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Aibu about this dictation based Art homework

(99 Posts)
fastweb Thu 29-Sep-11 07:58:45

Third week of school
Equivalent to British year 7
Art class
The kids had a dictation about the history of art.
It's about one and a half sides of A4 with not large writing, skipping one line between lines, he thinks he failed to get down about a 1/4 of what was dictated.
 He is not great at dictation because he either writes slowly in an effort to keep it legible, and misses chunks of sentences OR he speeds up...and neither of us can read a word of it. This has been an issue since the first dictation in year 1. We've practiced extensively over the last 2 years,  but while he has got better his speed still isn't fast enough to keep up and get an accurate complete copy of the dictation.
The teacher then told the kids to study the dictation they produced for an oral test.
He will need to be able to answer questions worded in a way that as closely as possible quotes from the dictation.
Except no matter how hard he tried to memorize the dictation he wouldn't be able to achieve that level of accuracy, and would most likely fail, or score low on the test, which will harm his GPA. Because in the absence of a clean copy, his study is based on a text that has some missing bits, confused bits that don't make sense and some bits that defy all attempts to decipher them.
As a result we have had to leave the study to the last minute because it has taken me 2 days to cobble together a "clean" copy after playing telephone ping pong  (of the mutual dictation kind) with a couple of mums who have a child in the same class.
Art is on 2 consecutive days, so the above telephone ping pong won't always be an option thanks to the time frame.
This is far from an uncommon practice, the chances are we will be facing the same issue in all other subjects through out the year.
I appreciate that a mainly British forum can't help much with the more typical "and what to do about it" phase of a question like this, given that the system in Britain is very different.
My main objective is to get opinions, parental and professional, regarding the extent to which the practice is unreasonable (or not) and why/why not it is good teaching practice.
Because conversations with family, friends and other parents leave me feeling like I must be bonkers to take the view that dictation/memorise resultant student copy of dictation is something more serious than a minor annoyance.
My son has been back at Italian state school for about three and a half weeks after two years of home ed.
And I am already flooded with such a sense of deja vu. Me being very hacked off with teaching practice, everybody else regarding anything above mild annoyance as being a massive over reaction, me then wondering if perhaps I am slightly bonkers to take the view I do. 
Is it me ? Are they right and I am making a fuss about nothing ? Could this be me seeking out ways to find fault with the school system here (again) because I am culturally prejudiced against it  and the dictation thing is actually not that bad an idea ?
I absolutely want honest opinion. If this is about a problem with me or my attitude or blowing "nit picks" up out of proportion, my approach to dealing with the school issue has to radically change, as does my mind set.
If it not me I need external confirmation of my viewpoint so I can move forward without second guessing myself on a five minutely basis, and approach the school to seek some changes with rather more faith in myself that I am doing the right thing, than I have at this minute.
I'd rather find out I am unreasonable and plain old wrong than be stuck in this limbo of not being sure what's what anymore.
Cos at least then I could start doing something about it, be a more effective parent to my son and stop feeling so miserable and het up(what with all the second guessing of myself) cos I'd know where I stand and would just have to deal with the practical side of things.

fastweb Thu 29-Sep-11 08:03:12

oh shit

format fail

posting on an ipad and up to now format there has transfered just fine

Right have pasted into email, put returns back in, let's see if a c&p does the trick

