The concept of seven intelligences
(This section is taken from Multiple ways of teaching and learning: Concept and application strategy, a guidebook for primary teachers published by the National Curriculum and Text Book Board of Bangladesh.)
Children and adults learn in different ways. They have different learning styles that correspond to the intelligences in which they are particularly strong. Some children learn best through reading and taking notes, others through visuals, still others through body movement or musical activities. Some like to work on problems individually while others like to interact to find solutions.
Professor Howard Gardner, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard University, stated in his book, Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences, that a human being has at least seven intelligences. Humans usually rely on one intelligence as their main way of learning; however, they often use more than one, or use different intelligences for different purposes. Depending on the situation and the content to be learned, a person may rely on his/her reading and writing ability. However, in a different situation with different content to be learned, he/she may rely on body movement to learn.
Often the type of intelligence a person is using to learn a new skill to acquire new knowledge can be determined through the person's behaviour or personality traits. For example, if a person likes to read and write, that person uses verbal/linguistic intelligence to learn; or if a person likes to use manipulative (objects) to learn or explain a concept, that person uses body/kinaesthetic intelligence to learn. By observing a child, a teacher can determine what his/he primary style for learning is. Knowing a child's primary learning style, a teacher can make the lesson material me readily accessible to the child. Thus, children will learn more easily and have joyful learning experiences in the classroom.
The seven intelligences are:
- verbal / linguistic
- logical / mathematical
- visual / spatial
- musical / rhythmic
- body / kinaesthetic
Journal activity: Your learning styles
Observe and summarise your predominant style of learning.
Review the list of learning styles, and note down which style or styles you enjoy most. Over the course of the next week, refine your observation: which styles do you enjoy consistently? Which did you enjoy most when you were a child?
Signs of learning styles
(The ideas in this section are taken from Multiple ways of teaching and learning: Concept and application strategy, a guidebook for primary teachers published by the National Curriculum and Text Book Board of Bangladesh and Gardner, Howard. (1983) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.)
Each person favours specific styles of learning, or intelligences. As teachers, we can observe learners in our classes and determine some of the ways that they learn best. With this knowledge, when we are designing lessons or projects we can be alert to the needs of all the children in our classes.
Verbal / linguistic
Thinks and learns through written and spoken words:
- likes to listen, read, and write
- spells easily
- good debater
- good orator
- has good memory for trivia
Logical / mathematical
Thinks deductively; deals with numbers; and recognises abstract patterns:
- likes being precise
- enjoys counting
- prefers orderly note taking
- likes to solve math problems
- likes being organised
Visual / spatial
Thinks in, and visualises images and pictures:
- likes art, such as drawing, painting, sculpture
- easily reads maps, charts and diagrams
- has good colour sense
- remembers with pictures
- creates mental images
Musical / rhythmic
Learns through rhyme, rhythm and repetition:
- sensitive to pitch, rhyme, timbre
- sensitive to the emotional power of music
- writes to music
- learns easily with music
- sensitive to different sounds of nature
Body / kinaesthetic
Learns through body movement, games and athletics easily:
- learns best by moving
- likes to touch
- likes to act
- learns by participating in the learning process
Learns easily in groups; can develop relationships with others easily:
- relates well, mixes well
- has many friends
- enjoys group activities
- always ready to co-operate
- easily understands social situations
Likes to work alone:
- sensitive to one's own values
- deeply aware of one's own feelings
- deeply aware of one's own strengths and weaknesses
- listens attentively
Journal activity: Observational record
Observe and record the learning styles in your class.
Make a list of all the children in your class along the left side of a page or pages in your journal. Over the course of the next week, observe the children in your class as they are working and playing. When you notice a child demonstrating a trait tied to one of Gardner's seven intelligences, write down the kind of intelligence you've observed and the activity that sparked your observation.
At the end of your observation period, review your notes. How many children did you record engaging in each kind of intelligence? How does this result reflect on the teaching practices and learning styles practised in your classroom?
