24 book reports a year - isn't this a bit excessive? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 32 Old 05-23-2011, 09:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My older son is just finishing up 4th grade at our local public school - he was homeschooled up until this year.  His teacher has this thing about book reports that makes me crazy.  A large part of his language arts grade is based on the number of book reports that he turns in.  The books have to be at least 100 pages.  To get an A, you have to turn in 8-9 book reports per quarter, which means by the end of the year he would have had to turn in 24-27 book reports to get an A!  (6-7 is a B, 5-6 is a C, 3-4 is a D)  And yes, it is based on the number of reports, not the quality.  They will be given back to correct if there are things wrong, but the grade itself is only based on the quantity. 

 

I feel like this is total insanity.  The first quarter we did 5 or 6 book reports, which took a lot of arguing and tears in our house.  The second quarter I said screw it and he only turned in 4, which brought his language arts grade from an A to C.  He has only done 2 so far, and with only a week to go, I don't know that he'll get another one done. 

 

I have a real issue forcing kids to read so much.  He loves reading, and reads for pleasure constantly, but not necessarily one novel after another.  I mean, what more do kids learn doing the 15th book report that they didn't learn doing the 5th one?

 

Am I just naive and this is totally normal, or am I right in thinking this is craziness?

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#2 of 32 Old 05-23-2011, 10:28 PM
 
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Well, yes, you're right, it's insane.  But I don't think I have any practical help to offer you!  I am just trying to formulate to myself a strategy about how to manage DS's increasing homework load without being the bribing, coercive parent I don't want to be, in a year when we know the teacher will not be receptive to an opt-out request.

 

How long are the reports?  Could you get your son to dictate the report to you, and then he copies it out from your notes, if that would make it physically easier for him?

 

Given that it's not about quality, it looks like the emphasis is on confirming that he's read the book.  But probably the teacher wouldn't be open to other forms of reports such as spoken presentations, a short poem or an artwork about the book?

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#3 of 32 Old 05-23-2011, 11:08 PM
 
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Not to defend the teacher but she is prepping the kids for the transitional grade 5.  5th grade is heavy into projects and reports, those projects probably equal out to about one a week.  Grade 5 is also heavy on writing.  So while the bookreport aspect is difficult at times it serves many purposes.  - And shes trying to get the entire class up to speed, some kids may not need the 'bookreport' method but 4th grade is also a year to make sure everyone is reading, comprehending, and doing so at a pace that will keep them up to speed.

 

The teacher is also looking at quality, she is giving the reports back with things to fix- you said so in your OP.  I'm sure there was a syllabus at the beginning of the year with expectations for the ongoing project etc.

 

I also hear you taking ownership of this, I realize your kiddo is in the 4th grade but part of the reasoning behind the assignments are for the kids to start to learn time mgnt, planning etc.

 

Sorry this year wasn't go great but hopefully your DS will reap the rewards next year!


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#4 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 04:39 AM
 
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This is how ridiculous expectations keep getting pushed younger and younger.  6th grade is full of inappropriate demands, so the kids are "prepared" in 5th grade with inappropriate demands that are even more wrong for their age.  Then the kids are "prepared" for the rigors of 5th grade with inappropriate demands in 4th grade.

 

4th-graders do not learn "time management" and "planning" by being forced to write endless book reports.  They are too young to manage their time. 

 

How many of the book reports that the teacher receives were actually written by mothers?  

 

Who cares what grade your kid gets in 4th-grade language arts?  I'd be more worried about his interest in reading.  If he loves reading, that's great.  Try not to let the school turn him off.

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#5 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 05:05 AM
 
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I am a high school teacher and 24 book reports in a 9 month school year is insane. And for the grade to be based on quantity and not quality is equally insane- the grade is not reflecting the mastery of any skill- just the fact that they can churn out work. Grades in school should matter because they are supposed to reflect how well the student has mastered the content. The grades this teacher is giving out mean nothing.

