Monday, July 31, 2006

An Illustration...

of the difference between the Traditional methods of teaching versus the so-called Constructivist methods is to be found at one of my favorite websites, Two entries from a teacher chat room are highlighted, making for a very interesting comparison.

Here is what a traditional teacher in a 5th/6th grade classroom had to say:
Subject: Re: critical thinking
To: Multiple recipients of list

As I "looped" with my former 5th graders into 6th this fall, I spent the summer preparing for the new 6th grade curriculum. I loved the 5th grade curriculum, but when I surveyed the 6th, I was dismayed at the seemingly diverse and disconnected topics I was going to teach. I know that everything doesn't have to be integrated, but 5th grade seemed to naturally fall into themes that flowed together.

Then about midway it hit me ( I guess I finally did some critical thinking!) My former 5th graders were fascinated with the idea that some revolutionary "thinkers" such as Petrarch and Boccaccio were able to turn the world upside down with their ideas about life and to initiate the founding philosophy of the Renaissance. They totally "got" humanistic philosophy, and loved discussing its influence.

Well, here I was with Isaac Newton in my Physics class and the Enlightenment and French Revolution in my Core! (This, of course following the study of Ancient Greek philosophy.) Our goal this year is to answer the fascinating question of how Isaac Newton (like the humanistic philosophers during the Renaissance) set the ideas in motion to turn the world on its ear again and indirectly "cause" the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the Declaration of Independence, and the American and French Revolutions!!!
Wow! I would truly love to be in that class. Now let's see what is going on over in a typical Constructivist classroom (5th grade):
Subject: Halloween craft with dried orange skins

Hi ...

I do craft work using the skins of dried citrus fruits that can be put on a shee of paper with elmers glue. The dried outer skin has no glue and maintains the wonderful citrus smell. You can put the peels in the shape of a pumpkin ...

You can also take just a large slice from the end of an orange and it looks like a pumpkin face ... especially if you cut into it with an exacto knife (no kids here) ... or add decorations.

You can dry at a low heat in the oven ... experiment (so many possibilities regarding lessons ... how the size changes, how the taste of the skin changes, weight ... etc. You can also use a food dehytrator.

I actually do a craft idea that is related to this ... "My car is a lemon and an orange and lime too" ... In this case for the wheels I actually dry two slices of the citrus fruit.
It carries over to middle school as well. Before he became a vice principal, one of my social studies colleagues had his students out in the athletic field flying kites as part of his unit on ancient China.

Good Day to You, Sir

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