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Home / Articles / Columnists / Teaching from the Heart /  Grandmother's Eyes
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Thursday, September 1,2011

Grandmother's Eyes

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller  
Grandma lives in Arizona


Her grandkids live in Illinois. So every time Grandma sees them, which is usually once a year, she exclaims, “My, have you grown. Just look at how tall you are.”

Growth of her grandchildren appears to Grandma as a big spurt. The parents and the children don’t see the growth the same way.

Parents see their children every day and therefore don’t see the physical growth as a spurt at all. The children look in the mirror frequently and see no change from day to day. Because parents and children are together frequently, they do not see growth through grandmother’s eyes. They’re too close to the situation to be conscious of the dramatic change that is gradually taking place.

Cathy Smithson, a fifth-grade teacher from the Midwest, understands the concept of grandmother’s eyes. She also understands its importance. So this past school year she gave her students several opportunities to see them selves with grandmother’s eyes.

She began by collecting examples of each student’s penmanship at the beginning of the year and placing them in individual portfolios. She added to the collection students’ early papers showing their efforts with long division. The portfolios also included a pretest on social studies chapter terms, an audio recording of each child reading, and various other examples of early-fifth-grade work.

At the end of the school year Cathy assigned a penmanship lesson. At the conclusion of the activity she produced the early penmanship samples she had saved, passed them out to each student, and asked her students to compare them. The fifth graders were stunned . Comments they made included:

“I used to write like a baby.” “I’m so much neater now.” “I can hardly read what I wrote before.”

“I sure have improved.” Cathy’s st udents were beginning to see their progress through grandmother’s eyes. And this aware teacher had more surprises in store for them.

Two days later she had students complete a longdivision assignment that appeared easy to them all. She then produced the long-division work they had done several months prior. Their reactions?

“I used to think this was so hard.”

“The first time I got half of them wrong.”

“I get it now.” “Boy, did I learn a lot this year!” Cathy followed the same procedure with the other items in the student portfolios. When they read a passage from their reading material and then heard the audio recordings of themselves reading the same material earlier in the year their reactions were dramatic.

“Some of them listened with their mouths open,” Cathy reported. “I could see the surprised look on their faces. The improvement they had made in a year was obvious to them. They were all smiling and looking proud.”

Cathy Smithson showed students exactly what they had learned and how much they had grown academically. She provided visual and auditory proof of their achievements. By giving them end-of-the-year experiences of seeing with grandmother’s eyes, she helped them leave fifth grade feeling tall in their own eyes.


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