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Discussion Starter #1
I'm mostly happy with DD's school and teacher. Of course there are the typical public school things that bug me - you know, the fundraising stuff that always seems to include junk food, the "trends" in math and reading education that often completely miss the mark, etc., but overall, I'm fairly confident that DD will receive a good education in our district.<br><br>
However, there is a huge grade-wide project for the first graders that has been going on for years, and it just seems so inappropriate and product oriented to me. It's an animal research project, where each class chooses a habitat and then each child is assigned an animal to research. But this project is so involved and requires things that are way above the heads of many or most of the kids. It starts out sounding great - the class came up with questions they should find the answers to, such as, "Is the animal an herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore?" Then they each have a booklet with all the questions divided into categories such as habitat, appearance, diet, etc. And they have gathered books and magazines that have information about the various animals. Okay so far, right?<br><br>
Not really, because a lot of them can't even read yet, certainly not well enough to answer the questions in their research booklets. So the parent volunteers, like me, wind up having to read the infortmation to them and show them which words to copy, which I think has no educational value whatsoever. Then, after completing the booklet, they are supposed to transcribe their notes into full sentences, actually paragraphs, so they will have a page on each category. Now, a good third of the class can't even read what they wrote in their own booklets, let alone come up with complete sentences. So again, I wind up having to tell them what to write, and when they can't spell well enough, I have to actually write the sentence for them to copy. How is this meaningful? Then they are supposedly going to TYPE it on the computer, which I can't even imagine - my own DD is actually an advanced reader and writer and is one of the only two kids who CAN do the rest of the work independently, but she will have a horrible time trying to type it.<br><br>
In addition, each kid does a diorama or poster, which is fine. Then the whole first grade sets up an "animal museum" in the cafeteria, which the whole school and parents are invited to view.<br><br>
It's a shame, because this could be a very meaningful project that would introduce the kids to the concept of doing research, but really, they should maybe be working in groups and have to do no more than answer some research questions on a list and make the art project.<br><br>
It just seems so product-oriented. No doubt, the "animal museum" will look very impressive, but a lot of the work will really not have been the kids' own. I'm just surprised at this whole thing. And as you can imagine, it is unbelievably time-consuming, so I wonder what other activities are being sacrificed?
 

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My first thought was you meant "product oriented" as in purchased brand-name character stuff. Wasn't until the end that I realized that you meant the finished product was more important than the process.<br><br>
I don't know, I guess I can see it both ways. This does give them some idea of what is possible once they are better at reading and writing. I think you do learn writing and such by starting with copying other work, then becoming more independent, so I think there is value in that. But projects should also be mostly completed by the kids and this does seem to be "over the heads" of the class.<br><br>
I suspect that its grown over the years and no one has questioned it. So maybe its time for you to step up and ask the questions. If you approach the teacher in private, with respect and really ask questions rather than make statements, what could it hurt? Maybe you will get a better understanding of why they are doing things as they are. Maybe they will take a step back and look at what the project has become and reevaluate. At worst, they will listen and do nothing and your child will be in second grade next year and won't have to worry about it.
 

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I would voice your concerns to the teacher. Maybe start by asking at this level what should my child be able to do by herself? Write sentences? Paragraphs? And then tell her the reason you were asking was because of some of the criteria outlines in the project. I definetly think its sounds more like a 4th grade type of project.
 

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I was reading your post and getting jealous b/c that is exactly the kind of work I wanted my dd to have in 1st grade <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol"> ! However, I do believe that you are right. It probably isn't appropriate for the large majority of first graders. It sounds like a TAG project that someone thought would be great for all kids. Therein lies the problem with schools becoming so PC that they try to treat all kids the same.<br><br>
I have a kindergartener and a second grader this year and I do think that most, if not all, of the second graders would have been capable of doing that project fairly independently. Perhaps it is worth suggesting that it get moved to 2nd grade with a very few first graders who can handle it working with the second graders?
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>ChristaN</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">It probably isn't appropriate for the large majority of first graders. It sounds like a TAG project that someone thought would be great for all kids. Therein lies the problem with schools becoming so PC that they try to treat all kids the same.</div>
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Now, now, Christa, don't you know that in school, "all children are gifted"?
 

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What a silly project. I agree - the whole point is to have a "project" for showing off to parents, administrators, other teachers. I'm sure at some point some children will be rewarded as having excellent projects, while the "loser kids" (aka whose mommy and daddy didn't devote themselves to doing little Jessie's project because they were working or unable) will not. It's totally a reflection of the parental input, not the child's. And how great to set up some children for being labeled as ahead or behind...why not start in first grade?<br><br>
It starts out process oriented with the questions, but you're right, devolves from there. As you said, the work won't be the kids' own - but the adult's work instead. How much pride is there to be gained from that? How much better would have been to go to the zoo, pick an animal of interest, and learn about it in a simpler way via child-directed questions? You could still use the same resources, but without the "project show-off" emphasis. Little Kara's project is spectacular - look at her neat writing, big words; while poor little Jim's is so low-budget. He must be <b>average</b> or maybe his parents just don't care (insert sigh).<br><br>
When I've gone on school tours, I've been increasingly underimpressed with the Wall of School Projects. Y'know, you go into the school and all the impressive projects are on the walls - even if they were done five years ago and look disturbingly similar to each other? And it's the only thing they show off - the product that supposedly shows the process.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Let me just clarify that this project is being done entirely in the classroom, not at home. So the adults who are helping are the handful of parent volunteers (including myself) who come into school to help out.<br><br>
I was wrong about one part - the typing is done by an adult as the child dictates his/her report, so that it can look like a "real book." Honestly, I'd rather see my child's handwritten work. I think that's more impressive!<br><br>
Today I was in the classroom working with one child in particular who can barely read or write, and honestly, she didn't know a darn thing about her animal after weeks of supposed "research." <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/irked.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="irked">: Of course, this child is probably one of the lowest functioning children in the class, but that illustartes the fact that in a heterogenoeus class, you simply cannot give the same level of work to all the children.
 

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I take your general point, and I too tend to find it distasteful when children's learning time gets diverted into turning out a project that seems designed to please parents and administrators more than benefit the child.<br><br>
I should note, though, that in my experience, copying work that is otherwise 'above their heads' and dictating stories or reports are both potentially valuable exercises for kids in the 4-7 age bracket. I know my non-reading, barely writing daughter loves dictating and illustrating stories, copying information about topics of interest, etc. Writing/dictating something that a child couldn't generate him- or herself from start to finish can be totally legit.
 

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Oh, and also, I see having them complete it in the classroom with the assistance of additional adult volunteers (lucky kids, to have volunteers in the classroom) as a decent gambit to prevent "science fair syndrome," where over-invested parents turn it into their own project!<br><br>
Sure, some kids are more capable than others, and there's a range of abilities, but it seems like the school is making an attempt to see that all are able to participate.
 
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