Being teachers, we feel that today’s students learn only to score and excel in their exams, and that they lack in understanding and applying skills as they are not learning the concepts in depth. However, it is necessary that we induce a thirst for knowledge in children and only then will they learn. Recently, after an experience with my 8th graders, I realized that introducing children to self-learning is a wonderful way of getting them interested in what they are learning. I realized that students are good at planning lessons in their own way, especially when they work with peers and with the right resources.
Once, I had assigned an individual “written” project to each of my 8th graders in social studies about “Bio-Diversity and Natural Resources”. All of them submitted the work in writing, but only some understood that projects are more than just written work. They had copied information from the “unlimited” internet but had gained very limited knowledge. They were unable to answer questions from their own projects. The content seemed to be far removed from their immediate experience. I thought I had to strategize a plan to make them understand the concept. My idea was to make my students plan the lesson.
When I first suggested this to my class, they were excited, but their excitement petered out when I told them they had to do this “without the internet”. To make up for it, they were divided into groups and were allowed to choose their own manner of presentation. They even made their own props for their plays. I took them to our school library and equipped them with journals and magazines such as Gobar Times, Down To Earth and Bhavan’s Journal. Though the number of books was limited, the knowledge they gained from working on the project in this manner was a lot more than what they had before.
Within a week’s time, they chose the theme, made their props, planned their roles and practiced them. The themes they had chosen were new technologies invented to protect the environment, fundamental rights through situations, science facts and child labour. They came up with innovative presentations such as puppet shows, skits and game shows based on their learnings.
Their presentation was auditioned and evaluated by teachers. After the presentation, they were asked questions by the audience. The children were able to answer all the questions well. Their presentations came out really well, and got appreciative response from our Dean and Director, Principal and Headmistress. They were appreciated by all the teachers for their stupendous effort and skilful performance.
I strongly believe that self-learning plays an extraordinary role in motivating the students to work independently and enrich their knowledge. This experience was an eye opener for the teachers as well as the students in my school. Since then, students regardless of their grades were motivated to do such presentations, which they did remarkably. Also, they still possess the habit of reading journals and magazines during lunch breaks.
Children are inherent learners and love to explore new ways of learning and expressing. Students are confident in what they do today and they are not afraid to express their views. I strongly believe that more the opportunities in the classroom, the more independent and confident learners they become.
The author teaches at Vedavalli Vidyalaya NPS, Senior Secondary School, Ranipet, Tamil Nadu. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.