khinnyinethu asks: What is the best method for teaching children? How important are exams?
Hi khinnyinethu –
This question is asked all over the place today, though often it’s tied in with a caveat of “within a shrinking budget.” Obviously, I’m a huge believer in the importance of children’s education, and wish that more humans would devote more funds to it, since, as the song says “I believe the children are our future!” In fact, can anyone possibly disagree?!
There are more theories of education out there than I could possibly list, or even know. But I do know a few things about kids, that I think should be included in any method of teaching them.
First of all, children’s brains are twice the size of dogs’ brains, but at the core they’re the same. So humans shouldn’t lose sight of what dog trainers know: Keep it as simple as you can, be direct and consistent, and know that rewards work better than punishment, but punishment occasionally works too. How do these ideas apply to kids? Well, we’ve learned that the old methods of slapping hands with rulers and the more modern ones of “whole word” teaching — neither really worked well. While encouraging kids, finding the simplest ways to teach in steps, and having strong boundaries – those really work! Whatever method is used, it’s important to keep those thoughts in mind.
Second, children are multifaceted. While a dry lecture on physics might be great for a 20-year-old, children learn through touch, movement, art, music – almost anything is better than asking them to sit still for a lecture! If you’re teaching science, have them run experiments, or see live animals, or grow plants. If you’re teaching math, have them use actual objects to experience addition, subtraction, even multiplication and division. If you’re teaching them how to read, have them do activities that teach them letters, and practice reading with song lyrics that they can follow. Don’t just ask them to sit still and listen and learn.
Third, every child is unique. One of the things that most bothers me is seeing children’s class sizes grow bigger and bigger. What a ridiculous idea! My puppy-training class only had about twelve dogs in it, and each of us had our owner there, as well as the teacher – and it was still pretty chaotic. How in the world can anyone expect to teach forty six-year-olds in one classroom to read! It’s absurd! Keep your class-size small, and give each kid as much individualized attention as you can. Learn about them, and use their individual interests. That’s how to get through.
I think if you can follow these three precepts, you’ll do very well, khinnyinethu. But even if some things get in your way from all these, if you can just remember to love and respect every child for the miracle they are, you’ll probably do just fine.
Good Luck! And thanks for improving the world!