Monday, October 15, 2007

The Argus Observes -- Learning is a matter of simplification

By Don Lynch

From the Nov. 5, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

Mrs. Sylvia Osborn, a capable Ontario teacher, brought her charts and illustrative material and various teaching helps to the weekly Kiwanis luncheon (to demonstrate how) information taught is worked into the child’s everyday living.

Each morning Mrs. Osborn’s class starts with the day’s news. At this time each day, the learning of reading is related to the habit of reading about the news.

First graders, she says, are very observant about the weather. So they keep a record every day and at the end of the year they know how many sunny days, rainy days, windy days, etc., there have been during the school term.

A major teaching effort is directed at making the first graders number conscious. Over and over again they are taught that the same combinations will produce the same results whether they are dealing with blocks, or apples, or people, or animals, or any other units. The little ones have a hard time making the transfer of mathematical reasoning from one subject to another and this is a slow learning process.

Six year olds have a different adjustment problem in getting used to the closeness of school work. The rate that reading is learned is much affected by the youngster’s natural ability to focus his eyes.

Adults who in mid-years have to adjust to bifocal glasses get some idea of what a first grader goes through in learning to focus his eyes in order to read, the teacher said.

The children make up the first stories they read, writing them in simple terms to learn simple words, and then re-reading what they have written. They also illustrate their stories, drawing the characters and situations in a group effort.

One evidence of the relation of education to everyday living is that the children in this year’s first grade classes insist on equipping their houses with TV antennas (Editor’s note: TV broadcasts from Boise began to be viewable by homes equipped with antennas just the previous summer.)

During Mrs. Osborn’s talk I was struck by the similarity of the learning process at all levels.
People starting to do advertising layout work have some of the same problems a first grader has in starting to draw numbers and letters. They have difficulty making their letters uniform in size and shape and in gauging the working space so that they make a balanced use of it. Both first graders and advertising layout beginners are helped by lines that indicate where the top and bottom of the letter should go and where the top of the lower case letters should go.

The whole learning process is one of simplification, like a blowup illustration of the parts of a machine to show how it works and where each part goes….

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