Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why don't they remember?

For the most part, everything we've done so far this year in 6th grade math has been a review of 4th and 5th grade concepts (multi-digit multiplication and division, decimals, divisibility rules, prime factorization, etc.).  Despite the fact that I know they've seen it before, they all seem to stare blankly as if I'm speaking Greek.

On Friday, in my GT/Honors class, I asked the students to set up their interactive notebooks.  On the right side they copied the objective and on the left side I asked them to write a sentence or two about what they already knew about the topic.  I heard way too many kids say that they didn't have anything to write because they had no idea what that was!  Can I just say...frustrating!

Why is it that our students don't seem to retain information from year-to-year?  Are there brains really wired that differently?  (I'm not that old, am I?)  There is so much information at our fingertips these days.  We don't need to remember phone numbers because they're in our contact lists.  I hate to use absolutes, but there's almost nothing we can't figure out with a simple Google search.  Students are busier now than they've ever been.  They go from school to sports or other after school activities, to clubs, to church, etc.  Has the harried lifestyle of today's children combined with fast paced video games, media, and other technologies created students who cannot focus for sustained periods of time?

And then I can't help but wonder, with the information available at our fingertips, how much of what we are expecting our students to learn (and remember) is really relevant to their future lives?  Is all of it necessary?  Our students certainly live in a world much different from the one in which we grew up in.  When I was growing up, it was important to learn to use a dictionary and an encyclopedia.  I would argue that those skills really aren't that important today because we can enter information into a search box and the computer will find entries that match my search.

What do you think?  Do your students retain instruction?  Do you feel our current curriculum is relevant to students?

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