Saturday, June 7, 2008

Current Events Time?

With all that is currently and catastrophically happening in our world today, it is no wonder that this educational "time" has been stricken from the curriculum by most "upper grade" teachers. In all of the 4th through 8th grade classes I've worked, I've found no evidence of any awareness of the latest "news" local or around the world. It is just simply ignored and not part of the "standards" which are so required and tested for.

When I taught, back in the "prehistoric times" when "dinosaurs roamed the earth", I required a weekly "current event" oral report from each student. I had certain qualifications and limitations. It couldn't be about "gang violence, murder, politics, religion etc." It couldn't be about "adult subjects, i.e. child kidnapping, rape, porn etc. It could be about local news, environmental, science, national or international places, outer space, sports etc. They could bring in the actual newspaper clipping or a write up off the TV news program or radio.(most families don't get the newspaper anymore) They each had their day so we had about six reports a day. They were very brief and oral with only the "5 W's" and maybe a "how" for extra credit. i.e. who, did what, when, where, why and how? One sentence per "w" would do it. If they could use the map with Lat. and Long. they got extra credit. We had a bulletin board for their "news" and it was cleared, by the students themselves, once a week. It prompted great discussions and questions about our growing awareness of our city, state, country, hemisphere and the world. Yes, it was geography.

Just for fun this last week in a couple 5th grade classes I mentioned the "Triple Crown" which happens today. Only one boy even knew about it and it was because his father watches the "Sporting News Channels". They were so interested in it and whether "Big Brown" would be the next "Triple Crown" winner since it hasn't happened for 30 years. Many of the girls perked up when we got to talking about horses and the tragic result of the Kentucky Derby's 2nd place, (filly) winner. This got into a discussion about "euthanization" and the possiblility of running "Big Brown" too hard. He has had a bleeding hoof. Are they pushing these racing steeds beyond their capabilities? Just the oral exercise of "thinking on their feet" and organizing their thoughts about the "five question words" is a tremendous challenge for our youngsters. They would underline the "w's" in the article and/or assume one or two of them and that then would be open for discussion.

Now, most classes open with the "Daily Bite" which are 6 questions on the overhead to "edit" and answer. One or two are about punctuation and capitalization. One is about math (story prob.) and one is about U.S. geography. Then they might have a paragraph to write about a current topic the teacher thinks up, i.e. "What if "you are what you eat" were really true?" Then we get the usual question, how many sentences make a "paragraph"? (current ans. five sentences) I usually answer that it depends on the subject and what you know about it. Sometimes it is harder to write less sentences and make them more precise. (like this blog post)

I recently found a geographical quiz in the AARP magazine that I reproduced in larger, poster type title tags for a group quiz. The title of it was, "Organize This." Then it had 4 categories: Oceans, Seas, Lake and Rivers. Then there were 20 different titles of the same, 5 in each category. ie. Atlantic, Caspian, Nile, Michigan. I have tried it in 4 classes so far and it has been quite a revelation. 50% is the average score...maybe less. They are not required to actually locate them, just know whether they are Oceans, Lakes, Rivers or Seas. Wow! Is this a part of our knowledge that is no longer necessary?...except for nerdy Geo-Bee contestants? (most of these are home-schooled)

For this very reason, "Camp Gramma-Pa" is going to be a "themed adventure" again. Last time, last year, it was "Around the World in Three Days" (stopping in as many countries as possible for prizes) This year, "Seven Wonders by Seven Seas" (of course you can find many, many more for prizes, wonders can be ancient, modern, natural, engineering or undersea) Our two grandchildren are now eight and ten...perfect ages for this mapping adventure. We will emphasize traveling by water, sea, oceans, lakes, rivers, gulfs, bays etc. We are planning crafts, games, arts (fine and performing) all around this theme. ie. "Oceanopoly" (just like Monopoly) We'll have "Davy Jones Locker with a treasure trove" It ought to be fun...even for the grandkids! RRR

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lake Baikal, Rivers Amur and the Thames, The "Southern" Ocean and the Bering Sea were the toughest. Actually the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans all extend to Antarctica, but on most maps they show a "Southern Ocean". Loch Ness is also a problem, until you give them a hint..."monster". RRR