The Good Stuff: Resources for Parents
“What we learn with pleasure we will never forget.” Alfred Mercier
This page has been created to share knowledge, build a collective understanding, and encourage conversation about the pedagogy and philosophy practiced at RGS. We understand that weeding through the myriad of “resources” available to parents can sometimes feel daunting. We also recognize that we are the experts in our field and sharing our knowledge and experiences with the community is an essential part of the school and community relationship.
These resources are organized into four categories: Brain-Based Research in Practice, Inquiry, Literacy, and Mathematics. Our hope is that you will find the selection of materials accessible and informative. We encourage you to follow-up with your child’s classroom teacher(s) if you have further questions. Or better yet, we love visitors.
Brain-Based Research in Practice
“In addition, the physiological effects of physical activity include increased cerebral blood flow and oxygen to the brain, the growth of additional capillaries to keep up with brain growth, and the increased release of dopamine and serotonin to help sustain attention and concentration.”
“The brain-based learning research reinforces the need for classrooms to once again become places where imagination spirit, and curiosity of students are encouraged, rather than left outside in the playground when the school bell rings.”
“Finally, remember that interest and discovery drive achievement, and students are more likely to remember and really understand what they learn if they find it compelling or have some part in figuring it out or discovering it for themselves. In addition, when interest is high, stress and anxiety are decreased and students are more accepting of their errors, more willing to try again, and less self-conscious about asking questions.”
“So what’s wrong, exactly, with teaching a group of children how to identify punctuation apart from the risk of alienating young children with boring teaching practices, the main problem here is that, with limited time in the day, every moment has to count...and every minute spent doing rudimentary skills such as alphabet drills or simple addition worksheets is a moment not spent on complex skills such as working collaboratively with peers to build a pulley system or a fort. Simple and complex skills are not mutually exclusive, of course, but, as we’ve seen, the former is a by-product of the latter. It doesn’t work the other way around.”
“At the same time, we woefully underestimate their cognitive capacities, insulting their intelligence on a routine basis with foolish and unimaginative curricula.”
“Children’s natural affinity for metaphysical thinking stems from their free-ranging minds uncluttered by “the conceptual schemes (adults) get locked up in.”
“It is the oldest age group that benefit the most in a multiage class. They have the benefit of continuing their learning with the same teacher, of developing leadership positions within the class community and reflecting on their academic progress as they revisit basic concepts with their younger classmates. The more advanced student is freed from the constraints of a graded curriculum when the teacher is designing a program from a child centered perspective. At the same time, children that would struggle in a traditional graded classroom experience success when given more choice in the level of daily activities. An experienced multiage teacher learns to provide a balance of challenge and success for all students.”
“At this time, scientists are learning that people have more capacity for lifelong learning and brain development than they ever thought. Of course, each person has a unique genetic endowment. People may start with different temperaments and different aptitudes, but it is clear that experience, training, and personal effort take them the rest of the way. Robert Sternberg, the present-day guru of intelligence, writes that the major factor in whether people achieve expertise “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement.”
“The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way - in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments - everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
“Neurodiversity is also gaining traction in special education, where experts are learning that helping students make the most of their native strengths and special interests, rather than focusing on trying to correct their deficits or normalize their behavior, is a more effective method of educating young people with atypical minds so they can make meaningful contributions to society. “We don’t pathologize a calla lily by saying it has a ‘petal deficit disorder,'” writes Thomas Armstrong, author of a new book called Neurodiversity in the Classroom. “Similarly, we ought not to pathologize children who have different kinds of brains and different ways of thinking and learning.”
“Doing the right thing in schools starts with one fairly straightforward question: What do you believe about how kids learn most powerfully and deeply in their lives? Once you’ve answered that as an individual and as a school community, the question that follows is does your practice in classrooms with kids honor those beliefs? In other words, if you believe that kids learn best when they have authentic reasons for learning, when their work lives in the world in some real way, when they are pursuing answers to questions that they themselves find interesting, when they’re not constrained by a schedule or a curriculum, when they are having fun, and when they can learn with other students and teachers, then are you giving priority to those conditions in the classroom? Are you acting on your beliefs?”
“The implication is that the diverse multiage environment likely is more conducive to learning in several different ways, whether the difference is academic or social in origin. These benefits include interaction, role theory, and modeling; cross-aged tutoring; a decrease in aggressive and competitive behaviors; enhanced social development and self-esteem; birth order in the classroom; and flexibility with promotion issues.”
