In which #1 rants about Pinterest English assignments


After increasingly stupid “book report” assignments for DC1’s monthly novel, including things like having to make 15 “matchbooks”, illustrating the outsides of each, and putting in a summary (not chapter summaries, but 15 summaries no matter how many chapters there are in the book) into each “matchbook”, DC1 and I were joking about what kind of ridiculous assignment the next one would be.  Hir teacher surpassed our wildest expectations (though, to be fair, the accompanying and unexpected “non-fiction” book report project included a few of our guesses, like making a rap song).

DC1 has been assigned a “t-shirt” book report project.  What is a t-shirt book report project?  Well, it’s something the student is supposed to design, but the parent is supposed to help with.  It’s supposed to be wearable art that your student will LOVE LOVE LOVE making and wearing.  It is definitely all over @#$ing pinterest.  It’s even one of the “11 best creative book report projects”.

The front of the shirt is supposed to be a hand drawn/ironed on/glued/painted copy of the cover or what you believe the copy should be.  The left sleeve is a picture of the main character.  The right sleeve has the “setting and the problem” including a picture of the setting.  The back somehow fits words and graphics of the student’s favorite scene as well as a summary of the book and the student’s opinion of the book.  Not sure how all of that is going to squish into a size 8/10 shirt, but maybe DC1 will write small.


So maybe I have no joy in my life.  But!

1.  We had to immediately change books because there is no way DC1’s art abilities could do justice to Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry.  After strongly considering Flatland but rejecting it for the misogyny, we settled on Fahrenheit 451 even though DC1 will be reading it again junior year of high school.

2.  The fricking assignment says that parents are supposed to do most of the art work except for doing the design itself(!)  DC1 is a better artist than either DH or I, and that is not saying anything at all.  Us helping is not going to make this @#$3 shirt look anything like the etsy-level ones shown in the pictures that the teacher sent home with the assignment [update:  these pictures aren’t even from her former students, they’re from the internets, taken without attribution] .  I don’t mind spending time helping with DC1’s math homework if zie needs it, or if zie ever wrote an essay for school I’d be happy to proofread it, but doing arts and crafts for my kid is a huge waste of my time.  (So I’m not going to– not that the teacher would be able to tell if I’d done it– my t-shirt art ability is pretty much frozen back to 1989.)  (Have I mentioned that DH and I suck at crafts?  Yes?  Multiple times?  That’s because it’s true.)

3.  WTF.  Student has to buy clothing and things to decorate the shirt with for a shirt that zie will not be caught dead with in public?  Seriously?  I doubt that Pinterest surveyed any students when it claims that the students will love creating and wearing these shirts.  Maybe 3rd graders would.  But not 7th graders.  And, as always, what about the kids for whom just going out and buying stuff has a measurable effect on the family finances?

4.  All of the assignments so far have involved spending a huge amount of time cramming text into bizarrely shaped spaces.  At least with the matchbook project DC1 got permission to type things out and paste them in, which cut down on the hassle considerably, but this t-shirt thing doesn’t have that option.  And it’s not like mistakes can be bleached out.  Writing on cloth is not fun!  Writing paragraphs on cloth is even less fun!  And I just don’t think the time spent on this is generating any useful skills.  (What about iron-ons, you ask?  Well, if we could get that to work with the printer, chances are that’s still not going to work with the amount of text needed, plus we don’t have an ironing board, though oddly, we do have an iron.)

(Speaking of no joy in my life:  Our new dean has decided that we must all wear ugly sweaters and participate in an ugly sweater contest for the annual holiday brunch.  I used to like the holiday brunch, but this year it’s getting a big side order of NOPE.)

DC1 hasn’t had a friend over or played a computer game in weeks because every moment of his non-school time has been spent making movie posters and matchbooks and crossword puzzles and on and on and on.  Not on reading books and writing essays about them, but on crafting cutesy projects.  It would be one thing if zie were learning art skills from these craft projects, but zie isn’t.  There’s no formal art instruction, just time consuming hassle.

And it’s not just DC1’s teacher. ALL of the English teachers across the entire grade are giving these stupid assignments in advanced English and regular English. So we can’t escape by switching teachers at the semester. At least 8th grade looks like the assignments are more of the “learn how to write” variety.

How do you feel about middle-school Pinterest projects?  What do you think she’s going to have in store for DC1 next month?

53 Responses to “In which #1 rants about Pinterest English assignments”

  1. independentclause Says:

    Interpretive dance. That lady needs to teach art.

    And I find the ugly holiday sweater phenomena hideous. If you have to buy it, then you’re doing it wrong. My former department did that, and I was pretty glad to be part time at that point. There are no ugly secular Jew sweaters.

