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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

D+ in Copying

Why is it that kids have such a hard time copying things word for word or answering questions out of a book onto a separate sheet of paper? If I ask my kids to copy a word problem from the overhead, it takes some of them 5-10 minutes to copy 3 lines -- and that's only if I'm rushing them! If I let them take their time, we would do absolutely nothing else all day long!

If it was just a matter of not being able to SEE the overhead, that would be one thing. But my kids can see it just fine. But they write one word then stare at the wall for a minute. Then write another word then examine a tiny capillary in their thumb. Then write a letter then daydream about Yugi-Oh for 2 minutes.

And copying from a book is no better. Yesterday, I had the kids take a chapter pre-test out of the text of our new math adoption (Texas Mathematics, which so far I'm liking except for one thing -- there isn't a consumable workbook for each kid!!!!). 17 questions, none very difficult, with straightforward directions on 3 sections. Since the kids can't write in the textbooks, I give each of them a sheet of notebook paper.

I go over each section with them, giving examples of how to write the answers. I tell them several times NOT to copy any charts, questions, or word problems they see, just to write the answers. I tell them to work individually, NOT to treat this as partner work.

Then the madness begins. Some kids immediately begin to copy the place value charts they see on questions 1-3. One boy raises his hand and asks, "Can we work with our partners?" One boy writes "one four" as his answer to number one, even though the directions clearly state (and I clearly reiterated) that the answers to questions 1-7 should be numbers in NUMERAL form only. About three-quarters of the kids don't seem to understand that the question and the answer should not be EXACTLY THE SAME THING. They were just copying what they saw. "Wow, number 6 says '2 tens 5 ones' -- the answer must be '2 tens 5 ones!' I'm ROCKIN this baby!!!"

I had hoped to only take about 20 minutes on this activity. After about 20 minutes, though, there were only about 2 kids who were anywhere near finished. Of course the kid who was busy copying the 4 sentence word problem word for word was nowhere near finished. And the girls staring at the floor were only on number 5.

One girl turned in a paper where she had answered questions 1-3, 8, 12-14, and 16. When I asked why (and refrained from using the other two words in WTF?) she hadn't done the other problems, she stared at me uncomprehendingly.

Color me afraid. Color me VERY afraid.

In other news, my kids worked on their science safety posters today. Each group of 2-3 students had chosen a slogan such as "Always wear safety goggles," "Always cover your clothes with an apron," or "Always wear mittens when working with hot objects." The posters were not exactly OSHA-quality, but there were some grins and giggles.

My early morning group of girls who had chosen "Be careful around sharp objects" drew some very colorful pictures of kids having their eyes stabbed out, their hands cut off, and their backs punctured with forks. Clear message -- Check.

Another group, who had "Always wear safety goggles," drew a tiny figure with goggles atop an erupting volcano. If only the poor citizens of Pompeii had worn safety goggles...

In the afternoon class, a couple of girls who had chosen "Always wear mittens" had a very confusing slogan -- "Mittens with hands always wear bad" and an equally confusing picture that seemed to show chemicals dripping on someone's hands, causing bloody stigmata to bloom.

Hey, the posters might not serve as a suitable warning to anybody ELSE who views them, but I think the kids got the message of safety.

One final note -- has put up the new Mr. Teacher column for the week -- Where Is Everybody?


TeacherDee said...

The kids did seem a little bit dense coming back to school last week. I assigned my fifth graders #12-32 even problems, then had to teach half a lesson on which problems are the even problems. Don't assume they know anything!

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Are you sure that isn't my seventh grade class you're talking about???

Anonymous said...

No. He's definitely talking about my high school Spanish 2 and 3 classes where I spend ten minutes explaining and answering questions about a bell ringer that was only designed to take five to seven minutes to complete, only to have the students completely ignore me and copy everything I've written including the questions and instructions (which say "Don't copy the instructions OR the questions!) and then turn it in without completing any of the questions. This exercise in futility usually takes about 20 minutes. It was designed to take 5!

Anonymous said...

I completely understand what you mean about book work. I'm a 3rd grade teacher too and my students looked at me like I was crazy when I told them to answer the problems in the book. Half of them started writing in their textbook! Hopefully things will get better, for both of us!

Melissa B. said...

This is a perennial problem, even in high school. When I assign the first research paper of the year, I always put the bibliography form up on the LCD so they can see what it's supposed to look like. I also attach it to their assignment, AND I put it online. So, essentially all they have to do is fill in the blanks, print it out and they're done. How many do a bib the right way? About 10 percent of them. Ah, me. BTW, if you have some time tomorrow, drop on by my place. We're playing the Silly Sunday Sweepstakes, and Sharing All That Caption Love!

Cheryl Ann said...

I hear 'ya! It took mine over an hour to copy my 3-paragraph MODELED writing lesson! And, we have a new math adoption that I'm still trying to figure out. The kids were stumped by the first lesson, which was a REVIEW ONE! Oye vei!

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EHT said...

Why must they always resort to the violent versions of drawings? I've told students unless they are depicting a battle scene they have to think of alternative ways to illustrate whatever we are working on without the violence.

Mister Teacher said...

EHT, I think these girls really wanted to get across the message of "Don't get stabbed with scissors." One of the girls apparently HAS had a fork lodged in her chin (an accident from a few years ago).

Jules said...

oh my god, I haven't laughed this hard in days! those projects are hilarious! did the other students enjoy the humor too?

and oh my god, the lack of direction-following is one of the absolute WORST things to deal with in teaching!