----

Third week of school
Equivalent to British year 7
Art class
The kids had a dictation about the history of art.
It's about one and a half sides of A4 with not large writing, skipping one line between lines, he thinks he failed to get down about a 1/4 of what was dictated.
 He is not great at dictation because he either writes slowly in an effort to keep it legible, and misses chunks of sentences OR he speeds up...and neither of us can read a word of it. This has been an issue since the first dictation in year 1. We've practiced extensively over the last 2 years,  but while he has got better his speed still isn't fast enough to keep up and get an accurate complete copy of the dictation.
The teacher then told the kids to study the dictation they produced for an oral test.He will need to be able to answer questions worded in a way that as closely as possible quotes from the dictation.
Except no matter how hard he tried to memorize the dictation he wouldn't be able to achieve that level of accuracy, and would most likely fail, or score low on the test, which will harm his GPA. Because in the absence of a clean copy, his study is based on a text that has some missing bits, confused bits that don't make sense and some bits that defy all attempts to decipher them.
As a result we have had to leave the study to the last minute because it has taken me 2 days to cobble together a "clean" copy after playing telephone ping pong  (of the mutual dictation kind) with a couple of mums who have a child in the same class.Art is on 2 consecutive days, so the above telephone ping pong won't always be an option thanks to the time frame.
This is far from an uncommon practice, the chances are we will be facing the same issue in all other subjects through out the year.
I appreciate that a mainly British forum can't help much with the more typical "and what to do about it" phase of a question like this, given that the system in Britain is very different.My main objective is to get opinions, parental and professional, regarding the extent to which the practice is unreasonable (or not) and why/why not it is good teaching practice.
Because conversations with family, friends and other parents leave me feeling like I must be bonkers to take the view that dictation/memorise resultant student copy of dictation is something more serious than a minor annoyance.
My son has been back at Italian state school for about three and a half weeks after two years of home ed.
And I am already flooded with such a sense of deja vu. Me being very hacked off with teaching practice, everybody else regarding anything above mild annoyance as being a massive over reaction, me then wondering if perhaps I am slightly bonkers to take the view I do. 
Is it me ? Are they right and I am making a fuss about nothing ? Could this be me seeking out ways to find fault with the school system here (again) because I am culturally prejudiced against it  and the dictation thing is actually not that bad an idea ?
I absolutely want honest opinion. If this is about a problem with me or my attitude or blowing "nit picks" up out of proportion, my approach to dealing with the school issue has to radically change, as does my mind set.
If it not me I need external confirmation of my viewpoint so I can move forward without second guessing myself on a five minutely basis, and approach the school to seek some changes with rather more faith in myself that I am doing the right thing, than I have at this minute.
I'd rather find out I am unreasonable and plain old wrong than be stuck in this limbo of not being sure what's what anymore.
Cos at least then I could start doing something about it, be a more effective parent to my son and stop feeling so miserable and het up(what with all the second guessing of myself) cos I'd know where I stand and would just have to deal with the practical side of things.

fastweb Thu 29-Sep-11 08:06:02

oh bollocks.

Is this proof that even my ipad thinks I abvvvur indeed and is communicating that in the only way it knows how ?

confused

hocuspontas Thu 29-Sep-11 08:15:48

Presumably you have discussed this with the teacher? Why not take in some sort of recording device and catch up with things missed later? He can still practice taking down dictation during the lesson but won't get stressed about it.

fastweb Thu 29-Sep-11 08:45:34

I appreciate the suggestion of going to the teacher with ideas of how to help him.
The thing is my first priority is to work out if this is a big enough issue to bring up with the teacher (and the school, cos this dictation stratagy is used in all subjects very regularly, so it makes more sense to deal with getting solutions centrally, rather than trying to do it one by one with all the individual teachers)
Or if I am actually making a mountain out of a molehill. As is suggested by 100% of the people around me. And I should just suck it up, keep calm and carry on, trying to plug the gaps in his dictations as much as I can, when time permits, with other mums over the phone.

As a teacher, my gut instinct is to question the purpose of the process of dictation.  Is is simply a cheaper way of students getting information (saves on photocopying) and an easy lesson for the teacher (as they just read for most of the lesson whilst the students sit in silence desperately scribbling it down) or are there important skills that this exercise aims to develop?  

I am struggling to see what skills the dictation process develops that could not be better developed in other ways.  For example listening skills and extracting pertinent information can be taught in many other ways that are more engaging for all, and more inclusive for those students (and there will be many) who have issues with writing legibly at speed, letalone those whose simply struggle concentrating on writing and listening at the same time.

It seems from your OP that dictation forms a significant part of the teaching methods at your son's school.  You are clearly concerned that this method is forming a barrier to his learning, and is causing him stress.  I think you need to have a genuinely calm, agenda-free conversation with the school to ask them what skills the dictation aims to develop, and ask them if they can help you to come to a solution to your son's problems with this teaching method.

PrettyCandles Thu 29-Sep-11 08:52:45

How fluent is your ds in Italian?  Could this be a point of approach?

Muser Thu 29-Sep-11 08:55:45

Can I check I'm understanding this write? A big chunk of text gets read out in class and the kids have to write it all down. Then learn it by rote and parrot it back in a test?

If that's the case, what on earth are they meant to be learning by it? I always though people who take dictation use shorthand, surely? Or nowadays they use a digital recorder. So the dictation skills seem very pointless. And being able to parrot it back isn't learning about the subject, where is the discussion and understanding?

