Monday, November 21, 2011

Are we losing interest based teaching?

Seven and eight year old children study Fuchsias.

I have been busy cleaning out all the students work I have kept over the years - one teacher Bill Guild left me an amazing collection of research work, language and art.
I used to take selections of this work to show schools but I got the impression they thought it all beyond their own students ( 'students are different these days Bruce'). On two occasions I took work back to the schools that the work originally came from and in both cases teachers thought it was beyond their low decile students!

Teaching is about high expectations and skillful teacher interaction where teachers come alongside the learner assisting but taking care not to  do the work for the children. In this respect helping is an art form - the 'artistry' of the teacher is won through experience.

When visiting schools recently I have seen student work, some 'scaffolded', where it is hard to tell one students work from another. This applies whether it is research writing, layout of work, language and, worst of all, art.This of course is not what 'scaffolding' was meant to result in - student creativity and individuality was meant to be protected.

The Fuchsia study illustrated resulted from one teacher who had a particular fascination for fuchsias - it is amazing what individuals become fascinated in! As a result she took her students to visit a fuchsia nursery where the children were amazed by the variety of fuchsia and watched how fuchsia were propagated.All students left with a fuchsia cutting to propagate back at school.

At school students learnt about the fuchsia family ( discovering there were two native fuchsias they were unaware of), completed careful observational drawings, learnt about the structure of flowers and their role in pollination,  how to propagate plants, and wrote up notes of all they had learnt.

All very simple stuff but involving  a set of skills to be in place - how to go about observing, using water colours (and later pastels as they extended their ideas into pieces of creative work), and note taking and research writing.

It is from such experiences ( not always arising from teacher interests) that provide the means to develop creative learners and it is through such experiences student will develop their own set of personal interests - some of which may lead to a career or simply a life long interest.

The last few weeks of the year is great time for students to study aspects of their environment to demonstrate all the skills they have in place - what better form of evaluation could there be?.

One good study is  looking at the flax plant which is currently in flower.


Jody Hayes said...

My class and I are discussing just this today actually ... in our precious few weeks left together what would we like to learn some more about by observing. The disgusting flies and getting our own maggots and eggs has been such a hit!

Bruce said...

Your classroom Jody, and the few other creative teachers I know of,make me think there is still hope after National Standards. Shame there aren't lots of creative principals!

Anonymous said...

Loved the blog - I love Fuchsias.

Anonymous said...

yes I agree ,it never fails to amaze me the things people get totally obsessed by!

Bruce Hammonds said...

Yes anon - all great things are achieved by those with a single minded obsession!

Bruce said...

Creative teachers will find it hard with the introduction of the standards culture next year. No time for interesting diversions.