 

My children are wrapping up 9th, 7th and 5th grade- I don't find the number of projects in any year to be anywhere close to this craziness- and my kids go to schools that have homework in every subject every night as the norm.

 

If you wanted to challenge this, I would challenge it based on the fact that the grades are given based on quantity-which makes me wonder how effective her grading can really be. She must be reading book reports ALL THE TIME. And sure, she may give them back with corrections to be made, but does she follow that up? Does she check to see if they have mastered the skill in the next book report? Not if she gives grades based on how many they do.

 

And I HATE book reports- and I teach English. I much prefer a choice of projects- book in bag, comic strip, collage, diary entries, power points- that allow the child to present the book in many different ways. I have amazing artists in my classroom, and they can present stories through art work. They are still demonstrating having read the book, but they are doing so using their own strengths. My youngest two attend a very old-fashioned traditional Catholic school- and even their teachers allow them to report on their reading books using these types of projects.

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#6 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 06:17 AM
 
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FWIW, my oldest is taking an online class with the Ministry of Education this term.....he has read 3 books.  

 

My DD (grade 7, brick and mortar) has read 2 books with the class all year.  She did have to do this bingo card assignment (which involved reading 6 books or so) around xmas.

 

One of my concerns over the teachers plan would be if they have time to read stuff they want with all this book reporting going on.  Example - in grade 4 my Ds was into Pokemon - would that have been allowed for book reports?  Part of me doubts it.  I think it is very important for kids to have time ( and lots of it!) to read what they want to read, and without having to justify it.  That will not happen with 24 book reports a year.

 

In short...I do not think it is a great assignment.  

 

As per practical advice....are there any books he has read on his own or as a family he could use?  If so, have him dictate to you a small book report and write "scribed" in the margin.

 

If there is no book, I would have a talk with him.  Personally, I would let him know you are Ok with him skipping more book reports, or doing them.  One will get him a better mark and one will not.  You will support his choice but not nag him either way.  It is a bit of a life lesson - and not on time management.  The life lesson is "do we give the teacher what she wants so we can get a good grade?"  I think this is something most students grapple with, and is sadly part of the school experience (sad as I wish schools were more consensual and less top down, but I am a rebelorngtongue.gif - although I think kids would learn better if they had more say in their learning)

 

 

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#7 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 07:00 AM
 
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I don't think it's normal.  I've never encountered a teacher with that kind of expectations - and my kids have attended a lot of different schools over the years. 

 

Are there about 9 or 10 weeks in every quarter? 8 or 9 book reports per quarter sounds like she expects the student to read one 100-page book and write a report almost every week. For independent reading, in addition to assigned reading and other homework for the class, that's unrealistic. It's probably not a stretch for a voracious reader, but it is asking a lot of typical 4th grade student. Hm, just looked at the math, and it seems like it's not quite one book per week. The typical school year is about 40 weeks, isn't it? 24 books would be just over 1 book every 2 weeks. It's still a lot of report writing, though. 

 

It seems wrong to place so much weight for the final grade on consuming books and producing sketchy reports. In 4th grade, my kids were doing fairly involved literature studies. They were looking at plot, setting and character development, learning about narrative devices and literary forms, and working on fairly lengthy reports and projects for a better understanding of these concepts. Perhaps this teacher is more math/science orientated and language arts isn't her strong area, so this is how she's handling it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#8 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 07:09 AM
 
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Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

 

 

If there is no book, I would have a talk with him.  Personally, I would let him know you are Ok with him skipping more book reports, or doing them.  One will get him a better mark and one will not.  You will support his choice but not nag him either way.  It is a bit of a life lesson - and not on time management.  The life lesson is "do we give the teacher what she wants so we can get a good grade?"  I think this is something most students grapple with, and is sadly part of the school experience (sad as I wish schools were more consensual and less top down, but I am a rebelorngtongue.gif - although I think kids would learn better if they had more say in their learning)

 

 


I agree with this, since you aren't concerned with his reading/writing abilities. I might have a chat with the teacher and explain why you, as a parent, aren't going to enforce the book report writing and that you (and your ds) understand that it will result in a lower grade. 

