Education, Teaching, Hardship, Difficulty

We have the problem of making the assignments “authentic”. And we have the problem of making our lessons engaging.

Both of these problems are solved easily and naturally with good intuition. However, we are fearful of performing an important job on intuition. We want guidelines, research, standards, goals, objectives, steps, charts, essays, books, and an impossible array of information. Surely that will make our teaching good. Except is hasn’t, on a broad scale; and it won’t.

The most important factors in good education are:

  1. a safe environment
  2. good lessons

Both of those can be met by intuition. In fact, any attempt to categorize and quantify those two factors results in confusion, anxiety, loss of time, competition, and frustration. On the other hand, any variety of
personality can effectively meet the two factors. A strong, “Type-A” character can easily provide those two ingredients if the character gives purposeful attention to those factors. A quiet person can meet those two greatest needs. As can a humorous person. Or a serious person.

It simply takes purposeful attention from a single person (the teacher).

Here is a comparison:

Typical assignments:

  • Reading with quiz over story
  • Literary Elements with quiz
  • Grammar rules with quiz
  • Essay over a novel or part of a novel
  • Analysis of poem and essay on analysis

“Authentic” assignments:

  • Letter to the Editor
  • Grant Proposal
  • Scholarship Essay
  • College-entrance Essay
  • Magazine Article
  • Blog entry
  • Letter to politician
  • Text of a Speech (for any number of occasions)
  • Song lyrics

How I want my classes to look:

Environment:

  • students work hard at improving their skills
  • students work at knowing each other and getting along
  • students put work into cleaning and straightening the room
  • students know where to turn in work
  • students know where to pick up work
  • students know where and how to check their grade
  • students know where and how to check for missing work
  • students know what to do when they are unprepared

Lessons:

  • more engaging, authentic, demanding/challenging
  • collaborative, thorough instructions

1. An English Teacher’s Guide to Performance Tasks & Rubrics: High School by Amy Benjamin, Paperback: 189 pages, Publisher: Eye on Education

This book is realistic, and well written. Performance tasks are explained in depth, with standards driven examples which a teacher could use in class immediately. What is a performance task? Performance tasks are authentic assignments that are accomplished over a period of days or weeks and are more meaningful and rewarding than traditional tests and assignments, because they connect, communicate, and illuminate the outside world, making learning meaningful.

“Much of what passes for authentic curriculum and authentic assessment … seems to miss the point by giving in to the search for entertainment and avoidance of boredom rather than in pursuit of clear purposes and powerful learning.”… Deborah Meier

EXAMPLE:
An Eighth Grade History Task :
An Eighth Grade History Task You are to play the role of an advisor to President Nixon after his election to office in 1968. As his advisor, you are to make a recommendation about the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.

Write a persuasive essay. Your paper is to be organized around three main parts:

  1. An introduction that shows an understanding of the Vietnam War up to this point by explaining who is involved in the war and what their objectives are. Also in the introduction, you are to state a recommendation in one or two sentences to make the advice clear.
  2. The body of the paper should be written to convince the President to follow your advice by discussing:
    1. The pros of the advice, including statistics, dates, examples and general information to be authoritative
    2. The cons of the advice, letting the President know that you are aware of how others might disagree. Anticipate one or two recommendations that others might give, and explain why they are not the best advice.
  3. The conclusion makes a final appeal for your recommendation and sells the President on the advice.

A theory to explore:
We are always grateful, later, for hardship.

* Aside from what happens to other people, especially our children, we are always grateful, later, for hardship.

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