Monday, January 14, 2013

Time in "class" equals learning???

Have skill, read plans, read tape measure, the world of making is yours
One of the challenges that early advocates of the manual arts faced was that of finding time in already busy school schedules. They had to contend with reading math, history, Latin, science, etc. What was learned, however, was that participation in manual arts training created greater interest in the rest of schooling. Consequently subjects like reading, math, history and science gained relevance, and when students full attention was thence applied, students learned those subjects in less time. In other words, manual arts training made time for itself in effective education.

State and federal requirements on schools hold kids in school for a set number of hours of class time. Class time is regarded as a sacred measure even though we all know from personal experience that class time can be a waste of time. In "class" rather than individualized teaching, lessons will be over the heads of some students while boring the rest. That is why Salomon made the point that individualized instruction is the only effective means of addressing the needs of all students.

There are proposals that the amount of time children spend in school be stretched either with longer school days or with school terms being extended into the summer months. But what will the students do in these extended hours? Will more hours in class help or hurt American education? More hours in school receiving individualized attention rather than being held captive in classes might help. Hopefully, we can get over the notion that time in class equals educational success. It does not. In Finland, a nation that surpasses American education, students spend more time in physical education and recess than other kids in the US or Europe and have a distinct focus on individualized hands-on learning.

So perhaps instead of focusing on extending the number of hours kids spend in class, we should pay attention to improving the effectiveness of the time they do spend in school.

Today in the CSS wood shop, 4th, 5th and 6th grade students worked on bluebird houses, and my high school students worked on their box guitars. One of the things I discovered this morning is that students lack a basic working understanding of fractions as to how they apply in the measuring of things. So we spent time studying the "Super Inch" which is a much larger representation of an inch, allowing students to better understand fractions and measuring. When children make real things, the need for accuracy, exactness of length and squareness of cut become clear. And if you can follow written and pictorial directions on making a birdhouse, you are just one step closer to making anything in the whole wide world you want.

Make, fix and create...

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