What was the pedagogical value of complete sentences?

Rewriting the question into a complete sentence makes sure that the child understood the question. For those with reading challenges or English as a second language, reading and understanding the question is more difficult than knowing the answer. If a kid writes “The color of the forest is green,” then the teacher knows that the kid misread “fence” as “forest.” Or if the kid writes “The fence is brown wood painted white,” then the teacher knows that they had the right answer, but were thinking something different. The teacher wouldn’t know either of these things if the kids had written “green” or “brown” as single-word answers.

For a relative of mine, this kind of problem was her major hurdle in school. If you read the test to her, she’d score very well. But having to read it? Ultimately, the school gave her permission to take the test in a room by herself and to take as long as she wanted to. Any kind of pressure or distraction and her brain simply jumbled up the letters and she could not understand the questions.

Obviously, though, this technique is not as necessary for more advanced students. But others have pointed out that classes have to be designed in a way that helps the entire class. Writing complete sentences may be mechanical, but it’s a very simple accommodation for the kids who might be struggling.

Unless you do an on-camera interview, in which case it’s preferable to answer in a complete sentence since the interviewer’s questions usually aren’t aired. You essentially become the narrator.

I don’t know the Official Answer to the OP’s question, but this strikes me as very likely correct: The purpose of requiring the student to write the answers in complete sentences is to make sure they read and understand the questions they’re answering.

I can tell you as a math teacher that sometimes, for some students, the hardest part of “word problems” is understanding what is being asked. Requiring them to answer in complete sentences might help. (I don’t generally require this, but now that I think about it, maybe I should.)

More observations: Sometimes, students give incomplete or ambiguous answers. I’d rather see an answer like “Bob has 6 dimes and 14 quarters” or “Elroy must get at least 96 on the final exam in order to get an A for the course” than just to see a 6 and a 14, or a 96, show up near the end of a student’s work.

And, writing answers in complete sentences sometimes helps to make “obviously” wrong answers more obvious. If I ask, “How many ways could the baseball manager arrange the batting order?” an answer like 0.0035 is wrong, but if I force you to write “He could arrange them in 0.0035 ways” you’re more likely to see that it’s wrong.

the “No Child Left Behind” principles have been at work in the schools long before Bush signed the relevant law. If the smart and the dumb are taught together and we really care about getting the dumb to pass, the smart will suffer from the dumbed down curriculum. In America this has been going on since at least 1920s as you can read in the excellent discussion here http://www.csun.edu/~vcmth00m/AHistory.html .

Of course, it’s never as bad as the critics claim - it’s bad in some places (especially in ones combining dumb students, dumb parents and dumb teachers all in one package), and it’s ok in others, there is always resistance to the bad ways of doing things. Indeed, even in Soviet Union there was in practice a good deal of local variation in terms of what was actually taught and how it was taught, even though there was in theory a single national curriculum for everybody regardless of location, intelligence and proficiency in Russian language. In some cases they even had de-facto “tracking” in Russia. Overall, common sense and desire to get the job done does usually put a check on the insanity of ruling ideologies although it cannot completely override them.

With all due respect, this continues to be a load of crap. Again, as Map attests, there is always someone who is ahead, often by quite a bit in some areas, and someone who is behind. There’s no evidence whatsoever that a student “suffers” from being around someone who doesn’t know as much as he. A substantial source of data around this matter comes from the research of Jeannie Oakes - see, e.g. *Keeping Track, 2nd ed. *

I guess, if you write something out in a full sentence, you’re likely to remember it. Lots of people remember things better if they’ve written them down.

Occasionally I’ve done this with my students, but only when the questions were preparation for a longer essay. I tried having them just write brief answers rather than full sentences, and found that the kids wrote better essays and worked more independently if they could refer to the full sentences in their earlier work.

It could also quite possibly a way of making a short activity take longer. I’d bet that was the reason half the time.

Without pulling out this reference which I don’t have handy, I’m curious about this, because it seems completely obvious on the face of it: if you’re ahead, and the teacher is going over stuff you don’t need to go over again, then you are “suffering” in the sense of being held back from full potential, not in the sense of “being made to lose knowledge”.

I heard the other day that there was some kind of proposal in Pennsylvania to eliminate “tracking” in reading and math at the Elementary school level. I was rather flabbergasted at why that would be considered desirable at all, because those who are on the “highest tracks” are likely to be future leaders. For example, if you work or consort with many top engineers and scientists (as I do), just about all of them came from top-tracked educational paths from an early age, especially those coming from Asia and Europe where such tracking is completely standard. Why should they have been kept waiting while lower-tracked peers reviewed material they’d already digested?

The best argument against tracking, to me, is that it’s very possible that a large component of academic performance is based on peer expectations: if everybody in the class is farting around and whining about how “math is hard” and “I hate reading”, it’s very easy/tempting for a child to go with the flow, while being surrounded by kids eager to show each other up in doing harder math, reading faster or writing better spurs them to do their best. I would attribute most of the whole “Asians do better in school” business to this cultural attitude towards academics than anything genetic.

But that requires the teacher to be teaching to the top, not the bottom or middle students, which seems to be the opposite of the prevailing culture in education theory in this country.

Also check out The Underground History of American Education.

my advice to robardin would be to avoid arguments with the true believers. Research by tobacco companies proves that these companies’ products are good for you. Likewise, research by the progressive education establishment proves the goodness of services provided by that establishment and the wisdom of its methods. In both cases what is happening is blatant lying, but at least in the case of educational methodologies the actual situation is fairly obvious to all those involved - the students, parents and the non-brainwashed teachers who actually care about results.

Then again, like I said, destructiveness of ideology is often tempered by local resistance. E.g. in my school district tracking in math began as early as grade 8 and there was extensive tracking in high school. In fact, AFAIK, attempts to abolish tracking in high school have generally failed, so far, so it is “common knowledge” that there is little tracking in middle school but in high school watch out for the “honors classes”’ and such. This has become sufficiently well-entrenched in the culture that the progressives now limit themselves to bemoaning the demographics of the higher level classes rather than just trying to abolish them in entirety.

The above is a terrific example of someone spouting an ideological point of view without the benefit of evidence. The SDMB tries to weed that out, but it isn’t always possible. Legitimate research into tracking, over many years and over many contexts, shows limited, if any, benefits, to most students, and many significant drawbacks for many. In some cases, proponents of what is sometimes called “progressive” education take a position because research indicates it’s the best one to adopt.