Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Observation - a basic learning skill
Observation as a skill is hardly taken seriously in our print orientated schools.
Too many teachers forget that the language facility schools value so much develops naturally before school as a bi- product of conversations with others and through a curiosity open to exploring the environment through the senses.
School need to tap into student's curiosity and need to express ideas. It is this sensory resource of impressions that is called upon by learners when they come to read. Better still such experiences inspire students to talk, draw, write and then to read their own ideas. Before the word the experience is a simple enough idea - the more you notice the more words and ideas you will develop.
So looking and noticing, and wanting to find out about things, and express what is found out, are the real basics of learning.
Creative teachers who focus on uncovering and expanding student’s natural talents value observation. Such teachers take students into the environment to help them further develop their sensory awareness. They help their students take their time to see things, to notice patterns, movements, colours, and to observe small moments of drama that nature provides.
Both in the field, and back in class, students can record their impressions through words, drawing and these days with digital cameras. Learners will need assistance to be able to do this but most of all they need to be with teachers who exemplify this kind of awareness and who model the kind of imaginative responses their students will come to reflect.
It is such experiences that keep studnets ‘learning spirit’ and ‘sense of wonder’ alive.
Observation of and expression about the natural world is the basis of literacy and imagination.
Learning to observe through drawing is a great way to start. All that is needed is to get students to ‘slow the pace of their work’, to take the time to look, and to draw what they see, continually looking back to the item being drawn to keep the image alive. The simple strategy is to ‘look, draw, look’. To start choose simple items or get students to focus on interesting aspects and use small pieces of paper; later ideas can be enlarged and coloured.
Observational drawings (every child’s interpretation will be different - or ought to be) can be later extended into the imagination and, through use of metaphor, interesting language ideas can be encouraged. And, as well, questions will emerge for students to research and read about.
When displayed students work will celebrate their ideas, observation and imagination.
All too often, in our mad rush to get students to read, we bi-pass this natural basis for learning and we demean our students in the process
For practical ideas:
Developing environmental awareness
The environment as a learning resource
The drawing process
Slowing the pace