Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.
~ Carl Sagan
Being primarily a middle school Physics teacher, I also teach General Science in the primary grades. Considering the difference in the ages of my two group of learners, I make an effort to incorporate different approaches to teach the common topics. Owing to the limited time available to complete the syllabus (as every school will have various extracurricular and sports activities), I may not be able to use these for every possible concept. However, I do use them in those topics where I can include experiments or quote age appropriate real life examples that they can explore.
I would like to give a couple of instances where I have made slight deviations to embed an idea into my students’ minds. The creative side of my brain has proved to be highly competitive to the logical side usually. So when I talk about ‘Reflection’ to my 3rd or 4th graders, I begin with their previous knowledge. You must be wondering what has that got to do with creativity? Every teacher ask questions based on the student’s previous knowledge, don’t they? Ask what they do every morning. When they say brush or comb their hair, perhaps, you query further to get the word ‘Mirror’ and proceed. Isn’t it? Well, that’s not what I meant by previous knowledge. I start narrating the story of ‘The Clever Rabbit’. Then I ask them to raise their hands and choose one to narrate the story of ‘The Greedy Dog’. Now I start asking the questions like what kind of material is water etc and proceed. The same topic if taken up in Class 6 or 7, I bring in a bit of Indian mythology. I love it! Draupadi swayamvar, Arjun aiming at the Fish’s eye and then bring in Lateral Inversion. Now, they are shown mirrors, they conclude that the image distance and size are same as the object distance and size and then the numerical problems. I always prefer concrete to abstract especially in the primary classes. It helps register the points in the pupil’s mind.We have now covered the integrated approach of clubbing language (story narration) or history. Sometimes, I bring in spirituality / philosophy. When I teach Sound to the young teenagers who are usually distracted or talkative, I tell them they will do an activity for 5 minutes. I tell them to close their eyes, quietly listen and list all the sounds they heard after 5 minutes. They feel it is a task and do it. It aids me in silencing the class if they are too noisy. After 5 minutes, they become more alert, their memory is tested and then comes my favourite part of this activity. I ask them how they felt and generally they say they feel calm. Then I tell them what they did was also a kind of meditation (spirituality) and also it becomes easy to make them understand the importance of silence (philosophy). Of course, it doesn’t work for a long time and also varies with each batch. Moreover, the more they talk (pertaining to the subject), the more they express and the more they learn.
Another thing that I keep in mind is the numerical problems. If I am teaching the speed and give them a set of random values like, “A car covers a distance of 5000km in 6minutes, calculate the speed.” it is mathematically right and possible to solve, but can a car travel such a great distance in so less a time interval? Some of the children just solve and give me the answer, then when I ask them, they wear their thinking caps. Practicality of the given scenario is gradually fed into their minds so that they always analyze before answering any question in future. I take them to the ground, they have a running race and then they are told to calculate their own speeds, compare, change the distance, change the time and compare their own previous answers etc whenever time permits. It gives them more clarity when they do it than when they use a set of values given in the class (generally, practical knowledge gives them a hands on feel more than theory). Pursuing a computer science post graduation myself, I encourage more ppt presentations by my students as it would make them prioritize information and organize the information at hand too. This helps them to filter data and use only what is relevant, thus encouraging them to talk/answer to the point. They will eventually, learn to express their views with clarity and brevity.
It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge
~ Albert Einstein
Guest post written by Tulasi G
Tulasi is a middle school physics teacher. She has completed her B Sc and B Ed from Bangalore University. She loves to write poems and click photographs.