Teachers propose, donors choose

As school starts, teachers are scrambling to acquire the supplies they need, often paying their own money. Donors Choose lets teachers submit projects that need funding. Donors can pick an idea they want to fund.

For example, Mrs. N wants science kits and books for her low-income elementary students in South Carolina to use with their parents.

I need 3 commercial science kits, 1 magnet lab kit, and 3 sets of science concept books that can be taken apart and made into 20 individual take home science experiment kits for my students to check out, take home, conduct experiments, and report their finding to the class. This exploration will not only reinforce classroom instruction in magnetism, force and motion, simple machines, and matter, but the process will expand student learning through family participation.

$492 would fund the project.

Mr. S wants to buy comic books to motivate his Texas middle-school students, who are learning English.

My goal is to put quality comic books, that are easy to read, but require high academic skills and rigor, into the hands of my students. Research has shown that while easier to read than “regular novels,” comic books actually require higher order thinking skills to understand.

He needs $546.

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About Joanne

Comments

  1. Homeschooling Granny says:

    Why, with expenditures per pupil running around $10,000 per year, isn’t there money for basic teaching materials? 25 students times $10,000 is a quarter of a million dollars. Could someone give me a breakdown as to where this money goes?
    I’ve seen quotes for private schools at around $6,000 per year. These are schools that are good enough to attract from the pubic schools and yet get by on $100,000 less. I’m not being a smart aleck; I’m seriously asking.

  2. Richard Nieporent says:

    Research has shown that while easier to read than “regular novels,” comic books actually require higher order thinking skills to understand.

    Is that because your brain has to be able to combine the pictures with the words? Isn’t he afraid that these “higher order thinking skills” would be beyond the capabilities of his students? I would think that you would need at least a master’s degree in education before you could accomplish such a complicated task.

    Kingdom Come was a four-issue comic book mini-series published in 1996 by DC Comics. It was written by Mark Waid and painted in gouache by Alex Ross, who also developed the concept from an original idea. Set some 20 years into the future of the then-current DC Universe, it deals with a growing conflict between “traditional” superheroes, such as Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League, and a growing population of largely amoral and dangerously irresponsible new vigilantes. Between these two groups is Batman and his assembled team, who attempt to contain the escalating disaster, foil the machinations of Lex Luthor, and prevent a world-ending superhuman war.

    At least the Classics Illustrated comic books from my childhood were based on the classics and not comic book characters.

  3. DonorsChoose is wonderful. I had four or five grants funded by them (and their now re-absorbed breakway group, Means for Dreams).

  4. “Is that because your brain has to be able to combine the pictures with the words?”

    I grew up on comics and didn’t get what a different an complicated skill reading it was until my daughter struggled with them.

    You need first of all to follow the correct order of the panels. Within the panels you need to be able to separate narration, sound effects, dialogue, and thought. Then you need to, and this seems to be the hard part, order them correctly, understanding how the placement and shapes of the balloons dictate the order of speech. My daughter was fine with simple newspaper strip types of comics but actual comic books posed a problem when the dialogue got complicated and one panel expressed a long exchange. Never mind how fonts affect emphasis and the emotional quality of the narration or dialogue.

    Reading a novel or article is a very linear thing. Comic books are like a cube to the novel’s 2 dimensional square.

    “At least the Classics Illustrated comic books from my childhood were based on the classics and not comic book characters.”

    There are still some Classics Illustrated around. Regardless, many of the superhero comics are based classic themes from mythology and classic literature and I’ve been pleasantly surprised how my comic book reading past, comprised almost entirely of superhero comics, has prepared me for my current interests in mythology, classic literature and even textual criticism of the Bible (It’s very handy to approach the bible with reading experience beyond linear stories). I also find a lot of parallels between comics books and reading and writing on the internet.

  5. Richard Nieporent says:

    You need first of all to follow the correct order of the panels. Within the panels you need to be able to separate narration, sound effects, dialogue, and thought. Then you need to, and this seems to be the hard part, order them correctly, understanding how the placement and shapes of the balloons dictate the order of speech.

    Dawn, you are joking, right? Next you will be telling us how complicated it is to get out of bed and put on your clothes.

