On Saturday my granddaughter and I were making latkes for the family Hanukah celebration. After peeling ten pounds of potatoes and grinding them up with three pounds of onions, we took a break and talked about school. This is the interview with my granddaughter, a fifth-grader discusses Common Core.
Where do you live? I live in Brooklyn, New York.
How old are you? Ten-years-old.
What grade are you in in school? Fifth grade.
What subjects do you have in fifth grade? Some subjects I have every day. Reading, writing, social studies, and math. Some subjects I have only one day a week. Monday I have art. On Tuesday I have acting. On Wednesday I have science. On Thursday I have technology. I only have gym on Friday.
What are you favorite subjects? My favorite subjects are reading, writing, art, and acting.
Why do you like reading and writing so much? With reading I get stuck in a book and I can't get out of it. I read in class and at home. In school it does not matter what I read, I just have to read. We have to write a reading entry for homework on Mondays and Wednesdays. I have to write about my book. There are different kinds of entries like an umbrella entry where you write details about the theme. Another entry is about significant relationships. We can also do compare and contrast. I can write how the movie and the book are the same and different.
Now I am reading a book called Eragon about a dragon and a boy. The name Eragon is really the word dragon with an "E" instead of a "D". I just like writing because we get to express how we feel and what we want to say. In school we are writing persuasive essays on social issues. My social issue is digital addiction. That is when kids or adults are addicted to anything that has a screen and they can't get off of it even if someone tells them to.
What is your favorite book? My favorite book right now is called Shatter Me. It was really cool about a teenage girl who can't touch anyone and if she does she will hurt them or even kill them. It is sort of like an illness. She was born with it. She meets a good guy who is the only person she can touch. She also meets a bad guy who wants to use her as a weapon and he also likes her. At the end she and the good guy who can touch her run away together to a special space. This book was my choice. I read it along with my friends.
How do you prepare for the Common Core reading and math tests? We get ready for the tests, sort of, but not that much right now because the test is later in the year. In fourth grade we did practice tests. They had passages we had to read and then we had to write about them and we had a lot of multiple-choice questions to answer. In math we practice things the whole year round with stuff that is going to be on the test. The whole math program is called Common Core.
I think the Common Core standards are way too high. They expect kids to know way too much. We had to learn about algebra in third grade. Even the teachers think the standards are too high. They make us do the work because we have to. Right now we just finished a unit on decimals - adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing with decimals. It lasted about two months long. I am pretty sure this will be on the test.
How did you do on the Common Core tests in fourth grade? I think I did pretty good. My parents said I did. The teachers did not say anything about it.
What do you think of the tests? I hate the tests. The practice is boring, the tests are boring. The tests are no good for kids who are still in third, fourth, and fifth grade. I think the teachers should help the kids learn in a different way. Some kids are not as good at the test as I am and it is harder for them. They get things wrong, they feel really bad, and it is not their fault.
What are you learning in social studies? Our unit right now in social studies is westward expansion. My teacher has a lot of westward expansion books and we each pick a topic - mine is the Oregon Trail. In a month we are going to have to write a passage about it. I am pretty interested in the disasters like the Donner Party. The Donner Party were rich people who wanted to go on the Oregon Trail because they wanted more land. The person who was leading them took them on a short cut but he had never actually gone on this short cut. They were only going about two miles a day and it started snowing before they predicted it. The snow blocked the passageway through the mountains. They got stuck in the mountains and they started starving. Half of the 81 people in the Donner Party died and the ones who lived were so desperate that they ate the dead people when they ran out of food. In the spring eight of the people went to a rescue place to get help. About a month later the rescue team got to them. One of the people in the Donner Party wrote in her diary that she felt weird because she was eating a boy she knew so she decided not to eat him. But this won't be on the test. We just are supposed to do it.
Do you talk about current events in social studies? Not really that much. We talked about the Constitution and the President and the amendments, especially the first amendment.
Did you discuss Michael Brown and Eric Garner? I don't know who they are.
Did you discuss the right to protest? Yes, that was part of the first amendment. We didn't talk about any special protests. We did go to City Hall and there was a protest outside. I'm not sure what they were protesting. I think it was something about school.
What classes do you not like? I don't like technology, science, and math. Math is just boring. I don't like technology because we mostly just learn vocabulary words. We only get to work with the computers for less than fifteen minutes each time. We do Sketch-Up and programing. We have to make the Zombie eat the flower.
When you have a choice, what do you do on the computer? I like to do my homework on the computer, especially my essays. I play Minecraft on the I-Pad a lot at home. In Minecraft I design buildings. In survival mode you have to start from scratch and have to get all your resources and you have to be careful of the monsters and zombies. When you make something you want to keep doing it. I may become an architect like my dad. I also like to play games like Hay Day, High School Story, and Doctor Driving.
Why don't you like science? In science we don't do fun experiments like making things explode. We just talk and write in notebooks about variables and stuff. Variables are the things that make experiments not right.
Did you learn about the scientific method? I am not sure. We might have, but I am not always a good listener.
Did you do any experiments? We did swing a swinger back and forth to see how many times and how long it swings. Each table had two swingers. We wrote the data in our notebooks. I think data is funny to say.
How would you make school more interesting for fifth graders? I would add a trampoline in every classroom so when you got bored you could bounce on it. Each teacher should have a day off so the kids could learn without the teachers telling them what to do. We should also have acting, art, and gym at least three days a week. Those are the really fun classes.
But those classes are not on the test? Gym class keeps you healthy and fit. If you couldn't do art and acting you would be a bad artist and a bad actor.
Why is that important? Then you will have more things that you can do when you get older. If you want to be an architect, it would be very hard to get a job if you didn't study art. Acting helps you perform and it builds your character because you have to learn about someone else. In acting you have to memorize your lines, you have to speak out to the audience, and you socialize with other people in the cast.