One learning experience I particularly remember from school was from our topic in Primary 7. Like many in our final year at primary school we studied World War 2, and I remember very little of the worksheets or textbooks we read from about the subject. The activities I remember are the ones where we were actively involved and excited about the learning experiences – an idea I believe would still be true in a classroom today.
2 activities from this topic stand out in my mind, both centred around learning about Anderson Shelters.
Within the class, we created a somewhat lifesize model of an anderson shelter use wire, tarpaulin etc. As much as we could we were allowed to help construct the model, and seeing the finished product allowed us to appreciate the cramped conditions families would be subject to during an air raid. We also transformed a cupboard into what the inside may look like, complete with books and an old style radio. No technology was allowed in there, and in pairs we would each take turns to spend time in the “shelter”. This particularly stands out to me as you were living as people would have lived during that period in history. Getting children consumed in the learning and feeling like they are truly within the era is usually an idea reserved for Early Years classes, as their imagination is still wild and they are more inclined to believe the imaginary context the teacher has set up for them. In the upper stages, this imagination is almost taken out of the classroom, as the pupils are much less inclined to believe in a fairy leaving notes in the class or an alien visiting the school. Using the learning context in a mature way – allowing the pupils to discover the experiences and understand the emotions of someone living in the era/place they are studying – can reignite a love for learning in a creative way, which seems to get abandoned somewhere in the middle years of primary.
The other activity I remember was a homework task we were set to build our own model of an Anderson Shelter. I fairly standard task, I know, however, I remember working on the project with my grandad. I remember putting loads of effort and commitment into the project – using real soil for the garden etc – and I remember the pride I had in showing it off in class. Getting the family involved in the children’s learning, I believe, can be so rewarding and highlights to children the importance of learning and can motivate them to want to do work. However, I do understand the practical implications of tasks such as these. I am extremely lucky to have a hugely supportive family network who value my education very highly, however, some children will not have this luxury. While I would love to see a bigger focus on learning with the family – where I mean fun activities, not taking textbook work home – I understand that this would be dependent on the children in my class, and the knowledge I have of their backgrounds and family situations.
Even from simply analysing these two memorable learning activities from my schooling, I can see how my education and background will influence the teacher I will become. The fact that I remember the more active, involving activities is testimony to the benefits of active learning. Children who are engaged in their learning are more likely to tell parents when they get, and they are more likely to remember these fun activities. The influence of my family in my education and my life in general will also influence how I teach and how I see the role of the family in the classroom. While I understand that family life will vary hugely between children in my class, it is important to try to include them as much as is possible to show the children the intrinsic value of education.
Images from https://www.pinterest.co.uk/debpooll/anderson-shelter/?lp=true