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A PHOENIX BOOK REVIEW

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43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying to Meet You

Recently, my husband began frequenting a local library, which, to be honest, we knew existed, but a) never got round to going, or b) never really thought about visiting for some reason. But, just a few weeks ago, the treasure was uncovered.

Although it’s a local library in a suburb of Seoul, I was absolutely amazed that they has such an extensive collection of children’s books IN ENGLISH! I have seriously underestimated this country for the past (almost) 9 years, I can tell you.

Until now, I can’t even calculate how much I’ve spent on books – which have been finished within 30 minutes of purchase on many occasions – such a waste….

But now, Phoenix has the whole of the children’s section to keep him occupied – and, of course, all FOR FREE!

The first book he borrowed today was this one by Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise:

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MAIN CHARACTERS:      Olive the Ghost, E. Gadds the Lawyer, Ignatius B. Grumply the author, Seymour Hope the 11 year-old boy who lives in this house.

PLOT:                               Ignatius B. Grumply moves into the house at 43, Old Cemetery Road to find some peace and     quiet, but he soon finds out that it is already occupied by Seymour, his cat, Shadow and an irritable ghost called Olive. Since Ignatius is a writer, he is distracted by Olive who keeps disturbing him. Ignatius was about to move out of the house because he didn’t pay the bills but Seymour saves the day and buys the house so that they get to stay there as a family.

The book is presented as a series of letters and extracts from the newspaper, the Ghastly Times, which kind of confused Phoenix at the beginning, because he was looking for Chapter One for a while.

But even though it was difficult to get started, Phoenix gave it a 3 out of 5 stars.

He says it was a new experience for him, since he was used to reading chapter books, but once he got started he thought it was quite interesting to read something new like this.

He recommends it for 7 to 11 year olds. But, perhaps I would narrow the gap a little to 8 – 11yrs, since perhaps some of the vocabulary might be slightly complicated for some of our younger friends.

Certainly worth a read though – especially to give our kiddies a new experience with reading a book that’s not in the traditional chapter book format.

Thank you, Phoenix for choosing this one, and sharing your views!

This book is currently retailing for £3.80 on Amazon UK


https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve

I have to say that I was very impressed with the assembly at Phoenix’s school recently. The topic was the Growth Mindset and the message was an extremely interesting and positive one.

For too long now, we, perhaps especially schools and parents, have focused on IQ tests as a measurement of potential. High IQs mean that a person has a high level of natural intelligence and is destined for great things; low IQ test scores, in contrast, can immediately close many doors.Carol_Dweck1

The Head of Primary School at Phoenix’s school also interestingly informed his audience that the IQ test was originally designed by Alfred Binet as a method of identifying children who were not benefiting from the public school system in Paris, so that new educational programs could be designed to put them back on track. I found this quite ironic really, because these tests were never designed for the purpose we use them for today. They were never meant to be a measure of fixed intelligence.

The assembly was centred around the research and findings of Professor Carol Dweck, a cognitive psychologist at Stanford University, and especially her theory of the Growth Mindset. I found it such an interesting concept that I found her on Google and watched her TED talk (see link).

The GROWTH MINDSET is a kind of an antidote to the IQ test, he goes on to say. Growth Mindset people believe that intelligence is not fixed – it can be grown. They believe that intelligence levels and skill in whichever field can be developed and improved through hard work and perseverance.  A failure along the way is considered a great learning experience. The motto (if you like) of Growth Mindset people is “Learn at all Costs” – they are not afraid to fail. They understand that even geniuses need to work hard; that is what made them geniuses in the first place.

In contrast, FIXED MINDSET people believe that intelligence is fixed. We are all born with a certain amount of intelligence and this can be measured. Fixed Mindset people like to be given praise because this affirms their belief that they are good at something. They tend to avoid situations in which they may fail, because this confirms that they are not as ‘intelligent’ as they thought. They are also unlikely to persevere with something difficult for the fear of failure. The motto of Fixed Mindset people is ‘Look good at all Costs’

So, if we compare the two, it may look like this:

85-Broads_Inner-Badass_Carol-Dweck-02.04.14

PRAISE CORRECTLY TO DEVELOP A GROWTH MINDSET

The interesting thing, and I see this every day in my work as a teacher, is that children’s attitude to learning changes depending on the way they are praised when completing tasks.

One thing Carol Dweck emphasises is HOW TO PRAISE. Now this is very intriguing. As parents, haven’t we all, at some point, been guilty of saying “Good boy! You’re so clever!” But research shows that this type of praise fosters a FIXED MINDSET. Children tend to “play it safe” because they are always wanting the praise to confirm their intelligence.

GROWTH MINDSET praise focuses on the PROCESS, the EFFORT and the STRATEGIES used to solve a problem. So instead of saying ‘You must be so clever!” what we should be saying is: “Well done! You must have worked so hard on that.” Research has shown that this type of praise encourages children to find new ways to solve problems, they enjoy the challenges of harder problems, and they accept that setbacks mean that they are learning.

So, we should be praising the process and the effort rather than saying that a child must be clever for doing a task correctly.

The great news is that we can all GROW our intelligence. Schools use IQ tests in many of their Entrance Tests as a way of measuring fixed intelligence. If we want our children to go to these schools, I guess we have no choice but to prepare them for those tests. But our goal must reach far beyond these tests. I believe that we must foster a learning environment that encourages challenge, applauds learning from setbacks and embraces the idea of ‘NOT YET’. Our children might not be able to do something YET, but they are on the learning curve to success and we must encourage the path they’re on to get there.

As Phoenix said: ‘Even Thomas Edison tried more than 1,000 times to create the lightbulb. Why would we even think we could do something brilliantly first time?”

