Big Learning News 10-04-06
|Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:33 October 4, 2006
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Mathematics of paper dolls
With your child, make the paper doll chains as shown on the web site.
Then enjoy - because math is what makes these chains so cool:
Patterns: Figures alternate - for example, right arm up, left arm up, right arm up, left arm up.
Reflections: Kids love that every other doll is a flipped copy of the one next to it. Technically, that's called a reflection, one of three kinds of geometry transformations kids study in elementary school - the other two being rotation (spinning a figure around a point) and translation (moving it to the side).
Powers of two: Fold the paper twice - you get four figures. Fold the paper three times - you get eight figures. Fold four times - you get 16 figures. Every fold doubles the number of figures again.
Multiplying fractions: Every time you fold, the dolls become half as wide. That's a visual illustration of what it means to multiply by a fraction, in this case (width) x 1/2. Or, if the first fold divides the paper in half, and the second fold divides it in quarters, that's like saying 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4. The next fold could be expressed 1/4 x 1/2 = 1/8, and sure enough the next fold divides the paper into eighths.
Make your own halloween costumes
Any do-it-yourself project is a Big Learning project, and costume making is no exception. Use these pages as idea starters.
Since it's rare to have everything called for on a web site, encourage your kids to use their creativity to figure out substitute materials.
Also, stretch the Big Learning by encouraging your kids to add their own ideas to what they find on the Internet. That makes the costume-creating experience more satisfying for kids, and forces them do more thinking and planning to implement their ideas.
Switched On, Flushed Down, Tossed Out: Investigating the Hidden Workings of Your Home by Trudee Romanek, art by Stephen MacEachern ( Annick Press, 2005)
Is your child curious about how stuff works, but too young for The New Way Things Work? Here's a book that's more manageable. It's just about houses - how electric wiring, plumbing, phone lines, and trash removal works.
The explanations are clear, basic, and interesting. There is a superfluous secret agent comic plot that we ignored after the first few pages but some kids might like it.
Great Homework Rant
Oooh, everyone is jumping on the anti-homework bandwagon, and I'm a-lovin' it. Could we be gathering steam for a parent-driven rebellion?
This article is a great rant about homework by science-fiction author Orson Scott Card. He begins by questioning whether long hours slaving over homework are akin to a violation of child labor laws, and then he really gets going, tackling the ineffectiveness of homework, the way it intrudes into a child's life, the way it can destroy parent-child relationships, the burden it places on teachers, and the way it can ruin a child's interest in learning. And this essay is titled Part 1. Part 2 is going to be about what we can do to change things - I'm looking forward to it. But I think there's more to do than just cancel homework. Schools can make a positive contribution to out-of-school learning, in ways that are respectful of families and even enhance family time - by supporting Big Learning experiences for families.
The fact is, homework interferes with Big Learning - learning during meaningful real world activities. And Big Learning really does help school achievement, whereas homework has never been shown to help. For example, this study concludes that the difference in what wealthy and poor kids achieve comes down to the Big-Learning type experiences they have in the summer, not what they do in school.
And countless studies have concluded that background knowledge, the kind gained outside school, improves achievement in many subjects, particularly in reading comprehension.
So if schools really want to improve achievement, they should facilitate Big Learning experiences for families instead of interfering with them. They should offer weekend family field trips, evening science clubs, and parent-kid book groups. Wouldn't that be better for everyone? Better family bonds, better education too, and no more homework fights.
Some of my colleagues developed a series of workshops along these lines. These workshops help parents recognize the math in everyday activities that they can use to help their middle schoolers. I think it's a great example of the kind of things schools could do to benefit both families and student achievement.
Recent Education News Commentaries
Ages 9 and up
This is a fantastic journalism site for kids. Kids can write real news reports for the CBBC kids' web site. There are games and tutorials to help them learn how to write good news stories. Kids can register and get points for everything they do on the site, making them eligible for goodies available to high-participation members only.
There are also amazing contests - like getting to go to London to interview an author for the CBBC. If your kids are interested in journalism, this site is a must-see.
Other writing opportunities for kids
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Content meant for adults and provided for informational purposes only - readers are responsible for previewing all materials and activities for suitability and safety before sharing them with children.