Monday, December 08, 2008

What, really, is the purpose?

I am a voracious reader, and support whole-heartedly anything that gets my kids to read. All three of them enjoy reading, but not as obsessively as *I* do …. That’s ok, at least they’re not opposed to it. In fact, they even ask me to take them to the library sometimes …a fact which thrills me to no end. So let me be the first to say I have no problem with required book reports in school. In fact, I think they’re great, especially if they get my kids to branch out and read a book they might otherwise not even peek at. (Hello, Geronimo Stilton, anyone???)

When the “Twilight” movie came out, Brayden began the same begging that every girl under the age of 18 in this country was doing, to be taken to the movie. The rule at our house (normally, unless I’m feeling really lazy …. {see: City of Ember during Thanksgiving break}) is that you have to read the book before you can see the movie. Since Brayden’s book report this quarter had to be in the “fantasy” genre, the timing was actually perfect to have her read Twilight, with the promise of going to the movie afterward. Well, we slogged our way through half of “The Secret Prince” before giving up because neither one of us was enjoying it, so that was a waste of two weeks … and because of that we’ve sort of been speed-reading through the Edward-Bella adventure, but that’s ok. I had already read the book and wanted to read this one with her for the report, so it’s actually evolved into some quality mother-daughter bonding time. Plus, it’s facilitated some helpful chats about obsessive behavior, the reality of life, and how it’s not cute for a normal, healthy teenage girl to be so unbelievably uncoordinated and all damsel-in-distress-y. (Seriously. Am I the only one on the planet who is tired of her falling down and swooning and stumbling … what on earth is WRONG with that girl’s equilibrium? My nickname in high school was “KLUTZ”, for pete’s sake, and I still didn’t have as many accidents as this chick …. But I digress.)

So, ok. Let’s just clarify: Reading = good. Book reports = also good.

But can anyone tell me, what on earth is the purpose of assigning a diorama in addition to the book report?? You know, those little recreations of a specific moment in the book, made with teeny tiny plastic people and miniature things, placed in some kind of box that’s been covered with craft paper. First of all, what’s the point? It’s not going to help my child understand the book any better, and it’s no proof that she’s actually read the book. It’s not going to ENHANCE her enjoyment of the book in any way, and let’s be honest, it’s going to be down-right difficult for me to find little doll-size versions of vampires that I can fit in a stupid shoe box.

And yeah, I said it: that *I* can find. Because you know darn good and well that *I’m* going to be the one who has to go out and buy the miniature items to go in the diorama, and *I’m* going to be the one who helps her plan the stupid thing, and *I’m* going to be the one who secretly re-glues everything after she goes to bed so the pieces don’t fall over the next day when Brayden carries it to school.

And it’s not because I’m a hyper-involved parent who micro-manages my kids’ school work. It’s because we don’t have vampire “diorama” stuff just laying around the house, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask her to make something – for a grade – and then turn her loose with no help or instruction. Make no mistake, the teacher asked for the diorama, but it’s parents everywhere who get stuck “helping” with this kind of project. Maybe it's our fault for choosing this book, but I can't help but think anything in the "fantasy" genre is going to be difficult.

So, ok. Now that I’ve vented, anyone know where I can find miniature versions of Edward and Bella?

32 comments:

Denise Tidwell said...

I'm glad you described the diorama thing...I had NO idea what that was.My kids have escaped that torture thank goodness! I agree with oyu, that seems like a waste of time! Good luck with the project, try Michaels or google it!

Stephanie from Portland said...

The term, officially, is "project based learning" It is the latest buzz word in education and some teacher are looking for anything they can point to and say it is a project. It's funny - if you ask any teacher, they know good and well who really ends up doing the project but they assign it to the kids anyway. Maybe in your diorama you could have the vampires biting the teacher while she sits behind her desk looking at shoe boxes! JK :)

Stephanie in Portland

Anonymous said...

Poor you. I'd be pulling my hair out. I looked on the Internet for you for miniature vampire figures and here's the idea I finally came up with..... find a picture, reduce the image, and attach the image to something to make it stand up. Voila...a minuature vampire. If you're really clever, you can put a micro-size replica of the teacher's face on the vampire and maybe get by with it, but I that's probably not such a great idea.

Claire in Indiana

ACMSTheaterArts said...

It's kinda sad, but give me a few minutes and I could probably tell you where to find some miniatures of them.

Tami said...

I've come to realize that teachers assign these projects because its just the way its always been and that drives me insane!

I hate seeing my kids do some of the same annoying assignments I did - shouldn't school evolve over time?? The only thing that has been added to the project option list (since I was in school) are powerpoint presentations. ICK!

BTW, I love Stephanie's diorama idea - ROFL!!

JoAnn said...

Well said! I just don't understand these "projects"- I just call them busy work. Involved, complicated, busy work.

The Running Girl said...

Can't help you on the vampire miniatures, but I feel the same way about science fair projects. I know they have a purpose to them and we arent' the parents who do the project for our kids, but we do end up doing lots of work - buying the supplies, taking the pictures, helping them get the reports and boards done. Uggggghhhhh. I'm finished with school. I don't want to do more.