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Tax bill moved out of committee. Only 50 votes needed to pass. Key Republicans leaning towards yes. CBO says it literally raises taxes on those making under 75k (huge cuts for the super high income—they want to take us back to feudalism!) Disabled protestors were arrested yesterday. HuffPost too interested in British royals to be paying attention this morning.

    CALL. Save the ACA again. Save graduate education. Save poor peoples lives. has several scripts focusing on various parts. Or these more general scripts from indivisible:

  3. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Email from Indivisible just now (links didn’t transfer but the two call scripts are in my comment above):

    Indivisibles —

    All week, you’ve made calls, you’ve shown up… you’ve gotten loud. Now it’s time for us to get M-A-D.

    Yesterday, in a razor-thin, party-line vote, the Senate Budget Committee passed the #TrumpTaxScam out of committee 12 votes to 11. The bill now heads to the Senate floor where it’s likely Members will vote on a Motion to Proceed (a pre-vote vote) this afternoon and will likely take a final vote on the bill this week.

    We’re going to be honest, this will be close. It appears that Republicans have the votes to pass this wretched bill and they could vote on the full Senate floor as early as Friday afternoon. But this is the same exact scenario we experienced right before defeating the health care repeal in July. We can still do this.

    Your elected officials must keep hearing from you. More than 13 million families could lose their health insurance if the individual mandate is repealed through this bill. Immigrants, students, adoptive parents, people on Medicaid and Medicare, people with debt, and so many more stand to lose just so billionaires can get a tax break.

    We’re running out of time to stop this bill. So keep up the hard work:

    Show up. Visit your Senator’s in-district office as often as you can between now and the final vote. Use our event organizing guide to plan your event and then register your event so others can find it here.

    Make a call. Jam those phone lines. Get your friends and family to call. Make sure your voice is counted before your Senators go to vote.

    If you have a Republican Senator, use our call scripts to inform your conversation. Republicans need to hear just how much you hate this bill.
    If you have a Democratic Senator, they need to hear from you too! Use our call scripts for Democrats to encourage them to stand strong and voice their concerns about this bill.
    We’ve set up a toll-free number (1-855-980-2350) to make it easier to call your Senators. It’ll randomly dial one of your Senators on the first call. Then, if you call back, you’ll get your other Senator.

    Last, but not least, we want to thank you. The work you put in each and every day to show up, fight back, and make some noise is so impressive and you’ve accomplished so much this year.

    In solidarity,
    The Indivisible Team

  4. KeAnne Says:

    Ugh. Those projects sound frustrating. While my DS is only in 3rd grade, we had the lovely experience of the Biography Bottle before Thanksgiving. He chose Barack Obama. Let’s see…felt, staples, paint, hot glue…perfect project for an 8-year-old to do on his own! My husband did a great job ;-)

  5. Nanani Says:

    I am flabbergasted that the actual assignment itself expects the parents to be the ones doing the work. What even the hell? Where’s the education in that?

    I mean, I’m not naive enough to think parents never ever did kid’s homework before pintrest, but they definitely weren’t supposed to.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, it literally says in the assignment! Student designs. Parents “help”. What even indeed. Poor DC1 being stuck with parents who have neither the inclination nor the ability to help these poor teachers get hits on their own Pinterest pages.

  6. SP Says:

    I’ve never heard of this, and it is horrifying! What a waste of time, and for what? So the teacher can get some good pinterest pics? I know they are probably trying to keep things interesting, but literature / reading is interesting enough without weird craft projects.

    Are complaints to the teacher / school appropriate?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s all the English teachers, so it would have to be to the school. This last one is pretty ridiculous. Also DC1 hasn’t played video games on the weekend in almost 2 months and spent most of Thanksgiving break doing the matchbox assignment and non-fiction “menu” assignment (which was: pick 100 points worth of crafts USE COLOR! from this menu that is mostly 20 point craft projects USE COLOR! but has a couple 20 point non-craft projects in it and a small number of USE COLOR! 50 point craft projects and a couple of 80 point craft project including “make a museum-quality display”– no shoebox dioramas here!)

      • Shannon Says:

        This post makes me BEYOND happy that our middle school administration initiated school wide professional development around homework. After a year of discussion, all of the teachers collectively decided to eliminate routine soul sucking home work (like worksheets) and crazy ass projects like this. Perhaps my son gets less homework that I might like, but it is FAR better than having to help with something like this. Good luck to you all!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        But the art would be so much less Pinterest-worthy if they only did the arts and crafts projects in class(!)