For your interest, here are some very interesting facts on great innovators in history who have failed – but succeeded. Perhaps fantastic examples of the GROWTH MINDSET at work….? (http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Thank you for reading!


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500 Words Silver Winner (Age 8)

Today, I read about Radio 2’s 500 Words Competition. In this competition, children are encouraged to write a story of no more than 500 words.

Some of the entries were fantastic. I especially liked the very creative way this one story (see link) described the problem of having a stammer.

Great work!

There’s a link here for anyone else who’s interested in what our little ones can do when given the chance.

Enjoy!


http://www.kidspot.com.au/schoolzone/Friendships-Teaching-your-child-resilience+3994+394+article.htm

A couple of days ago, my little boy, Phoenix, came home from school with a piece of homework, which was to write a paragraph about what he had learned from his participation in a school project.

There were a couple of examples of what he should write – resilience was Groupofkidsonlawn476x290one of them.

Fantastic, I thought! This absolutely ties in with my research recently on what makes children successful.

So, I asked him : “Phoenix, what does resilience mean?”

“I don’t know,” came the answer.

Oh!

So, rather than tell him the dictionary definition, which would probably go in one ear and out the other, I thought it best that I lead by example.

I found a lovely few words on ‘teaching your child resilience‘, which I thought might be interesting reading for all us parents and teachers out there.

Here’s a summary :

1. Listen with your heart;

2. See the world through your child’s eyes;

3. Accept [your]children for who they are;

4. Develop strengths;

5. Teach that mistakes are an opportunity to learn;

6. Promote responsibility by giving responsibility;

7. Teach your children to make their own decisions;

8. Discipline, but don’t denigrate.

This is just a rough guide but I think there’s some good stuff here ….. well worth checking out!


The more I read, the more I hear  and the more I think about it, our current established education system leaves a lot to be desired.

I recently saw a  video interview (featured) by Noam Chomsky (professor at MIT), which outlines his views on the purpose of education. An interesting interview, I have to say.

To sum up the ideas in this interview:

The Purpose of Education

He states that there are two concepts of the ‘purpose of education’. The first comes from the era of the Enlightenment, where traditional thinking states that education is a process of ENQUIRING and CREATING constructively and independently without external control. It’s about seeking out the riches of the past and internalising the important parts – or the parts which are important to you.

This style of education has children questioning and challenging a standard doctrine and searching for alternatives.

The second concept of education is indoctrination, where children are taught to accept and not challenge a certain set of data given to them. They are taught to fulfil the roles given to them – that failure to follow those rules results in punishment. They are taught not to ‘shake the systems of power and authority’.

The Impact of Technology

Chomsky states in his interview that although the impact of technology is very real in our lives today, the effects are not as dramatic as, let’s say, the introduction of plumbing or the development of transport, which were born of creative inquiry.

His comparison of technology to  a hammer was interesting: a hammer does not care whether it is used to build a house or smash someone’s skull. His point, of course, is that inquiry provides a framework and directs ones questions and research so that we can find what needs to be pursued and reject the rest. This framework is needed in order for technology to be useful.

Assessments

Tests are practical only in the sense that they show what a child knows now and how much more he/she  needs to know – but they do not necessarily test UNDERSTANDING. A child can perform brilliantly on a test and not really understand a thing.

Tests can not only be meaningless, but they can do more damage in the sense that they can divert attention away from really meaningful learning. Tests can potentially mean nothing more than a set of hurdles our children need to jump – they are not the same as exploration.

Final Words

A gem from this interview is one quote:

“It does not matter what we cover (in class), it matters what we discover.”

We should be helping our children get to the point where they can think and learn on their own, not just regurgitate a set of given facts on command.


‘Maths exams are too hard and must be rewritten,’ regulator says.

(Artimaths-exam-PAcle from The Independent, 21 May 2015)

I was quite surprised this week to read an article in the education section of a couple of leading UK newspapers stating that OFQUAL (the education watchdog) has called for new GCSE Maths exam papers to be rewritten because they are ‘too hard’.

My reading of this article coincides with the completion of a book I have been reading recently called “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough. In his book, Tough highlights several anecdotes or studies of children, mainly from poorer areas, who have succeeded regardless of all the odds which were stacked against them. The reason for their success? Passion, self-belief, grit.

In my other readings recently, about the PISA successes of Asian countries such as Singapore and South Korea, I’ve found that the resilience of children is almost taken for granted – children are capable of more than we think. And children are pushed to limits higher than we would even dream of in the UK – because there is an expectation that chidren can do it.

So, this beggars the question: Why do we (in the UK, for example) not believe that our children can do this? Why do we not give them a chance, an opportunity to grow and prove themselves? Why do we set the bar so low, and change the exams to make them easier?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should exclude children and make them feel they are not worthy, because they find it hard to perform at the higher standards. I’ve been particularly intrigued by the Finnish education system, where teachers go out of their way to help kids feel included – and these kids flourish at the higher standards, too.

Instil in students the passion, self-belief and grit to succeed, and surely we can get our kids to do these hard exams too….?

Our children are capable of far more than we think. Let’s give them a chance!


A while ago, I saw this animated video of a speech given by Sir Ken Robinson on how ‘Schools Kill Creativity’.

Looking at it again, I realise once more how many amazing and insightful things this genius educator has to say about our education systems.

In this video, he tells us how we are getting our kids through education by anaesthetising them into boredom, and he calls for action to ‘wake them up’. He ponders upon the problem of how standardised testing has in fact killed creativity in our kids, and how, as educators, we should actually be ‘going in the opposite direction’.

I am constantly inspired by Sir Ken’s talks. So, I’d like to share this one here, for us all to learn from and enjoy.