Friday, April 18, 2014

The Proper Tools for Teaching

An old friend called me last week and asked me if I would tutor her son.   He's in first grade or kindergarten and is having trouble reading and with some of the math they have the kids doing.  She swore it was normal stuff, not common core crap so I said I'd be glad to help.

She's intelligent and so is her ex so I figured it was probably just a case of the kid being bored.  I stopped by a store that sells teaching materials and looked at some of the crap they use to teach kids these days and it blew me away.   All of it paid way more attention to making sure each ethnic group and culture was properly represented in each example than to teaching anything about what's supposed to be the subject.

I'm standing there reading about Xao and O-ronjello and Pierre and Emilio and Mustaffa and Laquitia standing line to buy theater tickets and wondering how in the hell a little white boy from a small town in North Florida is supposed to focus on whatever the hell they claimed to be teaching about math in that example.  I guess his "privilege" is supposed to be enough.   I decided to take a different approach.

I met the kid this afternoon and my friend ran off to pay an overdue bill so  he and I could get to know each other.  As I suspected, the kid is smart.  He just can't stand to focus on the crap they call lessons.

I asked him if he knew how to sound out big words so he could figure them out and he said he could do a few.   I told him that we were going to learn a big word together.

I went out to the car and brought back a saddle ring carbine of a make not known to him - yet.

I asked him if he knew what it was and he guessed "shotgun."  I didn't correct him.    I showed him the name on the barrel and then wrote it on a piece of paper in big letters so it was easier to see.   Then I asked him if he knew what sound each letter made because that's what was going to tell us what it was.

We started with "W" because that was the first letter and he said "Wuh."   I said "good.  We know its something that starts with 'Wuh.'"  So next was "I" and he said "I" or "ih."   I said "let's go with 'ih.'"   We agreed that we had something that  started with "Wuh-ih."  Next came "N." and we had "Wuh-ih-in." Pretty soon we added "chuh," "ess," "ssssss," "tuh" and "err."

I asked him to say all the sounds in a row.  He said something like "Wuh-ih-in-chuh-ess-st-er."   Then his eyes got real big and his face lit up as he said WINCHESTER! 

His mom came home a few minutes later and he ran to her with the piece of  paper to show her what a big word he could read.  Nine letters and three syllables.  Winchester.  She couldn't believe it.  Her baby can read!

Then I got home and saw this at Bubba's.


I sent her the picture and she wants to get them for him.  I 'splained as how that wouldn't be a good idea right now and that we should wait until Florida passes the new "poptart gun" law to see if it covers spiral bound notebooks.

Next week, when we work on math we are going to be counting shotgun shells and how many squirrels Uncle Si missed on his morning hunt.

The kid can do the work if it isn't just skull-crushingly boring.  The crap they are using as teaching materials seems to be designed to teach something but it isn't boys.  We will improvise and overcome that crap.


Phssthpok said...

RE: math and shotgun shells...

Back when I was a wee little sprogling, my brother (2 years ahead of me in school) taught me multiplication, division, complex subtraction, and the concept of 'negative' numbers over summer break between my first and second grade years.

If he's as bright as you say and picks up on the basics of math, you might consider 'deconstructing' a shot shell and using the individual BB's to teach the concept of fractions. (obviously one with the powder already dumped and the primer either struck, or punched)

Don't accept anyone telling you 'he's too young for that!'. I began teaching my 3 year old half-brother the foundations of reading (recognizing and speaking the alphabet) despite his mother (a 'masters degreed' grade school teacher) telling me he was too young. He was doing just fine, which torqued her off to no end.

Lantry said...

That's an excellent idea. I can load a few dummy shells just for that purpose. Thanks for the advice & encouragement!

Opinionated Grump (Rich in NC) said...

I learned to read in church Sunday mornings with my Dad, singing and pointing to the words in the hymn book starting when I was able to stand on the pew and hold it with him. I knew how to spell manifold and knew what it meant when I was 3 1/2. A Pox on modern teaching methods.

Lantry said...

That's a good idea!