Pam D said...

I was so glad this year at parent orientation for 3rd grade when the lead teacher said "We will do ALL of our projects in the classroom--in order to ensure that the CHILDREN do them." Wooo hooo.. getting graded for work that they actually do themselves; now THAT's a novel concept! I do feel your pain, Kristie, and I'm thinking that you'll probably have to use some fine-line permanent markers and MAKE your own vampires, or let Brayden do it. Although, with all the marketing out there, there probably IS a set of teeny, tiny Twilight figures to be had, if you just look hard enough (with all the spare time you have during this oh so calm season....). Good luck....

Anonymous said...

1: Make little paper dolls. Easy enough to design them however you want.

2: Take ordinary plain figures and deem them the characters. If you really want to get creative, draw vampire fangs on them.

I had to LMAO at your reding list on your blog. They are all teen reads my 14 yr old DD is into!

Stefunkc said...

I know, ridiculous. But be glad you don't have to do the 'cereal box' book report. I don't even want to explain it. It was worthless.

Chris M. said...

In my opinion, the best part of this post? The comment about equilibrium. Because I am such a TOTAL clutz, too and even I don't have that many mishaps. I even fell down, unprovoked, in my driveway a couple of years ago. For whatever reason I did NOT put my hands out to break the fall and ended up busting my face into miniscule pieces. AND knocked myself out. Thank goodness my neighbors were outside - I used one of them as a witness at the ER to prove that my husband had NOT beat the daylights out of my but that I had, in fact, fallen and couldn't get up.

But, like you, I digress...

Anonymous said...

You might be able to find vampire lego figurines. I am not sure though. Or you could use lego figurines and do the faces on paper and tape them on. I am not very creative so not much help. My son had to do a bag report. He had to put eight things in a bag that represented some part of the story. He had a very hard time with it.

Cindy Agnew

Rhonda said...

This one cracked me up! We just did a diorama/book report about two weeks ago! I say "we" because, just as you pointed out, these types of things are DEFINATELY parent-involved projects! I don't DO the project at all but it definately takes "parent direction" and also I'm the one that goes to Hobby Lobby to get all the little crafty crap that you need to make these things! We have a big box of various left over project items that we keep and try to use on the newest projects, but I invariably have to buy at least some items with each project. I always feel really bad for the kids that don't have parents that will help them with the project or can't afford to buy the necessary materials. Or just flat don't have time, with two working parents and a house full of kids.

OK, I have stepped off my soapbox! Happy Monday! I feel your pain, sista!

Tracy said...

I hated doing those as a kid, and I hate when my kids have to do them now. But the internet is a wonderful invention! Check out this link.
http://www.bordersmedia.com/twilight/images/large/magnets.jpg
Attaching pictures to stick or clay figures works well in my book!
Good luck!

lizinsumner said...

Sweetie - I don't get it....you can use any normal looking little figurines - remember, none of the vampires in these books have fangs!! Thank goodness you're doing Twilight and not True Blood!! However, it might look even cooler to do the flat, paper-doll kind instead of the plastic, three-dimensional....sort of Paper Mario-ish, you know??!! PS - let me know what y'all think of the movie - I haven't seen it yet. And have you read the last (fourth) book yet??!! My advice - read it first yourself before you let Brayden read it - it's pretty "out there".......

M. said...

Here's the reason. While your child may understand the concept of reading a book, and grasping the ideas enough to create a coherent book report (visual learner) - lots of kids are kinesthetic learners (they learn by doing). Most counties want the inclusion classroom to accommodate all types of learners in their lesson plans. While *I* assign different options for any home project- some teachers think giving too many options makes assignments confusing, so they require every child to do both. Either way, it's a school system thing. Sometimes we make a mountain out of a mole hill.

URBAN BLONDE said...

Why do they have to be plastic people?

When my kids had dioramas to do ( and believe me we had way more than our fair share) they drew the people (or animals) required and then mounted them onto cardboard and glued them to the bottom.

As a former teacher I do like the diorama idea though, it makes the book or history moment come to life and for those kids that are visual learners it can really turn them on to books.

gorillabuns said...

I'll make you your figurines out of playdough for a case of vodka as payment.

Dagny said...

Diorama assigning teacher here...project based learning is where it's at.
How about finding some magazine pictures or internet pictures, gluing them to cardboard and standing them up? You can also hang them from the top with thread. But not that I would know anything about doing your child's diorama and putting it together the "right" way after they go to bed.
Nope, I wouldn't know anything about that kind of thing.
Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow, just jumping up and down with what I get to look forward to. Because it's already too much fun "helping" a Kindergartener make reindeer antlers and turkeys. Oh yeah and helping a 1st grader make gingerbread people.

Definition in our house of "helping" - kid thinks up super great projects and leaves you do make it happen.

And for any teacher who thinks the projects are so wonderful, please, by all means, use class time to do them.

Marie
www.caringbridge.org/visit/marielle

Julie said...

