Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Seriously, you, with the grade book? Stop it. Just stop it.

I am so over creative spelling assignments, and I say that respectfully as a language arts teacher.

Just give my kid sentences and three times each, I beg of you, Mrs. Fourth Grade Teacher.

Please, PLEASE, stop with the "Use ten spelling words in a poem", especially when you don't give a list with words that have easy rhymes. Treatment? Powerful? Discolor?

YOU rhyme them, you no-child-having fresh-out-of-teacher-school smarty pants. If you had kids old enough to do homework with, you would NEVER assign this to other parents. I mean, kids.

ABC order? Fine. Write it in cursive? Fine. Define each word? Fine. I get it. You need to know how to do all that.

But make a crossword puzzle? A word search? A treasure map? A comic strip? A themed poster? With spelling words like "remake"? Really? What life skill are those activities teaching, exactly?

Look, I know some of you are going to light up my comment trail and accuse me of being a fun nazi that probably wants kids to be efficient bubblers and not creative thinkers.

To you, I say, "Pbfllllllllttt!" I was a kick a** teacher with the adoration of my students to prove it and test scores to back it up. I don't mind creativity. On the contrary, I embrace it! I really do! But making a word search? That doesn't require creativity or teach anything useful. You know what it requires? My patience. Gobs of it. Pound upon pound upon tons of patience while I explain to my nine-year-old why he has to do it when I've got no better reason than, "Your teacher says so." No examples of how it's helping him learn and apply his knowledge. It's monkey work disguised as "creative" teaching.

Pbffffllllllltttt! To my naysayers! I blow raspberrries in your general direction! And your mother smells of elderberries!

I'll compromise. Of the four spelling assignments we, I mean he, gets each week, why not let one of them be self-directed? We'll, I mean he'll, do something creative but something that captures his interest. That way my son doesn't have to write goofy poems.

I have mad rhyme skillz, and to demonstrate the absurdity of this assignment, I shall now turn my kid's spelling list into a poem:

Dear Mrs. *****, your assignment is useless
Let me name the things I dislike
Crossword puzzles? A little clueless.
A treasure map? Psych!
The comic strip displeases me
I want to discolor both
I feel as unlucky as can be
And that one you can quoth!

So let it be said, so let it be written.

Except for not in the form of a word search.


Alison Wonderland said...

How about writing a story using the words?

Once upon a time there was an unlucky who had a tendency to give assignments that her students (and their parents) really disliked. it was possible that she was just clueless and didn't realize how useless her assignments were but she realized her mistake when she read a strongly worded blog post about how much creative assignments of that kind displeased (shoot, wrong tense) all involved. To begin with anger discolored her face. But then she got over it.

The End.

Luisa Perkins said...

Don't even get me started on this issue. Gah.

Does there have to be another reason besides "Because s/he said so?"

I totally believe that you, as a teacher, kicked a**. You still do.

LisAway said...

Wow. Spelling sure has changed since I was in school! I don't envy you, really, but I will also admit that some of those ideas sound kinda fun.

And I'm impressed with Alison's story. Excellent.

Emily said...

Melanie, first of all, you either post REALLY early in the morning or REALLY late at night. I'm still scratchin' my head on that one.

Second, I'm SO NOT LOOKING forward to homework assignments.

Luisa Perkins said...

I realized just now that my comment might be misconstrued. Let me hasten to append that I am in total agreement with you and your stance, and have countless situations involving the homework of my eldest four that I could recount, if necessary, to prove it.

I do think, though, that however odious/whimsical/moronic the task, the sooner kids learn that teachers can be odious/whimsical/moronic, yet their word is still law, thus affecting the grades--ergo future admissions to Ivy League schools--of said kids, the better off they will be.

My oldest despises expository writing, finding it reductionist and formulaic. I often repeat to him one of the many Perkins credos: "You don't have to like it; you just have to do it."

Okay, I'll stop now. Sorry.

Josi said...

"She's a witch, burn her, burn her!"

I hate, detest, dispise homework of any/every kind. Until a child CAN do it all by themselves, it's parent abuse and ineffective for the studen. I'm all for creative assignments, but keep it in school. I challenge my kids minds plenty at home, I don't need to be put through the agony of supervising some teacher's self-aggrandizing creative rotes that make her feel powerful.

Ahem, should I post this as anonymous?

Mina said...

I also hate when teachers try to look all wonderful by assigning homework for the parents. Do it in the classroom, man. At night I'm all about rote, repetitious practicing so we can be done at a reasonable hour and have some family time. Maybe we'd paly a game. Or take a walk--maybe see some clouds or trees or a sparrow.

What do you mean? A European sparrow or and African sparrow?

Annette Lyon said...

Totally with you on this one. Creative homework works to a POINT. But with spelling? I'm sorry, but I'm betting that no matter HOW the kids study their spelling words that they'll forget 90% of them in a month anyway. Spelling isn't the most important area to focus so much effort on, methinks.

