Raise Your Hand, Answer the Question, and Keep Your Voice Down

Reflections from a 5th Grade teacher…

Dear readers,

I have been trying to decide what I want this site to be, and I think I have figured it out. Using Farnam Street and Barking Up the Wrong Tree as my mentor blogs, I am going to dedicate my time to reading books/research on education and creating posts that follow the same format as the previously mentioned blogs, surmizes, opinions, mixed with big ideas from the readings. We shall see how it goes.

Most sincerely,

Benjamin J. E. Light

“First I recommend that elementary students be given homework even though it should not be expected to improve test scores. Instead, homework for young children should help them develop good study habits, foster positive attitudes toward school, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes work at home as well as at school.” Harris Cooper (1989b, p. 90). 

Homework. Ugh. The research is clear, homework is not that effective when it comes to student achievement for our younger stars; yet it still needs to be assigned for the above reasons. What do we do?

I work at an elementary school and I keep thinking, what kind of student do we want to send to middle school? While that answer can be quite taxing, I have narrowed it down to two things:

  1. Someone who enjoys reading.
  2. Someone who has computational fluency.

It is with these two ideas in mind that I offer my opinion on homework. Have your students read every day, and have them work on their computational fluency (these should be developmentally appropriate: click here)….nothing else. Nothing else! Can you hear that? That is the sound of students, teachers, administrators, and parents rejoicing.

You are quite welcome.

2nd graders will graduate high school in 10 years, 2024. What did 2004 look like?  What does now look like?  If the big idea of technology growing exponentially continues to hold true, that means the same growth we have seen in the past 10 years will double in the next 10. Here are a couple of articles from 2004 (trends, and results), one about technology growth, and one about current technology….how are we preparing our students for 2024…what about 2018?

I think I should come up with some sort of mind wandering scale for my deep work, because today was tough. I kept thinking about other stuff as I was reading about the wonders of child psychology! Let’s try to get to the reading first. There were a few specifcis that I remember from today, one being the smile.  Apparently, it is a response to the eyes and brow, not the smile of another (they talked about some creepy doll that didn’t have a mouth!) and that it is one way babies start to understand the difference between people and objects (people smile, objects don’t). They also talked about the egocentricity of babies, only thinking about things as how they connect to them, not beeing really aware of what is around them (I know plenty of adults like that as well). They also went into the difference between field effect and perceptual effects (againk I think…I am not looking back, just plowing foward, things will be corrected when the analysis of the book begins). Field effects, when it comes to vision, is how we discern bigger objects from smaller objects, and this is something that is fairly consistent from baby to adult hood. The perceptual effect is how we perceive the differences sizes of smiliar objects, and this improves with age. This leads me to another idea I had about how they said real learning doesn’t start until 7…SEVEN…the same age Finland starts educating their children in the realm of academics. Is this where they got that idea?  We must look at this. My five minutes are up…I actuallly think I am going to change it to 20 min of reading and 10 min of writing. I will try that tomorrow!


Phew! That was pretty tiring.. I do not know what it had more to do with, the taxing deep work of reading Piaget, or the fact that my daughter did not sleep well last night, which equals daddy didn’t sleep well last night!  I think it has more to do with the former.  Well, this first real day of deep work has been interesting. My daughter, whom I mentioned above, is 8 months old, so the chapter I was reading about sensory-motor intelligence really hit home. I am amazed to find out that babies have no real sign of cognitive intelligence until they are about one. Everything before that is based on reactions to outside stimuli..I must reiterate at this point that I may get some stuff wrong, I am reading quickly, not stopping, not rereading, even if I am confused, which I have been A LOT!  The corrections will come about when I analyze the text. And here I thought my daughter was a genius!  I thought she was predicting that the car door was going to close by squinting her eye, but it turns out that she is trying to close the door by squinting!  Now, Piaget does mention that in the final stage of the sensory-motor development, stage 6 I believe, the child will pull on a blanket to get an object, and I have seen my daughter do that, but I think the trick is that the child in stage 6 does it on purpose and repeatedly. Another interesting thing was the item about hiding an object. If you hide an object in A (to the right of them), and the baby finds it, and then you hide that same object in B (to the left of them) they will look in A first!  Fascinating…You know I am going to try this out tonight…


First off two quotes.

“Throughout Visible Learning, I constantly came across the importance of ‘passion’; as a measurement person, it bothered me that it was a difficult notion to measure – particularly when it was often so obvious. But it is a particular form of passion – a passion based on having a positive impact on all of the students in the class. These mind frames (of passionate, inspired teachers/leaders) require nurturance and resourcing, and these mind frames are the professional being of those we call ‘effective’ teachers and school leaders.” John Hattie, Preface, Visible Learning for Teachers.

