Lessons that engage

Lessons that engage

Activity based learning stimulates all the senses of the children, and they get fully involved in the learning process.

In a Science period, a teacher held up two identical crisp sheets of white paper. He asked the students whether the weight of both sheets would be the same, and they all agreed.  Then he crushed one sheet, crumpled it into a tight ball and asked the same question, “Is the weight of both sheets the same even now?” Students took a moment to reflect and gave an affirmative answer.

He then put the sheets one by one on a very sensitive weighing machine, and lo and behold, the crumpled sheet seemed to be a few milligrams heavier. Most of the students were shocked, but then one of them said, “the crumpled sheet has air trapped in it hence it is showing more weight.” The teacher drove home the point that what appears as a fact needs greater exploration to be understood fully.

In an English class, the teacher quoted the legendary Cretan philosopher Epimenides, who said, “All Cretans are liars.” If we assume that the statement is true, then Epimenides, being a Cretan, is lying, hence the statement is a lie. But that means that Epimenides is telling the truth, which means that the statement is true! The teacher left it to the students to decide whether he was right or wrong.

These are just two simple examples of how a teacher can encourage the thinking power, creativity, exploration and curiosity of students (which incidentally they are born with). Innovative thinking primarily involves making the students more innovative and as former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam said, igniting their minds so that they shoot off as rockets.

Brainstorming helps

Contrary to popular belief, bringing out-of-box thinking does not consume much time, and does not take away the valuable time required to “complete the portion.” A few minutes set aside for brainstorming often makes the students so enthused that they put their minds to the subject matter, and the learning process becomes smoother. The teacher may carry a timer that goes ‘tik-tok-tik-tok’ to ensure that the brainstorming exercises are time-bound.

Whenever possible, if students can be taken out of the confines of the classroom, automatically their minds also expand. Ideally, students should be taken to diverse environs like parks, zoo, banks, hospitals, orphanages, old age homes etc., but whenever that is not possible, just taking them into the open ground or terrace of the school is enough to stimulate their thinking process, as they feel freed from the four walls of their classrooms where they spend the whole day.

Enacting or role-playing what is being covered in the textbook stimulates all the senses of the children, and they get fully involved in the learning process. Students may be assigned the roles of vegetables, field crops, wild animals, and asked to speak about them or be asked to enact the roles of one historical figure each and present their case of what they did for humanity. 

Practical math

Small children individually can be allotted a number from 0 to 9, and they have to come forward when their number is called out. When the teacher calls out “37”, child 3 and child 7 will have to come forward and stand in that order. When the teacher says “9 minus 4” and child 5 will have to stand up. Practical math!

Whenever a teacher breaks the monotony and brings in something different, primarily activity-based, the learning of the students is accelerated, and they develop the habit of exploring on their own and finding answers to all questions.  

This has become even more important with the onslaught of technology, to prevent children from becoming boxed into their 6-inch smart-phone screens.  As someone wisely remarked, “Google can provide answers to all questions.  What we need to teach students is to be able to ask the right questions.”

Whether you are a teacher, parent, concerned adult, or even a student, do bring in innovation and variety into the process of teaching and learning whenever you can, and spread the message.

(The writer is founder, Banjara Academy, Bengaluru)

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