Re: Finding a pace for all students

From: Louise Donahue <>
Subject: Re: Finding a pace for all students
Date: Wed, 24 Dec 1997 12:53:00 +0100

Stephanie Wong wrote:
> I wouldn't mind if my class had no different activities, as long as the
> material was taught quicker. 
> but some are just simply bored with what we're doing.    
>  but I don't like the fact of dividing the students into
> regular and advanced.
> Not many honor students wish to do extra work.  All they want is to learn
> things more quickly without all the review. 
> Honors programs, which are offered in high school, are not favored by some
> because what universities look at is the final mark, not whether you're in a
> special program or not.  Some do not want to risk getting a lower mark.
> *****************************************************************************
> What do you think is better: many little assignments or a few large
> assignments?  lots of group work or more independent work?
> Work habits of the students should be put into consideration.  Not only the
> poor students leave things till the last minute.  I prefer small assignments
> and independent work.

Hi again, Stephanie.  What great input you have again!  (And thanks to
others, too, for some great ideas!  I can see this is the "chat" group
for me right now!)
	You hit the nail on the head, Stephanie, for the very reason we opted
to homeschool.  (I explained this to 2 others on this list, and don't
know if that went to them personally, or if the group read it, so I
won't elaborate.  Can you let me know if that is the case?)
	My son learns very quickly, and it was very painful to try to "move
with the class."  His mind quickly jumped to "higher level thinking" in
every subject--to the point that he actually forgot the original
assignment.  Instead of the teacher accepting that and using it to his
advantage (too many children in the classroom, etc), her attempts to
"dumb him down" -- or at best to make him conform to the rest of the
class--only resulted in a label of "ADD" when he asked for clarification
on the assignments.  --  Even tho she knew his solutions were much more
than what was expected from the assignments.  He tried so hard to do
"only what the other students did."  He was extremely frustrated.  This
was 1st grade.  
	Before he even got to 1st grade, his "reputation had preceeded him" and
we were told that he would be "tested soon, and given appropriate
instruction." When real problems began to get out of hand, we offered
solutions to deaf ears that didn't want to "give up their control" and
we tolerated outbursts of "please don't push your child so much..." 
What we wanted was that he be allowed to learn--not be pushed or held
back.  We changed schools mid-year, went to 2nd grade, began
homeschooling 3rd grade.  This is a much better option! 
	In my studies at the U regarding this subject of "honors" students,
there seems to be no easy answer--or any answer at all, for that
matter.  Whether to divide into "regular/honors" or not, etc.  I think
an ideal solution (but how practical?) would be to keep the class
intact, and still allow individual learning--ALLOWING STUDENTS TO "GO
AHEAD" without any restrictions.  I think students themselves learn to
pace themselves, they have "learning spurts" that should be allowed to
develop unhindered, and also they have times when they need to go a
little slower--which for some might be at the "average" or a little
	What we learned in homeschool, is just what you mentioned, Stephanie,
about learning and doing at his own pace, and then allowing him to
search, discover things on his own.  I'm not totally in favor of the
"unschooling" approach, but some aspects of this do make some sense. 
(Allowing the child to "teach himself")  My son is getting an education
FAR better than he could in schools, OR with private teachers.  He has a
thirst for knowledge--not only in science--that would be highly
damaged--if not quashed--if he were to continue as he was! (Incedently
that did happen to my oldest son.) 
	You're right,too, about "not all honors students want to do extra
work."  As soon as "it is an assignment"--he gets turned off!  Let alone
to discover it himself, he goes way beyond any of my expectations!  I
have actually learned more from him, than he has from me!  It is truly a
very fun way to teach--AND to raise a child!
	My daughter went through the high school honors "catch 22" you
mentioned--taking the risk of getting a lower grade in an honors
course.  In one particular course, there grew a great dissention among
students and parents when the teacher had the class do an extremely
challenging project, graded it critically, and all of our A-students
(who were looking at college scholarships) received B and even some
C's!  Not good!!
	Regarding assignment size:  I think there should be a mix of small and
large.  My son prefers to have me stack up all his assignments each day
and then let him alone to finish them--which he does very quickly.  I
insist that he have breakfast at some point during the morning, which he
grudgingly does.  He does not want to take a break until all is done. 
You can see the impractibility of this, not to mention his self-imposed
stress load. He and I discuss this, and have devised ways to solve
	One day a week is "independent day" where he chooses what he will do
academically that day.  He has a ball, is completely relaxed, I do my
music and stay out of his hair, and he is so excited by what he learned
that day, that he is bubbling over to tell me!  (Often interrupts ME
during my music to fill me in....occasionally inviting me to join
him...this is truly learning!!)
	Even tho we are home schooling, I do feel some group work is
important.  We have a science club, book report club, and many other
small group special interest "classes" for that reason.  
	To try to be a little more realistic, we do some larger projects.  He
grumbles at first, and then immediately plans out its completion--time
wise.  He then really sinks his teeth into the project, and again--the
outcome is far more than I anticipated.  I generally have to tone him
down a bit, or we wouldn't get to anything else for weeks!
	I guess the point in all this is that knowing about each student's
learning styles is an absolute essential to teach effectively.  I do
realize the limitations that classroom teachers have, and I sympathize
with them completely! (I tried it...) I hear the frustrations just in
this group about the restrictions of having to conform to testing, etc. 
I don't have the answer: that is why I opted for a private music studio
in my own teaching.  Teaching one/one or small groups allows more
opportunity to really getting to know the student and his/her learning
style.  So does having the same student year after year.  I really see
the benefit of that!