    First you have to decide whether to put you underwear or your pants on first. Next you have to decide whether the underwear is inside out or not. Then you have to decide whether to put the left leg on the left side or the right side. And don’t get me started on the buttons of the shirt. Does the top button go with the top hole or bottom hole? My god, it is just too complicated to explain.

    The reason kids read comic books is not because they are harder than novels. The fact is by having the pictures you don’t need to be able to read all of the words.

  6. DonorsChoose.org is awesome! I put a project up and it was funded within hours. What a brilliant idea!

  7. “Dawn, you are joking, right? Next you will be telling us how complicated it is to get out of bed and put on your clothes.”

    I was just sharing what I’d observed in relation to my daughter’s experience with comic books and the years I’ve spent reading comic books. What I was addressing was the point that reading comic books may indeed require different skills then books and is complicated process.

    “The reason kids read comic books is not because they are harder than novels.”

    Good thing I said nothing like that. Kids read comic books because they are fun.

    Also, complicated doesn’t automatically equal harder (yet another claim I didn’t make). Comic books are often easy for kids, regardless of complexity, because they’re filled with appealing characters, exciting stories and dynamic art that’s accessible from the moment you open the book.

    “The fact is by having the pictures you don’t need to be able to read all of the words.”

    And so it logically follows that kids won’t read all the words? Or that there are no benefits because they may skip a few words? Do you have a basis for thinking most kids wouldn’t read all the words or that that practice would somehow be detrimental?

    Do you have some real and substantial objection or concern or are you simply appealing to ridicule?

  8. On a side note Kingdom Come is a rather dark and mature book with nontraditional art – almost photo realistic. It also appeals to fans already steeped in the DC comics universe. Certainly a classic but I’m not sure if it’s a really good introduction to comic books in general. He might be better to take fifty bucks and spend a few weekends picking up boxes of old Justice League and Avengers books.

    There’s gotta be one more comic book geek here with an opinion on that. 😀

  9. Teacher: “I think I know of a good way to teach my students”

    Commenter: “You’re doing it wrong”

    I think the core difference of opinions regarding Donors Choose is whether you, as a person, choose to assume that the applicants are high-quality trust-worthy teachers or that they are scammers or simply inept.

  10. Richard Nieporent says:

    Dawn, my intent was to mock the idea that it takes higher order thinking skills to understand comic books than real books. That statement is simply absurd. If it were true why aren’t we using comic book instead of textbooks? For some reason you chose to defend that asinine comment and then you became upset because I gave an example to show you how ridiculous that statement was. I have no objection to children reading comic books. However, it should be done on their own time and not as part of the school curriculum. There are numerous age/skill appropriate books that the teacher can use to get children to read. Kingdom Come is not an appropriate choice of reading material for the students.

  11. “For some reason you chose to defend that asinine comment and then you became upset because I gave an example to show you how ridiculous that statement was.”

    Fallacies generally don’t go over well with me is all.

  12. Oops…Hit send too soon.

    “Dawn, my intent was to mock the idea that it takes higher order thinking skills to understand comic books than real books. That statement is simply absurd.”

    Richard – Read my original comment again. I was simply sharing my experience that comic book reading was more complicated then you implied with the comment, “Is that because your brain has to be able to combine the pictures with the words?”

    I said nothing about higher order thinking skills. Just stick to what I actually write.

    “If it were true why aren’t we using comic book instead of textbooks?”

    The implication being that book chosen for school are meant to promote higher order thinking skills? Come now, I’ve heard about Everyday Math…:D

    “I have no objection to children reading comic books. However, it should be done on their own time and not as part of the school curriculum. There are numerous age/skill appropriate books that the teacher can use to get children to read.”

    And I happen to think that it’s not a bad thing to have comic books in the classroom. The proposal seems to be about nothing more then that, “My goal is to put quality comic books, that are easy to read, but require high academic skills and rigor, into the hands of my students.” (from the link). When a quick google search turns up several articles on studies that seem to point to a relationship between reading and increased pleasure reading in boys it can’t be labeled a baseless or bad idea.

    What’s generally most effective in getting kids to read is supplying them with material that interests them. If that’s comic books, so be it.