I have been a teacher for 14 years and have never assigned a diorama. We do wanted posters for mystery books and travel brochures for books about different places. We also do story maps and they love doing power point presentations, but they are done in class and have specific objectives they have to meet to ensure comprehension of the book.
I don't get the whole diorama thing either. Good luck!

Dawn said...

English teacher here:

I have never assigned dioramas. Not only do they fail to serve a purpose, they take up too much space! One year they (the district)said that I HAD to have the students do them for their mission reports! I had them use the cover of their report notebook as a base and did it that way...yeah, I don't get it either...

I currently teach 6,7 and 8th grade and I require all projects be done in class. I'm the one who is supposed to be teaching them anyway and it is fun to see the parents face when the children do present them.

Debbie said...

OK, I have to comment. I am a fourth grade Catholic school teacher and I am about to assign a diorama for the book, "The Wizard of Oz." I haven't assigned a diorama in years, simply because I too think, "WHY????" Well, in this case, it was either reinact the story, which would require costumes and rehearsals, or give the kids an assignment that lets them explore their creative side and relate to the story. I know parents hate these, me included, but the kids love them! If they wrote about every book they read, they would be bored to tears with book reports. If they get to do a creative assignment, reading suddenly becomes something fun. I do try and do all of my projects in the classroom......parents just have to send in supplies with their child. Creativity is the key word........the interpretation should be through the eyes of the child, not the parent's realistic interpretation. Sorry if I sound "stodgy"....it's just that I'm trying to make myself feel better about my upcoming project!!!!

Mama Bear said...

We no longer assign dioramas at my school. We don't want parents doing homework. Instead, we have reading response journals. Basically, you have a composition book to write your thoughts after every chapter. Nothing big - a paragraph or so. And we give you "openers" like

The character ____ reminds me of ....

I predict that ....

The setting of this book is ....

The conflict in this chapter is ....

I wonder ....

Down with annoying assignments that parents end up doing. Up with real world skill building that checks for understanding.

Anonymous said...

I know it isn't for everyone, but you know we homeschool and that is soooo a perk! And not being nickled and dimed for this and that. Tammy in Ohio

Donna said...

Dol. Lar. Store.

They have everything. Or something that can turn into everything. For cheap. Don't pass up anything. Use your imagination and make Brayden use hers. Just don't suck on anything because it's all from China and likely to be tainted with lead AND melamine.

Good luck. We have thus far in third grade been cursed with the magic trick, the demonstration speech, and now the fairy tale retelling, but somehow we must have a teacher whose disdain for the diorama is greater than that for cafeteria meatloaf. But who knows--maybe it is the project for January...

Marcia said...

Use Polly Pockets and plasticine. We always use stuff we can find around the house.
My kids love dioramas. Two of them are not strong readers, and this helps them to show that they know what they've been learning about. I don't think they've ever had to do them on books, but on subjects they've been learning about in social studies/history/geography.

jbaj said...

Yikes! How about having 7 year olds make fry bread to get the "Indian" experience? What parent in their right mind is going to let their 7 year old deep fry anything? My condolences go out to you.

Karalyn said...

Dioramas suck, posters suck,(less than dioramas but they still suck)pinatas suck, and now a Moroccan dinner is the next thing to add to my list titled "B.S. School Projects that Suck and Also Make me Really Angry."
I can't wait to watch my 12 year old son make a chicken and coucous dish for his Social Studies class all by himself.

Tracey in Calgary said...

Oh My God, do I feel your PAIN!! Yes, up here in the great white north, once you hit jr. high, the teachers start requesting the diorama with book reports!! I really do not see the point in it, AT ALL!!!! Book reports have become my personal nightmare. Now that he is in Gr. 8, he has had the option to do a detailed drawing, rather than the diorama, so he so choose....which has greatly reduced my stress (and trips to the craft store). Oh, and we made the characters out of pipe cleaners, they turned out surprisingly well :-)

Anonymous said...

Projects are for kids like mine - when given the option they always choose the project because they hate book reports! And while I've helped glue, etc., I make sure the project is their work, not mine (and many times I've had to hold back from making changes!)My oldest and his friend even worked extremely hard on an 8th grade electricity project (they made a pinball machine) that was due the day before they graduated. I kept telling them not to involve me, I didn't care what they did, and that they would graduate anyway!! But their project was amazing and totally their work.

mom25in5 said...

I'm am soooo laughing...I am working on my second (twins are great...except when it comes to school projects!) landform project and trying to figure out how to convince my 8 year old that it's not reeeealy lying if you remove your sister's name and put her own on it.

Yeah, landform projects...and this is my fifth. And what do they learn other than Mom will buy the fluffy clay stuff that is more expensive, 'cause she's too lazy to carry a heavy project to school?!

Oh yeah, and this sucker PALES in comparison to the 600 POINT project that my 8th grader was assigned. This teacher is just asking to be mugged. ;)

Hugs, and I'd go with dead bodies...you can always rip their heads off and no one will know they're not vampires.


Kim

Mom to:

Daniel-13
Scott-12
Bryan-10
Sarah-8
Dana-8