 

 

 

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#9 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 07:18 AM
 
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Yeah, that is excessive for book reports. The most my kids ever had was one a month so like 10. They were extensive reports with art projects attached but still, no more than 1 a month.

 

In middle school, my DD was supposed to read 8 books a trimester and take an AR test on them (24 a year!) What really sucked was she was at the highschool level and very little outside of English Classics are written at that level (even most adult literature hovers around 5th grade level.) She was 10 and supposed to be reading 24 Jane Austen or Sherlock Holmes type novels a school year? She was a strong reader, not a speed reader!  I eventually complained and got the requirement dropped for her.

 

Just remember... this is 4th grade. There really are times you just have to be honest and say "this is a silly requirement" and take the grade hit. It's not going to matter. It won't prevent them from going to college. If you lay out the reasons with your child, they aren't going to take it as permission to not do the rest of the work. They'll respect you for actually thinking for yourself.


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#10 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 07:33 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

I agree with this, since you aren't concerned with his reading/writing abilities. I might have a chat with the teacher and explain why you, as a parent, aren't going to enforce the book report writing and that you (and your ds) understand that it will result in a lower grade. 

 


nod.gif

My ds' school tends towards longer projects that culminate in a "fair" (language arts fair, science fair, etc.) than numerous shorter projects.

 


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#11 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 08:10 AM
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No matter whether they're being prepped for more ridiculous busywork next year, 24 book reports in 9 months is insane. Way to kill the love of reading.

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#12 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 07:54 PM
 
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That is incredibly insane.  Kids do one a month in junior high and even that can be very time consuming because of all the other homework.  I agree with the posters who say to let him off with less even if it means a lower grade.  How many do they have to do for a C?

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#13 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 08:51 PM
 
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These look like great ideas (next year's teacher may be more receptive).  What is book in bag please - is it like these?  http://www.squidoo.com/takehomebags   (    

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by mar123 View Post

... a choice of projects- book in bag, comic strip, collage, diary entries, power points- that allow the child to present the book in many different ways. I have amazing artists in my classroom, and they can present stories through art work. ...

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#14 of 32 Old 05-24-2011, 11:27 PM
 
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Yep, it's insane. I could understand the quantity (maybe) if the teacher cared about quality -- but to say that quantity, not quality matters is insane.

 

I'm sure that my son has read more than 24 books this year. But we don't achieve that by making the child write a report on each book. That would kill his love of reading! Our kids do have a 'reading log' that they're supposed to do every night. They have to read for a set amount of time (20 minutes for 1st grader, 40 for 4th grader). I will fully confess to fudging that more than once. But on average, our kids read more than the required time, so it doesn't matter. I get the purpose of the reading logs -- you get better at reading by reading. If you don't read a lot, you don't get much better. For us, it's not a burden because reading is a huge part of our bedtime routine. Adding a few minutes wasn't that hard. But if my kids had to write a report on every book? Nope, it wouldn't happen.

 

Have you asked the teacher why she wants quantity over quality? That to me would be setting up bad habits.

 

Another way to think about this:

What does a C in 4th grade really matter?

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#15 of 32 Old 05-25-2011, 05:02 AM
 
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This is the Book in a bag:

Book in a Bag

 

Create a book in a bag using the following guidelines:

 

Your bag has four panels. Each panel will represent one element from the story.

 

Panel 1- Describe in two to three sentences two to three characters from the story OR you may draw two to three characters from the story.  If you draw the characters, be sure to label them

 

Panel 2- Explain the main conflict in three sentences OR complete a drawing representing the main conflict.

 

Panel 3- Choose one setting and either write two to three sentences about the setting OR complete a drawing of the setting.

 

Panel 4- Present the moral lesson learned from the book in one sentence.