Interpersonal skills for learning
(With information from "Gender dimensions: Constructing interpersonal skills in the classroom," by Andrea Allard and Jeni Wilson.)
You can walk into any classroom in the world and know its spirit immediately, know whether the children in it are free to explore skills and knowledge, know whether they support each other and work together, or undermine each other's learning.
Underlying lessons in mathematics and reading, and in other subjects, are four foundation activities that must be practised by teachers and learners.
Building group spirit leads to the success of the whole class.
Competitions, divisions, and favouritism interfere with the learning of all students. As a teacher, you can help the children think of themselves that they are a learning team, in which the success of one is the success of all. And in which no student can be "left behind."
Effective communication involves listening, speaking, and taking turns.
A good teacher manages communication to be sure that a few children don't answer all the questions or dominate the discussion. Active listening, in which students take responsibility for hearing and understanding what each other says, is a vital part of the learning environment. Assertive speaking is equally important, clearly stating thoughts and feelings without interfering with the rights of others.
Cooperation enables learners to work together, sharing responsibilities, materials, roles and learning.
Small groups of children can divide roles and share responsibilities. In a science activity, one child might weigh different materials, while another might record results. Halfway through the activity, the children might swap roles. Cooperation must be practised if groups of children are to work independently.
Problem solving and negotiation help learners resolve conflicts and make decisions.
To learn how to think, children need to be encouraged to agree upon goals, weigh alternatives, make decisions and support them, and follow through to learn the outcomes of their choices. All of these processes depend on group-spirit, communication, and cooperation.
And, when conflicts arise, the same skills will help you and your students resolve them through negotiation. Compromise may be necessary, but giving in without being heard should never be.
For more information, go to Beliefs about a constructive learning environment.
Journal activity: Assessing interpersonal skills
Assess the successful use in your class of the four interpersonal skills that are important to learning. Begin by reflecting on the events of the past week:
• What specific steps did you take to nurture any of the four interpersonal skills? (building group spirit, effective communication, co-operation, negotiation)
• When were the children challenged to make use of these skills?
• Did any events take place where the four essential skills were needed, but not used?
When you have completed your assessment, outline at least two specific activities that you could use to build one or more of the four tools.
Go to the Teachers Talking discussion and share your activity ideas.
If you have difficulty envisioning activities that will make a difference, go to the forum area and see what others have done.
Values, attitudes, and behaviours: The essential environment
The most important element in the learning environment is invisible. It is made up of the values, attitudes, and actions that we and our classes take part in every day.
As the teacher, you can exemplify the values that lead to intellectual curiosity and learning, and you can foster those values in the children in your class.
The ways that you interact with children can establish the classroom as a place that nurtures investigation and experiment, hard work, and appreciation for the unique abilities of each learner.
The ways that you set up for children to interact also contribute to the daily creation of the learning environment.
Are children put into competitive situations? Or is co-operation the most valued activity? Are children asked to support each other's learning, or are they asked to learn in isolation? As the teacher, you create structures - in the form of learning activities - that channel and shape communication between children.
There are many factors to be considered in the making your classroom into a positive and supportive learning environment.
Treat all learners equally.
When you are fair in your treatment of children in your class, they understand that you care about the success of each of them. Call on girls as often as you call on boys, and support their answers with rewards and guidance.
Go out of your way to pay equal attention to learners from minority ethnic groups or who are new to your school.
Create opportunities for every student to experience successful learning.
Believe that every student in your class can learn.
Make it clear that your expectations are high - that learners will focus on learning activities, that they will share information, and that they will ask for help when they need it.
And make it equally clear that you see that when learners behave in ways that promote learning, you will respond with support and encouragement, even when they encounter challenges and obstacles.
Establish structures for learning:
Children (like the rest of us) learn best when the learning is dynamic and active, but when it takes place in a context of order and stability.
Create a chart of class jobs and responsibilities, to enlist children in keeping their classroom clean and organised. Post and discuss rules for co-operation and working in small groups. Establish a system that children can practice and rely on.
