Needs More Sleep
I know nothing about teaching kids, so I can't help you there, but I know for a stone-cold fact that I started doing main idea exercises in third grade, too. Not only do I remember doing it then and sweating over them under Mrs. Thornton's exacting eye, but when my mom died, I found an enormous box of my school stuff in the attic and there were those main idea exercises. I remember hating them. I think we started doing summaries then, too. Then in fourth grade, we progressed to book reports, which are summaries with main ideas and major supporting points, and so on. I also remember underlining the key sentence in every paragraph at some point, although that's a little less clear. Maybe fifth grade? I think we started doing outlines then, so that's about right.So here's what I find interesting about this ... In Massachusetts, they are actively trying to teach these exact skills of how to read nonfiction texts, identify main idea/supporting points, and summarize the piece, as early as 3rd grade. My kids have been working on these kinds of exercises, and have had those skills assessed on standardized tests, since they were 8 years old.
And you know what? Despite several years of plugging away at it, it's still a struggle for them. I actually really question why kids need to learn these skills at 8, 9, or 10 years old. I don't remember doing this kind of stuff at that age! And I don't think I would have been ready for it, if I had. I'm good with these types of skills now, as an adult. But at age 8 or 10, I think I would have just been confused.
I really wonder if schools would actually be more successful with inculcating these specific skills if they waited until kids were older, say in 8th or 9th grade. I'd honestly be very curious to hear what teachers on FSU think about this issue.
I'm not sure how helpful such exercises are in teaching skills. If I have a freshman class where the writing skills are below average for a class, I will have them do this quiz before they proceed to their first reading assignment. You don't want to know how many fail. Then I have them do it again and tell them to take their time and READ the sentences. They do a lot better on that quiz then, but I think the only one who benefits is me, because it tells me how hard I'm going to have work to get through the reading assignments.
It's not just "those kids," either. My former dentist was adjunct faculty at a dentistry school and told me that for decades, it had been the job of first-years to read and summarize new journal articles for a school newsletter. They stopped several years ago because the first-years could not summarize accurately; they couldn't identify the theses and main points in journal articles. We're talking about people who were successful and experienced academic students already. Like this:
Yep. I have seen this happen as well. I would have read the chapters because the professor said it, but if he hadn't mentioned it, I would have never opened the book. I really detest reading textbooks.These are not college freshmen -- it is a grad program.
This is by no means all students, mind you. There are still lots of readers out there. And sometimes I get a student who hates to read and write but does both well anyway, which I find completely incomprehensible.
I am sorry to hear that your kids are getting crappy vocab assignments, @clairecloutier. But you've been in publishing; you know proofreading is expendable.