 

Inside the bag- draw a picture representing a symbol from the book.  On a sheet of paper, tell what the symbol is and in three to five sentences tell what it is symbolic of and how it relates to the story.

 

 

As far as Cs go in fourth grade: In some places it will matter. For example, if your child is trying to get into a charter or advanced middle school or high school, they usually go back as far as fourth grade. My kids attend Catholic high schools that start at 8th grade; when deciding, the schools do look at 4th grade to see trends. So maybe one C won't matter, but you never know. ANd the bigger issue IMO is the teacher not grading on mastery of skills. That is what grades are for.

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#16 of 32 Old 05-25-2011, 09:03 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mar123 View Post

This is the Book in a bag:

Book in a Bag

 

Create a book in a bag using the following guidelines:

 

Your bag has four panels. Each panel will represent one element from the story.

 

Panel 1- Describe in two to three sentences two to three characters from the story OR you may draw two to three characters from the story.  If you draw the characters, be sure to label them

 

Panel 2- Explain the main conflict in three sentences OR complete a drawing representing the main conflict.

 

Panel 3- Choose one setting and either write two to three sentences about the setting OR complete a drawing of the setting.

 

Panel 4- Present the moral lesson learned from the book in one sentence.

 

Inside the bag- draw a picture representing a symbol from the book.  On a sheet of paper, tell what the symbol is and in three to five sentences tell what it is symbolic of and how it relates to the story.

 

 

 

I recall my kids doing something similar with empty cereal boxes. It's a nice physical deconstruction of a book and seemed to engage their creativity. It would definitely have engaged them more than the 24th book report of the year, lol! 

 

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#17 of 32 Old 05-25-2011, 02:36 PM
 
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Not to nitpick but actually 8-9 book reports per quarter would be a minimum of 32 book reports due over the course of the year.  Unless you meant trimesters.  That's a minimum of on every 1.5 weeks. 

 

That's utterly counterproductive.

 

I don't even see the point.  And I teach English in 5th grade.  Nothing we do in fifth grade would be benefitted by that sort of ridiculous target.  Top readers reading that many books if they want to?  Fabulous. Give them gold stars, a monogrammed cushion in the library, gift certificates to Borders...but...as a requirement? So silly.

 

I don't even like book reports in and of themselves. I have students make a book jacket for their book, or write an additional chapter, or stop after the first page and guess what happens next...there are so many FUN ways of teaching reading and a love of literature...why oh why do so many teachers have to ruin it?!

 

I would definitely discuss with the teacher viable alternatives for your kid...longer deadlines, and more meaningful output.  I bet she doesn't even have time to READ or evaluate all those book reports!

 

 

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#18 of 32 Old 05-25-2011, 05:22 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mar123 View Post

This is the Book in a bag:

Book in a Bag

 

 

Thank you - there are some really interesting possibilities.

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#19 of 32 Old 05-26-2011, 05:28 AM
 
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hakeber- I totally agree with you!

 

We require our high school students to read one book from a list of 10 during the summer. When they return, instead of having mutliple choice tests, we do cross-class literature circles and then the students have to choose one project from this list. I tell them I am more interested in seeing what they got out of the book than if they can match up what I got out of the book.

I wanted to share the list:

 

 

Paper Dolls

Create a paper doll to represent a main character from your summer reading book. Make a list of five external characteristics of the chosen character (Such as height, hair color, race, etc).  Design two outfits for the character to wear. One outfit should represent the actions of the character, such as what they do during the story, something they might wear while doing this action.  The second outfit should represent the attitude of the character.  For example, if the character has a bright outlook on life you, you might dress them in an outfit appropriate for a party.  On a sheet of paper, identify the novel you have read and the character you have chosen.  Also, explain the outfits and what they represent in a few sentences.

 

Comic Strip or Dialogue

Choose two or more characters from your book that have a direct impact on the plot.  Draw a five block comic strip or write a two page dialogue which revolves around the main conflict.  Be sure to include the rising and falling action.  The comic strip may be in color or black and white. 

 

Dear Diary . . .”

