Sunday, May 7, 2017

Doodle Notes: What's the Fuss All About?

I went to do a simple domestic-y blog post with the recipes for the next few days in it and suddenly felt very soapbox-y. So here's a little bit of each:

Okay, so, I pull traditional assignments (usually middle school math practice) off of Teachers Pay Teachers from time to time. There's a lot of free stuff, which is nice, and if you're lucky you'll find something that's creative. And if you're really lucky you'll find something that doesn't have any typos in it.

I also like keeping my finger on the pulse of what's "hot" in education. Even though I don't believe in most of the new trends, it's good to know what they are. Right now, I keep seeing Doodle Notes. Basically, people are making black and white worksheets which are coloring pages for kids to color in class. Within the coloring pages are some fill in the blank questions about the topic the teacher will be lecturing about. The idea is that children listen to the lecture while they color, and every once in a while they take some scaffolded notes.

The buzz around this is that by combining left brain and right brain thinking, the child is engaging more deeply with the content and will remember it better.

I say that this is mostly nonsense. The idea of combining learning in both hemispheres of the brain is not ridiculous, but the idea that you do this with fill-in-the-blank worksheets is.

Waldorf education has main lesson books which are the best of both worlds: left brain and right brain. In a Waldorf school, children aren't given textbooks. Instead, they are given blank books with plain white drawing paper pages, and they make their own books as they learn about the subject at hand. Usually, each day's lesson gets a two-page spread.

This is an improvement on Doodle Notes (and pre-dates them by decades) in several important ways.

One, the child is writing a summary of the content in a way which would be easy for someone else -- who hasn't had the lesson -- to understand. They are stepping into the shoes of the teachers when they write their books, and imagining an audience who is learning about the topic by reading their book. This requires a higher level of detail than simply "note taking."

There's also room for a tremendous amount of creativity in the written component. When Becca did the Middle Ages for example, she wrote her summary about Eleanor of Aquitaine as a "Wanted" poster for her arrest. She clearly knew the content and she conveyed it in an original way. The poster listed all of the details of Eleanor's life and exactly what she had done to make the King of England so angry with her.

Two, the child has to do a rough draft and then a final version of each summary before it goes in the book, which allows for writing mini-lessons to be embedded in the school day and personalized to each individual child. Talk about "writing in the content areas"... a previous buzz word in public schools!! All subject area teachers need to be able to edit work for clarity and check for spelling and grammar mistakes. Penmanship matters too!

Three, the child has to do an accompanying illustration to further explain the topic. This not only brings in your artistic component but it beautifully reinforces the learning. And it allows each child's book to be a truly personal and distinctive creation.

Four, these beautifully detailed hand-drawn hand-written books become part of the child's portfolio for the school year. They're not just tossed in the recycling bin like a worksheet.

Five, the child creates the main lesson book page THE DAY AFTER the lesson, which further strengthens the brain by allowing it to go through the cycle of forgetting and remembering. It embeds the content more deeply.

Imagine how much more you would be forced to remember your lessons in school if you took your notes on them THE NEXT DAY.

In short, a Waldorf class has an oral lesson on a topic (learning by listening), then has hands-on exploration (learning by moving). The child goes home and goes to sleep. The next day the class as a whole recalls and discusses the lesson (learning by talking). Then each student drafts and revises and writes a summary in his/her main lesson book (learning by writing) and then creates an accompanying illustration or diagram (learning by creating).

Having children make their own textbooks is an idea which is so simple. And it's brilliant.

There are collaborative components as well as individual components to each lesson. Having these books at student-led parent conferences is amazing as well. You can't imagine the sheer pride parents feel when they look through these artifacts, and the glow on the face of the child sharing his/her work.

Not only is making and then sharing these books a source of absolute joy for the children and the parents, this method incorporates such a variety of components that it allows every child to learn successfully.

This brings me to one more thing...

Natural Pod wrote an article for their newsletter called "Should We Adapt Teaching for Different Learning Styles?" and this is how I found out that there was a ridiculous article in The Guardian recently called "Teachers must ditch 'neuromyth' of learning styles, say scientists".

Believe it or not... this article combats the idea of Multiple Intelligence Theory and says that classrooms should throw it out. They imply that students who discover their preferred learning style will then refuse to do work if it doesn't match their preferred style, by flat-out saying that they can't learn that way. They say that this theory is potentially "even damaging as it can lead to a fixed approach that could impair pupils’ potential to apply or adapt themselves to different ways of learning."

I would like to point out that this is sheer bunk. I have never heard of anyone using MI Theory as an excuse to only teach children in one way: "their" way. Nor have I heard of any child refusing to do an assignment because of MI Theory.

In the hands of a capable educator -- and student -- MI Theory simply reminds us to get to know and understand ourselves as learners, to be able to advocate for ourselves (within reason), and to identify what we need to strengthen (we don't abandon an assignment if it is hard for us... we use it as an opportunity to strengthen our brains in a way of thinking that isn't easy for us).

Most importantly, MI Theory reminds teachers that not everyone learns in the way that they do. Most teachers are strong verbal learners and tend to teach that way. But MI Theory (and methods like Montessori and Waldorf) expands how we teach to encompass strategies that will help more children be successful. It's not a crutch. It's a reminder that we have to honor other ways of seeing, thinking about, and interacting with the world besides just our own.

Two favorite books about this topic:

Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom:
How to Reach and Teach All Learners

by Diane Heacox

The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child

by Thom Hartmann

I am stunned that Hartmann's book is out of print! It is one of the most important books I've ever read as a teacher. And he does talk about homeschooling -- and both Montessori and Waldorf -- as better for these "hunter brain" kids than the traditional schools created by the "farmers."

Ok, off the soapbox now. But if you have any thoughts about this, please comment! I'd love to hear from my readers on this one.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

No comments: