C's that the author uses to help tell stories: causality, conflict, complications, and character. I am reworking my stories to try to fit these catagories and hope that my stories do a better job of making the content stick as well.

The third aspect of this book that caught my attention is the scientific research or lack of research in the area of learning. I had always viewed a learning style and an intelligence as one in the same.

This book was definately an interesting read.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A major concept from this book that stuck out to me was how important it is to make things meaningful to students through connections. In order to remember new ideas and knowledge, a student must connect to the material. This connection must be understood though. The book said, “ To teach well, you should pay careful attention to what an assignment will actually make students think about (not what you hope they will think about), because that is what they will remember”(pg. 54). If trying to help student connect to a unit about geography and the United States, for example, don’t teach them about the Rocky Mountains because it could help connect to Colorado. The kids are going to remember the Rocky Mountains, not the states which was the goal. What we think about is what we remember, so the connections need to be clear and on topic. I have always learned that it is so important to make connections. When reading text or new stories, connections will help students comprehend. But from reading this book, I have realized the connections need to be more meaningful than I thought. Especially when teaching a specific idea or topic, the students connection to be connected directly to that idea.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Why Students Don't Like School" Reflection Post

One concept I appreciated in "Why Students Don't Like School" is that we don't need to do everything at once. There were so many ideas and techniquues in the book, it was rather overwhelming to process all of them. The author is good to point out that setting priorities for areas to change is important to manage and focus our goals. I enjoyed the examples the author uses to help us understand his concepts. I will use many of his suggestions when I am creating lessons such as structuring activities that will lead to student understanding and remembering.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book reflection

The main point I took from Willingham is that developing background knowledge is the key to unlocking critical thinking skills. Willingham says on page 42, “When it comes to knowledge, those who have more gain more.” I find this to be a daunting task. If we as educators don’t address this problem early on the gap only continues to widen. I think that in math this may be easier to address as we can drill kids in the basic facts. Reading, however, is a different animal. As we know kids from more affluent environments are generally provided more opportunities to develop the background needed to be academically successful. That is not to say that word poor kids can not be caught up. They just require more intense interventions. As Willingham suggests, teachers need to instill in students the importance of effort. If you want to get better you have to practice and work hard to improve your intelligence.

Willingham also gives teachers some great ways to improve their effectiveness. Reflecting on lessons and videotaping are just a couple I have already tried. The videotaping can be a tough pill to swallow but is an effective way to cause change. I look forward to trying some of the other strategies suggested by the author.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I learned from Willingham that it’s the content that drives the method of instruction. Information can be taught visually, auditorally, and kinesthetically. A good teacher should use a variety of teaching methods. This benefits all students. I consider all three strategies when lesson planning during a unit of study. Eventually you will reach all your students strengths.
My goal is to relate the content to more personal experiences whenever possible and applicable. I think if done correctly it will create a warm classroom climate so students will feel more comfortable in sharing their experiences. One other thought I have internalized is the need to praise students more when I observe hard work being done. Model that failure doesn't mean you're stupid, but that you just need to work harder. According to Willingham, we should praise hard work and not ability. Hopefully, this will improve student confidence and make them want to improve. If it's true the more you know the more you understand then teachers have to be patient with students who have learning gaps. I don’t want them to think they’re stuck and can’t change anything when it comes to their ability to learn. Over time they can increase their intelligence through hard work.
I also agree that my teaching should improve and that I need to constantly evaluate and make changes when necessary. I don’t want to feel stuck and lose my confidence in growing as a teacher. I learned a lot about how students brains work in this book. It was helpful for me to understand the students I teach from a cognitive and psychological perspective. There's a lot to consider when you teach your students. It's complicated.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Part 6 Pages 189-224

This section begins with taking the focus off of the student and puts the focus on the teacher. We are invited to view teaching as a cognitive skill. Willingham states that teaching is very demanding on the working memory. He then goes on to discuss the differences between experience and practice. Experience is simply that, being engaged in the activity, practice on the other hand is working to improve. To futher his point the author goes on to state "A great deal of data show that teachers improve during their first five years in the field, as measured by student learning. After five years, however, the curve gets flat, and a teacher with twenty years of experience is (on average) no better or worse than a teacher with ten." Steps are given to guide a teacher into making teaching a practice and not an experience. The steps include getting feedback and investing time in activities that are not the target task itself. The chapter closes out with suggestions to move from experience to practice.
The conclusion restates the cognitive principles which should be reviewed to help make teaching a cognitive experience. After reading this section a few questions come to mind. How do we recognize as teachers if we are simply accumulating experience or if we are truly practicing? How do we prevent ourselves from going on autopilot? Is there value to experience or do we only improve through practice?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Summary Section 5 pp. 169-188

Intelligence is measured by experiences in our long term memory. For some time, environmental experiences weren’t believed to have much impact on intelligence, but newer research debates that idea. Findings suggest because of genetic inheritance people engage in certain environmental experiences that otherwise wouldn’t interest them. This impacts their cognitive ability. Other reasons for varying intelligence may be from better nutrition and healthcare.
Children come to teachers with differing intelligence due to factors mentioned above. While children differ in intelligence, it can be changed through sustained hard work according to Willingham. I liked some of the suggestions made for teachers on engaging slower learners.
Reports on slow learners find that they do much better if they’re praised for their hard work and not their ability. They are shaped for the long term by what they hear from parents, teachers, and peers. As a teacher what strategies or methods do you use with them that make them desire, believe, and gain the confidence to learn more in your classroom?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chapter 6-7 summary

Chapter 6
This chapter discussed how students do not think as experts. This is in part because they have not had the experiences and practice to develop the great deal of background knowledge and automaticity that experts have acquired in their chosen field. To me this seems obvious. I teach third grade and at the age of 8, my students have not even lived a decade which is the amount of time the author suggests is adequate to become an expert. Also, in those 8 years I do not think any of my students have dedicated enough time and energy into one particular skill in order to become an expert.

