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?