    “Kingdom Come is not an appropriate choice of reading material for the students.”

    Have you read it? I find it a puzzling choice. As I said before, it’s mature and demands a certain knowledge of the characters in it. If he’s looking to introduce kids to the medium it might not be a good fit. There are a lot of graphic novels by independents that might fit the bill better.

    I wouldn’t say it’s not appropriate but it is odd.

  13. Public education is more expensive than private because we have to do more. NCLB says you have to have a certain graduation rate. To achieve it, my district implemented a (very successful – grad rate jumped from 85% to nearly 100%) program to “catch” the at-risk kids. It has to be staffed, supplied, etc. Lots of money for relativey few kids. Private schools don’t have to do that. They also don’t have to fund special education (the public system is required to do that for private school children). Several kids in our building have shadows — a paid staff member devoted exclusively to them — on top of being in smaller special ed classes. Our district spends about $7K/student, but that’s deceptive because some kids probably cost about $3k while others cost $50k.

    FWIW, I don’t know of any private school around here charging less than $10K/year.

    Comic books being more complex is a bit hyperbolic. They are, however, very appealing to the kids. My experience is that they move too fast to skip any of the words; the pictures and words are both important. I introduced Persepolis last year (funded through a grant) and it was a very successful unit. The kids loved the story and the novelty of it, so they dove into the research, essay, etc. assignments. They also, I think, liked the breather after getting through Great Expectations.

  14. Persepolis is indeed a great book to introduce to kids.

    Richard – if you want to give graphic novels a try start with Persepolis! Great read.

  15. Richard Nieporent says:

    Dawn, when I was a child I read lots and lots of comics including Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Archie, GI Joe, etc. as well as the Classics Illustrated comics. I even read the “horror” comics such as Tales from the Crypt that led to the Comic Book code. Of course, being the precocious child that I was, I also read the actual classics by such authors as Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Fenimore Cooper, Charles Dickens, etc. I made very good use of my library card. At the risk of sounding like a snob, now that I have long since been an adult, why would I want to read graphic novels? There is still plenty of good literature that I have not read.

  16. “Public education is more expensive than private because we have to do more.”

    And what would you say about KIPP etc.? They get better results for less money.

  17. Andy Freeman says:

    > Public education is more expensive than private because we have to do more.

    Do you actually do more?

    Try doesn’t count if you consistently fail.

  18. Richard: I’m a reading snob, as well — I’ve never read comics or graphic versions of classics. My beach read was the new trans. of War and Peace this summer. I think Persepolis is very good. (And I wish I had more time to read …) That’s just a personal recommendation aside from pedagogical posturing.

    Andy: I don’t consistently fail.

    I don’t know enough about Kipp to comment. None of these for-profit school outfits have managed to succeed in my area, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge.

  19. KIPP is a non-profit.

  20. KIPP also has the luxery of refusing students, the public schools do not.

  21. In our neck of the woods, public schools can refuse to allow students into the classroom. They may require outplacements. I know of one district which refused to allow a particularly disruptive student into the classroom, supplying a tutor instead. Rather than fight it through the courts, the parents chose to move to another school district.

    Homeschooling Granny, the money isn’t evenly distributed. In our state, an enormous amount of money pays for special needs services, salaries and benefits, administrative costs, transportation, and heat. Most of these expenditures are governed by long term contracts, which can’t be adjusted quickly.

    I am not arguing that the schools are short of money. They don’t necessarily choose to budget money for supplies. Supplies don’t have a union, nor a sales department. To allot teachers small individual budgets for classroom supplies would challenge central control of the budget.

  22. Richard Nieporent, the graphic novels of today are not comparable to Donald Duck. I’m not a huge fan of the novels, but I have read a few, to get a feeling for the modern graphic novel. I suggest you read a few before dismissing them as simplistic experiences.

    Are they the equivalent of Great Expectations? No, but Joanne Jacobs referred recently to an article in the Washington Post, written by a high school English teacher, which claimed that modern high school students aren’t up to reading the classics.

