Recently, there have been several articles in professional journals as well as in the Washington Post and other news affiliates debating the validity of long-standing left brain/right brain beliefs. Additionally, Newsweek recently ran an article about the Creativity Crisis. In the article, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman indicate that, for the first time, research shows American creativity is declining. One of the most significant findings was that the scores of younger children in America, those who are currently in Kindergarten through sixth grade, are at greatest risk. One of the determined culprits of this shift is the number of hours children watch TV and play video games. Another reason points to the lack of opportunities for children to be creative in school. With the curricula driven by test scores, drill and practice lessons, and rote memorization, children do not have the opportunity to “practice” being creative. New research shows that problem solving requires the juxtaposition of both the left and right brain. In problem solving activities, the left hemisphere of the brain takes over to see if familiar solutions provide an answer to the question. If the answer is not found there, then the right hemisphere and left hemispheres of the brain activate together. Ultimately, “In a flash, the brain pulls together these disparate shreds of thought and binds them into a new single idea that enters consciousness. This becomes the ‘aha’ moment.”
If you are an early childhood parent, you know that preschoolers ask about 100 questions a day. Sometimes we wish it would stop! By middle school it does stop, and student motivation and engagement plummet. So what can we do?
- Encourage uniqueness with stability
- Provide opportunities for flexibility as it helps with creativity
- Give opportunities in schools to include distinct types of free play such as role-playing, voicing someone else's point of view, or acting out negative emotions
- Be prepared for unconventional questions and answers
Creativity has always been valued in our society, but it has never really been understood. Schools and parents must work together to provide opportunities for children to exercise both sides of their brain and provide opportunities for children to be engaged, motivated, and open to the world.
“Homework shouldn’t be about rote learning. The best kind deepens student understanding and builds essential skills.” - Cathy Vatterott, Associate Professor, College of Education, University of Missouri - Saint Louis and author of Rethinking Homework.
At Shlenker we recommend guidelines for homework based on developmentally appropriate timelines for each grade or age. In order to encourage students to read their Just Right books, the time for reading can not always be a part of that timeline. However, we do try to adhere to some specific fundamental guidelines about what kind of homework to give. Below are some guidelines given for homework at its best according to Educational Leadership. It is difficult for teachers to prepare every assignment based on the information below. However, it will be a goal for the future.
- Purpose: The task should have a clear academic purpose for each student. Students learn best through a variety of modes including rote memorization, use of technology, a written assignment, and others.
- Efficiency: Traditional tasks such as dioramas, projects that do not require academic skills or high level thinking, are often seen as busywork. Studying spelling, math facts, and definitions must still be worked on over time.
- Ownership: Tasks should be customized to fit the needs and abilities of the students. At Shlenker, the Envision Math Program allows students to take a test at home covering the material learned in class. The homework is then sent to each student immediately based on their competency on the test.
- Competence: Students should be able to complete their homework at home independently by having individual math homework, reading at their own level, and rubrics for individual reports.
- Aesthetic Appeal: Research tells us that the way homework looks can make a difference in a student’s desire to complete it. As more information is available through technology, preparing opportunities for students to practice at their own pace will become easier.
Parents continue to be a wonderful resource for students, especially in providing an appropriate setting and time for homework. However, if a student does not understand some part of his or her homework, parents should encourage their child to ask the teacher for more help. We thank you for your partnership in helping our students learn responsibility and resourcefulness as they prepare for their future.