Jay Matthews suggests a good way to teach writing in high school

Jay Matthews suggests a ” Reading and Writing” course to substitute for one semester of the regular high school English curriculum. “Every student would produce an essay each week and spend time at the teacher’s desk being edited.”

A class of 25 meeting five times a week for 50 minutes would allow only 10 minutes of editing a week for each student. But that adds up to 200 minutes of one-on-one editing per student by the end of the semester, a big improvement over what students get now, which often is zero. The usual written comments on graded papers lack the force of these personal exchanges.

What would each student do with the other 240 minutes of class each week? Work on the next essay or just read good writers. The teacher might be exhausted from all that editing but would have no paper to grade at home.

Matthews says some educators like his idea. He notes that John Edmonsdon, a sixth-grade teacher in New Hampshire, sometimes has his students write for the whole period. All work is done in class so there is no homework (and parents can’t help).

I think Matthews’ approach is well worth trying. As he says, “a good editor can communicate more information and demonstrate more techniques in 10 minutes of conversation than a teacher can by writing in the margins of a paper at home.”

Allentown offers before-school program

In Pennsylvania, the Allentown school district started a new before-school program, “Start Your Day Right”   for some elementary school students this September. The start times for elementary students are 45 minutes later than last year.  The “Start Your Day Right” before-school program will fill the gap, ease the transition for students, parents, guardians and the district, and allow for related learning activities.There are three twenty-minute rotations every morning, with a time allowance of five minutes for students to transition between rotations and the to their classroom. The program consists of the following:

Acting Superintendent Dr. C. Russell Mayo implements before-school program for some elementary school students

  • Breakfast/conversation with the community—Director Kris James of the ASC Child Nutrition Services Department hopes to increase the number of students eating breakfast at school.
  • Academic support and enrichment—volunteers will support academic progress by doing homework checks and reading;
  • Fitness activities—volunteers will receive physical fitness training

The student rotations total 1 hour, 10 minutes at each school.

Acting Superintendent C. Russell Mayo wrote in The Morning Call  that he hopes that the program, which started this year as a pilot program, will expand to accommodate every student needing early morning support. He is recruiting volunteers, who must pass background clearances and provide negative tuberculosis test results.

Last year all classes in Allentown started at 8 a.m. This year the schedule is staggered. “This year classes start and end as follows: high schools, 7:30 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.; middle schools, 7:50 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.; and elementary schools, 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.”

Some schools set limits on homework

The New York Times reports that “Research has long suggested that homework in small doses can reinforce basic skills and help young children develop study habits, but that there are diminishing returns, said Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. The 10-minute guideline has generally been shown to be effective, Dr. Cooper said, adding that over all, ““there is a minimal relationship between how much homework young kids do and how well they test.””
New Recruit in Homework Revolt: The Principal
Published: June 15, 2011
Schools are responding to concerns that high-stakes testing and competition for college have fueled a grind that does little to raise achievement.