21 August 2008

When are we "ready"?

While I'm running around hither, thither, and yon today, here is the question I'll be pondering. Perhaps you wouldn't mind thinking about it as well---and offering any ideas you have in the comments?

How do you know if something is developmentally appropriate?

The "something" could be a toy, behavior, or a grade level standard. Games may be labeled as being good for those "8 and up"...all 8th graders might be expected to be successful in algebra. We can look at classroom concepts and break them down into smaller steps and bites, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we just work backwards from there and assign each piece to a different grade level.

I don't really want to get into whether or not the labeling aspect is a hot idea (that's a whole 'nuther post)---what I'm more interested in knowing is how you decide. Are there references or resources available? I'm sure that experience (especially if you've worked with a particular age group for a long time) comes into play.

What goes into the decision making?


kirchy said...

At school, I think about the standards of the state and district. Because I have English language learners, I also look at the reading, voacabulary, and writing expectations. I want to make sure they can reach some level of independence or confidence to increase the enjoyment of the learning process.
But that's just me.

Lightly Seasoned said...

Experience with the age group. I've been working primarily with sophomores for many years, and they hit a maturity milestone about mid-year. Siddhartha, for example, is a disaster when attempted in September, but usually a class favorite in April. I don't know exactly what is going on in their brain wiring, but turning 16 is big birthday. I'd be interested if there were resources available because I'd like to know why I have such a different batch of kids in the spring.

Clix said...

I don't. I suck at that sort of thing. But I know the standards, and I can figure out where a student is based on work in class, and that's what I use to determine where to go from there.

The Science Goddess said...

But someone, somewhere has labeled a toy as being appropriate for a particular age group...and someone must have made some sort of decision about the standards.

As I think about the standards, I'm not at all sure that just because they're sequenced to deepen understanding means that they're also developmentally appropriate. How do we create those criteria?

kiri8 said...

As a preschool teacher, I was taught to use the NAEYC standards for "developmentally appropriate practice," but with years of experience, I'm a lot more sceptical of that document.

I go by the state standards for preschool, by what I think they should know by the time they get to kindergarten, and I go by my gut a lot of the time.

I think teachers need to remember that kids are different, and what might be developmentally inappropriate for most kids at a certain age is just fine for some. If you take the long view and are flexible, you can figure out what's right.

Dawn said...

As a homeschooling mom I've always ignored them. If my kids were interested in something, standards didn't matter.

I'm haven't got a lot of sympathy for teachers though who have to find fits for whole classes of kids rather then just my two.

The Science Goddess said...

Fair enough, but my question is not about the standards and their appropriateness. My question is about how we know whether or not something is developmentally appropriate. If you are making decisions for your own children, then I'm guessing you must have some sort of process in mind.

Jasmin Loire said...

This may make me a bad teacher, but I've always ignored anything with an age/grade level on it.

I've found that with proper scaffolding, high school students are able to do things that college juniors/seniors can do. And they tend to enjoy the challenge.

Which is not to say that I don't also use curriculum from middle school, just to make sure that they have the basic facts under their belts (which they usually do not retain ... sorry middle school teachers).

My thoughts: find out where a student is and scaffold them up to the appropriate skill set for whatever it is.

Unless of course we are talking about needing a certain baseline of maturity. For example, when I teach selected variables and offer the AIDS vaccine case study as an example of why such variables are needed, I do know that I need to be working with a certain maturity level because it is older-student material. What I love is how my students rise to that challenge even if they've just been shooting spitballs out of hollowed-out mechanical pencils in the hallway.

loonyhiker said...

I tend to ignore labels also. Through experience, I have found that I can adapt almost anything to my students' needs. For example: we made molecules using froot loops, marshmallows, peanut butter, and pretzel sticks. This lesson could be as simple or as complicated as the teacher determines. Putting an age level to this would be irrelevant. The important thing is that the instuction is appropriate for the age level.