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Starting from Scratch: One Classroom Builds Its Own Curriculum 1st Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0435072056
ISBN-10: 0435072056
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Editorial Reviews


“These vivid pages remind us of how much can be accomplished in a good and humane classroom.”–Howard Gardner

From the Back Cover

While the professional literature is glutted with theories on educational reform, our children remain starved for authentic learning that grows out of their unique, original classroom experiences. Award-winning teacher Steven Levy attributes this disparity to the lack for clear examples illustrating the kind of thinking and planning that results in powerful learning. The void, he asserts, too often prompts teachers to "either return to the curriculum guide or try to implement projects developed by others". Starting from Scratch presents an inspired alternative. In detailed accounts, it explains the step-by-step observations, thinking, and planning that enabled Levy to develop a variety of original projects with his elementary students. These have ranged from environmental inquiries - students studying the impact of a local bike path on their community - to an imaginative look at the qualities of number - a classroom quest to determine which is the greatest number. These projects were generated by the children's own interests, but they also provided myriad opportunities to develop basic skills. In this regard, Starting from Scratch offers a creative reconciliation of some of the more hotly debated issues in education: project-based learning versus basic skills; integrated curriculum versus discipline-centered instruction; state and national standards versus local and individual interests.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 5
  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann; 1 edition (April 16, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0435072056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0435072056
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
When I first started writing about how to help people learn better, I wrote about a second-grade teacher who designed all of her curriculum for the year to focus on dinosaurs after she discovered that her students were crazy about the extinct reptiles. More recently, one of my doctoral candidates wrote a dissertation that described how education in Tanzania could be re-designed to help everyone learn how to start a small business. How? Instead of teaching children to count cats, they learn to count inventory. It's the same idea.

A friend who heads a prestigious business school told me that the dissertation reminded him of Steven Levy's book, Starting from Scratch, which was his favorite educational book. I immediately borrowed a copy from the Lexington, Massachusetts library and settled in for some great reading.

The book's center point describes how Mr. Levy and colleagues designed new curricula over the years to enhance learning by exposing students to things they would never learn in their environment. Like the ancient Greeks, Mr. Levy asks questions and encourages students to do the same . . . and then to find the answers. Research may include surveys, measurements, or contacting far-away experts. More than just a subject matter, students learn how to learn.

Mr. Levy's central example involves the concept of having students arrive on the first day of school in an empty classroom and then decide what to fill it with . . . and provide for themselves by raising money, making what they need, and borrowing assistance where appropriate. I loved it!

Mr. Levy is obviously a great teacher. He also displays great humility by not taking too much credit for what goes right . . . when it goes right. He describes stumbles and falls as well as close calls.
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Format: Paperback
At one time, Steven Levy taught at a Waldorf school. Among the many quirks of Waldorf education is that the teacher graduates with the class. So, I had the good fortune of having Mr. Levy as my teacher for eight years (and I will always know him by that title, although I am now forty four years old). I may not be an objective reviewer, but I am an extremely knowledgeable one. I know that the teaching approach he describes vividly and entertainingly is real, and it is a true blessing to his students.

Reading the book felt a little like reverse-engineering my own mind. My classmates in college and graduate school economics and statistics classes really frustrated themselves trying to memorize formulas. I never even attempted that, because I found that if I took the time to understand what the formulas meant, I could spontaneously derive them during the test. I think this came from the fact that Mr. Levy not only avoided giving us answers, he actually discouraged us from calling out answers we might have already heard somewhere. Even if we knew where we were supposed to end up, he would still lead us through the path of questions, so that we would have to think about how we got there.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Starting From Scratch is an essential resource for beginning teachers still in the process of developing their own educational philosophy. This work can also help to reaffirm purpose for experienced educators. Levy lays out his own beliefs clearly in regards to education focusing on character building, community involvement, the power of question making, and the search for genius. He further supports the importance of each areas by explaining their use in his own classroom. Through these real world curriculum ideas and examples, the reader can fully see the importance of each of these areas in education.
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