 Write three diary entries from a main character’s point of view reflecting on decisions he or she made that influenced the plot of the story. Each entry should be at least 100 words long.

 

Book in a Bag

.

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#20 of 32 Old 05-26-2011, 08:03 PM
 
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That is completely idiotic. I teach middle school (and used to teach 4th grade) and I would NEVER pile that much work for one subject on the kids. I wouldn't even pile that much meaningful work on them, let alone fluff time-wasting crap. I totally understand parents who suggest to just accept the lower grade and forget about it, but I hate that there are teachers that even force that situation. By giving grades at all (and, unfortunately, all too often they are inflated ones at that), we are hopefully allowing kids to somehow quantify their success (which I also think is idiotic). Then you have a teacher that sets kids up for less than stellar grades. That's terrible.

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#21 of 32 Old 05-27-2011, 07:08 AM
 
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I'm curious about a few things. First, what does a book report consist of for his teacher? I've seen book reports that were written on slips of paper than consisted of little more than writing down the title and author, and one sentence about what you liked or didn't about the book. I've seen book reports that are 2 pages typed, and required some sort of analysis of what was read. For 24 book reports, how much does he have to do besides write down that he wrote the book?

 

Second, how much reading time do they get at school? Some schools have SSR (sustained silent reading) and the amount of time spent on that could most likely let a decent reader get through a 100 page book in a week and a half. If they actually spent the time reading, which some kids just don't.

 

So, depending on the WHOLE set up, I think it's possible that it isn't completely crazy.

 

On the other hand, if the book reports are long and involved and they don't have time to read at school, I agree that it's crazy.

 

Today is our last day of school. I'm kinda surprised to a see thread like this so late in the year. It seems like it would have been a issue months ago.

 

I'm also not overly hung up on grades.  Bs are fine. Teaching kids they gotta get As in everything all the time is just teaching them the wrong thing, IMHO. Cs really aren't the end of the world either.

 

(One of my kids is a straight A student, one isn't. Oddly, the world hasn't come to end).


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#22 of 32 Old 05-27-2011, 07:38 AM
 
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Sounds like the teacher is doing an awesome job teaching her students how to bull their way through life rather than teaching them how to be critical thinkers.

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#23 of 32 Old 05-27-2011, 11:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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To answer some of the questions:  The book report consists of a cover page that covers the basics - title, author, main characters, selected passage from book, etc.  Then the student is to write a standard 3 paragraph page.  Intro, body, conclusion.  The reading time they get in the classroom is sporadic, only when all their work is done.  Of course, writing is my son's weakest area, so he is never ever done with all his writing work early and therefore never has any time to read in class.  So it's the kids who read and write the most quickly who get the most time in class to work on their book reports.

 

I personally don't care at all about grades, but my son does.  I wish they didn't even have them.  I was a straight A student all through school, and learned almost nothing (just knew how to test and was the right kind of learner for a classroom setting), so I know for a fact that a grade doesn't have any reflection of actual knowledge.  In fact, my son just came home the other day and told me in a sad voice that he would be getting a B+ in science because he hadn't had time to finish outlining his words with black sharpie (because it takes him so long to write them in the first place) and therefore his year end project was marked down, bringing his whole grade down.  My son could practically teach the science they do in his class, and I'd wager that in a one on one with his teacher, he would know more than she does. 

 

And the book reports have been an issue all year.  The first quarter, before my son was completely burnt out, he did 5-6 book reports and had an A- in language arts because his book report grade was a B.  The second quarter he was getting a bit burnt out, and it was winter and we were all sick almost constantly.  He only turned in 3 book reports (which is a D), and got a C in language arts.  This quarter he is definitely burnt out, and will be turning in 3 book reports, so we are expecting a C again.  Again, I don't care what letter grade he gets, but regardless of how many times we talk about it, he still can't shake that it is somehow reflective of how smart he is. 

