Give children choice, it builds confidence and plays to their strenghts.

2012-07-18 07:50

Too often young children in our schools are treated like robots who are directed by the instruction of their teacher and the structure of their system. Teachers in public schools have been trained within this structure, so introducing learner choice is something that will take some teacher "un-training" to achieve.

We introduced the concept of learner choice  at a recent Reading Alive teacher training session conducted by Social Innovations trainer Shirley Obery. Shirley was previously head of the middle school at St. Peters school in Johannesburg, and this school offers learners a high degree of choice in the classroom activities that they do. This encourages learners to work to their strenghts and builds their self confidence - but it takes a skilled and confident teacher to pull it off.

In Reading Alive we introduce learners to a wide range of books during the course of a year. During independent reading sessions we encourage an interaction with the books and to do so we need to play to the strengths of each and every learner. This is what we considered during training last week.

Shirley introduced our teachers to the concept of the eight different types of intelligence as promoted by Howard Gardner. Gardner suggests that while our education system tests primarily one or at the most two kinds of intelligence, this is limited in its scope of evaluating the potential of a learner or any person for that matter. The different types of intelligence are linguistic, logical, spatial, body/physical, musical, intepersonal, intraperonsonal and nature based.

So when we are asking learners to respond to a book they have read independently why not give them a choice of activities to do? For example, writing a letter to the author or writing a book review appeals to a linguistic intelligence. Drawing a poster or a new cover for the book brings out the strenghts of the spatially intelligent child. Dramatising a portion of the text encourages a physical engagement with the story. Within a structured lesson, offering choice and guiding learners through this choice brings out the best in every child and builds self confidence.

Reading can only be enjoyed if the reader is confident, and if the reader is inspired; and that's just what we are aiming to achieve with Reading Alive.

www.socialinnovations.co.za

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