Speaking of Fourth Grade: What Listening to Kids Tells Us About School in America

Speaking of Fourth Grade: What Listening to Kids Tells Us About School in America

by Inda Schaenen


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Fourth grade is ground zero in the fierce debates about education reform in America. It’s when kids (well, some of them) make the shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn,” and tomes have been written about the fourth-grade year by educators, administrators, philosophers, and pundits. Now, in a fascinating and groundbreaking book, Inda Schaenen adds the voices of actual fourth-grade kids to the conversation.

Schaenen, a journalist turned educator, spent a year traveling across the state of Missouri, the geographical and spiritual center of the country, visiting fourth-grade classrooms of every description: public, private, urban, rural, religious, charter. Speaking of Fourth Grade looks at how our different approaches to education stack up against one another and chronicles what kids at the heart of our great, democratic education experiment have to say about “What Makes a Good Teacher” and “What Makes a Good Student,” as well as what they think about the Accelerated Reader programs that dominate public school classrooms, high-stakes testing, and the very purpose of school in the first place.

A brilliant and original work at the intersection of oral history, sociology, and journalism, Speaking of Fourth Grade offers unique insight into the personal consequences of national education policy. The voices of the children in Speaking of Fourth Grade will stay with readers—parents, teachers, and others—for many years to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595589064
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

A St. Louis resident since 1991, Inda Schaenen is a writer, a journalist, a professor, an education researcher, and a certified English Language Arts teacher. She is the author of four young adult novels, including The 7 O’Clock Bedtime, All the Cats of Cairo, and the Saddlewise series. Her columns and essays have appeared in Salon, the St. Louis Beacon, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and in the anthology Mommy Wars.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Where We Are xiv

What Is School? xvi

Structure xxv

Identifying and Describing People xxix

1 Why Do Kids Go to School? 1

School Is for Filling Up Brains 5

School Is for Progressing Through Grades 10

School Is for Test Prep 14

School Is for Job Preparation 16

More Complex and Not Entirely Utilitarian Reasons for Going to School 28

2 What Makes a Good Teacher? 34

Feelings 41

Curriculum and Instruction 45

Behavior Management and Discipline 52

The Grown-Up in the Room 60

3 Crashing the A.R. Party 64

Reading for Rewards 64

Reading as Oasis 74

Reading for Information and Enlightenment 77

Reading Related to Religious Practice 79

Reading for Pure Pleasure 80

Nurturing Real Readers 83

4 STEMing: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math 87

Math as School Subject 91

Money Transactions and Other Activities 95

Math Is for Jobs 99

General Ideas About What Science Is 103

Science as Spectator Sport: Reading, Learning Facts, Watching Others 105

Animals and Habitats 107

Exploration and Wonder 110

Identifying with Scientists 114

Informal and Deep Engagement with the Natural World 116

STEM and Us 119

5 Accounting for High-Stakes Tests 122

Tests Express Academic Identity 125

High-Stakes Tests as Community Evaluations 135

Standardized Tests as a Reasonable Part of Institutional Self-Assessment 139

Getting Assessment Right and Fair 143

6 On Being with Other Kids All Day 147

Cheering and Support 149

Conflicts, Confusions, Leadership, and Treachery 156

Meanness, Bullies, and Loners 167

General Impressions of Social Life in School 170

7 The Good Student 171

The Sound of Compliance 176

The Sound of Self 186

The Sound of Critical Thinking 189

The Sound of Collaborative Critical Talk 198

Making Everyone a Good Student 203

8 Balance and Growth in Schools 206

Salvaging Schooling 211

Acknowledgments 217

Appendix A Social and Historical Context of Missouri and Research Procedures 219

Appendix B Interview Questions 230

Appendix C Participant Index 236

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Speaking of Fourth Grade: What Listening to Kids Tells Us About School in America 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic concept and book