Describe and demonstrate the behaviours that you expect from your class.
Organise the presentation of lessons and activities:
When you are confident and competent in your presentations to the class, you lay the foundation for effective learning. Prepare materials and review lessons in advance to master the information and skills at the core of the activity.
Guide discussion toward clear goals of understanding. And make the goals of lessons and activities clear to learners at each step in the learning process.
Avoid negative communication:
When you yell at a child, you destroy the environment that nurtures learning.
When you are sarcastic, or belittle a learner's efforts, you discourage that learner from responding again.
When you scold children harshly, or humiliate them - whenever you expose them in front of others - you endanger the trust that they place in you.
For more information, visit Gender and learning and Co-operative learning.
Journal activity: The environment of behaviour
Review and assess your style of interacting with students.
Begin by reviewing last week's events in your classroom. Focus on one or two of the challenging situations that you faced - when a child misbehaved, or when it became clear that the class did not grasp a topic.
How did you resolve the situation? What was the result?
What was the effect your actions had, in your opinion, on the environment of values in your classroom?
What different choices might you have made?
Beliefs about a constructive learning environment
(This section is taken from Gender Dimensions: Constructing interpersonal skills in the classroom, by Andrea Allard and Jeni Wilson.)
A co-operative, constructive learning environment is established by teachers and children who:
• take the time to develop team cohesion and communication skills
• are willing to investigate co-operative learning strategies
• value difference and collective expertise
• know how to use and value active listening and assertive speaking
• see conflict as opportunity to learn rather than something to be avoided (never accept put-downs or harassment)
• regularly assess group skills and set goals together
• use their power to ensure that others can use theirs
• reflect often on their own learning, group skills and understandings of gender
• monitor their own interactions with other people to ensure this is constructive
• make changes slowly, review regularly and recognise that mistakes are a part of learning
• acknowledge that change is difficult but worthwhile
• celebrate their own successes and support other teachers and children
Building knowledge, skills, attitudes and values
On entry to school a child brings a frame of reference which comes from his or her experiences prior to school, mainly gathered from home. Parents or caregivers have provided opportunities to explore some things and not others, so that he or she knows a lot about a limited number of personal experiences. The language used mirrors that of parents or caregivers, and emotions are the product of intense experiences with significant adults in the first years of life.
In coming to school the child brings a range of ways of responding to new situations, some of which will be useful in school, others less so. No child comes to school who has not learned anything, and it's the teacher's responsibility to find out what it is that a child knows and what skills have been acquired, and to build upon this foundation. Children are complex, cognitive development is complex, and teachers must learn to observe continually what is happening as children come to learn new ideas, skills and values.
In school, children are faced with a range of tasks that may be very different from the tasks and problems they had to solve in their play and in their interactions with others in their community. Some children may never have held a pencil before; others may never have seen a book. Others may not speak the language which you, the teacher, speak. How important it is, then, to ensure, in as many ways possible, that you can build lots of supports between what children already know and can do well, and the new tasks which school demands!
Some ways of building links for learners
Two of the earliest expectations which children (and their parents) have for school, are to learn to read and to use numbers. When children come to school, what are some simple tasks which you can plan so that children will be successful even from the first day?
• With children, label objects around the room (in a language that the child uses) with the names that we give them: desk, chair, children's names on desks, blackboard, numbers grouped with figures. Which children can associate the objects with the words that stand for them?
• Make sure you tell each child at least one thing that they can do every day for the first few days of school.
• Write out the words of a song which children already know, or can learn quickly, and see who can guess which words are which.
• Be clear in giving directions in the classroom, and organise older children to help younger children understand the direction that you give.
If a new child arrives in your class who cannot speak the language of the other children, seek out other children or even others in the community who can make the links between his or her language and the work of school. In this situation, it will be very important to take the time to find out what this special child can do. It will be useful if you can learn to speak to the child individually, and by name, and if necessary in their own language.
By establishing simple tasks for achieving success right from the start, even the most timid child can be off to a good start, confident that school is a good place to be, and a place where he or she can learn. This is very important.
The growth of the mind
(From The Multigrade Teacher's Handbook, published by the Bureau of Elementary Education, Department of Education, Culture, and Sports, the Philippines, in cooperation with UNICEF, 1994.)
Children's cognitive growth in any one stage depends upon activity. The development of their brainpower is not fixed at birth but is a function of appropriate activity during any particular stage. Children must engage in appropriate activities to learn. This means that they should not be made to sit still and to listen to or observe others as the primary means of learning.
Intelligence = Activity.
This can be compared to studies of prehistoric humans which show that human brainpower increased after the invention of tools. The chance to manipulate tools, to use axes, knives and shovels induced the brain to grow. As prehistoric men and women used the tools, they were challenged to explore and develop more uses of the tools and to invent new as well more efficient ones. Thus, the activity itself of using tools helped develop their minds.
In the same way, for children as well as adult learners, activity produces cognitive growth. This means that the role of experience an active learning is critical in generating growth and change. This implies that an activity-based, hands-on approach to teaching and learning is far more supportive of children's growth and development compared to more passive activities like listening to lectures, reading silently, and doing paper-and-pencil tasks most of the time. Although these are also valuable and necessary parts of classroom, it is important to remember that if most of the activities are passive there will be fewer opportunities for facilitating cognitive development.
For more information, visit Building knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.
Journal activity: Transitions
Write down in your journal some of the actions that people accomplish using mathematics, such as building houses and other structures, or estimating the value of a crop that's been harvested.
For each activity that you write down, list the different mathematics topics and operations that are involved with it. Building a house, for example, involves working with geometric shapes, calculating fractions, multiplying, dividing, adding, subtracting, and many other mathematics skills.
Then write down a brief description of at least one class project that could engage students in active learning of mathematics skills or concepts, based on your list of mathematics activities that people perform in real life. Pairs of students, for example, might establish class fictional businesses, involving calculations of the costs of materials and labour, revenues, and so on.
Try the same process for uses of language. On what occasions do we use language to persuade? In speeches and debates? On what occasions is it used to entertain? Write down at least one project in which language is used to accomplish a real-life activity
Different kinds of thinking, learning, and knowing
To understand learning, we need to understand what it means to have knowledge.
Think of all the different things you know how to do …
… how to tie different knots, how to prepare a meal, how to sing a song or dance a dance, how to multiply numbers, and how to teach multiplication. What else?
What does it feel like to do these things? What does it mean to know how to do them?
Now think about the people you know, and the different talents that they have.
Perhaps you know someone who plays music beautifully, or someone who speaks with eloquence, or someone who can carve intricate designs.
Each of these abilities incorporates different kinds of knowledge.
A skilled speaker knows many words, and may be awake to the emotions of her audience. A skilled woodcarver has strong and steady hands, and the ability to "see" whole shapes in his mind.
And a weaver combines the dexterity of the woodcarver with a different kind of mathematical knowledge, the ability to learn, calculate, and execute intricate patterns.
Many of us, by the time we are adults, recognise that there are certain activities and kinds of knowledge that we enjoy exploring, or that we have even mastered.
As teachers, we can also see, if we observe our classes closely, that children show signs of their unique abilities early on.
How can we expect every child to learn in the same way?
Faced with this diversity, we can try to force every child into one style of learning, or we can develop teaching practices that take advantage of all the different ways that children learn.
The range of teaching-and-learning styles in the classroom runs from memorisation and repetition all the way to solving problems and thinking creatively. Learning in perspective explores this idea more fully.
In our classrooms, we can look for ways to address this entire range. We can, for example:
• Use blocks, models, and other objects to teach mathematics, and so tap into children's fine motor skills and their visual understanding
• Invite children to talk about (or write about) ideas and processes in mathematics, to engage their verbal thinking in understanding mathematics concepts
• Ask children to draw pictures for the stories that we read to them, to connect their visual thinking to the words and events in the story
• Guide children in making maps of the area around school, to tie their experience of movement in space to visual and mathematical concepts
And every time we plan a lesson or complete an activity in class, we can ask ourselves the questions: Which different pathways of learning are we taking advantage of here? What can we do that will involve even more different styles of learning?
Journal activity: Seeing diversity
1. Write down the children in your class who have clear strengths in certain subjects, such as mathematics calculations, or verbal expression. Describe how these are demonstrated in the classroom.
2. Write down the children, if you can, who have other talents that don't connect so directly to classroom learning. Is one child a brilliant model maker or wood carver? Does another show co-ordination in sports and games?
3. Now draw a circle on the page, to signify the rest of the children in the classroom, the ones you haven't linked to special skills. In the next week, observe these children more closely. If you notice that one of them likes a certain activity, enter it into your journal. What can you infer about his or her styles of learning
Learning in perspective
A learner's achievement in school is bounded, first and foremost, by the opportunities for learning that are presented, by the kinds of instruction that is provided and the modes of learning that are anticipated.
We can address the whole range of human thought in our classrooms, from memorisation to synthesis to creativity.
Each thinking mode plays a different role in the growth of mind.
Memorisation and repetition by rote help young children develop basic literacy and numeracy skills, such as knowledge of the letters of the alphabet and of simple multiplication. For older children and adults, memorisation of songs, poetry, and the works and sayings of the great thinkers can return satisfaction throughout life.
Drill-and-practice, like memorisation, involves repetition of specific skills, such as addition and subtraction, or spelling. To be meaningful to learners, the skills built through drill-and-practice should become the building blocks for more meaningful learning.
Synthesis involves the combining of information and skills to accomplish a goal. When young children write or even tell stories about their homes and families, they are synthesising the knowledge of their own experiences within a context of their early language skills.
Analysis means the examining of something (an object, an event in history or the news) to understand the parts that make it up or that have caused it. A young child could be asked to analyse the parts of the sugar cane plant, for example, while an older child might be given the opportunity to build her own understanding about the importance of sugar cane for animals and humans.
Creative thought can use any of the other modes of thinking, but it also involves a "leap," a bold suggestion or idea that hasn't been suggested before. Creativity may involve combining two objects to solve a problem, such as pouring water into a hole to float a "lost" playground ball to the surface.
All of these kinds of thinking and learning have parts to play in our classroom.
Module 5 of the Vietnam Multigrade Teaching Handbook offers interesting activities to prompt students to look at their local environments
Co-operation games: Fruit salad
• To build up group trust through shared laughter and movement
• to provide an opportunity for boys and girls to play together in a non-competitive manner
• to encourage children to share a limited amount of space
Because this activity does not depend on physical skills, it enables many girls and boys to participate without having to worry about being laughed at for making mistakes or about embarrassing themselves because they do not have prior skills. It also encourages the quieter students to get up and enjoy moving around rather than sitting quietly. At the same time, the game provides the opportunity for boys and girls to use space co-operatively.
When was the last time you joined a group of strangers? How comfortable are you meeting and mixing with people whom you don't know well? What helps you to feel more comfortable when meeting new people? Does it matter if the group you join is mainly male or mainly female? Do you have friends of both sexes? Reflecting on your own experiences and the skills that you have developed to meet new people may assist you to help children feel as if they belong and are members of the class.
Shyness or lack of social skills can be quite debilitating. Worry over what other people will think of you or concern about saying something silly causes some adults, as well as children, to remain silent. These real fears can make group participation quite difficult. On the other hand, some people are outgoing and very confident. It is worth considering: do you see girls who are shy and quiet as 'not a problem' whereas boys who are shy and quiet are of concern? Do you accept noisy and outgoing behaviour from boys¬but not from girls? Why? What are the gendered assumptions here?
What you will need:
A circle of chairs with a clear space in the middle of the circle and enough room for children to move. There should be one less chair in the circle than the number of participants, i.e., if there are 25 players, there should be 24 chairs.
What to do:
1. Ask the children to sit in the circle of chairs.
2. going around the circle, each child is given the name of one of three fruits, e.g., apple, pear, banana, apple, pear, banana, until everyone has a fruit name that they need to remember.
3. Start by standing in the centre of the circle and calling out the names of one fruit. Everyone who is that fruit (e.g., all the 'apples') must get up and quickly move to an empty chair, including the teacher. Those who are not 'apples' remain seated. Whoever ends up without a chair then takes a turn in the middle, calling out the name of one group of fruit again.
4. To get everyone to move all at once, the person in the middle calls out 'fruit salad.'
5. Once the children understand the game, speed up the time between children claiming chars and the next person calling out.
• Did this activity encourage boys and girls to mix and mingle together or did they divide on the basis of sex?
• Was there pushing and shoving to get to the chairs? Who did this?
• Were some children left in the middle more often than others?
• Did individual children develop strategies to 'help' each other get to a chair?
Vegetable names or names of colours are used: 'Mixed vegies' or 'rainbow' can be called out to get everyone to move at once. This can also be easily adapted to fit in with the current class topic.
Non-competitive musical chairs: Unlike traditional Musical Chairs, when the music stops, children who do not find a chair their own can share one with someone else. Every time the music stops, another chair is removed. Eventually, only one chair is left and all the children must find a way to 'fit' onto the chair. This requires a great deal of co-operation and can be a lot of fun.
Co-operation games: Compliment beanbag
• to practise giving and receiving compliments
• to have fun and shared laughter together in a physical activity
• to practise throwing skills
Many children are not used to giving or receiving compliments. Girls, and some boys, often become embarrassed and recoil when compliments are given. Similarly, boys and some girls are more used to criticising each other than giving compliments. Often children who give compliments or applaud others are seen as 'sucks,' 'mummy's boys' and given other less than complimentary names. When this happens, positive communication can be silenced.
It is worthwhile devoting time, especially at the beginning of the year, to making explicit ways of giving and receiving appropriate feedback, and to model and practise this regularly. It is vital that we reinforce the use of encouraging behaviour and language. This activity is one quick example of how to do this. It can also be extended by using written follow-up activities.
Note: A beanbag rather than a ball has been chosen for this activity to avoid the possibility of criticism for poor ball-handling skills.
When was the last time that someone complimented you on your work, your talents, etc.? How did the compliment make you feel? How do compliments concerning your appearance affect you? How well do you take compliments?
This game provides you and the children with a chance to compliment each other and, through this, to build up trust and acceptance within the group. There may be initial awkwardness in giving and receiving compliments but, like any other skill, children's ability will improve with practise. This game can be played on a regular basis and children can be encouraged to notice each other's positive qualities throughout the week.
What you will need:
• one beanbag
• large space
What to do:
1. Ask children to sit or stand in one large circle
2. Start by throwing the beanbag to one child. At the same time they give that child a compliment about something they have done well. It may be related to their behaviour or work.
3. The receiver then has to do the same. Rules can be made to enable everyone to have a go. For example: a boy must throw to a girl or a child with light-coloured hair must throw to a dark-haired person, or the beanbag must be thrown to someone who hasn't had a turn. The activity continues until everybody has had a turn or a time limit has been reached.
• Who were the children who found it hard to say something nice?
• Which children were able to accept compliments easily?
• How did they acknowledge the compliment?
• Were there occasions when boys made fun of girls? Vice versa? How was this commented on by you and by other members of the group?
• Use a ball when children have good ball-handling skills
• Make time for children to give each other and themselves a pat on the back.
• Put your 'warm fuzzies' in writing.
• Make a board with enough envelopes attached for all children. Post letters to each other giving compliments for things done well.
Co-operation game: Characteristics cube
• to encourage students to get to know each other better
• to promote self-confidence and team cohesion
• to emphasise that although everyone is different we often have shared interests, strengths, and needs
• to develop students' mathematics skills of creating a 3D object
Children often do not have an opportunity to get to know each other's strengths, needs and interests. They can be reluctant to share these in case they are ridiculed. Children need to know that who they are, and what they are interested in, is viewed by others as important.
While this activity is based on groups of six, if children have not done a lot of group work together begin by using pairs or groups of three. Working in pairs before moving into larger groups can be less overwhelming for the quiet or less confident students. Dominant children can be given the task as a silent observer and the quieter children encouraged to be the speaker for the pair or group.
This activity begins with a whole-class discussion, but if children are reluctant to speak up in the large group, conduct smaller share groups. After someone speaks, encourage others to compliment him or her on what they did well. Also, establish routines for monitoring who speaks to ensure that everybody gets a go. Children can participate in this process. By asking children to monitor your interactions with them, you are showing that you think the issue of everyone having a fair say is important to you.
Do you enjoy working in groups? Which groups? Under what conditions? What co-operative team skills do you have? how have you encouraged new staff members to participate in team work? Do the children have the opportunity to see how teachers also work as members of a team?
What you will need:
• one square piece of cardboard for each person (20 cm x 20 cm)
• drawing materials
• glue, adhesive tape and string
What to do:
1. Conduct a class discussion about people's strengths, talents and interests. You may wish to start by sharing your own first. Be positive about your own abilities, as you are modelling appropriate behaviour to your students.
2. Give your students time to reflect on their 'characteristics.'
3. First, ask each student to individually decorate a square piece of cardboard with their chosen characteristics.
4. In groups of six, children are to share their squares and create a "characteristics cube." Display these around the room.
• Did you ensure that all children had a say during the initial discussion?
• Were children able to accept what others had to say without sniggering, ridiculing and putting each other down during the class discussion and the group activity?
• Who were the children who actively contributed to making the cube? Who were the quiet children?
• How did the group resolve any differences of opinion?
• Individuals can create their own cubes. Each 'face' can display a different aspect of their interests and talents. Make time for children to share their finished products.
• This activity can be used to form groups; for example, all children who like animals could work together.
• Use the squares (or other shapes) for another mathematics activity such as tessellations or 3D shapes. Each child could be given one part of the whole to reconstruct.
Teaching styles for active learning
By creating a mixture of different learning opportunities, we can help children encounter new information, develop skills, try out ideas, and build knowledge.
To accomplish this, we may employ a mixture of teaching styles.
Important modes of teaching and learning can include:
Learning in groups
When learners work in pairs and small groups, they can engage in communicating ideas, in co-operating to accomplish goals, in peer review of each other's work, and in coaching.
Children of different abilities can be grouped together to participate in projects and activities, and to create opportunities for peer mentoring and coaching. Children of different abilities may also have different aptitudes and talents, so that one member of a group may assist the others with writing, while another represents the group's work in pictures.
Children of similar abilities can be grouped together, especially in multigrade classrooms. Members of a reading group, for example, might read a certain story individually, then meet to address a list of questions and to share their reactions to the story. At the same time, a group reading at a different level may read and discuss a different story.
Children with similar interests can be grouped together. In a geography activity, for example, one group may be composed of learners who want to study southern Africa, while another may be interested in Latin America.
Be sure to create with the class a set of guidelines for communicating and co-operating in groups.
Such guidelines may cover making sure that everyone has a chance to talk, criticising constructively instead of destructively, and finding ways to analyse the work of others.
For one idea about a group-based learning activity, go to Observing the sugar cane plant.
For ideas about promoting co-operation, visit Co-operative learning.
Direct teaching is a familiar practice, in which the teacher addresses the class (or a large group) by lecturing, reading, leading recitation, or demonstrating techniques.
Teachers read to the class or demonstrate skills to introduce new information. Direct teaching is an efficient way to introduce the whole class (or a large group in a multigrade class) to new concepts, information or skills.
Teachers guide children's thinking by asking questions and posing examples. In a reading class, for example, a teacher may read a story, then begin discussion by asking thought-provoking questions.
It's a fine teaching strategy to introduce a new activity or lesson by helping children list what they already know about a subject.
For example, in a science unit about the seasons, we can ask the class to name the seasons and to describe them, and to guess about what causes seasonal change. We can then read or describe the ways the Earth's revolution around the sun affects the seasons, before outlining a research project in weather observation for small groups to explore.
Direct instruction can connect us and our classes to other, more active ways of encountering information and building knowledge.
Teachers lead recitation of key facts and information, sometimes as a way of reviewing knowledge that children have already gained.
The best teachers understand that a little direct teaching goes a long way. Listening and watching are passive ways of learning, and it requires great mental skill to translate what we see and what we hear into knowledge. Most children learn best when they learn through action.
As children mature they become more able to work and learn independently - this means that they are motivated to learn, they focus on specific tasks, and they have the skills and resources that they need to complete assignments.
Independent learning may mean that children read books, or write stories on their own, and draw illustrations. They may concentrate on mathematics exercises. They may even perform research, arrange information, and create a report or presentation on a specific topic.
In some primary classes, teachers institute "choice time," a period in the daily or weekly schedule when children explore learning resources on their own. They may read books, play with mathematics games, build models from found materials, or work on art projects.
Many of us feel pressed to finish an overloaded syllabus, so implementing choice time can be difficult. But it's a very rewarding way to move toward more child-centred ways of teaching.
Try short periods and a number of independent choices to begin with. In other instances, you may want to prepare exercises, reading, and other assignments that children can work on and complete.
We can encourage self-directed, independent learning in our classes by:
• creating a learning environment that supports curiosity and focused activity
• collecting resources, such as picture books, dictionaries, math manipulatives, and others
• connecting new information to information that has been learned previously
• inventing assignments and learning activities that are meaningful to the learners involved
• ensuring that learners are not afraid to try out their ideas and to explore the unknown
All the skills that children need to learn independently also help them learn in groups.
Journal activity: Combining teaching modes
Expand the teaching modes that you use in a given activity.
Select a lesson that you enjoy teaching and that you know well. Analyse where in the lesson you engage children in learning in three different modes:
- in groups
- through direct instruction
- as independent learners
Which of these modes is most common in the lesson? How could you make teaching and learning in that mode more effective? If direct instruction is the dominant mode, for example, you could make it more effective by tying the information directly to the lives of the children in your classroom in concrete ways.
Now select one of the modes that is less common in the lesson. Where in the lesson could learners engage in that mode? How could you use that mode to engage learners in active learning?
In the Teachers Talking Discussion section of the web site, share your thoughts. Try summarising the activity and discussing you new ideas.
Coaching peer-learning teams
Peer teaching occurs when children (e.g. peers) teach and learn from one another. To help peer teaching and learning succeed, you can:
- explain the purpose of peer learning to the class
- set clear and realistic goals for the learning teams
- plan specific activities and times for peer learning
- provide adequate materials and resources
- track the progress made by peer-learning teams
- plan time for "feedback" and assessment
- change peer-learning teams roughly every 4 weeks
- promote self-directed learning in your classroom
You can also enhance your chances of success by introducing peer learning slowly.
Early in the year, ask learning teams to work for 15 or 20 minutes on very focused exercises in mathematics, spelling, or reading. As the children grow more comfortable with the process, you can broaden the goals for peer-learning teams to include writing, research, and work on projects.
Journal activity: Matching learners
Create two hypothetical lists of peer-learning teams.
There are many ways of matching children as peer teachers and learners. You should try to create match-ups that are appropriate to the learning outcomes that you are seeking.
Review the different peer-learning goals below. For each goal, create a list of peer-learning teams, with two children on a team.
• Peer learning teams will complete exercise sheets in review of last week's mathematics activities and lessons.
• Peer learning teams will review and revise stories to improve spelling, punctuation, expressiveness, and clarity.
Look over the lists that you've created. What are the differences between them?
Try to note down some of the issues to consider when designating learning teams with specific goals in mind