. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: Frank Shaffer Must Die

Monday, August 18, 2008

Frank Shaffer Must Die

As I mentioned earlier, we started off the year with an all day in-service on our ELD curriculum du jour. This is like our fifth program in about seven years. Oddly enough, after trying each program, we still had kids who were learning English. Gee…

The presenter from the publisher was not scheduled to speak until after lunch. Instead of starting the meeting after lunch, we sat in a multi-purpose room at a local community college and did "busy work" until the real reason we were all there arrived from another site where she had presented in the morning.

That busy work really got under my skin and got me thinking.

My district abhors busy work for students. What they define as busy work is forbidden in our classrooms. Everything students do must actively contribute to their acquisition of knowledge and that most certainly does not include seat work of any kind such as repetitive spelling practice or coloring for any reason.

And the biggest no-no of them all is worksheets.

I would harbor a guess that in my district's opinion:

Hitler was an evil man because of his senseless slaughtering of humans.

Attila the Hun was an evil man because of his wide-spread cruelty and viciousness.

Frank Shaffer was an evil man because his company writes easily reproducible worksheets popular with teachers.

As a matter of fact, Frank Shaffer worksheets in particular are banned from our classrooms. Principals have been known to go into teacher's filing cabinets without permission and remove the teacher's personal copies under the cover of darkness. No joke.

Until recently, our district mandated that we only use materials provided by our math and language arts curriculums. "Fidelity to the curriculum" was the phrase we heard in our sleep. Absolutely no outside materials or lessons were permitted.


Of course, as all teachers know, what you do when you shut the door to your classroom is a different story. We all snuck in a fun writing lesson involving art or a math lesson with M&M's here and there.

But few dared to give a worksheet, and NEVER a Frank Shaffer one.

Now I have never been one to use worksheets so this mandate has had little effect on me, but I must admit that worksheets do have a place in today's classrooms.

Let's face it, what is a standardized testing book but a giant book of worksheets with bubble-in answers? If test facilitators were going to arrive, give my students rulers, and have them physically measure a a three-dimensional object to determine its perimeter or area or volume, I would have them practicing that skill to prepare them. In reality, they give them a book of worksheets with figures drawn on them and the measurements written on the figures and the students use that information to find the answers.

We should probably practice that a bit.

Of course I do have my students measuring actual objects to determine information because that is a vital component to learning; however they do need to see written examples as well.

The key word here is practice, not busy work. This would not be an exercise designed to keep them busy until the presenter I brought them to this multi-purpose room to listen to arrives…

Wait, I think I might have confused two different situations here.

Or maybe I haven't.

We were not practicing any skills or building any new knowledge as we played the "Two Truths and a Lie" game. We had to listen to a 30 minute explanation of the game, each write two truths and a lie about ourselves on a piece of paper, go around our table and guess each person's lie, choose someone from our table to share with the group, and then have each group share one while the rest of us doodled on our agendas. (I, myself, drew a detailed sketch of my own creation: Eldy, the ELD gremlin.) This took well over an hour and a half to complete. (The game, not the sketch. The sketch was an on-again, off-again project for 8 hours.)

Two Truths and a Lie: Fun dinner party game?


Was I at a dinner party?

If I was, that was the crappiest stale danish dinner I've ever eaten at eight o'clock in the morning.

Helping me to build knowledge about our new ELD curriculum?

Uummm, no.

Busy work?

I'll let you decide.

We went on to do other useless activities that morning which included a lot of working with our table groups, writing on giant pieces of paper with different colored markers, arguing over who had to present our work when we ultimately shared it with the entire group, and then listening to each group share information from their sheets that was exactly like the information on all the other sheets because we have all been to the same trainings about this information.

By the end of that in-service, my district had given me the equivalent of six hours of Frank Shaffer worksheets, one hour of useful instruction, and an acute distaste for "sharing out with the group."

But looking on the bright side, this in-service led to the birth of Eldy, the ELD gremlin!

I love having a new friend.


Travis A. Wittwer said...

Goodness me, I love your posts this week. Too true. Painfully true. Sadly true. This post especially. Don't districts know that teachers borrow ideas and use adjust them to fit the needs of the students (that is called the craft of teaching)? Not being able to use outside material. Yikes!


Edna Lee said...

Thank You, Travis! That was so kind of you.

Gotta run. I'm busy scanning Frank Shaffer worksheets into my computer and changing their headings to "Frink Schleffler".

Melissa B. said...

Ugh. I hate worksheets! The kids hate 'em, too. I'm in total agreement with you on Frankie Baby, that's for sure! BTW, Bloggy Friend, I just *tagged* you for a *meme*. It doesn't feel like summer should be over, so I thought we'd have some fun--check it out!

Anonymous said...

Wow you have captured my entire first week back perfectly. The district used every day with "busy work" then expects are rooms and our plans to be magically ready for the students and parents to come visit on Thursday night! I teach kindergarten with and an entirely ELD class. Am required to have an Early Childhood endorsement and then must instantly ignore everything my early childhood endorsement teaches me about what 5 yr old should be doing, and do what the district tells me to do instead (teach them and treat them like 10yr olds).

Melissa B. said...

BTW, don't forget it's Sunday, and you know what THAT means--S4 is underway today!