Kristina P. said...

I loved Mad Libs! I never had them as a school assignment however. Just got into trouble because my friends and I used to fill them with inappropriate words, that we didn't know the meanings too, and our parents had to talk to us.

So, yeah, don't let your kid do that.

Christi said...

Ok, this is going to totally sound like cheating but since no one can learn creating a word search . . . do a google search for "word search generator" or creator and you will find a ton of different places that let you just type in the words and then they make the puzzle.

You could also print off the list and have your kid give a copy to everyone else in the class, which should mean no more word searches.

You might could also find a poem generator.

Chris said...

OH MY GOSH! As a former language arts teacher myself... and now a sahm, I GET THIS. 100%. I hate busy work.

I'm all for letting them take a pretest and if they KNOW the words ALREADY, skipping all the silly homework.

But, that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Wow, raspberries AND elderberries? That's a berry-ful insult stream.

And useless rhymed with clueless? OUCH.

(How 'bout:
The assignments were so useless
That no child went abuseless
?) Yeah okay so not really much better. :)

Anyway, I totally and completely agree with you about stooopid and make-work assignments, or, as we've been calling it in a conversation on the sewing forum I frequent, "homework for parents." (One mom is threatening to send her son to school with a potato peeler and potatoes, and when the teacher asks why the kid is peeling potatoes at school, she plans to have him say, "Well, my mom has to do my work at home, so I have to do her work at school.)

Eowyn said...

My sons 3rd grade teacher sent home stuff like this and then sent home a note within a couple of weeks saying something like "Parents have complained about this. I don't want it to be a chore. Do whatever works for you, just do it every day."

I love that girl!

Sue said...

I'm so with you. And can we put the kibosh on fancy craft projects that teach NOTHING? My second grader has to design a spring outfit for a paper doll, out of actual fabric and buttons and other doodads.

I don't sew. So we have to go out and buy fabric and doodads and buttons for this project, which teaches... NOTHING. I can see having to buy stuff for a science project or experiment or something like that, but just for the fun of it? PLEASE STOP IT.

Herb of Grace said...


Jami said...

"I do think, though, that however odious/whimsical/moronic the task, the sooner kids learn that teachers can be odious/whimsical/moronic, yet their word is still law, thus affecting the grades--ergo future admissions to Ivy League schools--of said kids, the better off they will be." AHHHHHH! ArgGG! Twitch.

Jami said...

OK now that I've emoted a bit, I'll just say. EWW! What a nasty assignment. If she keeps giving remember poetry doesn't have to rhyme.

p.s. I love your spelling poem.

Nancy said...

Amen...I hope you do write to her...or change the homework to suit you and J.A. and just slip a note in with it about your new choice. He is learning the words.
Grrr. Now multiply that by 9 is it? Grotesque. I like asking the kid to spell a word and then having them spell it for me. I like the pretest idea too.

CaJoh said...

You go girl— you tell them. My stepson had a 7th grade teacher that was assigned to make a Still for a science project (you know that thing you make booze out of). Oh come on… what do you need a little hooch and figured the kids would make it for you… We demanded that he be given a different assignment.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

As I type, my kindgergartener is making a puppet pirate. This homework assignment is *supposedly* going to help him learn to read and write the letter P. Okay, whatever. I share your frustration.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

OMGOSH! You took the words right out of my mouth.

HIGH FIVE. Amen! Hallelujah!

I have been saying this for years.

This was the funniest post ever!

Shellie said...

I guarantee you next week it will be a haiku!

Kimberly said...

Good grief. That's not the kids being creative, it's them giving themselves premature anneurisms stressing out over how the heck to pull it off.

And it's the teacher being creative with the assignment method. How completely mental.

charrette said...

Oh, how I needed to read this today! This whole rant just made my heart sing. Can I PLEASE send a link to Mr. Cool's 4th grade teacher? Today I actually had to write a note saying that after spending 1 -2 hours per night he/we were STILL unable to complete his spelling.

My personal philosophy: Do a pre-test. If the kids spell them all correctly, any spelling homework at all is pure busywork. Take if from the nerd from the National Spelling Bee. Oh yeah, that was me.

And I DO think you were a kick-a** teacher! Go, Melanie!

April said...

All I have to say to that teacher is fetchez la vache!

Stephanie said...

I realize this was written ages ago -- but I found this trying to find some alternative spelling assignments for my kiddo. My kiddo who always gets 100% on every spelling pre-test, who is a spelling freak and has never met a word he can't spell. And yet,
he has to do spelling assignments to help him learn the words -- words he has already mastered. He's been working an hour already -- rainbow words? Stair step spelling -- BUSY WORK! How does this help him? I'm tempted to let him take a zero seeing as he is at 104% in language arts right now.