Plumbers & “Write what you know”

I’ve heard the statement, “Write what you know,” probably like a million times, but only a handful of times did that make any sense to me.

Teacher says, “Write what you know.”

Student begins to write. On the planet Jupiter robot warriors called Jenturions launched a . .

Teacher corrects, “No, write what you know and it needs to be real.”

Student thinks 4pm is what I know. It IS real to me.

The realm of reality offers many topics on which to write; I’m not knocking the personal narrative (not much). But it’s not the only harvestable crop. Stephen King urges us to broaden the statement of “write-what-you-know.” In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft he writes, “If you are a plumber, you know plumbing. But that is far from the extent of your knowledge; your heart knows things and so does your imagination.”

When I say to students, “Write what you know,” there are no strings attached. Stories are everywhere in the kid-mosphere. Kids love movies, video games, cartoons, and toys. The energy is incredible. Why not transform that energy into writing? Teach your students what I never was taught: to write down your imagination. It’s all there. It just needs to go from brain to paper with guidance.

From: Fantastical Enlightenment for Elementary Students

Mixed ability group work in maths

There’s a great resource here for problems that children can work on together in a maths class.

As interesting is the approach, something called Complex Instruction, which was developed at the Stanford Uni School of Education. There’s a useful video of Jo Boaler talking about how it works here, and some videos of it in action as kids try to solve a problem called Counting Cogs in a classroom here.

Feeling buoyed by it all.

The importance of estimation

Teaching children how to estimate properly is something I need to improve on.

As Jo Boaler points out in The Elephant in the Classroom:

“When an official report in the UK was commissioned to examine the mathematics needed in the workplace the reviewers found that estimation was the most useful activity. Yet when children who have experienced traditional maths classes are asked to estimate they are often completely flummoxed and try to work out exact answers then round them off to look like an estimate. This is because they have not developed a good feel for numbers, which would allow them to estimate instead of calculate, and also because they have learned, wrongly, that mathematics is all about precision, not about making estimates or guesses. Yet both are at the heart of mathematical problem solving.”