Simple Current Affairs Game for Children

The following seems to be going down well with my class. They are both enjoying it and seem to be learning more about current affairs at the same time.

What it is

Once a week when the children (who are 10 or 11 years old) come into class for morning registration, I’ll have something like this up on the whiteboard.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 14.15.11

The game is simple. They need to do three things:

  1. spot the mistakes on the site
  2. say what the correction should be and
  3. explain what the story is about.

So, for example, with the above they’d need to

  1. spot that it shouldn’t be Holly and Drew, (or Amelia, or Nora, or Armand);
  2. suggest something close to businesses and
  3. explain that it has to do with the Scottish vote for independence and businesses saying they will move south if Scotland breaks away from the Union.

So far, the children are in loose teams but (and I’m pleased about this) they’re more interested in the stories behind the news than points. So far the feedback has been good, from children and parents. Continue reading Simple Current Affairs Game for Children

Reasonable Doubt

I like this story to explain reasonable doubt. (From Sam Leith’s wonderful “You talkin to me?“)

“A man is in the dock, accused of murdering his wife. Although the body was never recovered, all the evidence points to the defendant: his car boot was filled with baling twine, bloodstained hammers, torn items of his wife’s clothing and suchlike. He had abundant motive – as the cashing in of a huge insurance policy taken out on the eve of his wife’s death demonstrates. And no sooner was his wife reported missing than he was holidaying in the Maldives with his pneumatically enhanced twenty-three-year-old mistress, his Facebook page filled with photographs of him in a pair of Speedos and a snorkel, grinning his murderous head off.

Nevertheless, his lawyer at trial pulls off a remarkable coup de théâtre.

‘Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,’ he says. ‘The prosecution has presented you with a mountain of evidence that tends to show that my client is guilty of the crime with which he has been charged. But that evidence means nothing. For not only is my client not guilty of his wife’s murder, but no murder has in fact taken place. My client’s wife is alive and well. And I can prove it. It is now five minutes to midday. At precisely midday, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, those doors over there will open –’ he indicates the main doors into the courtroom with a flourishing sweep of the arm – ‘and my client’s wife will walk through them into the court.’

Gasps, naturally, go all round. For the next five minutes, the eyes of the presiding judge, the jury and every functionary of the court are glued to the main doors. Eventually, the heavy hands of the courtroom clock tick round to midday and a solemn bong is heard. The doors remain tight shut.

‘Well?’ says the judge. ‘Your promised miracle has not materialised.’

‘Indeed not,’ replies the defending barrister. ‘But every single one of you was watching those doors in the expectation that it would. In the absence of a body, that is surely an object demonstration that there remains a reasonable doubt over my client’s responsibility for his wife’s disappearance.’

‘Very good,’ says the judge. ‘However, I ask the jury to note that the only person in the courtroom not watching the doors was your client.’”

Two points about self-esteem

From Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism:

Point 1: Self-esteem is a symptom, not a prerequisite or cause.

“I believe that self-esteem is just a meter that reads out the state of the system. It is not an end in itself. When you are doing well in school or work, when you are doing well with the people you love, when you are doing well in play, the meter will register high. When you are doing badly, it will register low. I have scoured the self-esteem literature looking for the causality as opposed to correlation, looking for any evidence that high self-esteem among youngsters causes better grades, more popularity, less teenage pregnancy, less dependence on welfare … There is nothing of this sort to be found in the literature. Self-esteem seems only to be a symptom, a correlate, of how well a person is doing in the world.”

Point 2: Unwarranted self-esteem causes problems

Until January 1996, I believed that self-esteem was merely a meter with little, if any, causal efficacy. The lead article in the Psychological Review convinced me that I was wrong, and that self-esteem is causal: Roy Baumeister and his colleagues (1996) reviewed the literature on genocidal killers, on hit men, on gang leaders, and on violent criminals. They argued that these perpetrators have high self-esteem, and that their unwarranted self-esteem causes violence. Baumeister’s work suggests that if you teach unwarrantedly high self-esteem to children, problems will ensue. A sub-group of these children will also have a mean streak in them. When these children confront the real world, and it tells them they are not as great as they have been taught, they will lash out with violence. So it is possible that the twin epidemics among young people in the United States today, depression and violence, both come from this misbegotten concern: valuing how our young people feel about themselves more highly than how we value how well they are doing in the world.

Where Children Sleep

This [via Kottke & Lens] looks beautiful and depressing in the way that only photos seem to manage.

