Elementary Corner

Fake News

Written by Seth Pozzi on .

Pizzagate!  Russia! 

Unless you have been living under a rock (without Internet access), you have probably heard a lot of the recent buzz about fake news. It doesn’t seem like fake news and misinformation are going away. And according to today’s All Things Considered, many schools are not doing a great job preparing children to deal with fake news.

Why would that be a surprise, when many adults are having trouble sorting through what’s factual, what’s hyperbole, and what’s completely made up? Nevertheless, according to today’s story, The Classroom Where Fake News Fails, "How do they [children] become prepared to make the choices about what to believe, what to forward, what to post to their friends when they've been given no practice in school?" What this says to me as an educator is that it is incumbent upon schools to teach children Informational Literacy.

Informational Literacy: A set of abilities to recognize when information is needed and the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.

It’s no longer about sourcing information, but rather children need to become connoisseurs who can validate information in a wide variety of ways. And if you think the fake news mainly pertains to topics we adults will encounter, think again.

While this has previously been reported by several news outlets, one of the top sites that (unfortunately) you’ll find on a Google search of Martin Luther King, Jr. is martinlutherking.org. The text on the search page says it’s “A valuable resource for teachers and students alike.” But once you click through it explains that MLK was a communist, wife-beater, plagiarist, sexual deviant and all-around fraud. There are flyers a child can “download, print and bring to school.” There is even an “educational video” that I didn’t have the heart or desire to click on.  

With the increasing prevalence of misinformation and fake news, especially online, great schools must continue to evolve. In a preschool classroom, this could be a simple as helping the children come up with a Google question of the week, thinking together about what Google might say, and checking the answer at the end of the week. In elementary school, we need to teach children how to: read URLs, see who owns the website, look at the history of a webpage, check the external links, and validate information from multiple reliable sources.

Like many emerging topics in 21st century education, this transcends the 3-Rs that were the primary focus of 20th century schooling. Our school is tackling this topic head-on in our best effort to prepare children for the ever-changing world they will encounter. Remember, as many as 65% of the jobs our children will hold have not been invented yet! What the experts agree on is that our kids’ future success will depend on four main skills: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Today’s discussion on All Things Considered provides even more evidence in the case for transforming the way we educate!

Are Grades Important?

Written by Seth Pozzi on .

Stanford Dean warns that many parents are overemphasizing grades and scores, perhaps to our children's detriment. Instead of helping children build self-efficacy or thinking about what they might be interested in studying, we create too much anxiety over B's, or G-d forbid some C's. Are grades important? Yes, to a degree. 

Julie Lythcott-Haims:
"What I'm saying is, when we treat grades and scores and accolades and awards as the purpose of childhood, all in furtherance of some hoped-for admission to a tiny number of colleges or entrance to a small number of careers, that's too narrow a definition of success for our kids. And even though we might help them achieve some short-term wins by overhelping-like they get a better grade if we help them do their homework, they might end up with a longer childhood résumé when we help-what I'm saying is that all of this comes at a long-term cost to their sense of self. What I'm saying is, we should be less concerned with the specific set of colleges they might be able to apply to or might get into and far more concerned that they have the habits, the mindset, the skill set, the wellness, to be successful wherever they go. What I'm saying is, our kids need us to be a little less obsessed with grades and scores and a whole lot more interested in childhood providing a foundation for their success built on things like love and chores."

HARVARD GRANT STUDY: The longest longitudinal study of humans ever conducted

It found that professional success in life, which is what we want for our kids, comes from having done chores as a kid, and the earlier you started, the better, that a roll-up-your-sleeves- and-pitch-in mindset, a mindset that says, there's some unpleasant work, someone's got to do it, it might as well be me, a mindset that says, I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole, that that's what gets you ahead in the workplace. Learn more about the Harvard Grant Study in Julie Lythcott-Haims TED Talk.

Executive Functioning

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

Executive Functioning is a really big buzzword in education and social science research right now. It’s a term researchers use to encompass several brain-related functions that are shown to have a significant impact on children’s future success. Children who display higher levels of executive function skills are more likely to finish college, be employed in a good job, have more successful relationships with a spouse or partner, be a better parent, and have fewer health problems in later life.

You’re probably thinking, “Where do I sign?” “I want that for my child!” The good news is that executive functioning develops over time, and we all play a role in helping to develop it in our children.

According to Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, executive functioning is a group of skills that help us to focus on multiple streams of information at the same time and revise plans as necessary. These skills include: working memory, cognitive flexibility, perspective taking, impulse control, and delayed gratification-directing attention and effort toward longer term goals, rather than what’s easy to accomplish NOW.

Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child has a wonderful video on executive functioning that I highly recommend to any teacher, parent and caregiver. Last month, our entire staff from both the Collins and Oxnard campus viewed the video together and engaged in professional learning about brain development and on developing executive functioning in children. We are very excited to integrate executive functioning development into all areas of the program and curriculum. Your child’s teacher can share ideas for fostering executive functioning outside of school (a few suggestions are listed below).

How do we build executive functioning in school?

  •  Circle Time/Morning Meeting
  •  Predictable routines
  •  Organized environments
  •  Clear rules and behavior expectations
  •  Games and songs that require turn taking, memory, sequencing, or stop/start actions
  •  Open-ended creative play
  •  Continually increase time on task
  •  Student-centered classrooms/student-led activities
  •  Involve child in solving problems/promote perspective taking
  •  Open-ended questioning

 How can you build executive functioning at home? SOAR

Support imagination: Being able to step outside of the present moment is a key aspect of executive function. It is easier to use good executive functioning when thinking about a problem as if it was happening to another person rather than to oneself.

Offer choices within limits: Avoid telling your child what he or she is going to eat for breakfast (no choice) or asking your child what he or she wants for breakfast (unlimited choice). You might ask if your child wants cereal, oatmeal, or eggs (choices within limits).

Assist reflection: Talk with your child about options available and the consequences of different choices. When your child interacts with others, talk about emotions that other people may be feeling and how other people’s point of view may be different than your child’s. 

Raise activity levels: Increases blood flow to brain and reduces stress. Many exercises are also good practice for executive function skills such as body awareness and control, remembering rules, and controlling emotions.

 

Welcome to our Elementary Corner blog!

Written by Mr. Pozzi & Ms. Dexter on .

Welcome to the 2016-17 school year! Our WHPS Elementary has a truly exciting year planned, and the school blog is a great place to find information school policies, child development and about what to look forward to. 

She Doesn't Seem to Love Learning Anymore!

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

Have you heard this before?

[Insert name here]’s grades are fine; I’m not worried about that, but she just doesn’t seem to love learning anymore.

 

Jessica Lahey has a new book: The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. The book came out earlier this school year, but the topic is evergreen!   

In the The Gift of Failure, Lahey talks about wanting the world for her children. Yet, the very things she has done to encourage the sort of achievement she feels will help them secure happiness and honors may be undermining their future success.

Lahey gives the example of Marianna. 

“She is very smart and high-achieving, and her mother reminds her of that on a daily basis. However, Marianna does not get praised for the diligence and effort she puts into sticking with a hard math problem or a convoluted scientific inquiry. If that answer at the end of the page is wrong, or if she arrives at a dead end in her research, she has failed—no matter what she has learned from her struggle. And contrary to what she may believe, in these more difficult situations she is learning. She learns to be creative in her problem-solving. She learns diligence. She learns self-control and perseverance. But because she is scared to death of failing, she has started to take fewer intellectual risks. She has trouble writing rough drafts and she doesn’t like to hypothesize or think out loud in class. She knows that if she tries something challenging or new, and fails, that failure will be hard evidence that she’s not as smart as everyone keeps telling her she is. Better to be safe. Is that what we want? Kids who get straight As but hate learning? Kids who achieve academically, but are too afraid to take leaps into the unknown?”

Fear of failure also rears its ugly head when children are doing homework. Not long ago, I spoke with a parent who hired a tutor the moment their child began struggling with math homework. This was a very well-intentioned thing to do. Providing a tutor is not an inherently bad idea. It can be one way to avoid power struggles at home when a child, as typical older elementary children do, can resist help from Mom or Dad. Nevertheless, we also have to be cautious about overemphasizing the importance of getting a correct answer. As an educator, I would much rather see a child come in with scratch paper detailing the approach(es) they tried on the homework and a WRONG answer than a right answer without the struggle and creative critical thinking. 

I encourage parents and caregivers to think about how we can foster creativity and diligence in our children and worry less about homework coming back to school with correct answers. Each night’s homework is a form of formative (informal) assessment, and teachers often modify their lesson based on how students do on homework. 

As a school, we have designed our program with emphasis on each student achieving and striving to beat their personal best. It's the reason why we honor character, perseverance and bucketfilling even more than academic achievement. It's the reason why we utilize cutting-edge developmental programs like Writing Workshop, Words Their Way, and the Columbia University reading assessment system. These programs enable students to work for their personal best and receive specific feedback about what to try next. And it's the reason you'll hear our teachers choosing their words with the care and precision of a surgeon!

I think it's safe to say that our shared goal is to help our children develop into well-adjusted, confident, balanced individuals. Getting an occasional low grade in elementary school should not be a source of anxiety or frustration , but rather it should be looked at as a chance to learn something.  As you look over the trimester 2 report cards with your child, I encourage you to look at a B or a C (or an S) as an opportunity to show even more determination and perseverance in the final trimester of the school year. Focus on the process, and the product will be just fine!

 

 

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