Paper, Pencils and Books May Not Boost Student Achievement

Paper, pencils and books have been used in schools in America for more than a hundred years – probably for more than 200 years – lets just say for a long time. This concerns me because It appears to me that they may not boost student achievement. Sure, some students seem to do well using them, but our testing continues to show that many students continue to struggle and more schools are added to the list of those not meeting adequate yearly progress every year. Some of these schools use paper, pencils and books to the exclusion of almost any other teaching and learning tool.

I’ve been doing some of my own research in my own classroom and my findings seem to bear this out. This year I was determined to use paper, pencils and books as much as possible hoping that they would make a greater impact on my students’ learning. I have them use paper and pencils to copy things from the internet, I integrate books into PE by using them as bases during kickball – I’ve even integrated them into lunch by using them as trays in the cafeteria. We use paper and pencils to word process, participate in our drawing program and sometimes we trace pictures from books.

I use the “extra” problems in the back of the math book for lots and lots of math drill and practice and starting in our primary grades we use books to teach reading and math and some of our students still aren’t performing well – in fact the longer students use paper, pencils and books the lower some score on standardized tests. I have a file cabinet full of reading worksheets that stress comprehension and vocabulary so this year I’ve used those with my students a lot. They seem to help a few kids, and they were excited about them at first but now some of them groan when I pass them out. I just don’t get why the kids aren’t doing better – I’m using paper and pencils and books constantly. I’ve even started having kids write over and over, “I will write and spell better!” but that hasn’t seemed to help either.

My school district spent literally millions of dollars on a new reading series this year and on math a few years ago. Frankly it seems like money down a rat hole to continue to invest precious tax dollars into tools that have hundreds of years of trial and seem to not boost student achievement.

Is anyone doing research on the use of these tools to see if they should continue to be used?

What? Maybe I haven’t been using paper, pencils and books correctly to support student learning? Maybe I’m using them to meet the needs of the industrial age when we aren’t in the industrial age any more? Maybe I need training in their effective use and my learning curve might take more than 2 or 3 years? Isn’t that kind of like the study that just came out about computers may not boost student achievement?

Oh – never mind.

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4 thoughts on “Paper, Pencils and Books May Not Boost Student Achievement

  1. Have you thought of having the kids sit on the books? You didn’t mention it, but you’ve probably done that also. It would make them taller so they could feel more important – like when they ask to “get on the computer.”

    I discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago, and I’m having a lot of fun reading it.