“You know, I don’t really like that, and neither do my kids.” Teacher X

A few weeks ago I ran into an inspired speech by a man named Cal Newton. He has written a book debunking the advice of following your passion. What it boils down to is this: “You can not expect a good working life until you are really good at something (so being good at something leads to the passion, not vice versa).” So I have a question for every teacher out there….Are you really good at teaching? Do you want to be really good at it?  Do you have the passion for teaching?

In the coming weeks, I am going to share the mindsets that Mr. Hattie talks about in his book; which I hope sparks some discussion on this site.


I have started on a path called Deep Work that I ran across one day.  My first order of business was to try and think of what kind of Deep Work I could do, as an educator, and it occurred to me that a definition, possibly too simplistic, of Deep Work could be “anything the brain does not wish to stay focused on.”  In that case, a whole world opened up to me, especially when it comes to reading research, so that is where I opted to start. And, since I am an educator, I decided to turn my attention firstly, to Mr. Jean Piaget, and his book, The Psychology of the Child.  So, my first 30 minute session starts….I am going to break it up into 25 minutes of reading, 5 minutes of writing.  Just to start.

I am going to try, also, to read this book in the way that is suggested by the authors of How to Read a Book (which, if I am to be honest, I haven’t finished…). I am going to read through the first time, not stopping, not looking up words, not highlighting anything, just plowing through to the end.  When I reach the end, I will then go back through the book, and really start to analyze what knowledge is in there.  Which takes me to the foreword written by Jerome Kagan of Harvard. He gave a nice outline as to the overlying importance of Dr. Piaget, and just why Freud may have been much more popular than Piaget.  You know what, I should have also had added another preface to this post, and that is this….I may be wrong in my writings…I am going to read from the book, and then write about what I read, not looking back. This should prove interesting (to anyone other than me is yet to be seen).

So, I got through the foreword and the introduction (to be honest one more time, it took me some time to find what I was going to read, and that took about 10 minutes out of my 25 minutes of reading, so we are not getting off to that great of a start!, and now a lot of my typing has been in explaining what I am attempting to do, it seems I have to organize this a little better) in which they spoke about Dr. Piaget’s great thought was that of the beginning of adolescence and how that is another step along the path of intelligence. And what is different about adolescence is that it is the first time that we can start to make hypotheses, and see hypocrisies, which brings upon us crisis. My five minutes are up.

The following is a summary of pages 171-173 of Visible Learning by John Hattie

Keller’s Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) (d = 0.53)

Developed by Keller and Sherman during the 1960s PSI includes:

  • Students proceed through the course at their own pace

  • Students demonstrate mastery of each component of the course before proceeding to the next

  • Teaching materials and other communications between teachers and students are largely text-based

  • Teachers are involved more in tutorial support and in providing motivation for students to complete the work and attain the goals.

Worked Examples (d = 0.57)

Worked examples typically consist of a problem statement and the appropriate steps to the solution. They reduce the cognitive load for students such that they concentrate on the processes that lead to the correct answer. Worked examples consist of three parts: an introductory phase, an acquisition or training phase, and a test phase.

The following is a summary of pages 170-171 of John Hattie´s Visible Learning.

Mastery Learning

Mastery learning´s claim is that all children can learn when provided with clear explanations of what it means to “master” the material being taught. Features of Mastery Learning include: appropriate learning conditions in the classroom, such as high levels of cooperation between classmates; high levels of teacher feedback that is both frequent and specific by using diagnostic formative tests; and the regular correction of mistakes students make along their learning path. The important variable in mastery learning is the time required to reach the levels of attainment. The material is divided into small learning units, each with their own objectives and assessment. Each unit is preceded by brief diagnostic tests, which provide information to identify gaps and strengths. No student proceeds to new material until prior or more basic prerequisite material is mastered.

Kulik, Kulik, and Bangert-Drowns (1990) found mastery learning programs had a positive effect on examination performance of students, raising examination performance by about half a standard deviation, especially for low-aptitude students. Mastery programs had positive effects on student attitudes towards course content and instruction, but increased student time spent on instructional tasks.

The following is a summary of pages 168-169 of Visible Learning by John Hattie.

Concept Mapping

Concept mapping involves the development of graphical representations of the conceptual structure of the content to be learnt. The difference between concept mapping and other organizing methods is that it involves the students in the development of the organizational tool.

The importance of concept mapping relates to its emphasis on summarizing the main ideas in what is to be learnt. Concept mapping can assist in synthesizing and identifying the major ideas, themes, and interrelationships . Kim, Vaughn, Wanzek, and Wei (2004) argued that concept mapping enhances the reading comprehension of students with learning difficulties.

Moor and Readance (1984) reported greater effects when concept mapping occurred after initial exposure to the material to be mapped. Nesbbit and Adesope (2006) found greater effects when the emphasis was on understanding the central rather than the detailed ideas of the topic being mapped. It is the heuristic process of organizing and synthesizing that is the important feature. It does not seem to matter who does the mapping but the strongest effects are when students provided the terms for the  maps, regardless of who then devised the maps.  Various authors have found that the effects were highest with those students with lower rather than higher ability.