Am I showing my age by titling my post with that old adage, "Practice like you play?" I mean, do kids nowadays just not GET that, or do they not HEAR it very often except from old fogies like me?
I probably don't use those actual words too often in class. After all, the kids tend to hear the word "play" and think "run around outside like chickens with their heads cut off" as opposed to "taking the TAKS test." However, I emphasize the meaning of the words all the time.
For as much good as it seems to do...
I find it very frustrating when we've spent an entire week of our lives going over the steps for labelling a picture representation of a fraction ( ?/total ), practicing it in class, honing the skill, doing it on homework and classwork, and then when we take a test and there is a fraction question, the kids just pick an answer without drawing a picture, without labelling an existing picture, oftentimes without even circling (and thereby acknowledging recognition of) the word "fraction!!"
I have tried pleading with them.
Me: Please, if you want to do your best, you need to do it the way we've been practicing, NOT by closing your eyes and doing eeny-meeny-miney-moe!
I have tried scolding them.
Me: If you're not going to do the steps and strategies that we've learned and practiced in class, what was the point of last week??
I've tried giving them analogies. (without burdening their brains with the actual word "analogies)
2 of my favorites are as follows:
The Baseball Coach --
Imagine if I was your baseball coach, and you were on my team. I've spent all this time teaching you the right way to hold the bat, the right way to stand at the plate, the right way to swing and hit the ball so that you get a homerun every time. All of that practice, and you know exactly what you need to do to get a homerun.
But then when we have our first game, you decide to stand with your back to the plate, holding the bat by the wrong end, swinging it like a golf club (I of course pantomime all of this).
You MIGHT get lucky and hit the ball. Probably not, but you might. But you certainly aren't going to do your best and hit a homerun that way.
The Piano Teacher --
Imagine if you were taking piano lessons from me. Every day, we've practiced how to play a song, where you put your fingers on the keys, how fast you need to play, how to move your hands. After practicing so much, you know exactly what you need to do to play the song beautifully.
Then, on the day, of a big recital in front of your family and a big crowd, you decided to sit down at the piano and start pounding the keys with your elbows (again, pantomimed, with cacaphonous sound effects).
Why would you do that on the day when it counts, after practicing the RIGHT way for so very long??
Every time I tell these stories, the kids laugh and tell me, "No, Mister Teacher, that would be silly! Why would anyone do that??"
Yet, getting these kids to show their work on a test (or even homework sometimes) -- work that we have practiced for days, weeks, or months -- is like pulling the back teeth of a narwhale!
I feel like this is where so much of the frustration of teachers comes into play. The teaching is great, the imparting of wisdom is great. I enjoy showing the kids how to figure out a certain type of problem, and what strategies can make it even easier.
I just don't get why it is so incredibly difficult to get them to actually do these simplifying steps on their own!