Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Today at Clear Spring School the 5th and 6th graders spent one more day on paper sloyd. I expected them to get tired of it long before now, but when I asked them what they wanted to do next week, guess what? So I told them as long as they want to keep doing it and as long as it doesn't interfere with other necessary projects, we'll keep it up.

There are some very specific reasons why their teacher Andrea and I believe that Paper Sloyd is important right now. The first is that it provides a great lesson on the importance of following written instructions. Some of our students really don't like that part very much, but they tolerate it because they enjoy the results.

Guess where students will need to be able to read and follow written instructions? Yes, of course, they will need this skill when they put together their first barbeque grills, but I mean in school... Math and science. Algebra, trigonometry and chemistry are extremely difficult if you are unable to follow written instructions to the letter. So, as you can see, we are preparing our students for some very important growth, even though they are having more fun than even I expected.

The second thing that 5th and 6th graders can learn from paper sloyd is to self-assess their own work. So often in school, children feel like their teachers are grading their work arbitrarily or by some unfathomable formula. In paper sloyd, it is either cut square and on the line or it isn't. It is either folded crisply, at the right place, and on the line, or it isn't. A project either comes out looking like the model in the book, or it doesn't. The teacher may need to point these things out one time, but most often, one time is enough.

Believe me, it is a great thing for teachers when students begin to self-assess the quality of their work. It is the start of what some psychologists call "effectancy," or "self-efficacy." Students see the results of their work, take pride in it, and then feel motivated to repeat the the actions to continuously lay claim to the feelings they provide. Effectancy is what leads a craftsman to spend years developing skill in the woodshop or leads a teacher to spend years in the classroom, or leads a small child to grow into an adult with goals and ambitions that serve self, family and community. The photo above is of Killian (left) and Jacob (right) with paper sloyd models made last week. I was too busy today to take any new photos.

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