Monday, November 16, 2009

You do the math.

Just an observation. On my most recent vocabulary quiz (words listed below), an interesting data point emerged. My high school draws from two locations. One location is largely White, the other largely Hispanic.
I decided to check the statistics--you know, data-driven-decision-making. The students from location A (largely White), scored 20 percentage points higher.
The appropriate question is, why? Why do the students from school A score higher than the students from school B? Is it their whiteness? Truthfully, some of my non-white students have expressed their belief that white students are smarter. How does a teacher combat such beliefs? These are 13, 14, and 15 year olds. I've attempted to spark intrinsic motivation, but that hasn't helped. I've attempted to ignite a period competition (the majority of my school A students are in one class period), but that hasn't had much effect. This week, instead of posting scores based on period, I'm posting based on middle school location.
I'm at a loss for motivational techniques. My competitive nature would have been sparked long ago had my teacher pointed out that I was being outperformed by someone else. Even if I couldn't beat them, I would try.
Oh, I expect that some of you will question why I would teach vocabulary, especially out of context from a novel. I'll allow a student to answer that:

"I wish you had been my English teacher every year. I took the SAT's and did terribly--especially in the vocab section. I recognized like half of the words on your list as words that were on the SAT."--A senior in my advisory class.


At 2:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

sometimes teaching words out of context is difficult for students especially if they do not have the opportunity to practice the words in conversation and/or see the words in use. In some school districts, the student do not even use the english language at home thus making this even more difficult. While I applaud the idea of using vocabulary to expand a students word base, perhaps context should/could be looked at.

At 3:48 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

I've often wondered how to do that exactly. Fortunately, in reading Animal Farm, we've happened across many of the words we've already covered. But it is difficult to create SAT vocabulary units based on texts. I almost view it like one of the bibilical parables. Some seed falls on stony ground, the flat ground or the thorns to little avail. But some falls on good earth and grows. If we teach specific SAT vocabulary on a yearly basis, perhaps, as student develop, they will turn into good soil.


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