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"Well," said he, "They have a history. They spend a lot of time on the perch. They eat in this bowl; they drink here. Every Friday we clean the cage. They are both female—that is, girls. Now we want a boy."
The children in the fifth grade got interested in the machines that were being used in excavating the foundation for the school annex. They asked many questions about the machinery being used. The teacher helped them find ways of satisfying their curiosity and at the same time aroused deeper interest with the comment, "I wonder how man's way of working has changed because of machines. After all, the kinds of machines you are learning about are fairly new, but even long ago big buildings were built." This led to speculation, then to a desire to find out how man did work. The teacher and children found reading material, pictures, movies, and filmstrips which would help them answer their questions. They found additional information in the library and at home.
A newspaper reporter who seems very much interested in the local schools wrote this report of a classroom in action:
There is a little log cabin out at Roosevelt Elementary School but its purpose is for more than shelter.
Built by the hands of Roosevelt third-graders, the cabin took weeks of work, hours of conversation, and no little ingenuity.
The teacher got the "logs" from the Newspapers, Inc., press room. They are the heavy cardboard cores of newsprint rolls and 134 of them went into the construction of the cabin.
The high-school vocational education department sawed the log ends so they could be fitted at the corners, but the youngsters had to figure the log lengths for doorways and windows.
They constructed the door and window frames themselves and built a door with leather hinges just like the pioneers used back when the West was being settled.
The logs were too short to run the full length of any walls so the children doweled them together with tin cans that slipped snugly inside the logs and then covered the outside joints with wide tape.
For a fireplace the boys put up a framework of orange crates and the girls covered it with a realistically painted paper fireplace of natural rock.
They made their own furniture-chairs of orange crates and a bed with a rope spring and mattress. They dipped their own candle sticks and even made the candle holders. A nail keg became a churn.
From the State museum they borrowed a spinning wheel, a fireplace crane and kettle, andirons and a pewter teapot to equip the rustic residence.
For the third-graders it was an unforgettable experience-many of them even spent their Washington's birthday and rodeo holiday in the classroom working on the structure.
For the teacher it was an excellent way to get the youngsters to develop their knowledge of English-many of them come from non-English-speaking homes.
They also learned the history of the westward movement of their forefathers; how those people lived and survived in the rigorous environment of the times.
A little bit of geography entered their discussions, too-they traced the travels of their own families and ancestors.
They also gained a great deal of knowledge in the blending of colors to match that of natural rock in this area when they painted their fireplace on white paper. Learning by doing is not a new educational technique, but it is often ignored in many of our nation's classrooms today. Our local schools are using that method more and more.
Problems of Individual Improvement
Bert's parents were both relieved and upset when he at last broke down his defenses and told them why he disliked school. There were three reading groups in the third grade, and although the teacher did not label them bright, average, and slow, the children knew that was the basis for organization. Bert was in the slow group. His two best friends were in the bright
Bert's family knew he showed little interest in reading. He had access to many good books, but did not bother to do more than glance at the pictures occasionally. He did have a serious eye difficulty which was responding slowly to treatment. The parents felt that once the disability was corrected, Bert would read well. His actions proved he was an intelligent boy.
In talking about school Bert said, "I just hate reading. We read such silly stuff. The other groups read interesting stories about animals and Indians. But not us."
Bert's mother visited school. She told the teacher what her son had said, and asked if anything could be done to help him change his attitude toward reading.
That afternoon Bert came home shouting, "Mom, I got a different book." The teacher had asked him if he would like to take a new book home. He agreed immediately. Then she said, "Suppose you try to find the answers to the three questions I wrote on this card.”
Bert curled up in a chair with the "new" book immediately after supper. Without help from anyone he read through the story and found the answers to the questions.
The next day he studied by himself, instead of joining the "third" group. His friend helped him with some flash card drills. Before long, he was moved into the middle group and he was happier than he had been in a long time.
The seventh-grade teacher was new to the school. The children seemed to like him. They were making progress in their work, with one excep
tion. Ronnie just couldn't spell! He rarely got more than two words right when tested on the word list.
The teacher discovered Ronnie's keen interest in major league baseball. On a Monday morning he told the class about the exciting game he had seen over the week end. The teacher suggested that Ronnie write a short paragraph for the school paper. After much struggling, he brought the write-up to the teacher who discovered that the only words not misspelled were "of" and "to" and the phonetically true words.
With this as a clue, the teacher compiled a list of phonetically true words taken from baseball and other sports and asked Ronnie to study them. When tested, he had every one correct. When the teacher showed the "100" to Ronnie he beamed with pride. Then the teacher explained that the words on the list were spelled exactly as they sounded, but that was not true of all words. When Ronnie was asked how he could learn to spell the other kind of words, he said, "I guess you just have to study them until you know them." Each day the teacher gave Ronnie a list which was made up basically of phonetically true words but which included two or three others. With diligent work and the guidance of his text for study of non-phonetic words, Ronnie soon became more proficient in spelling. His interest in written work was closely related to his improved skill in spelling.
The first-grade children were sitting on the rug in the front of the room, talking about the plans they had made.
The teacher said, “Alice, have you met with your committee about this chart?"
Alice seemed embarrassed, "I know what we are going to do."
"Have you met with your committee, or did you just decide by yourself?" "Myself."
"Well, two good chances have gone by to call a committee meeting-yesterday morning and this morning. Committee members want to help you, but you are the one who must call the meeting. When do you think you can hold it?"
Various members of the class said, "At story time," and Alice squirmed. "She doesn't want to miss the story. Be sure to find a time before tomorrow noon to hold your meeting, Alice."
The teacher didn't pursue the discussion further. She knew that 62-year-olds were "young" at this business of working with others.
Children and Teacher Work Together-On Ways To Use "Free" Time
About Christmas time, the second-grade teacher noticed that the children were irritable, unable to work together, careless about finishing things they started, and weary before the day was over. She realized that she was "pushing" them in an effort to have them all master the fundamental skills. She decided that one way to begin to counteract some of the bad things that were happening might be to allow a bit more freedom. A "choice of activity" period was included in the daily program.
On this particular day, the children were seated in a semicircle in the front of the room. Their conversation went something like this:
TEACHER: "Who knows what he wants to do during our choice period?"
"I'd like to plant our butter beans. My mother helped me dig some real good dirt. It's in that basket over in the corner."
"I'd like to finish the picture I started yesterday."
"If someone would help me, I'd like to spatter paint. I always make a mess though."
TEACHER: "Who would like to help John?"
(Several hands went up. John chose one boy and one girl to help him.) BOB: "Couldn't we look up stories to read at our reading party Monday?" TEACHER: "That is a good idea. Who else wants to get ready for the party?" (Quite a few hands went up.)
"If you can't find a story you like in the books we have we can borrow some books from the other grades."
"I know what story I'm going to read. Lucille, Jack, and I would like to play the arithmetic game."
RICHARD: "You told me yesterday that I could tell about the speedometer I brought to school. May I do that right after lunch?”
TEACHER: "I think so, Richard. It looks as if all of you know what you are going to do. Shall we get started?"
As the children worked, the teacher helped here and there, as she was needed. Then she talked quietly to four children who went to their desks to get their books. They gathered around her in a corner of the room for special help in reading.
As the children finished eating lunch in the school cafeteria, they went out to the playground. Those who went home for lunch returned to school