[Apologies for the repost. The original (reportedly) defected to Canada leaving me to reconstruct it from pieces. I would have let the post expire gracefully but the comments were — and I'm not kidding about this — eye-blisteringly incredible. Check them out.]
I teach Algebra 1 and Remedial Algebra 1, a schedule which offers me interesting contrasts and case studies daily. The remedial population, as you might expect, features more behavior problems, lower rates of attendance, higher mobility, higher incidence of poverty, weaker student skills, more individualized education plans on file with the district, and those students are more likely to have disliked math (or their math teacher) in the past. After three years of trial and error, I have found intermittently successful ways to remediate most of these issues.
The feature of this group that confounds me and defies my remediation is this: they are far less likely find our daily show and tell interesting than are their contemporaries in non-remedial Algebra.
What I'm saying is that, when I play, for example, this fantastic loop of time lapse photography, my Algebra 1 students sit a few millimeters closer to the edges of their seats and lean a few degrees closer to the screen than do my Remedial Algebra students. They call out observations and deconstruct the movie in ways the remedial classes do not anticipate. In general, they seem eager to engage the unknown whereas my Remedial Algebra students seem to prefer that the unknown stay unknown, that life's unturned rocks stay unturned.
This bears out even between sections of the same course. The length of a class' discussion of show and tell media correlates positively to the class' average grade.
No pithy conclusion. I have no idea what I can do with this.