It sounds nuts to me.

seeker Thu 29-Sep-11 08:56:51

I haven't got anything really helpful to say- just that my friend's child in France does q huge amount of work like this, and it's like speaking to a brick wall to suggest to my otherwise intelligent and reasonable friend that this is a bonkers way to teach anybody anything. She just points to the excellent results the system seems to produce. For what it's worth, friend's child very quickly learned how to catch the dictation, and also how to compare notes with friends to fill in any gaps.
Is using a mobile phone to record anoption? I know it wouldn't be in my friend's case, because the school puts great emphasis on the actual process of taking down the dictation. As I said, no help really, sorry!

greengoose Thu 29-Sep-11 09:09:35

Hi, This is an ART class, do I have that right?? Surely that should be about creativity, and originality, and creating a confidence in the childs opinions??? What is the point of this if it is not lazy teaching???? I have a good friend who moved from Italy because she couldnt stand the rigid formality and amount of work given to the kids. I think you are RIGHT and you should think about what is best for your child. What does this prepare them for in life? What does this do for their self esteem, what does it TEACH?? I think it lazy at best and harmful at worst (God forbid if any of the kids in the class are Dyslexic). I think you will struggle to change anything, but their are alternative schools with different approaches. My son goes to Park School in Dartington, google it for a bit of confidence that education can be good and fun and for the whole child. It might give you some ideas!! (The senior version is called Sands, and is in Ashburton, if you want to google it, these schools are part of an international network of alternative schools, that offer a holistic alternative to either mainstream or home ed, you can convo me if you'd like more info on how to find out whats local to you).   

Bonsoir Thu 29-Sep-11 09:19:05

Dictation, memorisation and recall (regurgitation) are at the very heart of many education systems. You may not like the system, which is fair enough, but if you choose to have your child educated within it (and I appreciate that your choices may be limited), you have to go along with it and you must help your child acquire the skills or he will never, ever manage to get to the end of it.

wellwisher Thu 29-Sep-11 09:22:40

There is plenty of evidence that writing helps the brain to absorb and process information far better than hearing or reading the same info. Queen as a teacher I am surprised you've never heard this!

You are not going to change the school system. Can you practise taking dictation with your son at home, maybe? Is it his Italian that's the problem or is his handwriting not good enough?

Bonsoir Thu 29-Sep-11 09:40:21

wellwisher - having been in a school system where I learned simultaneously through the English and the French educational traditions, I can say hand on heart that dictation/memorisation/regurgitation is (a) a wildly inefficient long-term learning strategy (b) useless for teaching children how to sort and prioritise information (a critical skill in the modern world)

bruffin Thu 29-Sep-11 09:53:25

A typical yr 7 art homework my children bought home was find out about say Maigret, do a presentation on his work or produce work in the style.
My DS who has dyslexic problems does not have the retention ability to learn this type of thing by being dictated to and expected to regurgitate it, but could produce a stunning presentation on Maigret and probably retained far more information.

wellwisher Thu 29-Sep-11 10:16:57

I never said anything about long-term... how many of us can remember, or need to know, the details of anything we learnt at school, regardless of how we studied? I have aced countless exams (writing and rewriting info first from books, and then from memory, was a key revision technique) but rarely need any of the info I learned for them now, and what I do need to know, I can Google wink

I agree it's not the most inspiring educational style, but this method does push info into your short/medium-term memory - it's about passing exams to get to the next stage. More importantly, if that's how things are done in your school, you need to find a way to help your DS keep up. Were you always planning to put DS back into this school system? Did you practise dictation with him at all during his 2 years at home?

Bonsoir Thu 29-Sep-11 10:22:20

The skill of sorting and prioritising information is a key long-term skill that you develop very gradually over time. The dictation/memorisation/regurgitation method of learning is actually counter-productive in developing that skill.

Deeply embedding long-term skills is the most important thing that school does.

redexpat Thu 29-Sep-11 10:28:25

Can he type faster than he can write? Is a laptop an option?

fastweb Thu 29-Sep-11 11:41:05

You are clearly concerned that this method is forming a barrier to his learning, and is causing him stress

Yes. And your whole post underlines my lack of enthusiam for dictation in general.Not totally, the occasional (not top speed) dictation lets me have a more candid look at which spelling errors still need more work in English. But it's never been particularly favoured tool in my bag of tricks. Unless there are many ants in pants and a running dictation means everybody gets to let off steam and I don't spend my time trying to get small people to stop wriggling in their chair.

The  way it works in school so far is, one lesson dictating. One to two lessons orally testing each child on memorization of last lesson's dictation. Potentially at this point the original dictation will have to be handed in, or the teacher will write the orginal text on the  blackboard and the kids copy that and compare it with their personal original efforts for homework.

