Being Spider Man is not an Option

Careers Advice for Elementary School Students

Yes, you read that right – careers advice for elementary school students. There’s a growing school of thought that it’s never too early for children to have an understanding of the possibilities that await them in high school, college, and beyond. Indeed, there are many success stories pertaining to children who started successful businesses as kids.

While not every child is destined to be the next Rockefeller (or start a successful business in their teenage years for that matter), teachers should undoubtedly encourage forward thinking attitudes in children even when their best guess at their future career is along the lines of

“When I grow up, I’m going to be Spider Man”.

While it’s probably not the best course of action to tell a five year old girl just starting school that no, she probably won’t get to enjoy a future career as a princess, fast forward a few years and children nearing the end of their elementary school years are surely old enough and wise enough to understand that princess and superhero careers are unlikely. Wouldn’t it be wise to show them the sort of possibilities that can be achieved – to give them an understanding of just how important their high school years can be when it comes to their future life?

Spiderman en el Parque Warner en 2010

Spiderman en el Parque Warner en 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Children at the age of nine or ten are more than capable of having an idea of which careers may interest them as they get older, and it’s never a better time to give them some sage advice as right then. It’s not about limiting a child’s aspirations, it’s about discussing their options in a way that they understand. It’s about finding the best way forward for a particular child. There is no harm in telling the child that indicates an ambition to become a doctor at an early age that in order to do so will involve working hard at high school and then medical school. There’s equally no need to tell the child that is adamant about their desire to save damsels in distress while wearing a tight red suit to rethink their plans. It’s not about taking childhood away from those still living it by any means and it’s not about predetermining a child’s course in life before they even leave elementary school. It’s about helping those children who have a clear idea about what they want to do to understand what they personally need to do to get there, and it’s about encouraging those children who want to be Spider Man to still be a child, but perhaps look at what else they might do if the whole superhero thing doesn’t take off.

Helping children to understand that how hard “they” work and how much effort “they” put in to their studies will have an impact on their lives can be achieved tactfully without fear or reproach. It might be as simple as setting aside half an hour each week to look at different career choices, to perhaps have a real life doctor come into school and talk about what they had to do to get their job (parents can be a great source of different careers advice). Teachers might run a session where kids get to make their own resume that records all their skills and talents to date. At the very least, it will get them thinking and they will be more likely to enter high school with an understanding that their actions will make a difference.

Author Bio

Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. A frequent contributor to Degree Jungle, she is a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay

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The Edublog Awards – 2012 Nominations

2012 has been a great year!  It has been my first year of edublogs, twitter and my own blog is about to turn one year old.  I have learned so much!  Below are my nominations for the 2012 Edublogs.  

Individual Blog – Stephen Hurley

Best Group Blog – Canadian Education Association Blog

Student Blog – North America Meets South America  Grade 12 Student Autumn Shaw reflects on her grade 12 year on an International Student Exchange in Paraguay.

Administrator Blog – Principal Greg Miller

Influential Post – Math Facts Plus Stop Watches Don’t Equal Success 

Individual Tweeter – Shira Liebowitz

Twitter Hashtag – #edchat Its the one I use the most and read the most!

Free Web Tool – Kidblog

Social Network – Twitter

Thank you to everyone for their contributions to the online world of edu.  It’s been a great year!

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Are You a High Quality Teacher? Find Out!

Are you teaching for understanding or teaching by “tell and do”?

For many years now, the research around teacher quality and student achievement has been unequivocal.  In fact, we now know that teacher quality and effectiveness is the single most important determinant in student learning.  It is no secret that what a teacher knows and does matters.

While observing teacher practice over the past 8 years as a school administrator, what is coming clear to me is that one of the differences in teaching practice that defines quality teaching and student learning is the nature of lesson design.  In fact, I have observed two distinct types of lessons; those that effectively promote interaction and understanding of new information and those that follow the “tell and do” method.  In my observation, one method leads to a deeper and more thorough understanding, and one leads to listening and task completion.  In thinking about your own practice, or classes you observe, what do you see?

