What do you think of this homework question? My kid's answer?

My son is in 5th grade and this was the last question we had from the novel they’ve been reading:
Write down what life lesson you have learned from this story and its characters. Be prepared to share your life lesson and how it is portrayed in the story through the characters.**
I think it’s presumptuous to assume a kid will learn a life lesson from a novel, much less expect them to share it with the class.

Kid wrote: “I didn’t learn any life lesson or anything I didn’t already know”

The life lesson I learned from the same book read at the same age is “Don’t read Newbery Award books.” (Also don’t be featured on the cover of one, something terrible is going to happen to you if you’re on the same cover as a Newbery Medal). As an adult I have expanded this to almost all book awards.

His answer might be honest and factual, but honest and factual never earned any gold stars. Let him know that it is acceptable to bullshit a little with authority figures and that he will do better in a structued school environment if he gives the teachers back what they expect. Never confuse schoolwork with education.

Lazy looking answer. It may well be true, but if I’m the teacher, he’s getting no points. Not knowing either the book or your kid, it seems unlikely that there was nothing in there he hadn’t considered before. Of course, 5th graders aren’t the best “considerers”.

On the other hand, kind of a weird question. I’m guessing it is aiming at ‘what did this book make you think about in a different way’ - which, to a large extent, is what I think assigned books in middle/high school are aiming to have you do.

I’m all for poking twaddle like this with a sharp stick, so good for him. I’d tell him that his answer is a good one and go with it, but then add something along the lines of, “It reinforced xxxxxx because…”

Give him a high five for me.

How old is 5th Grade?

The lesson I taught from my english classes was that my teachers didn’t give two shits what I “learnt” from the story - all they cared about was that I could read for context and then justify my points with “evidence” from the book.

So in that sense I think son screwed up by trying to be a smart arse…

Yeah, the question is poorly worded. It might have been better as, “What life lesson is illustrated by this story?”

And I would take this opportunity to teach my kid the life lesson that you need to at least look like you’re putting in effort on your school work.

I think he missed the point of the question. If he really didn’t learn anything he didn’t already know he then needs to say something like, “I already knew about ______ but this book made me think about it in a different way because…” or something similar. She is looking for his ability to tell her about what he read and the answer he gave doesn’t do that.

If it’s a really bad book, he should give something along the lines: this book was stupid, but if I have to name something, then “”. In this way he comes across as smart and not lazy. I agree it’s a stupid question.

Fifth grade is normally 10-11 year olds in the US.

As a parent I’d explain to my kid, at his level, that the teacher is looking for some generalized abstraction from the specific of the story …

“You may have already known it, or even disagree with the so-called lesson, but the teacher wants to see that you can glean it. So find one of those points, show the teacher that you do that, and then comment that you actually already knew that or that you disagree with it. Otherwise the teacher will just think you are a snot who thinks you have nothing to learn.”

What’s the book, btw?

I was a high school physics teacher for a couple years, and I ALWAYS made sure my questions were worded very carefully so that students couldn’t weasel their way out and still make a logical argument that they had answered the question appropriately. On the few occaisions that it did happen, I let it go. Your son answered the question the teacher was asking; if he didn’t learn anything, then great. But he does need to at least write a paragraph on justifying why he didn’t learn anything. What was it in the book that he already knew? Ask him to be specific.

I think it would help to know what book we’re talking about here.

I think he should have answered, “Be careful where you put your dick because it could have long term consequences.”

But maybe we were reading different books.

The teacher might have been using a question given to her from a state study guide for your state tests. I taught math, and trying to get the kids to write their extended responsewas like pulling teeth, but they had to do it if our school wanted to do well on the tests.

I agree with other posters; learn to give the teacher what he/she wants. It is a skill your child will use through college. And the more the instructor says he wants you to think for yourself and not just take his view, the more often you’d better parrot back exactly what he wants.

I was born a scientist. This sort of touchy-feely crap irritated the hell out of me even way back when I was a kid. I remember once in 9th grade, we read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein in English, which I found horribly dull. In class, we spent weeks discussing how it was all about nature, and how nature was beautiful, and the symbolism of nature, and whatnot. At the end of the unit, we were supposed to write 10 things we learned from the book. I put “Nature is beautiful” for seven of them. I think I got full credit.

Bridge to Terabithia?

I think your kid failed miserably at this lesson. Being literate is more than just being able to read the words on the page and define them. You need to understand the themes and messages embedded in the story and writing. The question was meant to get the kids to that and to read and understand it well enough to use the author’s writing to support the idea. Was the question worded awkwardly, yes. The point behind it was clear, though.

Your kid’s answer says that he is unwilling or unable to put forth the effort to do that. Even in his answer he did not use the book to support his contention that he did not learn anything new, which was the most important part of the lesson being taught in this assignment. I might be on your side if he had supported his answer, but he didn’t do that. He read or skimmed for content and not for comprehension of what the book was trying to teach. Even if he does not like the book or learn anything *new *from the book, he still needs the skills to pull out why that is and support his conclusion. That was the assignment and he did not do that.

Your response says that we know where he learned it from.

Hmmm… which book was it?

I’d give the kid a “0” and make them re-write it.

This is not a reading assignment, but a writing assignment. The kid didn’t write anything useful, so it’s not going to get any points.

At various points in our lives, in school and in work, we will be asked to write about topics we may or may not feel a burning passion for. In order to do that, we need to be able to choose an appropriate topic, develop and argument, and illustrate our points. Most of the time, it doesn’t really matter what we think or feel about it, we just need to be able to do it. My boss at my last job didn’t really care what my opinion was on the sorting of prestigious science awards in to concrete categories- she just needed me to write the damn report in a clear, logical way.

This is what these sorts of assignments are building up to. I’d even hesitate to call it “bullshit” or “playing the academic game.” The ability to take any given subject and write something compelling about it is a legitimate life skill that kids should come out of school knowing. When I wrote my college placement exam (topic: Are cell phones improving or harming society), do you think I or anyone involved really cared about the pros and cons of cell-phones? Of course not, nobody was looking for my ability to reason about cell phones. They just wanted to know if I could write.

if the kid really wants to defend his position, he needs to actually defend it. For example (in non-kid language):

I found that Bridge to Terebithia did not introduce me to any new life lessons. While this book was meant to address subjects of loneliness, companionship, and loss, I don’t think it’s unusual for someone my age to have already experienced these themes in real life. Last year, my best was killed in a chicken farming accident. It was obviously very hard for me to handle, but eventually I developed the courage and strength to move on. From the perspective of someone who has actually lived through it, Jesse and Leslie’s story seems fairly trite and meant to elicit strong emotions without any real depth or complexity. It was, in short, a tearjerker. Real life is so much more complicated than a children’s book.

The child definitely needs to expand on that answer. Something along the lines of ‘I didn’t learn anything useful: the book teaches X but you taught us that last year’ :smiley: