Friday, March 07, 2014

Speak to the (right) brain

There is this cliche proverb that MOE used to use to recruit teachers.
“Tell me and I will forget.
Show me and I will remember.
Involve me and I will understand.
Step back and I will act."

 But with all cliches, there is a little bit of truth in it.

Part of my professional outlook came from listening to Ken Robinson talk about education. One of the talks that I listened to talked about how we stupidly assume and categorise children's learning according to when they were born, assuming that everyone born in the same year would be able to take on the same sort of learning. Developmentally, age is a milestone and does give us a rough guide as to what the child is capable of. But it is prescriptive. Our education system is. On top of that, it is a cookie cutter approach. Every child, the same.

Evan fits into that mould. He learns in the straightforward, traditional manner. No doubt he enjoys other forms of learning as well, but he isn't fazed by sitting down and doing worksheets.

Jordan, on the other hand, thrives on alternative learning methods. While her worksheets are done carefully and she is obedient, meaning that she will sit and listen if she has to, it exhausts her. The first month of P1 left home coming home totally wiped because for 6 hours give or take, she just sat and listened.

Since I am home, to the best of my ability, I try to help her figure things out in ways that are more up her alley. In pedagogical speak, I try to facilitate her learning in ways that are more accessible to her. Ha.

Anyway, this means attempting to turn concepts or assignments where ever possible, visual or kinesthetic for her. 

In Math, we started using Cuisenaire rods. Aunty J got JED a set of it from The Mind Store over Christmas. And all three love the bright colours. The wonderful thing about these rods are they are all accurately measured in 1 cm increments. So, 2 rods with a value of 5 each will stack exactly against the rod with the value of 10. We used it with Jordan for her number bonds and even before she could remember 5 + 5 = 10 without using her fingers, she knew instinctively that "yellow rod + yellow rod= orange rod".

She spends a lot of time, however, obsessively ensuring that all the rods line up or trying to build things with it. But whatever it is, her math, at this point got a whole lot easier once she started being able to "see" the sum. Another friend uses narratives. That shall be my next attempt.

Then there was spelling which I had already blogged about previously. In that post, I talked about her cutting out shapes and labelling them appropriately. The spelling became a non-event. No pressure. It occurred to me then that in order for her to be enjoy what she was doing, the serious parts of it had to be disguised as seemingly incidental; that it isn't what she needs to focus on.We still occasionally repeat the spelling of the word a few times if she isn't familiar with it. But her internalising of it seems to come from her ability to connect with the words.

So her favourite activity and mine as well as when she gets to illustrate as she goes along. I give her words and ask her to draw me a picture with those words. This takes time though because she is meticulous in her detail. When she is done, she has to label them. 10 spelling ones, one picture and it all actually makes sense. Even verbs get illustrated. She illustrated 'frightened' the other day with a girl shrieking at a mouse. Unfortunately, I think that one got tossed out. I think I get more of a kick out of it than she does because I love seeing how her mind instinctively places everything spatially and how she attempts to illustrate words that do not lend easily to illustration. If we ever play Pictionary, she's on my team!

She draws a boy and a girl to illustrate 'people'. She draws the girl falling and the boy's arms outstretched. She gives the girl a speech bubble warning the boy that has to 'catch me' because I asked her to try and draw 'catch'.

She draws for Chinese too. We love how, in the second panel, she actually looks like she is thinking very hard before an idea strikes her.
For this term, she's had to do poetry recital for Chinese. That would have sent me quaking in my shoes (Public speaking- stress!, Public speaking in Chinese - even more stress!) but for a girl who loves performing, this was great. To add to that, we gave her puppets of the characters she was talking about and actions for the poem. It was then that the poem came alive for her and she could relate to it. She has since named her puppets though she gave them English names. She says it's easier for Muffin to remember. 

I know the reality of the situation is that she won't be able to draw all her lessons. But for now, while it's still relatively straightforward, it's helping her engage and be interested. To us, that's a large part of the battle that she associates school with learning and that she likes the learning. On our part, we try to fan that interest as much as possible.

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  1. Wow! Awesome effort!! Impressive! One think I'm sure though if MOE decides to switch Learning through art & drawing, J will definately ace it! ;)

  2. Hoomschoolsg,that is true! Unfortunately, I don't think it's going to happen! :(

  3. I love this post! :D Can I share it on my fb page? :)

  4. Baby kayak, by all means share it. Just link it back to us! :)