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Rarely does enrichment or special grouping mean speeding up the work so that some children may finish school earlier. Where it does mean this, plans are made cooperatively with the receiving grade or the junior high school so that children who are advanced in their work are taught without useless repetition or delay. Accelerating their progress through school, however, does not appear to be the direct aim of any school included in this study.
The present viewpoint of educators is, in the main, that children must be selected for acceleration individually, after assessment of all the characteristics of the child, and careful projection of the possible effects of acceleration upon his total development. Parents are usually invited to cooperate with the school in weighing the assets and liabilities and in reaching a decision. Even when a child is selected to be accelerated, he does not actually skip the work of a grade. Rather,
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Sixth-grade club studies algebra.
a telescoping plan is worked out in which he does the required work of 2 years in 1, or 3 years in 2, with guidance individualized to give continuity to his academic progress and social adjustment.
Among recent experiments in grades 4, 5, and 6 is that of team teaching, a process in which several teachers, closely knit through cooperative planning and through consideration of common problems and mutual guidance of children, share the teaching of the children in their classes. In its best form, this plan aims to utilize teacher strengths in teaching and at the same time to give individual guidance to the children.
School Experiences Challenging
N MANY CLASSROOMS where excellent teaching occurs, it is difficult to point out specifically what it is the more able children are doing that others are not doing. When all children are encouraged to use their fullest ability, differences show both in quantity and quality of achievement, but on a sliding scale, from the slowest learners to the most able. For instance, all write composition on similar or different topics, but the range of performance or accomplishment is great-in content, form, accuracy, and style. All take part in social studies and science projects, but some do vastly more work, and work of greater difficulty, than others do. All learn new words from the subject fields, but some increase their reading and speaking vocabularies at tremendous rates. The difference is chiefly that the more able accomplish more, delve deeper, and go beyond the requirements to carry out their own plans.
A well-known educator said of the elementary school of which he is director: "Activities are not especially designed for the more able children they are 'built in.' Teachers challenge the children, especially in Science, which has a well-defined but flexible curriculum in this school from grade 4 up."
The key to insurance that the more able--and in fact, all childrenwill realize their potentialities, said this educator, is individual guid"The total program must be organized to secure individual guidance. Materials and counseling are needed. We-schools in general-are running way behind in this."
The school visits made for this study disclosed good teachinglearning situations in all the types of organizations for the more able 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-grade children. A comparison of the relative advantages and disadvantages of these types of organizations is not within the scope of this study. Such a comparison, which is sorely needed, involves long-range, scientifically controlled study in local schools. Studies to date have not been carried out long enough, nor have they
given sufficient attention to the numerous significant variables, to warrant reliable conclusions.
It is noteworthy, however, that no matter what the organizational pattern, in every teaching-learning situation pointed out as being "good," there was a pupil-teacher ratio of about 22-30:1, making it possible for the teacher to give considerable guidance to individuals and to groups.
The on-the-scene observations of actual classroom procedures that begin below were selected because of their obvious lead-on possibilities and the challenge they present to the more able children to go beyond: to probe the depths and breadth of knowledge; and to develop new skills. No limits were set for any activity. Instead, the ever-present implication was that the activity, the study, the searching for knowledge or understanding-in short, the learning-could be stretched to meet the interests and capacities of the most capable child in the group.
Every situation reflected a conscious effort on the part of administrators, supervisors, and teachers to provide (1) stimulating, workinviting environments for study; (2) materials and opportunities to facilitate learning in many directions; and (3) skillful guidance of every child toward maximum development. When such environments, materials, and guidance are provided, children pursue interests and attack problems, and they take action to organize the environment, both at school and at home, in order to enable themselves to work conveniently and effectively. They become aware of what good study habits are and tend to adopt them for their own use.
Teacher guidance, in the situations observed, was often indirect, in the form of suggestions, allowing much leeway for child expression and self-direction. The assumption is reasonable that whenever children are enthusiastically engaged in any classroom activity, it is the teacher who has recognized and encouraged an already existing interest, or has stimulated the interest in the first place.
It is hoped that the reader will examine the ensuing accounts. with a ready eye for the places where children of high ability in any line might find an open door to go ahead, to delve deeply, to think broadly; in short, to try their wings courageously in an environment that offers adventure at the same time that it provides security.
Teaching-Learning Situation No. 1*
Reading and creative writing.-Upon entering the classroom, the visitor had a feeling that serious activity was underway. One group
was reading with a student teacher; another with the regular teacher. The other children were working individually at desks, on arithmetic and reading. As they fininshed, they took out books or went to get them from a table or from shelves.
A table held a display of rocks and attractive books about rocks. Open shelves and cupboards also held books, arranged by school subjects and numbering, in some cases, as many as six or eight copies for each title. Among the volumes were encyclopedias.
Mrs. Thomas, the teacher, called "Jane's group" to come to the front of the room, as she quietly indicated to the observer that this group contained the more able children. Eight children set aside what they were doing, picked up their readers and came and sat in a semicircle. The teacher invited the children to comment on what they had been reading. The response indicated that all were enthusiastic about the story. When a child remarked, "The story said he was so hungry he ate like a pig," the teacher joined in the laughter, and then explained, "That is a figure of speech." The children discussed the meaning of a figure of speech, and, together, they and the teacher demonstrated that we all commonly use figures of speech. A child (later pointed out as the brightest) remarked, "Authors use them a lot." She added, as if to herself, apparently relishing the words, "It's a novel approach." The teacher said Jane had been writing stories since early childhood.
Turning to the story, the teacher assigned parts to be read aloud as in a play, and asked one child to be narrator. The chuckles which accompanied the reading were evidence of interest in the subject matter, and the fact that the children had to be helped occasionally seemed to indicate suitability for reading improvement. Specifically:
1. They needed help in identifying word
he teacher called their attention to small words within words, and to the sounds of letters and word parts.
2. They needed help to separate quotes from narrated text.
Occasionally the teacher interrupted to have several children take turns reading the same part, thus bringing out the variety of meanings which varying expression will bring to the same phrase.
At the close of the reading lesson, the teacher suggested that the children work independently, and made clear what they were to do. "When you finish with that," she said, "you have your arithmetic to complete, and your spelling to study."
"May I work on my rock report?" asked a boy.
"Yes, work on whatever seems most necessary," she said; and with a busy air of confidence, the children went to their individual desks.