What Third Graders Can Do

It makes me so upset when people question the capability of children. When they say we shouldn't challenge kids because the obviously can't do it. When they say "Come on, they're just kids".

I suppose I understand that to some point. There is such a thing as "learned helplessness" where a person fails so persistently that they feel they cannot do it anymore. But to limit children because we personally do not feel we could have done the same as them when we were there age? That seems a disservice not only to the children but to society as well.

I just want to share an experience from yesterday. The third graders had just finished their first chapter on multiplication. It came surprisingly easy to them and I was pleased. They took a test yesterday and we still had 20 minutes before lunch. My site teacher had the students open the text book to a "performance task". It's a math problem or two at the end of a chapter that are related to the chapter, but expound upon what they learned. We gave them this performance task to do and told them they could work together but they were not to ask the teachers for help. We were allowed to tell them if they got it right or got it wrong but we couldn't tell them how to do it.

It was painful at first. Some students immediately said they couldn't do it, but I told them that if they really tried they could, because they could do hard things. And let me tell you, that performance task was hard. What it asked was well within reason for a person to know how to do, but for third graders who had just learned multiplication, it was HARD. For 20 minutes the groaned and furrowed their brows and complained but in those last five minutes...

Every single one of those students found the answer to the problems on their own. Even students I'd consider as "low" students. I was blow away by how their hard work paid off and you could tell that they felt it too. They were proud of themselves. They had done something on their own. And I could not restrain my grin as I told each one of them "This is right! You did this right! I am so proud of you, and you should be so proud of yourselves."

So don't you tell me what my third graders are capable of. Don't you undermine them. They are amazing. 

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