The caption for these photos reads:

“A 4-year-old from Romania who, with his family, sleeps on a mattress on the outskirts of Rome.”

It’s from a book called Where Children Sleep by James Mollison.

Mollison says:

When Fabrica asked me to come up with an idea for engaging with children’s rights, I found myself thinking about my bedroom: how significant it was during my childhood, and how it reflected what I had and who I was….My thinking was that the bedroom pictures would be inscribed with the children’s material and cultural circumstances ‘ the details that inevitably mark people apart from each other ‘ while the children themselves would appear in the set of portraits as individuals, as equals ‘ just as children.

So the germ of an idea for a quick lessonette.

  1. Ask children to write down what their bedroom tells people about them.
  2. Get the book. Make separate copies of the child and the “bedroom”.
  3. Give each child one picture of a sleeper and another picture of a bedroom.
  4. Ask children to research/discuss with parents who the sleeper might be/where they might come from/what their bedroom might look like and write down the ideas
  5. Ask the children to research/discuss with parents the bedroom background e.g. Why are Romanians in Rome? Where is Romania? Where is Rome?
  6. Come back and get the children to see if they can match the face to the bedroom. Write down which ones the thought might be
  7. Or something …

Brooks & Diet Internet

There’s a nice idea here – The Construction Zone [hat tip @surreallyno] that suggests getting students to discuss how the internet affects thinking. Certainly something to try out.

One comment struck me, from Rodney Brooks:

We, or at least I, need tools that will provide us with the diet Internet, the version that gives us the intellectual caffeine that lets us achieve what we aspire to but doesn’t turn us into hyperactive intellectual junkies.”

I’m with you Mr Brooks.

Sex and Relationships Education in School

Ahem. I’d be lying if I said part of me doesn’t cringe at having to do this. At the same time, there is a far greater part of me that thinks the Dutch approach is infinitely healthier than going bright red at the mention of the word “nipple”. [see e.g. here and here for comparisons]

Anyway, I do believe Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) should be a whole school approach, even at primary level, rather than just something that we in independent schools do vaguely in science and then vaguely in PSHE in Year 6. [Cough, nipple] The NCB is a great resource for less vague, much more informed advice – I suspect parents might find it helpful too.

In getting the whole school approach, there is an undoubted temptation to outsource. It is all very English and allows teachers who are firmly in the [Cough. Nipple] camp to look the other way. The charity Brook look as though they do some good work in this respect.

The Christopher Winter Project, though, said something that struck a chord.

Many PSHE education projects deliver in the classroom with the teachers watching. CWP empowers teachers to deliver high quality SRE and Drug Education themselves. Our aim is to improve the quality of PSHE education through increasing teacher confidence in planning, delivery and assessment.

In other words, if SRE matters (and I think it does), then we need to do it as well as we can. Buying people in is one option, but isn’t it far better to train the people you have? These may well (and probably will) move on but at least they will be taking some good practice with them and benefiting the children in their next schools.

Penn Resiliency Program

OK. This is frustrating. The Penn resiliency Program looks like something I’d like to try at school, but I can’t find any people who offer courses for staff and schools.

There seem to have been some pilots in the UK. The Young Foundation has a good writeup of the Government’s trail version of the scheme (“The UK Resilience Programme”).

The final report is here and the final results but the final policy results look a little bleak.

The UK Resilience Programme did have a small average impact on pupils’ depression scores, school attendance, and English and maths grades, but only in the short run (up to one-year follow-up). There was no average impact on any measure at two-year follow-up. This means that any improvements in pupils’ psychological well-being, attendance and attainment were short-lived, and by the time of the two-year follow-up (June 2010) pupils who had participated in UKRP workshops were doing no better on these outcomes than pupils who had not. This suggests that a single set of UKRP lessons is not enough to permanently change pupils’ outcomes on average.

I can see that one set won’t be enough to permanently change pupils’ outcomes but presumably the resiliency needs to be embedded in the curriculum rather than piloted as a bolt on.

That said, before teachers at school will even begin to think about fiddling with the curriculum, a pilot would be useful.

Next stop, Wellington and their Happiness Course and Cambridge’s Well-being Institute

PSHE game idea

Clarence commented that

“I need to teach my students about current trends in the world: urbanization, globalization, climate change, the UN, etc. I REALLY was not interested in the standard research and essay type of project.”

Me too. And happily it looks like Clarence has come up with a great idea for doing it. Thinking about extending the game he invented so that we collaborate on the whiteboards. 4 classes all looking at the same map and seeing it change as decisions are made. All very Obama…