Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kickball as Metaphor

As we speak, two classes of 5th grade students are engaged in a
"vigorous" game of kickball. There's thirty-six kids, total, playing.
I watched the game a bit, as I'm sure we all have. One kid pitches,
one kid kicks. Two to four kids throw or run. Thirty-two kids stand
and watch. I was horrified and thought abut all the ways I don't do
that with my instruction. Then, much to my dismay, I thought about
all the ways that I do.

But aren't we all guilty of a little kickball across the curriculum,
---or a lot?

Yesterday afternoon, brain numb from an ugly day, I found myself only
a head of hair away from being Ben Stein in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
calling "Anyone… Anyone…" to a silent and disinterested class. I
pitched and a kid kicked, another caught, but most students were just
sitting there.

I always require quiet and focus from my students, but I often delude
myself into thinking that kids who are attentive are engaged. Real
kickball just makes who is active and who is counting flowers a bit
more obvious. In the classroom, we have to remember to ask and
analyze: Even if everyone is watching the game, how many kids are
really playing?

It's not just a direct instruction issue either. Group work is
equally subject to becoming kickball if tasks and roles are not
effectively distributed and evaluated. One or two kids do the work
for their own sake, while the rest coast. The ratio might improve as
the groups get smaller, but the problem remains. Even at half or
two-thirds, is that the best we can do?

Getting out of kickball is simple but exhausting. It is a dozen or
more different routines that must be learned, remembered, taught, and
appropriately brought to bear in different contexts. It is also not
natural to us. Many of us went through school playing kickball,
literally and metaphorically. We have to break the habits that seem
most familiar: popcorn reading to choral reading; QnA to
Think-Pair-Share, call and response, whole class physical response;
teacher demonstrations to student experiments, investigations and
discussions; problems on the front board to each kid with a board;
demanding quiet to demanding tracking, nodding and questions; asking
for hands to randomly calling; test on Friday to a check at the end of
each day. The list can go on.

The problem is also that kickball is easy to play. It's familiar and
even fun. Everyone knows the rules, so the kids aren't complaining or
misbehaving. But, out in the field and on the sideline, they're not
learning either.

2 comments:

嘉容嘉容 said...

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WesA_Hardaway2254 said...

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