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Friday, August 7, 2009

Swiss Teaching Methods – CREDO LXXVII

Years ago, before left/right brain theories developed, the Swiss were already masters of insight when it came to teaching kids. As I taught children for 18 years, I tried to emulate some of their techniques. Here, briefly, is a summary of their approach in what would be the equivalent of sixth grade up. They knew that some children learn best by hearing and others by seeing. If you can remember where roughly on a page you read something you and I have primarily visual memory; if you remember spoken directions for how to find an unknown street with ease, you are blessed with auditory memory. If you have both, you are truly blessed!

I will label A for auditory; V for visual.
1. A – The teacher introduces a new topic to the class verbally.
2. V – The teacher writes short notes on the blackboard.
3. The students copy these in their own way into their Schmierheft, an uncensored scribble copybook.
4. For homework, the student turns that information into tidy complete sentences in a Gutes Heft, a good copybook, which even sports a protective paper cover.
5. A – An informal spoken review next day; V – possibly reinforced by students at blackboard, as in math.
6. A midweek written quiz, corrected by comments and numerical grade in math.
7. An end-of-week written test, requiring self-expressive summary of the topic, as in history or grammar, or free composition. Geography involved hand illustrated maps. Again graded by comments; math by marks.
8. Eventually, an exam! with both numerical grades and comments.
Oddly, there were few textbooks but we were encouraged to read real storybooks.

When I taught students in the ’60s and ’70s, I noticed a distinct shift in the collective classes from V to A! This was probably due to the increasing use of television, which is not received by the linear or left brain, and the changing emphasis on music and the hippie movement, in general. The kids became freer, more creative, self-expressive, and far less motivated to read texts and cough up facts. They were becoming more A. TV is viewed as a whole picture. This raises the question of Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters . . .

On a personal note, I suffer as a grownup not from dyslexia but from dyscalculia, the reversal of numbers! As I learned math in three foreign languages, Italian, French, and German, I was subjected to 88 = as acht und achtzig (eight and eighty) or quatre-vingts huit (four-twenties eight) etc. The nightmare for me was Kopfrechnen (head reckoning). One had to stand alone in front of the class and answer things like take 2 multiply by 5; add 26, sechs und twantzig, etc, etc. The result has been problematic in the extreme! I was called to the IRS because in copying from page 4 to page 1, I reversed numbers! I drove my beloved husband Walter nuts reversing telephone numbers and balancing checkbooks! Now that I am alone, I have to double-check from phonebook to dialing all the time. Sigh!

In addition, since my stroke 13 years ago, I have been unable to write with a pen, and so the quotations for my Commonplace Book Vol.VIII have to be entered by someone else. I find that I have no clear recollection of what is copied!

I learned from a professional friend that if you are driving a car and see an arrow pointing left, you read that with your right (imaging) brain; if a sign says LA GUARDIA AIRPORT, you read that with your left (linear thinking) brain. One way you can tell if you have a preference for linear memory is that if you read something in the newspaper, you will remember if it was on the left or right page and approximately where. For those who hear traffic directions to a location and can remember them, you know you have a right brain preference. A hopeless situation for yours truly but


1 comment:

astraea said...

I am you to t, alice.

Auditory works only after I have read the info, so I leaned to read ahead. Auditory becomes reinforcement. I can hear the word or the sentence then, and play it back in head. And numbers don't stick at all. And reversals -- often. Things flip over like golden fish. But give me a calculator and I can lay out physics and chem, reason out the variables and lo! Tops in my class in college. But don't ask me to do plain old math in head. Tho -- rounding works. Groups can be moved around like sacks of potatoes. Meaning is all: the relationships.

Spatial memory is what it's all about for me. I map and then remember things from the map. can learn quickly that way -- the pen in hand, the mapping. I don't seem to actually grasp or even notice things unless I write them. Even now, I know where to get the info, where something should be looked for -- even if I don't know what it is! Something lost -- I can find it. But only by looking. I can't tell you how my old Nikon camera worked -- but put it in my hands and they know. Memory is wordless, actually. More like a place I know to go to. I'm not very fluent under pressure, and uncomfortable with strangers, or anyone, until I can orient to the topic. I have to get into that head -- the particular room where I placed the stuff. That's why I so love the Art of Memory. Ars Memoria. Yes, that's exactly what works for me.

This is so important in teaching and learning. Everyone has their own way, and they need to be aware of it and play to it.

Liz reads Greek like it's song -- a natural scansion, Lillian says. It does something to you to listen to it. Things open up. Take you there. It deepens you.

(oh how weird. my word verification for this post is MANES!)