November 3, 2010

The Law of the Learner

"94 degrees in the shade" by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema

The Learner must attend with interest to the fact or the truth to be learned.

This second Law of teaching, from the Seven Laws of Teaching , I find an interesting one because it seems to have nothing really to do with me, the teacher. I have often thought that I have little control or influence over the attention of my kids other than providing materials I know they would like. However, as I read through this list of violations to the law I began to gain some hope that I do have some things I can do and that will in the end strengthen the attention of my inquisitive student.

Violations (paraphrased from Pg 64-65):

1. Lessons are begun before the attention of the class is gained, and continued after the attention has ceased to be given. You can not pour water into a jug while the stopper is still in place.

2. Students are urged to listen and learn after their limited power of attention is exhausted and when weariness has sealed their minds against any further impressions.

3. Little or no effort is made to discover the tastes of the student or to create a real interest in the subject studied.

4. Not a few teachers kill the power of attention in their students by droning on and on without a single fresh inquiry or startling and interesting statement.

If the student is not paying attention it is impossible for him to learn. I must know his interests and link new information to things he already is familiar with and likes. I must know his ability and not tax or stress the limit of his attention. For younger kids that is short lessons of 15-20 minutes. As their capacity increases I should lengthen it with interesting questions and startling new ways of looking at things. Fun to know there is so much I can do that only takes observing my boys and having keen interest myself in the subject enough to inspire them.

Attention is:
“A man who standing idle, vacant stare, gazing at nothing, is suddenly aroused by some sight or sound. At once a light comes into the eye, the look becomes alert, and the mind is put into conscious action…..This aroused activity of the mind-this awakened attitude of mental power, poised and eager for its work-we call ATTENTION.” Pg 48-49

There are two kinds of attention that when seen side by side really helps to see what not to do to gain the attention of my boys. One kind of attention is compelled attention the other is attracted attention.

“Compelled attention is short lived and easily exhausted. Its very painfulness wearies the posers of body and mind. If urged too far, its tension breaks, and the child yawns and even sleeps with exhaustion, or cries with pain and anger.” Pg 49

“Attracted attention on the other hand is full of power and endurance. Its felt interest calls dormant energies into play, and the pleasure given by its efforts seems to refresh rather than weary the mind.” Pg 50

“The boy forced to study what he does not like feels thoroughly tired in half an hour. Give him now a story which he enjoys, and he will read without a sign of weariness for two or three hours longer, till the tired body rebels, and will not sit any longer.” Pg 50

So the question in my mind is…..How do I attract the attention of my boys instead of compelling them to pay attention, so that this kind of healthy rigor of interest and refreshment is part of our lessons day by day?

Ideas (paraphrased from pg 62-63)

1. Never begin without it (attention) and pause when it is lost…regain it again or stop the lesson.

2. Never go past the attention span of your student. Stop when you see signs of weariness.

3. Make sure the lesson is within the attention span of your student. 15-20 minutes for younger students.

4. Vary the method, the place, the approach, the whatever to give new life to the lesson.

5. Fit the lesson to the age and the interests of the student.

6. Keep distractions away. (could mean sugar or competing stimuli like T.V. or videos which impede the minds’ activities)

7. Be ready with fresh questions to stir the minds of your students.

8. Present the lesson with as many of the senses involved as possible.

9. You be the most interested person in the lesson. If you are bored with it they will be too!

10. Use your voice hands and eyes to engage your students in the lesson. Maybe a puppet or have a  guest speaker in to liven things up.

This is ideal; to have naturally interested students, however there will be times because our students are undisciplined and have a natural inclination towards the easy road. Mr. Gregory addresses this issue here:

“At times at the outset of a lesson or of a subject, there may seem a need of securing the attention of the class or of some members of it by a gentle compulsion, an appeal to the sense of duty, or by other like means; but the effort in such case should be made to transform this compelled attention into that which is fuller of spontaneity and power. We may be obliged to lift a sleepy child to his feet by main strength, but unless we can awaken him soon to walk by himself, his progress will be slow and small.” Pg 50.

With this I leave you with a few quotes and the reminder to relax and enjoy being with your kids. We will be the best teachers when we know them and have spent time with them. They will pay attention more to someone who they know knows them well and has genuine interest in them.

“The difference between me and ordinary men lies in my ability to maintain my attention-to keep on plodding.” Archimedes

“It is folly to attempt to gain attention to a lesson in which the pupil can not be led to feel any genuine interest.” Pg 59

All quotes are from The Seven Laws of Teaching.

No comments:

Post a Comment