Friday, September 22, 2006

Diffendoofer Philosophy

Okay – so I don’t really use this book for writing. But given that we have finally received the ELA scores for our state and everyone is clamoring to see how neighboring districts fared in comparison and trying to figure out where to lay blame, I thought I would share Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!!

Created from the last sketches of Dr. Seuss – this book honors those teachers who truly are “outside the box” and put their students, not tests, first. Ironically, those teachers are embodied by a teacher named Miss Bonkers! Students at Diffendoofer learn” how to tell chrysanthemums from miniature poodles” and other important skills. But then comes the TEST!! Students must pass a standardized test or face going to Flobbertown where everyone does things the same. But the students are inspired by Miss Bonkers who proclaims “"We've taught you that the earth is round,/ That red and white make pink,/ And something else that matters more-/ We've taught you how to think." Low and behold, and without test prep, the students of Diffendoofer school pass with a mathematically impossible, but nonetheless amusing percentage.

I have come to firmly believe in what I call the Diffendoofer Philosophy: that if we teach to student interests, give them choice, and engage them in thinking, the will be able to pass any test that is thrown at them. It is the same with writing – we don’t need to give them four document based questions a week or have them write essays to inauthentic prompts in order to teach them to write. We should encourage their creativity, nurture their enthusiasm, and promote risk-taking in their word choice. In other words, make it enjoyable and not a chore.

I believe we can do it– Business First be damned!!


Melodee said...

I used this book last year in my staff development meetings early on in the year when we were talking about the upcoming tests in grades 3-8. It really puts things in perspective. Our administration feels that we are headed in the right direction by teaching kids to think and giving them opportunities to read and write in real authentic situations. Teaching for the test I believe will not achieve the results we want in the long run. I think we need to hold our course and see what happens this year. The brain research has opened many doors into the thinking of children. Goudvis, Tovani, Gallagher, Miller, Fletcher, Calkins, to name a few back up this research with their reading and writing research and strategies. After being with Cris Tovani last week for two days, I believe even more that we are responding in the right way to cultivate that thinking and creativity in children. I say full steam ahead as we have been and in time we should begin seeing the rewards.

Shirley said...

I totally agree with Melodee. We must continue to teach so that enthusiasm, creativity and risk-taking are fostered. Only then will we be doing justice to our children and their learning. I am concerned however, that the test scores send a powerful and detrimental message to everyone. We must have the strengh of our convictions and the vision to stay the course. Teaching for the test is not in the best interest of children and learning. Let's all do our best to promote learning that is meaningful and that engages children. Children must be taught how tho think.