  7. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    In case you wanted an update on what happened with the books we chose:
    The Light Fantastic (DC1 chose this)
    Robin Hood (from a frantic last minute search of DC1’s room for a qualifying book for the next month because zie finished Light Fantastic before we got to Barnes and Noble– my mom got hir this one Christmas/Birthday), by Roger Green (not the Pyle version I read which we only had on Kindle)
    It WAS going to be Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, but we didn’t want to screw the art on that up, so Fahrenheit 451. Zie picked the one with the matchbox cover as being easiest to draw (I would have gone with flames, personally). Hopefully Roll of Thunder will be next month.
    Concurrent with Fahrenheit 415: The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson (DC1 picked this with DH’s help from the local public library)

  8. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    I would suggest having the student do a real book report and wrap it in an old, worn-out T-shirt (unless the kid is into crafts). Someone has to tell English teachers that their job is to teach students how to read and write well, not to support the local craft stores.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Seems a bit passive-aggressive.

      • gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

        Yes. If my student had gotten assignments like this I would have been much more direct and gone to the teacher saying that the assignment was unacceptable and then tried to negotiate a different assignment. We never had an English assignment so terrible, but we did eventually end up homeschooling because of English-class-induced writers’ block.

  9. Ally Says:

    And here I thought the math coloring workpages we were assigned in 3rd grade were bad enough. (WHY in the world would I want to color a math worksheet based on the answers just so YOU the teacher don’t have to grade? I HATED COLORING IN COLORING BOOKS at that age. Having to color my math assignments was just one more thing in the long list of “Reasons I was good at math but absolutely hated it none the less”

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My kids like the color-in-the-answers in their at-home workbooks (they haven’t had any in school… they aren’t actually doing *any* math in K in DC2’s class other than like, counting). One nice thing about them is that they provide a check for the student about whether or not their answer is correct prior to turning it in.

      Sorry you hated math!

      • Ally Says:

        Oh I can see some of the benefits now, but at the time I was just like, let me do another worksheet or read or something, please! (Honestly the me and math thing really comes down to a few bad math teachers in a few key spots in time, unfortunately. Didn’t keep me from loving Chemistry and Physics though – but that made sense why we were doing it, and the teachers were much better.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yay better teachers and liking math again!

  10. Fiona McQuarrie Says:

    I had no idea this was even a thing. I also don’t like the implicit assumption that kids and their parents have the time, skills, and/or resources to do something like this. I agree that the teacher needs some feedback on the assignment.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      All the teachers! The entire 7th grade is doing the same art assignments.

      (They’re also supposed to be doing reading logs, but DC1’s teacher stopped assigning points for them the second month of school, thank goodness. Some of the other classes seem to still have them up.)

  11. Bardiac Says:

    And some people wonder why college students can’t write… (The Ed folks at my school do lots of crafty stuff, seems like…)

  12. becca Says:

    Step 1: write “Fahrenheit 451” on a t-shirt
    Step 2: soak t-shirt in 50% ethanol, 50% water. Shake in some salt.
    Step 3: hang the t-shirt on a metal hanger
    Step 4: light the t-shirt on fire, take photos, post to pinterest.
    Step 5: show photos to class, impress other 7th graders. Submit normal book report to demonstrate learning objectives. Impress teacher.
    You’re welcome.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      He’s supposed to be WEARING the shirt while giving an oral report.

      Also: The back of the shirt needs to have specific text and pictures, the sleeves need specific text and pictures, etc.

      (And teh environments!)

      Sounds super cool though. Definitely should do a video report with that, not just pictures.

  13. Leah Says:

    Cynical part of me: do middle school grades really matter? I’d definitely complain, as a parent.

    I do like the lists of possible assignments to pick from but only if students can mostly pick things in their wheelhouse. I do that a lot (especially with my advanced students).

    Maybe they’re trying to make “21st century” skills in “thinking outside the box”? I’m trying to think positive here but not coming up with much. I’m guessing it’s because they feel they have to assign homework but don’t actually have the support/ability/knowledge to do age-appropriate skill-building, scaffolded work. Or their kids are at such different levels, and differentiation is so challenging, that this is just less work.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      This is supposed to be the advanced English class, but it looks like for 7th grade there’s no difference between advanced and regular. (8th grade looks different based on their websites– much more traditional in terms of content and assignments and big differences between advanced and non, although it does look like all the advanced have the same curriculum/assignments even with different teachers and all the non-advanced have the same curriculum assignments, which isn’t a bad thing.)

      Seriously, I think they just went through Pinterest looking for assignments. And this is the first page on the internet discussing the tshirt book report project that doesn’t gush about how wonderful and creative it is. Ditto the matchbox assignment.

      At least so far DC1’s teacher has just been grading for completeness in the rubric and not quality. That means zie generally gets 100% on these assignments. (Though the matchbox manilla folder “cover” only got 80%. Lost 20 points for no COLOR! I thought hir stick figure robin hood comics were hilarious though.)

