Year-End Posts from “Out in Left Field”

This is a favorite education blog, and its year-end roundup featured some previous posts and comments on annoying school projects.



In a comment on my recent post on creativity, Auntie Anne reports: 

Our kid was graded down because he really, really wanted a project to be in black and white and the teacher insisted he had to color it.

Here we are 2 years later, he’s in 6th grade and again got marked down about 20% for only putting words on and not “decorating” a small poster. Changed an high A into a low B.


Auntie Ann said…

The crazy-making assignments are a staple across education these days. 

Teachers seem to think that art projects or creative assignments are a way to make learning fun, but they do not take into account those kids who don’t find them the slightest bit fun. What about them? Teachers don’t seem to recognize that some of these so-called fun assignments are torturing a non-negligible part of their class. Our kid is highly fastidious, the slightest mistake in his artwork and he gets incredibly frustrated. Give him a dopey prompt, and he can’t get started. Give him a research assignment and paper to write, and he’s happy as a clam–but make him do a poster about it and he hits the wall.

We get very tired of taking trips to the art store every week.

The cynic in me says that it’s much easier to grade 20 posters than it is to grade 20 papers, and that’s why they get assigned instead. It’s much easier to stress the creativity and content of a fiction story than it is to actually go through and mark the grammar and spelling errors (especially when many of the teachers aren’t terribly strong at grammar either.) It’s also easier to flatten the grading on a creative project than it is a research paper or essay. Check the right boxes on the rubric, and you can have an A. Doesn’t matter if you actually learned something: is your lettering straight and tidy? Is your poster visually appealing? Do you have a good use of color? (Our kid was graded down because he really, really wanted a project to be in black and white and the teacher insisted he had to color it.) Very little of the grade ends up being actually learning or content based.

momof4 said…

Exactly. Schools talk a lot about learning styles but refuse to acknowledge that some kids don’t find artsy projects fun and would rather write a proper report. I’ve come to think that ES teachers (especially but now including many MS teachers) love them, personally, and aren’t even aware that many kids hate them. It’s playing school, not real academics.

Finally, this:

momof4 said…

Even socially adept kids may hate group work – mine did because they were always supposed to give someone a free ride, either because the kid(s) wouldn’t do the work or because the work wouldn’t be A level. They wanted to be left alone to do their own work and they hated wasting time. They didn’t mind doing/listening to BRIEF presentations, in theory, but spending a week enduring all the girls in the 4th-grade class acting out a scene from their book (with costumes and a friend or two) was high-level torture – at least 45″ minutes each, for about 12 girls… They weren’t allowed to do a book report; a diorama was the least painful option. It’s a wonder that the sight of a shoebox doesn’t send me, my daughter or my sons into a panic attack.

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