Another point the author discusses in this chapter was that experts can create new knowledge where as a novice thinker can’t. Though I agree and do understanding this, the highest level of thinking in Blooms Taxonomy is creating. I think we should encourage our students to create. I don’t expect my students to develop a new scientific theory or compose a symphony, but as this section mentioned, creating can be motivating and I think it is good to give our students a challenge.

Chapter 7
This chapter discussed different types of learners and what that means for us as teachers. As the author said, scientists cannot offer us any help with this identification of student learning and instruction. Our students cannot be classified. I think it is obvious and refreshing that the author isn’t trying to categorize students. Students may have different learning styles and intelligences, but no two students are exactly the same even if they do learn similarly. We as teachers have to use a variety of strategies and instructional approaches to reach our students and all the unique needs and styles of learning they possess.

Blabber Baby Quote

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

pages 26-53

The author's main point of this selection is that kids who have background knowledge and facts already embedded in longterm memory are more able to learn new material more quickly. Moreover he states that, "...thinking critically and logically-are not possible without background knowledge". I really enjoyed reading this selection mostly because I agree with everything the author says. Facts are important. In reading we are always trying to "activate prior knowledge". In fact there is usually a lesson with that title in every vendor's reading textbook. I think having a grasp of facts is equally important in math. I don't believe there is anything wrong with memorizing the basic math facts. Right now there seems to be a trend in Inquiry Based Learning where student led discovery is the key. Well I am pretty tired of having fourth graders adding 2 and 7 with their fingers. I don't think there is anything wrong with some of the discovery learning when the facts are "mastered" but until that time we need to build background.

My question would be, "How do we build background knowledge in kids who don't have the opportunity to visit museums or go on vacations, etc.?" I have kids who have not even taken advantage of the opportunities here in Pierre much less the state or our country. Often times these kids are also the ones who are behind in reading and so providing them with books to read may not be a great option. I look forward to reading the rest of this book.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Super Summarizer

Our posts have a common theme of needing to engage our students and make learning relevent. We are in agreement that traditional methods of education are limiting our students' potential to think and learn. On the first page of chapter 1, the author identifies the cognitive principle of the chapter: "People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking." I believe the book cover posts each reflect our belief that a we need to change the classroom environment as well as the way we approach teaching to effectively get our students be the thinkers and learners we know they can be.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Cover

I chose the cover of an old school room.  I think that with texting and instant messaging that it is easy for students to become disconnected or bored with school.  I read a book that said that many students feel as if they are traveling to the Stone Age any time that they enter the school building.  I think that students do not like school as it does not offer information instantly nor is the feedback always as immediate.
My image is taken from Google Images

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jessica's Post

This image shows the brain split in half. One side is work oriented and the other is for play or recreation. If our students have a hard time using the correct type of thinking within the classroom, they will have a difficult time retaining new content. If we don’t engage our students though, they will not enjoy learning and dislike school. We need to find a balance that allows for fun and education within the classroom.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Brigitte's Book Cover

Here is the picture I would choose to illustrate the cover of "Why Don't Students Like School." Pictured is a frustrated student, sitting at the traditional desk, in a traditional row facing the teacher, with the traditional paper and pencil. Here is a student who can't wait to get home to check his Facebook page, text his friends, Skype with his "bff" in another city, and spend the rest of the time getting to the next level of his favorite X-Box game. His only way to vent his pent up boredom is to snap the pencil his hates to use to write out his assignment when he knows he could be completing it on his laptop in at least half the time. My picture is from Google Images.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Cover

This represents what a student would look like after trying to learn something that's too hard or not revelant to their daily life. Either they have gaps in their learning or they aren't motivated to engage in what they see as pointless. If teachers don't try to connect with them they will perceive that no one cares and thus they don't either. I found this picture at

Why Don't Students Like School?

I have just started reading this book but in the first few pages I was struck by how the author says that the brain is not built for thinking. To me this picture shows a youngster who is encountering that very problem. I can imagine that there are a million things going through his mind the least of which have anything to do with the concept he is trying to learn-except that his brain is not being of any assistance. I found this picture at the following website:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Welcome to Literature Circle Ten!

Your Super Summarizer schedule is as follows:

Section One--Due October 28, Brigitte Brucklacher
Section Two--Due November 4, Chad Kringel
Section Three--Due November 11, Joyce Massa
Section Four--Due November 18,Jessica Murphy
Section Five--Due December 2, Amber Robbins
Section Six--Due December 9, Kristin Wheaton