Then he asked me if he could mow with my machine. Thinking about the dangers of it, I let him push for a minute with me. "That's cool!" he said. I told him that when he's bigger he can do this all the time! "I can't wait," he screamed!
I started thinking what a cool learning experience this is for a 5-year-old. He's getting excited by being immersed in this springtime chore. He's getting to ask questions, and soon, when he's a little bigger, I'll be happy to let him mow the lawn for real on his own. If he weren't only 5, and if I wasn't afraid of him having my gene for clumsiness, and there weren't sharp objects involved, I'd be glad to let him do it today. "You'll do it when you're bigger," I told him. "Soon."
We learn by doing, not by just talking about something, or doing shades of something. This is what Brian Cambourne tells us in his work on Conditions of Learning. To learn something, we must be immersed in it, have it demonstrated for us, be engaged with it, practice it, and have feedback on how we do it. Watching a video or reading a how-to book on it, only gets us so far in learning a task.
That's a confusing way to live, never really experiencing anything. If my son only stayed with his toy lawn mower, he'd never really get to experience what it's like to cut the grass.
Think of what this means to us as teachers. We have to find ways to provide kids with experiences in their learning. They can't just have the distorted shadows of experience. They need to learn to read...by reading. No surprise there! Allington and many other researchers have told us time and again that students improve in their ability as readers by reading. The same is true in writing, math, science, learning a foreign language, learning to swim, learning to drive, everything!
I guess it's no secret that I don't like worksheets. I know that they can have a place in our learning, but we have to find the proportion with which we use them. They're good for short practice or review of certain skills that we've taught or will be teaching. However, they can't be the whole diet. They're only part of the whole picture...the minor to the major of kids doing things.
Kids are capable of so much more than worksheets give them credit for. One of our kindergartners told his mom at dinner the other night, "I wrote an all about book about worms. It was long, and the adults can actually read it!" he said proudly. It takes a little time, but they get there, but only because we give them a chance to practice.
Not only can they do it, but they need to have authentic experiences to really grasp concepts. Nancy Schultz, a local math consultant tells us that if we don't give students a chance to experience number sense by working with manipulatives, they only learn about the iconic and abstract part of math, without realizing what any of it means. These kids coast through elementary school, but suffer through algebra because they think 2x and x(squared) are the same thing because the symbols are the same. They need to experience math to really understand it at higher levels.
If you use lots of worksheets, think of how you can make your students' learning more authentic. If you already have just a limited use of worksheets, think of what their purpose is, and then maybe cut it in half, replacing them with more experiential learning.
Cambourne tells us it matters. Allington tells us it matters. Plato tells us it matters. Common Core tells us it matters.
And today, Kende told me that it matters.