His stress goes through the roof with dictation and impacts his ability to keep up in good part becuase of the potential to be required to study his "dirty" copy for a parrot fashion test, becuase he is guarenteed to get a low mark for the dictation AND the test. 

He is basically being set up to fail the second task.

The school does want to cut down on photocopies too. Information regarding the insurance we have to buy for our children was dictated to them into their diaries and we had to sign. I have signed gobboldygook and am none the wiser as to how, when or where I get the required insurance

fastweb Thu 29-Sep-11 11:47:34

How fluent is your ds in Italian

He is a native speaker who suffers from some interefence from his second mother toungue (English).(improved over the last couple of uears, but ot eliminated).

He is fully active in both languages, all four of the active and passive skills, but Italian is still the stronger of the two in every area other than the academic.

Dispensations or specific considerations are not an option for him in school. The bar is set high in term of access to differenciated work or support.

fastweb Thu 29-Sep-11 11:50:10

Can I check I'm understanding this write? A big chunk of text gets read out in class and the kids have to write it all down. Then learn it by rote and parrot it back in a test?

Yes, they study what they managed to write during the dictation with no correction stage or clean copy provided. They study for the test at home which is how I managed to find some of the missing phrases from my son's dictation, by calling a couple of other mothers and we helped each other fill in our children's
missing bits as far as poss.

He has to be able to parrot all of it, cos he doesn't know which bit he'll be called upon to parrot. Exactly word for word is not required, as long as it is more or less the same, and not missing the end of the sentence he didn't manage to write down.

fastweb Thu 29-Sep-11 11:51:19

seeker

At least Italy can't waggle great results at me if I do go and see if there is wriggle room for at least a clean copy to study from. Tussles constantly with Greece, Spain and Portugal for the bottom spot. 

It's the same here re recording devices. A non starter. Plus the unions would do their nut.

fastweb Thu 29-Sep-11 11:54:11

This is an ART class, do I have that right

Yes. So far since the start of term he has had a test (draw a landscape), reading comprehension/study from the two tomes "visual communication" and the "history of art/art around the world" one (just under 600 pages total both books together) and this dictation/test task.

They take their art very seriously here. grin

Right at this moment I'd leave Italy if I could, for the same reasons as your freind (who proves I'm not  bonkers, just really rather "cultural expectations" challenged I think). But I can't. I can't choose what would work for me schoolwise, at the expense of the happiness of all other members of the family. In all other aspects of living here I am very very happy (most days). But the school thing, it's having more of an effect than it should. Other expats cope. So I'm back to thinking it's me that's the problem.

We did do HE, but he wanted to go back to school, cos he wants to be with his mates. Not just after school, but all the time. He wants to share the same set of references with them. Which I totally understand, he is very very socialble and hates being different. 

We thought about killing ourselves with a massive commute and morgaging our future to send him to an international school in Milan(for about five minutes with us both going pale) but as DS pointed out, that wouldn't help much with him wanting to be with his friends and not being different.

kat2504 Thu 29-Sep-11 11:54:20

It sounds like really shit teaching but I guess that is the way they do things in schools over there. No allowance made for any sort of special need either I guess.
any chance he can learn any sort of shorthand techniques that might help him to go faster?

fastweb Thu 29-Sep-11 11:55:23

you have to go along with it and you must help your child acquire the skills or he will never, ever manage to get to the end of it.

I understand exactly what you are saying. I was not intending to ask for a change in practise,  but a clean copy of the dictation text so he can study for the test, and we can go over what he didn't get right in the dictation.

I have done my upmost to improve his dictation skill set. I didn't even drop it when we HEed for a time. Although it was not required by the programme I kept one eye on a potential return to school and we carried on working on improving his speed, accuracy and legibility in that context.

He is still too slow. Not as bad as when he came out of school, it is rather more comparable to his freind's work than it used to be. But not good enough if he is required to study from his "dirty" copy for a test on the contents.

I can't get him additional practice now he is back at school, the homework load is so big that I have had to dump keeping his English up to speed, and he may have to give up one of his two after school activites during the week so we don't end up working past his bedtime.

readsalotgirl Thu 29-Sep-11 12:02:56

Hi my dneice and dnephew went through the Italian state system - both native speakers and I have to say despite the heavyweight literature that was set as required holiday reading I have been unimpressed with the end results. This doesn't help you much I know - just wanted to be sympathetic and resure you that no its not you thats bonkers. I agree entirely with Queenof's post - I cannot see how this helps develop information retrieval or listening skills. is continuing to home educate or finding another school a possibility

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