Thursday, November 20, 2008

We Don't Have Time For Fun/Fluff

I recently attended a district-wide grade level inservice. This is a required "training" where testing, test results, and teaching for better scores are discussed. The meeting had just started when the presenter started talking about an extremely successful friend from another district.

She took the fun out, and just concentrated on the curriculum from the content standards approved by the state. Well, not the fun, but the fluff. She only taught 'what she was supposed to teach.' If we want to be successful we need to get this fun or fluff out of our teaching and only teach what we are supposed to teach.

Hello--did you check out our report card? According to it we are an excellent school. And who would believe it, we actually had a little fun. Even if we were only an Excellent school, not Excellent with Distinction, would you really choose to give up all of the fun, just for test scores? Is this what parents in our district really want? I can assure you it is not what students want.

So where do we go from here? Should the district have scripted teaching where fun/fluff is removed and teachers are told what to teach? Should testing and content standards be so important that they totally drive instruction? If a student has a question that doesn't fit in with the day's script, should we say, "sorry, but we can't discuss that because it is not on our curriculum map until May?"

Maybe we should have the new Reading Workshop. We teach the content standards and only discuss indicators as outlined by the Ohio State Department of Education. Students can think and can question, but only if it relates to the indicators we are teaching today.
I don't think so.


Clix said...

I don't know. I think I agree with what I believe is the presenter's intent. The only problem I see is equating fun with fluff.

If a student asks an off-topic question, we need to find out where it came from: does it stem from what we ARE teaching, and can we relate it back to that? or has the student simply been paying no attention, in which case maybe we should discuss it outside of class time.

Mr. McGuire said...


I see your point. My biggest problem was with her assumption that anything that was fun was fluff. I have always believed that without fun, there is no "buy in." If we want students to learn, they have to want to be in our classes.

As always, thanks for the comment and being the voice of reason!:)

Anonymous said...

Hats off to you Mr McGuire! You are so right in that they have to want to be in the class before they can learn. What would life, work, school, etc be if we can't include a little fun.

Anonymous said...

Mr. McGuire,

When I think of fluff, I think of assignments that were given just to boost sagging grades (title pages and posters anyone???). Not that those projects can't be very beneficial,but I know I used them constantly because some students scores were going to be nasty if I didn't get a little fluff in there. (A parent completed project could always raise their score!)

When you grade using standards, you don't need the fluff, because you aren't using scores!! You can just focus on the learning. I find it so liberating to be able to explore those "fun" adventures with my kids and not have to worry about justifying my marks. The students tie their learning to the standards and therefore own these authentic learning experiences. Of course, that is on a great day. Sometimes we're just having fun while we're learning and it just happens to match an outcome. Funny how that happens??!!

Just my 2 cents from the jungle,

Head Monkey

Mr. McGuire said...

Head Monkey,

I am jealous. I would love to be able to just focus on what students need to learn, instead of having to place so much emphasis on test scores. The Achievement Test controls everything we do.

In all honesty, I hate fluff, but I love FUN!

Anonymous said...

Mr. McGuire,

We write achievement tests in grade 6 LA (reading and writing), math (skills and problem solving), social studies and science. They publish our scores and rank our schools, but we don't have to use the scores for final grades (at the grade 6 level). We as a school constantly downplay these ridiculous tests by telling parents that they are just one "snapshot" of what the student has learned - just one more assessment to add to the profile. We use more reliable and timely assessments to drive our instruction and I am lucky to be in a school where admin fully supports this philosophy.

I am grateful for a NCLB-free Canada!

Shall I hug my admin team on Monday??

Take care,
Head Monkey

ps Do you podcast? We should do one together describing our different experiences across the border. Email me if you are interested!