  14. Lisa Says:

    And I had been grumping about having to help my kid with compulsory science fair projects every year! This is beyond horrible, I would complain for sure. My oldest starts 7th grade next year (middle school) and if things look this bad I’d start seriously considering homeschooling. Even though both DH and I work full time.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well, the science and the orchestra are great this year and the math (algebra) isn’t too bad, though she’s really into wobble seating and flipped classrooms. Public school has seemed like a mixed bag wherever we go. (And DC1 has pretty much outgrown the private school here, though hir two best friends still go.)

  15. nicoleandmaggie Says:

  16. chacha1 Says:

    these pinterest projects are insane. how in the f**k is that meant to be teaching kids anything about reading, or writing, or literature, or ANYTHING? I rage with thee.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      *shakes tiny fist*
      Then rages that she has to wait 3 hours to call her members of Congress to beg them not to take away the individual mandate or destroy higher education now that the senate has voted yes on the tax scam bill.

  17. nicoleandmaggie Says:

  18. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Most of the week I’ve been calling I’ve been using the indivisible script for Republican Senators. Today I’m using 5calls which splits up for basic issues. My focus this morning is on the tax on tuition . This makes no sense to me– either this is the federal government stealing money from states (if states are able to provide the difference, which most won’t be), or this is just a way to keep motivated poor people out of higher education. And the big thing in economics for the past ~5 years or so has been about how Americans need more education (in order to keep the economy strong), not less! It’s like this part of the bill was written by Russia for the express purpose of destroying the US. Add to this the proposed cap on student loans… and kids will have genuine credit constraints.

  19. Cloud Says:

    OMG. What a nightmare assignment.

    All Californian 4th graders used to have to make a model of one of our missions. Over the years, it got to be so that there were pre-designed kits at the craft stores… so last year, our school ditched that assignment and the 4th graders wrote reports on a mission instead, and made a slide presentation to the class. But even when we do have to do a crafty assignment, it is something sensible, like making a model of something they studied. Your book reports sound like something designed to make kids hate to read.

    I’ve called my reps about the tax bill, but none of them were going to vote for it, anyway, and given the way the bill seems specifically designed to screw Californians, I’m not sure anyone who will vote for it gives a damn what I think. They might take my opposition to it as a good thing! I think my main action for this week might be some more postcards for Doug Jones.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One of my senators has been lying saying his office hasn’t been getting calls against it.

      DH noted yesterday that DC1 hasn’t read a new book for fun in about two months. Too busy crafting.

  20. nicoleandmaggie Says:

  21. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I don’t even greatly enjoy crafty projects that I start for myself. All of this would have me crafting a big, glittery, sparkling, googly eyed sign of NOPE I WILL THE FUCK NOT.

    Why on EARTH are they assigning crafts for an English class, and expecting parents to foot the bill, *and* do the work. Nope. Nope nope nope. And spending money on ugly sweaters? People do not pay me enough to waste money on clothes I hate and will never wear.

    This sounds like the worst kind of hassle and the worst kind of avoiding education.

  22. nicoleandmaggie Says:

  23. First Gen American Says:

    This was a real social studies assignment due this week for 7th grader:

    Write a poem about the Nile river with at least 5 facts (fine)….then get up in class and SING IT in front of your middle school classmates.

    My son did fine even though he is not musical. One kid lost it while trying to sing and ran out of class. I see no reason why the singing had to be added to this assignment. If someone looked up middle school nightmare, this had a good chance this example would be listed.

  24. Sarah @ Says:

    Have you read The Book Whisperer? It’s a 6th grade teacher writing about how literature should be about letting kids read what they want and encouraging them in different genres instead of doing a ton of enrichment activities and book reports. Highly recommend.

  25. What Now? Says:

    Ugh — I hate Pinterest sorts of projects like this. It really gives English teaching a bad name! I understand wanting to make reading and responding to reading fun, but who on earth thinks that an assignment like this actually accomplishes that?!

  26. EB Says:

    Go to your principal and complain bitterly, in the company of as many other parents as possible. And maybe point out that projects like these are a big reason why boys start to check out mentally when it comes to school. Not that all girls like them, but if any kids do, it tends to be girls. Also, use the phrase “opportunity cost.” As in, your kid hasn’t been reading for fun because of all the crafts projects.

  27. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    DC1 got 100%. The only help zie got from us was me figuring out zie could turn an over large red “wimpy kid diary” shirt that zie never wants to wear inside out so we didn’t have to buy a new shirt for the project.

  28. Ask the grumpies: Math for ages 0-5 for kids who love math | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] it (as did DC1 and I– I finished first, then DC2, then finally DC1 sometime after that English project finished [for those who are curious, it wasn’t interpretive dance next… they’re […]

  29. Honors English and ponderings about the importance of AP tests | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] had a detrimental effect on our entire family.  After four years of zero homework (other than the Year of Crafts) and taking half a year to read a simple YA novel in middle-school English, zie was suddenly […]

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