Thursday, February 25, 2010

Exam Week: One Question, Two Answers

While I think it is important for kids to know the facts in a given subject area, I also want them to connect with a subject on their own terms. Kids' answers to open-ended questions often illustrate the individuality of their experiences with this or that resource. I do work on facts with the girls (and even drill memory work), because they need to understand the textbook difference between a major and a minor key in music, for instance. But I also want to honor the way God made their minds different from one another. For many questions, there is not one pat answer. As adults, we are called upon to think creatively in many situations. Life is not multiple choice. So I love open-ended CM-type questions.

Below is a music appreciation question I asked all three of my kids, followed by two of their answers (Aravis has been too sick this week to do much in the way of narrating, but she was feeling much better last night):

Question: Tell about Grieg's composition, "Piano Concerto in A".

Answer by Cornflower, 3rd grade-- It starts angry as if something bad happens. Then it calms down and kind of jumps, then gets softer, faster, louder, quieter, slows down, and wavers; but goes to major, then minor, and major, minor, major, minor, major, then starts going faster. LOUD! PERCUSSION! Simple piano, quiet. Loud! Really loud! Now it's major, minor, stays minor for awhile, gets louder, quiets down, but fast. Loud, soft. Louder, dribbles, then goes into minor... BOOM! Goes down, soft, with feeling. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Soft. Very silent. Gets louder, Goes down, then... the main theme! BOOM!

Answer by Mariel, 6th grade-- In the beginning, it sounds like a wizard, then he runs away and fairies come out and dance and sweep away all traces of the wizard. Then little imps come on and chase away the fairies. But then the birds chase away the imps and a nymph comes into the grove of trees and dances for a time and then all the birds and faires and imps come back and dance too, and the wizard is watching, and he then comes in.

And everything is quiet for the wizard, and everything is bowing to the wizard, except the nymph, and there are also dryads and fauns and naiads that have come in with little forest animals. Then at the end there is a wedding of the nymphs and the wizard, and they dance while everybody else quietly creeps away except the birds. They fly around the wizard and the nymph. Then the curtain drops.

I see a couple of inaccuracies in these narrations, and maybe a bit more fantasy than I would wish, but they aren't "wrong". The piece really does sound like that. I will visit with the girls about their narrations and correct any facts that went awry. But they have done some out-of-the-box thinking on a piece of music.

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