Tag Archives: Learning

First Additional Language for the Win!

The limits of my language are the limits of my world. Ludwig Wittgenstein

The benefits of bilingualism are manifold. Recent research into brain plasticity and functioning are revealing more and more advantages to learning a second (and third) language. From improved cognitive ability  and higher test results across all subjects, to behavioral improvements and increased tolerance and empathy, the list goes on and on. Hey – being bilingual even wards off dementia, helps prevent Alzheimers and delays brain atrophy by about 7 years!

With all these benefits, why do our South African school students (and their parents) complain so much about their requisite First Additional Language? Shouldn’t the inclusion of a compulsory second language in our school curriculum be applauded and encouraged? All the studies on bilingualism concur that it makes no difference what language is being acquired; the benefits remain the same. Continue reading First Additional Language for the Win!

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Unlearning Intolerance

Yesterday South Africa “celebrated” Human Rights Day. I use the quotation marks as March 21st marks the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre; hardly something worth celebrating. I guess we should celebrate the country we have now; our freedom, our constitution, our democracy … or perhaps the promise of how great a country we COULD have.

Continue reading Unlearning Intolerance

Homework! Oh, Homework!

Years ago, when I  still owned my educational theatre company – Hooked on Books – I included a poem by Jack Prelutsky in the Senior Primary show. I had my actors sing the poem, with accompanying choreography, to the tune of George Michael’s Faith (which will give you a clearer indication of how many years ago I’m talking about 😉 )

Go on, sing it (you’ll need to extend some words and add in a few “oh-ohs” to make it scan – but you can do it): Continue reading Homework! Oh, Homework!

Failing to let them fail

When I was living and teaching in California, in the early 2000’s, I was lucky enough to attend some wonderful teaching conferences and seminars. A particularly inspirational speaker (whose name I wish I’d written down, or committed to memory) said something that made a huge impression on me:

“Never deny a student their right to fail.”

Continue reading Failing to let them fail

Learning Starts with “Me”

Learning is all about making connections. A vast, but relatively simple system of neurons, axons and synapses, in our brains, is constantly changing as we are exposed to new stimuli.Sensory stimulation strengthens these connections, whilst synapses that are seldom used end up in the recycle bin and are eventually eliminated altogether. Simplistically, this is how we learn and also how we forget. And it all starts with “me” …

Continue reading Learning Starts with “Me”

Case Study: Drowning in the Stream

Erin’s mom phoned me at the start of Term Two: “Erin’s failing Geography. She just can’t understand it – can you help?”

Can’t understand Geography? Surely any applied science at high school level is quite easy to grasp. So I dug a little deeper: Continue reading Case Study: Drowning in the Stream

One Size DOES NOT Fit All

Imagine if schools issued school uniforms in the same way that they issue education? Imagine if they decided on an average shoe size that students in that grade ought to be wearing and issued each child with a pair of shoes in that size?

It doesn’t take much effort to extend the metaphor to envisage the struggle of students for whom the shoe doesn’t fit. Students whose feet haven’t quite yet grown to the expected “norm” would swim about in their shoes, tripping and stumbling, not managing to keep up with the others; no matter how hard they tried. Those who happened to have larger feet would be in a different kind of discomfort; feet squished into a painful, blistering space that hobbled and injured them. It sounds cruel, doesn’t it? Of course schools would never do that – and parents would never allow it. So why do we allow a “one size fits all” approach to curriculum design, teaching and testing?

Continue reading One Size DOES NOT Fit All