The hostess at our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday was a fifth grade teacher, who has been teaching elementary school students for over three decades. In between eating wonderful food, including a chocolate pumpkin bread pudding that was so good that it must have come down from heaven, she told me that fifth graders are biologically different than they were when she started teaching school.
The discussion started with food allergies. Years ago a teacher might have a couple of kids who had to be watched so that they didn’t eat peanuts. In recent years, children have become more sensitive to allergens and more children are affected. My hostess described some of the precautions that the teachers now have to take, including making sure that they don’t have peanut residue on their hands when they correct papers.
Later on my hostess described some of the changes that she has made in her classroom. She has gotten rid of the desks and traditional chairs and replaced them with beanbag chairs and stability balls, with the kids using lap desks. The small movements required for children to balance on the balls help them to focus. I have heard this before with regard to kinesthetic learners and some hyperactive kids. She continued talking about how because kids are exposed to so much digital media, especially computers, their brains are physically different from earlier generations. They process information differently. She explained that schools need to adapt their teaching methods to these changes.
All this from Thanksgiving dinner with extended family! Oh, and I ate pickled watermelon rind for the first, and hopefully not last, time.