    It seems to have escaped most of the posters that the teacher wishes to reach English Language Learners with these graphic novels. These kids aren’t ready for Fenimore Cooper. If you look at “easy readers,” you’ll find generally really boring, dreadfully uninteresting texts, often aimed at a younger age group. It’s not necessarily the fault of the authors, as a limited vocabulary limits what they can write.

    Even though these kids don’t know much English, as middle schoolers, they have had some experience of the world, and may be ready for larger, more abstract concepts. Illustrations can also help bridge the gap in vocabulary by illustrating objects, and allowing the readers access to a more complex, interesting story than a book based on a basic vocabulary can offer.

  23. I think it’s wonderful that there are “extras” that can be purchased voluntarily by parents and other folks. People who donate can do so knowing exactly where their money is going. Great idea!

    For what it’s worth, my older autistic child refuses to read without pictures. He has a great deal of difficulty with the printed word and language, but does well enough in math. I know no one said this, but it isn’t always the low-IQ or non-native English speaker that relies on pictures. My son’s science teacher has racked his brain trying to get the child to read some basic instructions and I suggested some illustrations. Hope it works! :]

  24. Andy Freeman says:

    > KIPP also has the luxery of refusing students, the public schools do not.

    Public school advocates are fond of saying that their primary concern is “the students”.

    Yet, when there’s an opportunity to let some of those students succeed, they object.

    Instead, they insist on keeping them in an environment where they fail.

    As MiT demonstrates, when it comes to a choice between the money or the kids, PSAs always go for the money.

  25. “KIPP also has the luxery of refusing students…”

    Don’t think so, Mike. Cite?

  26. Richard Nieporent says:

    Richard Nieporent, the graphic novels of today are not comparable to Donald Duck. I’m not a huge fan of the novels, but I have read a few, to get a feeling for the modern graphic novel. I suggest you read a few before dismissing them as simplistic experiences.

    If you are not a huge fan of the graphic novels Parent2, then why are you trying to get me to read them? Where did you get the idea that I was looking for advice on what to read? Let’s see, should I read the Will and Ariel Durant Story of Civilization (something I have been trying to find the time to read for ages now) or Kingdom Come. That’s a tough decision.

    My original comment was not about graphic novels per se, or even on his choice of Kingdom Come, a “superheroes” book, but on his assertion that comic books actually require higher order thinking skills to understand. Unless you are trying to defend that ridiculous statement, why are you being so argumentative? Where did I tell anyone not to read graphic novels if that is their taste in literature? I only said that I was not planning to read them. Why does that bother you so much?

  27. Mr. Nieporent, I think you have been misled by the jargon. When you state to Dawn, “Dawn, my intent was to mock the idea that it takes higher order thinking skills to understand comic books than real books,” you are inferring that the teacher states that comic books require higher order thinking skills than do regular novels.

    That’s not his point. If you Google “higher order thinking skills,” you will see that this phrase is drawn from Bloom’s Taxonomy. “The cognitive domain taxonomy helped to create a standard around which further work could be done with the concepts of higher and lower order thinking. This model included six levels of thinking in a general scale of cognitive complexity from lowest to highest (O’hara, 1978): knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Each level not only asks more of our thinking skills but includes the previous levels as subsets of the new level.” (http://www.ceap.wcu.edu/Houghton/Learner/think/bloomsTaxonomy.html)

    The teacher is not arguing that comic books are more complex than novels. The comic books would allow him to discuss more complex issues with a group of middle school English language learners than other materials. My assumption is, even if a student can’t read all the words, he or she can look at the pictures, and would be able to follow class discussion.

  28. Parent2, you’ve lost me:

    “Research has shown that while easier to read than “regular novels,” comic books actually require higher order thinking skills to understand. The same higher order thinking skills that are required in math and science.”

  29. Ragnarok, in the teacher’s request, “higher” isn’t comparing comic books to novels. It’s misleading, because “easier” does compare comic books to novels, leading the reader to expect the next comparative adjective to compare comics to novels.

    “Higher” is comparing “higher order thinking skills” to “lower order thinking skills.” Readers use the same “higher order thinking skills” to understand novels, but the novels are harder to read, and probably beyond the reach of middle school English language learners.

