Monday, April 17, 2006

Observation and imagination

  Posted by PicasaObservation has been an important feature of the classrooms of the creative teachers I have worked with over the years.

An awareness of the environment is a basic evolutionary trait of all humans. Learning about patterns of behavior, cycles, rhythms and seasons was once important to survival. Today, in this brave new fast world of cyberspace, this understanding has gone, and our relationship to our environment with it.

An understanding and appreciation of the environment is more important today for all sorts of reasons.

Students who are taught to observe the intimate world of their immediate environment not only see more, and have more to wonder and talk about but, in the process, develop a wider vocabulary and ask more questions. From this wealth of sensory experiences arises the source for talking, drawing and early writing.

As children experience their natural world, with a sensitive adult or teacher, they make full use of their senses – each demanding of the learner different ways of experiencing and interpreting what they notice. And all contribute to the learner developing an emotional connection with the world around them.

It a lack of these basic sensory experiences that is delivering to our school children with limited language abilities and the answer to this deprivation is equally obvious. It is not early literacy through books that is required but immersion in rich sensory experiences with a caring adult ever ready to point out things of interest and to listen to children’s responses. For the children, who have lost this ability to notice, they will need sensitive teaching.

Young children are naturally poetic and metaphoric but, if this is lost, it needs to be ‘recovered’. Children’s writing about their environment, and their own personal experiences, ought to be the basis of literacy programmes. From children’s own writing, introduced in tandem with books written for children, a powerful literacy programme evolves. Creative teachers know this.

Perhaps more important, to develop involvement and curiosity, is the simple art of drawing. In the minds of too many teachers drawing is a minor art compared to reading but creative teachers appreciate that, not only that the experience comes before the word, but drawing is a vital way of capturing this experience in a tangible form. All that is required is to encourage children to look hard and to draw what they see. An added advantage of drawing, if taught well, is that it allows teachers to ‘slow the pace’ of their student’s work so as to develop a sense of personal excellence and, as well, provides time for teachers to interact and assist. Far too many of our students think that ‘first finished is best’ and as a result, if not countered, much of what is produced is ‘thin’ learning.

One students have enriched their perception they are the in a position to develop their ideas imaginatively moving from carefully observed butterflies to the magic of imaginative interpretations. Rather than conforming to imposed criteria every piece of work should reflect the individual who created it.

From such simple environmental beginnings a rich world of student creativity emerges and, as a bi - product, basic skills of literacy, as well as science and art, are put in place. A curriculum ‘emerges’ from students questions.

The best ‘evidence’ of creative teaching can be seen by examples of student thoughts drawings and art, and in their answer to questions they have researched as part of the process. The entire room will both inform and celebrate students ‘voice’ and creativity.

The most important observation for any visitor to see will be the atmosphere of joy and excitement and by the way the students ‘see’ themselves as ‘in charge’ of their own learning.

This is in contrast to the harried atmosphere of teachers who are trying to implement ideas imposed from a distance, trying to prove achievement with ‘evidence based teaching’, exemplars and preplanned teaching intentions; all as worthy as they are can obstruct real student creativity. They all need to be used with care by teachers; by trying to implement and document such distractions too seriously they may be losing the excitement and power of being creative teachers.

Give me team of aligned creative teachers any day – I would have faith in their professionalism to keep the thrill of learning alive – the only ‘target’ that finally counts.

Drawing process
Developing awareness


Anonymous said...

What you say seems so obvious.'Thin experiences' results in 'thin learning' ; 'rich experiences' in 'rich learning' - and we are not talking about money but poverty is a limiting factor.

I guess it ought to be called the 'poverty gap' or 'racial gap' rather than the 'achievement gap' - it would be more honest.Or the 'power gap' - those who hold the power get the 'goodies'.

Anonymous said...

Now this is real learning - not 'schooling' as we know it! As Twain advised - never let schooling interfere with your education!

Anonymous said...

This idea of 'evidence based teaching' is rather strange - the evidence of teaching is all around the room - or it is not!