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Big Learning News 12-7-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:40 December 7, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: Critical Consumption of Statistics
Announcing our newest Treasure Trove: Cooking!
Activity: Make Presents
Book review: Elijah's Angels
Education News : Holding back five-year-olds
Web Site: Good Stuff?

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Math Moment

Statistics and gift spending


The point of this activity isn't the particular numbers involved, though they are large amounts of money.

Here are three articles based on consumer surveys, asking people how much money they plan to spend during the 2006 holiday season.

The first predicts that consumer holiday gift spending will rise this season.
The second tells us it will drop.
And, you guessed it, the third expects it to remain level.

Not only that, but the amount of expected spending per person ranges from just over $400 to over $1000.

I think all that variation is kind of funny, and it's a good chance to teach your kids that just because it's a survey on the web doesn't mean it's accurate.

More Fun Math for Kids

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Cooking Together

A New Big Learning Treasure Trove


We've got:

Fun recipes kids love to make and eat
Cookbook reviews
Nutrition math and food science
Tips for teaching kids to cook

Go see it now!


Make Gifts

If your kids want to make gifts this holiday season, check out these projects and articles on BigLearning.org

Self-portrait photograph (new!)

Candy box

Wood Toys

Wooden snapping alligator

Wooden Bendy-Guy

Train tunnel

Finger puppet theater

Sailboat (makes a good ornament too!)

Wood furniture from a kit

Pottery at home

Paper Gift Boxes

More gifts to make (new!)


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Book Review

Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas by Michael J. Rosen, Illustrated by Amina Brenda Lynn Robinson (Voyager Books, 1997)

Ages 6-11 (slightly younger with help)

When we pull out the Chanukah books every year, this is the one I'm happiest to see. It's the story of Michael, a Jewish boy, who befriends a local African American barber named Elijah. Elijah is an artist - a woodcarver. His shop is filled with his carvings. The story of their friendship gives kids a personal and positive view of racial and religious differences. The illustrations are stunning wood-cut style. This is a keeper.

Buying information


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Looking for more books for your kids? Try this list.

Children's Books

Education News for Adults

Holding back kindergarteners


The words "research-based" and "data-driven" get thrown around a lot by people who are determined to suck the life out of education. No more reading of real literature at school, because the research shows that scripted phonics drills and frequent standardized tests provide better test results. No more art projects, because research shows direct instruction offers better test results. No more anything that makes it sound fun to come to school.

But for some reason, these people all love the idea of making kids repeat a grade just for failing a standardized test. Here's my letter to them:

Dear Dr. Research-Based-Life-Sucker,

If you believe so strongly in science and data, why do you close your eyes to research on the issue of grade retention? You must know that one of the strongest results in the "science" of educational research is that the practice of holding kids back increases drop-out rates without raising achievement?

If you really believed that educators must slavishly follow whatever method produces the highest average test scores, then you would be fighting retention tooth and nail. So, it seems you are showing your true colors. You believe any failure is the result of kids and teachers not working hard enough, and only dire consequences will make them start trying.

Too bad so many five-year-olds have to suffer for your beliefs, being labeled failures before first grade. Over 11,000 of them, just in Texas. And one Texas school district held back over 16 percent of its kindergarteners. San Antonio hasn't allowed recess in four years. Kids who can barely hold a pencil burst into tears in frustration, filling in bubbled answer sheets in Dallas. Is this the kind of school you want your five-year-old to attend? Hard to believe that it would be.


-Karen Cole

Closing the achievement gap
Great Playgrounds, great toys
What it takes to be great
Raise children with a wild streak

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Web Site

Good Stuff? - A Behind-the-Scenes Guide to the Things We Buy


This is a great source of facts and figures about environmentally-distructive consumption. For example:

  • Did you know that Americans throw out 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags each year?
  • Did you know that you can run a laptop computer for an hour with the electricity saved by recycling just one aluminum can?

Browse this site with your kids next time you feel like raising their environmental consciousness.

Or bookmark it for the next time your kids need to write a report on an ecology-related topic.


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Big Learning News (c) 2006 Karen Cole

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.
All Rights Reserved.



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