    The thinking skills, according to Bloom, from “lower order” to “higher order:” (Google Bloom’s taxonomy in wikipedia)
    Knowledge
    Comprehension
    Application
    Analysis
    Synthesis
    Evaluation

    I am not defending the education establishment’s take on Bloom’s taxonomy. I don’t think that you can leapfrog over Knowledge, Application, and Comprehension on your way to Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. “Higher order thinking skills” does have a specific meaning in the education world, however.

  30. Richard Nieporent says:

    Research has shown that while easier to read than “regular novels,” comic books actually require higher order thinking skills to understand.

    It’s misleading, because “easier” does compare comic books to novels, leading the reader to expect the next comparative adjective to compare comics to novels.

    “Higher” is comparing “higher order thinking skills” to “lower order thinking skills.” Readers use the same “higher order thinking skills” to understand novels, but the novels are harder to read, and probably beyond the reach of middle school English language learners.

    Parent2, You are misreading the sentence. It does not say what you think it says. I have no idea why it is so difficult for you to understand a simple English sentence. It clearly states that comic books are (1) easier to read than novels and (2) they require higher order thinking skills to understand [than novels].

  31. Ragnarok,

    KIPP does not do more with less. Ya gotta stop writing that.

    Teachers and school leaders at KIPP do more with more and different.

    KIPP gets full ADA in some states and districts, slightly less than full ADA in others, depending on how the school is charterd, and then raises substantial money from donors and foundations. http://www.kipp.org/06/ourpartners.cfm Total that up, and it amounts to a lot more than the ADA in the respective states KIPP opens schools in. You can also check out the FAQ #7 http://www.kipp.org/01/kippfaq.cfm

    KIPP may not refuse students, but the 5-8 models do not enroll students after 6th grade, and as schools of choice, can hold far more stringent exit criteria than what is needed for expulsion.

  32. Rags,

    Here’s something I found after searching for less than a minute, from KIPP.org

    . Choice & Commitment. Students, their parents, and the faculty of each KIPP school choose to participate in the program. No one is assigned or forced to attend a KIPP school. Everyone must make and uphold a commitment to the school and to each other to put in the time and effort required to achieve success.

    Already they are serving a group different from the public schools.

    Other quotes from KIPP about parents’ responsibilities:

    We understand that our child must follow the KIPP rules so as to protect the safety, interests, and rights of all individuals in the classroom.

    We will make sure our child arrives at KIPP every day by 7:25 A.M. (Monday-Friday) or boards a KIPP bus at the scheduled time.

    We will make arrangements so our child can remain at KIPP until 5:00 P.M. Monday-Thursday and 4:00 P.M. on Friday.

    We will make arrangements for our child to come to KIPP on appropriate Saturdays at 9:15 A.M. and remain until 1:05 P.M.

    These are all great ideas, why can’t the public schools be allowed to enforce similar rules?

    By having these rules in place KIPP is allowed to pre-select kids whose parents are committed to their education.
    We will ensure that our child attends KIPP summer school.

  33. Yes, Mike, and as usual your own quote fails to back you up.

    As you say, these are all great rules, let the public schools follow. What’s stopping them? Oh yeah, the administration, the teachers’ union etc….

  34. Andy Freeman says:

    MiT doesn’t bother to mention that many of the kids who succeed in private schools were failing at the public schools.

    Why does he insist on keeping them in an environment where they fail?

    He occasionally argues that he’s willing to let them go, so long as the money that the public was spending to not educate them doesn’t go with them.

    Since their parents can’t afford to pay, the result of MiT’s position is that they have to stay in public schools, where they continue to fail.

    In other words, given the choice between educating kids and money, MiT went for the money.

    Interestingly enough, “can’t afford to pay” is the argument for taxpayer subsidized education….

  35. I noticed the KIPP website doesn’t mention what happens to kids whose parents refuse to sign the committment form.

    Or whose parents refuse to follow the edicts?

    Apparently Andy and Rags do not understand the concept of the term “cherry picked”

    But that doesn’t stop them from throwing in the evil teachers’ unions.

    How about some facts to back that claim up? How exactly are the teachers’ unions preventing the public schools from implementing the same type of KIPP reforms?