There are a number of teachers in my school who truly believe that what the school should not be doing at the primary level is focusing solely on the academic curriculum, as is being done in many schools now. Instead, the teachers should be imparting life skills and study skills that will help guide these students throughout their lives. Once these skills are examined and then accepted by the students, it is easier for students to go through the curriculum with minimal help. How do we start with this for say, Class 1 students? What are some of the concepts that we can teach, and how can we teach them in a way that they will understand and appreciate?
Time management is something essential that must be explained and taught to children of all ages. We have students incessantly excusing themselves with, “I didn’t have the time to complete my homework”; “I forgot to get my father’s signature on the report card”; “I forgot to get the money for the trip. May I borrow some money from my friend?” and so on, and so forth. As teachers, we have heard these pretexts countless number of times. How can we nip these excuses in the bud to ensure that students become equipped to do their work and will not have to struggle in their later years as they juggle with their job, their personal lives and their ambitions?
When children understand that time does not stretch into eternity and does not wait patiently for them to complete their tasks, they will be able to push themselves better to do their tasks without sinking into the hopeless feeling that they are time challenged. So whether it is finding the matching pair of clean socks or taking the right homework to school or remembering to pack lunch into the schoolbag….it should be deliciously easy!
Playing games with children will help them gauge how much time they spend on doing something even fundamental.
Teacher divides the class into groups of five and has each group perform an activity as she times them. Teacher tells students to take out a pencil from the pencil box and sharpen it, making sure that the pencil shavings fall into the box and not on to the floor. Instructions are given to students that pencil shavings that drop on the floor have to be picked up.
Students in other groups are asked to observe silently and then comment at the end. The comments could range from: pencil was well sharpened and quickly, the pencil was not sharpened properly, the shavings were not collected in the box or the person sharpening the pencil was getting in the way of a fellow student. Teacher then reads out the time taken by each student and puts it up in a tabular column on the board so that students understand.
|Name of student||Time taken to sharpen pencil neatly||Remarks|
|1. Rahul||2 minutes||Neat work|
|2. Anita||3 minutes||Pencil still blunt|
|3. Sam||1.5 minutes||Neat job|
|4. Sameer||2.5 minutes||Doesn’t allow fellow student to do her job|
|5. Kumar||3 minutes||Neat work|
Teacher then explains to students that it is not just the time taken to do the job but also how well it is done that matters in the end. This kind of explanation will enable children to comprehend the fact that it is not just the quickness of an action but the effective way in which the job is done that will get them the appreciation they are looking for and also help them attain their goal. This will also curtail the habit that some students have of paying more attention to how soon they complete an exam or a test rather than on how well they do it. Such games help students develop good and clean study habits.
Teacher gives each group a list of six words that students are already familiar with but whose spellings they have not yet mastered. Each group gets a different spelling list. Teacher divides the class into heterogeneous groups of six so that it is easier to facilitate cooperative learning. Teacher sets a limit of 10 minutes or less, depending on the calibre of the class. Students pair up with a partner to help one another master the spellings, and the appointed group leader ensures that the spellings are learned. Teacher remains in the background, helping out only when there is resistance or a squabble in a group. Teacher can in the meantime write out a tabular column on the board so that each group later understands how it has performed and also gets an insight behind the good or bad performance of the group.
After 10 minutes, teacher rings the bell and asks students to put away their lists. Teacher asks each individual students a word in the spelling list in random order and notes the correctness or incorrectness of the answers, offering feedback. The tabular column will look something like this:
Teacher can then discuss the following with the students: Which teams have done very well? Does anyone know why these teams did well? Shall we ask them what they did? Team B, did you first learn the words, then revise and test one another out? The other teams, don’t you think this is a good method? The next time, will you all remember to do this? Will you do this even when you are studying by yourself at home? Shall we play the game again? (The answer will most likely be an enthusiastic yes and students and teacher will be happy to see that the results have improved!)
Sometimes healthy competition is good. It makes students understand that they are capable; all they need to do is put in more effort and be more systematic. Teaching children life skills and values is possible only through games and activities. They will not be open to listening to abstract lectures. A visual representation of these values is what will trigger off enthusiasm and the correct response in children.
The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at [email protected].