“Parents put up with these nightly battles because they want what’s best for their kids. But, surprise, the opposite is more likely to be true. A comprehensive review of 180 research studies by Duke University psychologist and neuroscientist Harris Cooper shows homework’s benefits are highly age dependent: high schoolers benefit if the work is under two hours a night, middle schoolers receive a tiny academic boost, and elementary-aged kids? It’s better to wait.”
“When students’ curiosity is activated, they learn more, and they learn better. Research shows that children’s learning skyrockets when they read about things they are already wondering about, or when their activity and spontaneous explorations guide their lessons (rather than simply learning teacher-imposed ideas or techniques).”
“The modern curriculum should thus: (1) equip students with the ability to further their superficial knowledge, through careful questioning, (2) enable them to turn those questions into warranted, systematic knowledge, (3) develop in students high standards of craftsmanship in their work irrespective of how much or how little they “know”, and (4) engage students so thoroughly in important questions that they learn to take pleasure in seeking important knowledge.”
“Through choice, you can help students self-differentiate their learning so work is more appropriately challenging. You can also combat student apathy, helping students connect with their strengths and interests and giving them more autonomy, power, and control over their work, which boosts their intrinsic motivation. These are perhaps the two most compelling reasons to use choice as a part of daily teaching and learning in schools, but there are many other additional benefits that are important to recognize as well, for they help highlight the true power and potential of choice.
- Students engage in deeper, richer learning.
- Students display more on-task behavior.
- Students’ social, and emotional learning increases
- The learning environment becomes more collaborative”
“I like to think, though, that things are changing, and that as a nation we might be ready to move from the narrow teaching of procedures and skills to a more inquiry-based approach that opens up all sorts of learning possibilities for both teachers and students - and that is more aligned and in sync with those qualities and capacities we profess to value.”
“The world no longer cares how much you know, because Google knows everything. What the world cares about - what matters for learning, work, and citizenship - is what you can do with what you know. Of course, our students will continue to need content knowledge, but that’s the easy part. As we’ve seen, content knowledge has become a free commodity - like air or water - growing exponentially, changing constantly, and available on every Internet-connected device. The harder part is helping students develop the skill and the will to ask new questions, solve new problems, and create new knowledge.”
“While higher-level critical thinking involves research, analysis, and evaluation about existing data, creativity involves divergent and convergent thinking skills. To be creative requires generating many unique ideas (divergent thinking) and then combining those ideas into the best results (convergent thinking).”
“It is the “root of happiness.” Flow is the mental state that is achieved when a person performing an activity is immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
“Three researchers studying the effects of doodling and drawing on students’ ability to learn science discovered that when students shift their focus from interpreting presented visuals to creating their own visual representations they have a considerably deeper learning experience.”
"When we teach reading as if the only objective is to climb levels, we're inadvertently creating reading identity issues among those children who aren't yet reading the hardest books. Our response to this emphasis on readiness as the goal is simply this: children are always ready for something, and our most effective teaching meets them where they are and nudges them toward what might be next."
“Starting in kindergarten and going straight through until the end of high school, free choice of books should be a young reader’s right, not a privilege granted by a kind teacher. Our students have shown us that opportunities to consider, select, and reconsider books make reading feel sensible and attractive to children right from the start -- and that they will read more books than we ever dreamed and more challenging books than we ever dreamed of assigning to them.”
"...we all have stories to tell, and, when asked the right questions, we may be brave enough to share them with the world....every story must count in our classrooms, too....Often it is through the simplest questions we ask our students that we hear the most important stories."
“All students benefit from and deserve to be in classes in which teaching for understanding is the norm. Opportunity to learn with understanding is first and foremost a matter of equity.”
“Explaining and justifying mathematical ideas is an integral part of understanding mathematics at all levels. To understand a strategy, students need to know why it works, not just that it works.”
“Piaget’s constructivism and the more than sixty years of scientific research by him and others all over the world led Kamii to a compelling hypothesis: Children in the primary grades should be able to invent their own arithmetic without instruction they are not receiving from textbooks and workbooks.” “Another significant finding was that at the end of second and third grade, the children in “constructivist” classes consistently excel over those in traditional classrooms where algorithms are taught.”
“We have two reasons for saying that algorithms are harmful: (1) They encourage children to give up their own thinking, and (2) they “unteach” place value, thereby preventing children from developing number sense.”