Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Maintenance and Retro Learning

Cool! I finally got the link to the Tibetan singing bowl working. If you like neat sounds click on the link and then click play on the web page. You will hear this awesome sound wave that is just right for meditation or simply taking a mental break. There was this kid in my classroom last year that loved the sound. He would play it over and over again.

I am a retro learner. What is a retro learner? That is someone who doesn't always "get it" when you start your first lesson on any subject. Your lesson may have been well thought out and the other students might have gotten it just fine. But not this kid. What you have to do for this kid is go back and explain the baby steps that you didn't realize he needed. Let's say you are teaching fractions. You show the kid a pie chart and start explaining. He doesn't get it. Even if you have a physical representation of a pie he still might not get it. What he needs for you to do is go way back to the beginning. Further back than you expected to need to go. Take a whole pie (cookie or whatever) and explain that this is a "whole" pie. Then divide it into 2 pieces. Explain that each piece is a portion or "fraction" of the pie or the "whole". Show him that if you put the two pieces back together again you still have a whole pie. Let him practice taking them apart and putting them back together again. Help him with the headwork as needed. Once he understands how something "is" a fraction of a larger whole you are ready to start teaching him the number representations that go along with that concept. When he understands how dividing the pie doesn't detract from the whole but simply recreates it in a different way he will be ok with fractions. You can then pretty much teach him anything about them.

That was how I had to learn them. I didn't get it in the classroom. I got it from my grandmother who was teaching me how to bake. We did cups of flour and divided them. Cornmeal or sand works too. And did you know that your two hands cupped together make approximately one cup and one hand holds about 1/2 cup? Good enough for kindergarten or 1st grade. (g)

I had to learn faith that way too. I had heard all the bible stories as a child. Even grew up in a family where both my parents were involved in serving in the church (Dad - Lay Reader and Mom - altar prep). What it took for me to get faith was to have someone get up on a pulpit. Tell a parable. And then explain what each word meant in it and how it broke down into actual practice. It was the parable of the gate. The one that explains how you go out to do work and come back in through that gate and find pasture. The poor associate pastor who wrote and gave that sermon was really nervous about it. His words before he started it were, "Guys, I don't know how this is going to sound. Usually when I am supposed to preach God gives me a topic and lets me run with it. This time for some reason He dictated it almost word for word." I heard those words but they didn't register till after the sermon and service were over. The sermon worked. No one had ever taken the time to explain a parable to me before. I hadn't gotten it. Now I did. And suddenly Jesus wasn't just some guy who told nice stories. His stories had meaning. My faith completed and I received the Holy Spirit sitting quietly in my chair while everyone was saying the closing prayer. Yes, I actually felt the Holy Spirit indwelling. I still find it amazing how huge that whole experience was for me when it happened in such a quiet and non-spectacular way.

That was 23 years ago. It was the start of a long walk that hasn't always been smooth. But people aren't smooth. We are bumblers and stumble around like we were drunk or our compass had lost its magnetic north. We get distracted and go our own ways instead of staying on the path God has set for us. So here I am years later, have just gone through Cursillo and am back on the path again. What did God use to teach me the lesson that sent me there? It was another religious experience in the middle of communion on a normal Sunday morning. But that is another story.



Susan Palwick said...

Hi, Lee! I love Tibetan singing bowls, and you sound like a terrific teacher. Great story about learning fractions through baking, too. I had terrible trouble with the times tables in third grade, and my mother finally sat me down with flashcards and a bowl of M&Ms: I got an M&M whenever I got the right answer to a flashcard. I still associate multiplication with chocolate, although these days, I prefer calculators!

San said...

My son used to ask me these challenging questions when we practiced spelling. Like "Who made up spelling? Who decided how the words are spelled?" He had great questions. He wanted to go WAY BACK before the words existed and wanted to know how they came to be. But to make a 100% on spelling, he had to memorize the order of the letters of the words. Somehow we figured out that if he jumped on the bed while spelling out a word--one jump for each letter--he would remember how to spell it. I guess he needed to spell with his body, not just his mind. He needed a physical anchor for his far-ranging mind. When he graduated elementary school, one of his teachers identified him by the tag "takes abstract thinking to the next level." Yup.

Lee said...

San, lots of people are kinesthetic learners. I'm one myself. As a child they didn't use that strategy in the classroom much. As an adult I know that if I don't drive the route myself but instead ride along as the passenger I won't know it. Not surprising that your son is sharp. Being a physical learner is no impedance to intelligence.

We all have our learning styles. The challenge comes when the student learns in a different way from the average child. Most classroom teachers don't have the time to help those children find their style. If they don't manage to do so on their own they often struggle in the classroom.


Sandi McBride said...

Lee, I totally understood this post. It's how to get to D from A and I'm always the navigator...I can do it. I just don't understand HOW I did it, a lot of times. Loved it

Lee said...

Glad you loved it, Sandi! With me it's one foot in front of the other and on a fairly narrow path. At least till I know the route. :)