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13 August 2014 @ 06:22 pm
More commodification  
A friend sent me a link to a company of teacher created materials. Much of what is offered under the link for Literature are novel guides. The "publishers" assert that since their materials are created by actual teachers, they are successful. I clicked on a couple of the teaching guides for novels including one for The Giver since the book was in the forefront of my brain (I saw the movie Monday night). What I saw in the sample pages were worksheets. One looked as though it had come from an elementary basal reading series. Of course for each handful of chapters there are questions and also a handful of activities. They include what is labeled as a book log, some curriculum connections, and plenty of quizzes. TKAM and The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963 are all listed as 5-8 grade books, too.

So, we are back to the commodification factor here. Moreover, it seems to suggest that everyone reads the same book and does the same activities. If you look further at the materials here, there are books for grammar that contain very familiar worksheets including one where 5-6 graders are asked to select whether the correct article is "a" or "an." Grammar in isolation, yes, but also worksheets on such a tiny sliver of usage that I worry how long the worksheets for each part of speech must be.

When I first began teaching, everything was in packets. We were instructed to do a 3 week rotation of grammar packets followed by 3 weeks of literature packets followed by 3 weeks of writing packets. Someone spent loads of time making worksheets. While I appreciated the materials from time to time, I wondered where the teaching was if I had to simply introduce a lesson and then distribute a packet. Is there not a movie where one of the teachers dies during a school day and no one notices? They just pass out the worksheets.

Many years ago, one of the teachers at the school the former residents of the back bedroom attended had a math teacher request from each student a ream of paper so he or she could run off worksheets. You can imagine my reaction to this request. Now, too much of what I see as technology is worksheet on a computer screen. Again, commodification.

I am well aware that folks reading this blog do not do this. I am once again preaching to the choir. But when I see companies springing up offering books of worksheets, I want to, well, scream, cry, bang my head on the desk. And I bet kids feel even more strongly than do I.

As you return to your classrooms (and many of you are already there with or without kids right now), I wish you a year free of commodification.
 
 
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