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Topic: will's,won'ts, can's and can'ts
Replies: 2   Last Post: Jul 7, 1995 10:31 PM

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Katherine G. Harris

Posts: 18
Registered: 12/6/04
will's,won'ts, can's and can'ts
Posted: Jul 7, 1995 9:15 AM
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I have been following the lecture/don't lecture argument for
quite a while. No offense, but I see that many of the
participants have college addresses. Although you may not
believe it, if you are teaching in college your students have
already demonstrated some desire to learn.

As a high school teacher I have taught every conceivable level
of mainstreamed student. We have now discarded all forms of
"general math" (once known as arithmetic) at the secondary
level and all students must complete at least algebra I and
geometry in order to graduate. (Yes, we still have a few
students who can graduate under the old requirements, but that
is being phased out rapidly.)

Crudely, I think most students can be categorized as cans or
can'ts and wills or won'ts. Can and can't is irrelevant since
performance, not potential, is what actually counts. None of
us have any problem teaching the wills, and among the wills we
usually hve some borderline can'ts for whom we all go that
extra mile or more. Wills will learn in any environment
because they want to succeed.

Our problems students are the won'ts and we have too many of

I would like to suggest that we start a new topic of
suggestions about things that do work with the wont's. As I
say in my classroom, wrong answers are great because they let
us find out where the tangles are, so any great ideas that
failed will also contribute to our understanding.

Here a some things that I have found work some of the time:
1. Stickers for good grades. Even my 19 year olds like
stickers on their papers and a lot of students pel them off the
papers and wear them on their shirts.
2. Graphing calculators. For some students who simply
couldn't, or believed they couldn't, solve an equation, the GC
was a miracle. On the other hand, a lot of the won'ts found
even the GC too much work.
3. Happy phone calls and notes home. Even when the parent did
not respond to the message, the student was thrilled that I had
called or sent one. (And some parents truly have a ho-hum
4. ABSOLUTELY a last resort, but effective. Seat the won'ts
together in the back of the room and basically ignore them
unless they are disruptive. Kick them out for disruption. Oh,
but you have to let the kids decide themselves if they are
wills or wonts ( a good place to talk about the differnce
between won't and can't). Since I truly beoeive that all
mainstreamed students can be cans, I use this as a chance to
make sure they know that won't is an attitude, not an ability

Any failures? Sure - group work has been a disaster, but I
plan to regroup, rethink and try it again.

Ideas anyone?

Latherine :)

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