Sunday, March 04, 2007

The photo at left...more pinwheels and other paper sloyd things by Maggie and teacher Andrea.

I want to introduce Mario Nunez. He has been a friend for many years, is a regular reader of the blog, has been my teaching assistant at Arrowmont, is the father of grown boys (one coming home from Afghanistan), and teaches at a community college in Buffalo. In addition to his teaching computers for ESL students, he's reopened the woodshop for classes!

Mario left a comment on the blog this morning, but also sent the following by email:

"Your comments on students wanting to skip ahead to the "more fun" projects in paper Sloyd are right on the money. I expected that from the students in my shop class, but I also see it among my computer students. They either skip instructions that seem boring or they skip them because they can't figure them out. In both classes, skipping instructions causes all sorts of trouble."

I had a conversation with our elementary school teachers on Friday. They are all very interested in paper sloyd because of the difficulties they have with students listening and following directions. My mother was a kindergarten teacher during the creation of "educational television" and she noted that before Sesame Street, she could stand at the head of the classroom and have all eyes glued upon her and all ears alert for her every word. She said that the rapid pace of Sesame Street and other children's programming was not something that the teacher in the classroom could keep up with and it became increasingly difficult to hold students' attention. Sorry, were boring, but then every teacher is boring when compared to TV!

I think the computer is also changing the way we try to learn. We can just keep frantically poking keys until we get what we want, but it is extremely inefficient and possibly destructive. Some internal mapping of sequences is taking place, which allows us to replicate actions that work. But how about things that actually happen on purpose and by intent?

I don't like reading instructions either. I'm the one who would put the barbeque grill together and then get out the instructions at the end to see where the left over parts were supposed to go. But, knowing how to read and follow instructions can make the difference between being an independent learner or a dependent learner.

In wood shop, I have students who don't listen, and then ask for or demand my help when they need it. When we are on a particularly challenging project, I'll hear my name called at the same time from every corner of the room. It is great to be needed and wanted, but I would like my students to listen in the first place and then work quietly and confidently on their own. It is a tough change to make, but one that was laid out in sloyd where the projects were arranged by order of difficulty and each project prepared the student for success in the next.

Paper sloyd presents an interesting experiment. I'll let you know how it comes out. Now the 5th and 6th grade students are trying to make written plans of their own for a woodworking project. The plans are to have a drawing of the finished object, a cutting list of the parts, and step-by-step instructions. We'll go over them on Wednesday as they do the next set of projects from the paper sloyd book. If they manage to make coherent plans, we'll make something.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:57 AM


    Thanks for the kind words. The one caveat is that I work at the local community college, something that was meant to be, just as the wood shop class came about because there wasn't enough activity in that space and the day care center was threatening to take it over. Day care centers are notoriously expansionist.
    A few of the students in the shop class, just as in the computer class, are starting to figure out that the connection between their hands and their brains deserves as much development as the one they've been told about between their eyes and a book and their brains. Not all of them, but some.
    Before I started to work at the community college, I tended to get bored and switch jobs every two years or so. After 28 years at this place, I've never been bored. And the classes at Arrowmont have made all the difference as far as "herding the cats" in a shop class.