Teaching for Understanding
When teaching for understanding, lesson design is critical.  We know that certain types of learning tasks lead to student engagement, but it is also critical to incorporate these tasks into well designed lessons.

1.  The first part of a well designed lesson is the Introduction.  This is often short, orients the student to the purpose and is a chance for the teacher to find out what the student already knows.  Tasks often associated with the introduction are questioning designed to link to prior knowledge, KWL charts, viewing pictures, charts,  or video clips.

2.  Following the introduction, students are given the opportunity to talk and discuss.  Usually this would happen with a partner or a group of 3.  This is the students opportunity to talk about the new information and often find out more information.  This could be an assignment of sorts; perhaps students would work with a partner to find information, answer questions, or analyze information.  This is the where the teacher roves the classroom, gathering evidence of what students are learning.

3.  Following the partner work, the teacher would call the students back to the whole group to provide more information.  This part of the lesson provides the learners with further opportunity to extend knowledge.  Learning tasks may include opportunities to predict, summarize, clarify, compare and describe new information.  During this part of the lessons, teachers observe their learners closely to determine levels of understanding.

4.  Feedback or Feedforward is now used to enhance learning.  Teachers most likely will ask students inferential questions designed to move their learning forward.

5.  Following all of the above learning tasks, finally, students are ready to show what they know.  Teachers who practice differentiated learning know that this is the step where students can show their learning in a number of ways.  The list of ways is endless and extends far beyond paper pencil tasks.  To really show their learning, students must be involved in authentic tasks.  It would be impossible for every student to demonstrate their knowledge in the same way as every other student in the class.  It would be even more impossible to discern a students level of understanding through some sort of teacher or pre-made worksheet type of a task.  The learning students are asked to demonstrate here must be directly linked back to the purpose that was identified in step one.  For example, if the purpose of this lesson was to learn that that sun is the center of the solar system and planets rotate around the sun, here is where students demonstrate what they know.

6.  The final part of the lesson is student reflection.  Students are taught to self evaluate on questions such as; What did I learn?, How did I show what I know?, What do I still want to learn.

By following the steps of strong task design, students are learning and teachers are teaching for understanding.  Students are thinking about, talking about and interacting with new information.  This type of task design is quite different from Tell and Do.

Tell and Do

English: Hinkletown, Pennsylvania (vicinity). ...

English: Hinkletown, Pennsylvania (vicinity). Mennonite teacher holding class in one-room, eight grade school house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia

Tell and Do Lesson Design is often designed to tell students new information and then have them complete an assignment,  It usually involves the following steps:

1.  You Sit While I Tell: The first part of the lesson often includes students sitting and listening while the teacher tells them all of the important information they require to complete the task.  It is often referred to as a lecture.  Depending on the complexity of the information,  this telling can often last an hour or more.  Students are expected to sit and listen during this part of the lesson, sometimes they are encouraged to jot down important bits of information.  Sometimes students are given the opportunity to ask questions.

2.  The second part of the lesson includes the student doing the task.  Often each student has the same task and it is most often a teacher or publisher created task.  Usually it is a pencil paper task and it is very difficult to modify except to make it shorter for those students who find the workload too heavy.  I have observed teachers working at their desks during this part of the lesson.  I have an occasion heard teachers tell students that if they had listened better to the Sit and Tell lecture, they would find this part of the lesson easier.

3.  The final part of this lesson includes students handing their work in for teachers to mark.  Usually students leave their papers in some sort of “in-box” and are dismissed to recess, or their next class.  Often times students who did not finish in class are asked to take their work home to finish it.

What I have observed with this type of lesson design is a significant reduction in student learning.  I have blogged more about this in my post “Just Because You Said It, Doesn’t Mean They Learned It” but the basic premise being that unless students can link to prior knowledge, generate, create, discuss, find purpose, incorporate their learning styles, work with peers, reflect, think critically, infer and reflect, they are not truly learning and the teachers is not teaching for understanding.

* Robert Marzano and his book The Art and Style of Teaching have had a significant influence on my information and understanding in student learning.

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