Class Conversations and Television

This week the whole school started gearing up for our NECAP testing. NECAP is the New England version of national testing for the No Child Left Behind law. Most teachers spent time coaching students and guiding practice in the various kinds of questions that will be asked, using official “Released Items” in class. Released items are actual questions that will no longer be used; they are passed along for the schools to use in many different ways.

This week I was using Reading test items as practice tests. I gave students two specific test-taking strategies to help them improve their scores, and then we did the practice. One article students were asked to read was called, At the Summer Cottage; it was an excerpt from a book. In the story, a family of five is beginning a two-month vacation and the father is particularly happy about having no television for the duration; one of the children in the family has a vivid imagination and the story contains several instances of the things he concocts in his mind. After I had guided students through the answers to all of the questions, I thought I would model for them the practice of making personal connections to the characters.

I asked this question: What would you think if you were going to a summer cottage for two months and would not have any television?

I expected students to speak out in protest about how awful that would be.

I was wrong.

VERY wrong.

This group of sixteen students thought that would be a wonderful way to have a vacation. (Side note: I’m so fortunate to work in a school where sixteen students in a class is the norm!)

We launched into a wonderfully rich conversation about all the things one might do if there were no TV. They were first to mention reading. Kids shared personal stories — one boy said his family didn’t have a TV for the first six or seven years of his life, and he liked that; even now he wasn’t a big fan. Another student said her father turned it on in the evening, but she just went to her room so she wouldn’t have to watch. I shared a tidbit about enjoying my morning coffee with my dog snuggled in my lap, watching the news on our local TV station, and then turning it off after the weather report. A few students said their mornings were similar; some said their parents just turned on their computers to find out what the news was about each day. But time and again, most of the kids in that class firmly said they preferred reading over watching TV. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised; these kids come into my room every day begging to spend the whole period reading.

I did step out on a limb and asked how they would feel if they had to give up their computers or iPods for two months, and I did get protests then. And I told them I agreed — I could easily forego television, and I am guilty of spending a lot of time with my computer and iPod. My gultiest pleasure? Spider Solitaire. (My son takes great pleasure in being overtly disgusted with my behavior.)

I am not so naive as to believe that the world is changing because I have a class of students who prefers reading over watching television, but it sure does make me happy that I get to work with this group this year.

About harleywoman50

I retired from teaching in June 2011, and now am enjoying the good things I never had time to do before: traveling, writing, and creative arts. I also work as an educational consultant specializing in professional development for teachers; in this capacity I teach educators about their personalities using the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Instrument). I teach a course on how to differentiate instruction using type in the classroom, and several other workshops. Life is good.
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9 Responses to Class Conversations and Television

  1. amy says:

    i think when you retire, you should write a book. “things i learned with my students”

  2. Paul Hague says:

    I like Spider Solitaire too! Have for years. Don’t blab it around.

  3. Fritz says:

    I am pleased that others think this should all go into a book someday. In fact, that is not a thought but a requirement. “Your assignment, should you undertake it…” or however it went on Mission Impossible. In any case, your writing is great and a real pleaseur to read! Hugs ()()()

  4. G says:

    I know this isn’t the point of your article, but we don’t have any retired test questions to guide our students for our NCLB testing or to help us figure out what they’re really asking on the tests. In fact, we have no idea what they’re asking them. All we have is the state standard, and we’re supposed to teach it. And then they test them–somehow.

    A couple years ago a gal was allowed to take one of the tests, but she wasn’t allowed to take any notes or anything, so she had to attempt to run out to her car and jot down everything she could remember.

    • Wow — maybe that’s why the schools in the New England area are scoring better than those in other parts of the country. NECAP is an agency/company that is part of the DOEs in the New England states; Measured Progress might be the name of the group, it’s impossible to track it to its origins. I wonder who has created your state testing frameworks? Our tests are developed from the state standards and the released items are actually labeled with the framework numbers so we can track it and drill down to where we can actually see which questions specific students got wrong or right and what their answer was.

  5. Rachel says:

    Like G says a little bit off the point of the article but in highschool we weren’t allowed to write on the text books we were given and I’m scattered brained so my notes for tests looked more like elaborate art projects complete with jumping stick figures, elaborate portraits, and randomly scrawled short hand. It was embarrassing to turn in my notes when I had continously drawn every movement my teacher made through out the lesson. Now, I’m babbling, my point is I couldn’t make sense of my notes later. My history’s teacher’s solution was to give me a couple transparencys to lay them over my text book pages and line up my notes as I was reading and give me some order. I used permanent markers and later washed the transparencys in dish water soap to use for the next unit.

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