Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Humiliation--A 5th grade teaching tool?

Is it ever a good teaching tool to use a student's writing as a class grammar and spelling lesson?

My son's 5th grade teacher used a paragraph from his writing.  It was anonymous, but my son recognized it as his.  Other students laughed at his mistakes.  He came home and cried.

Not a good way to build confidence for a kid who is already very sensitive about his spelling problem.

I like his teacher personally.  And she has been teaching long enough to know better, I would think.  I don't know what she was thinking.  Was she just lazy and didn't want to make up her own error-ridden paragraph for students to correct?

My SO is furious.  So it is up to me to contact the teacher.


  1. Hi there, Mom PhD, I just found your blog (via FSP) and am really enjoying it.

    I am a grad student who teaches French, and I know that my fellow grad students and I often use a student's work as an example in the undergraduate classes and language labs we teach. This is something I have experienced myself as a student since elementary school. I find it is very effective, and while it was embarrassing at times, this also taught me to deal with public evaluation at an early age.

    I am sure you can appreciate as a professor that oral presentations and examinations, conferences, and publication are important parts of academic work. There are similar public presentations in other fields.

    I have already seen a couple of times adult students who can't bear to be called on in class. I frankly don't know how they are going to deal with any kind of job. It sounds like your son's teacher is more than reasonable. Maybe you should support her in lieu of giving your son the impression that he can't deal with a bit of honest feedback.

  2. Thanks French grad student. But I still think any teaching method that involves students laughing at someone's mistakes is not productive (I guess that is what you are calling "honest feedback"). This was a very different exercise than the many many public presentations that he has done for years at this elementary school. He prepares well for these, excels at them, and enjoys the exercise. He gets feedback on these as well, which i hope is "honest." But since all the students have to give a presentation and have been instructed against laughing and taunting each other, they don't seem to do that. BTW, his teacher and I get along very well, and I believes that she considers me supportive. I stand by my rejection of teaching by humiliation. But if you have any research that students laughing at others' mistakes is actually an effective teaching tool, please post again.