 

But honestly, by bigger gripe is how it kills his love of reading!  He reads all the time.  Sometimes he likes to read the same book over and over.  Sometimes he wants to read cartoon/graphic novels.  Sometimes he goes through the old stack of Sunday funnies we have and reads them for hours.  Often he reads his non fiction books about insects or volcanoes or how planets are formed.  I see no positive educational value in forcing him to put down what he is enjoying reading so he can read a novel he isn't interested in.

 

By the way, his class hasn't done a single research paper the entire year.  Nothing other than book reports.  Zip, zilch, nada.  And, the only oral presentation they have done is an oral book report!  I just don't get it.

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#24 of 32 Old 05-27-2011, 12:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by oceanbaby View Post

By the way, his class hasn't done a single research paper the entire year.  Nothing other than book reports.  Zip, zilch, nada.  And, the only oral presentation they have done is an oral book report!  I just don't get it.


I'd complain, in writing, to the principal.I'd focus on how the excessive book reports have hurt my child's desire read, on the lack of creativity, and what they HAVEN'T done.

 

It's too late to do anything about your son this year, but the teacher needs her boss to talk to her so that her class next year isn't subjected to the same nonsense. Telling us is one thing, telling her boss could actually make a difference.

 

We used to homeschool too, and the first year in school, both my kids had trouble with writing because they wrote so much slower than they other kids. I'm wondering if part of the problem has been that it has taken him much longer than average to complete every assignment, and that most kids got a lot of this done in class. But even with that, I think that requiring that exact some format for a book report so many times is stupid. It would be one thing to require the kids to prove they read that many books, but not like that.

 

 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#25 of 32 Old 05-27-2011, 01:21 PM
 
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Does he have a disability related to writing, or is it more that he is not used to it? Something like this may help him  http://www.renlearn.com/neo/NEO2


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#26 of 32 Old 05-28-2011, 06:45 PM
 
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Is it allowed in board guidelines to quote people's posts on blogs without their consent? 

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#27 of 32 Old 05-29-2011, 03:35 AM
 
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This is an excellent summary of what's going wrong in reading programs today.  I posted it to my blog, the Coalition for Kid-Friendly Schools:

 

http://kidfriendlyschools.blogspot.com

 

Here's my response:

 

Actually, I've got some easy answers: why not leave the kids alone? The common thread running through all these strategies is that reading for pleasure has been taken away from the child and is now owned by the teacher. The child has to prove, to the teacher's satisfaction, that he's reading the prescribed amount of prescribed content (and having the prescribed "thoughtful" response!) in what used to be his free time. It's enough to make anyone hate reading.
 

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#28 of 32 Old 05-29-2011, 01:47 PM
 
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Momily, the reason I quoted your comment was because I thought it was clear and well-written.  You gave a very clear overview of the various strategies schools use to try to promote reading, and very clear descriptions about how every one of these strategies can go wrong.  Why wouldn't you want this quoted? 

 

I thought the important thing was to cite people (which I did, with a link back to mothering.com), and to inform them that I had quoted their work.  Since your work was published in a public forum, I thought that was enough.  If I hear from the board moderator that it isn't, I'll take down my post.

 

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#29 of 32 Old 05-29-2011, 03:07 PM
 
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My comments were made in a context.  To take them out of that context, and write a reply, that I can't reply to equally (leaving a comment isn't the same as having your response in the blog) is unfair. 

 

If you want to comment on my thoughts on your blog, make a link and let people see what I wrote in the context in which it was written, but please don't copy my words.

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#30 of 32 Old 05-30-2011, 03:03 AM
 
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There's a couple of reasons I prefer to quote rather than just link --

 

1.)  It's more convenient for readers of my blog.

 

2.) The quoted material might be edited or deleted later.

 

I linked back to this discussion, so readers are welcome to look at the context your comments were made in.

 

I think what you're really objecting to is my conclusion, but my conclusion is amply supported by your own words.  You're right to say that kids experience a lot of these requirements as "punitive".  I couldn't have said it better myself.

 

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