Teaching Treasures™ Open ended learning


How often do you hear...? Where have all the good teachers gone? In my day......!

I believe that good teachers have not all gone. Some of you may have just forgotten what good teaching is! Maybe the system has bogged you down so much that you simply don't have the time to put in that extra effort you used to. Education departments regularly implement or make changes to different strategic teaching areas, so teachers must swim or sink.

Maybe you have forgotten to be organized, efficient organization allows you to spend more learning time with your students. Established routines keeps you and your students on track and gives you more time for teaching. Of course you must make learning fun. Your eagerness for teaching will make a difference in the motivation of your students.

Changing trends also effect good teaching. No matter if this is your first year or your tenth year, keep up with changing trends by reading, listening, observing and acting accordingly to the information you have obtained.

Children's attitudes and values have changed over the years largely due to the promotion of violence, lack of responsibility and a no care, disrespectful attitude displayed in many movies, cartoons and computer games readily available for children. They need mature models with positive attitudes. You need to display care, concern and respect if you wish to gain these in return. Discipline is essential for children. Be consistent and fair. Avoid making rules that you do not enforce consistently upon all students, for they soon learn that what you say does not matter.

Is the study area a cheerful room? A bright, well lit, happy environment will stimulate learning. One of your biggest challenges in teaching is working with children of varying learning levels and personalities. You would be wise to mix auditory, visual and hands-on techniques to improve and build upon children's weaknesses or skill gaps rather than sticking to one method only.

Are you flexible? Can you adjust when timely topics occur, instead of staying with your fixed lesson plan? Open ended learning is not new although someone may have told you so. Open ended learning has been adopted in our home based learning from day one. It is not difficult to change to this type of teaching, in fact once you start you will wonder why you have taken so long to commence this style of teaching. It's practical, efficient, exciting, innovative and unlimited. I've personally tried it for 13 years with excellent results.

I must admit that you need structured learning for the first few years of a child's education. Children need to get a good grounding, by using the phonics system together with well selected auditory, visual and hands-on techniques they will receive it. However, once a child can read, write and use numbers adequately you may like to change to a more open ended learning situation. What I mean by this is to incorporate all eight major learning areas in the one topic. No, not a strict theme! All my children think themes are boring. Themes are dragged out over weeks or months and most children get so bored with them that learning becomes lifeless, mind-numbing nonsense and you've lost their enthusiasm they started so eagerly with. If you feel compelled to follow a theme make sure it runs for no more than one or two weeks at the most.

By linking learning areas you make a start. Take for example 'owls'. Students are asked to find out what type of owls live in their local area. Do any owls live here? Why not! Where would students have to travel to in order to find owls? What do they eat? How do they breed? Colour, shape, size, height, weight, origin, food source, environmental issues, industrial impact, geographical locations and many more questions could be asked and answered. Is it possible to take photos, draw pictures, research books from libraries, explore encyclopaedias, delve into the Internet, locate newspaper articles about owls, organize a night expedition and spot owls in the wild, visit a zoo and the list goes on. By looking into just these few issues, students have covered English, mathematics, science, geography, society and environment, art, health and technology.

You might say, 'This will take weeks.' Not so, you will be amazed how quickly this information can be sourced and documented. You can go one step further into open ended learning and check out if your owls are a migrating bird. If they are, how far do they travel, which towns, cities or countries do they travel across. Use road maps, atlases, note the distances, how long it takes for the birds to migrate, the seasons and so forth. Draw a map of the migrating route. Even though we are looking at owls in particular, you can cover or involve any other topic or person. If students were to follow the migrating bird, what forms of transportation would be needed? What countries would they cover, what languages are used there, type of currency needed to buy provisions, map the route they would take and the open ended learning continues.

I hope you are getting an idea of what I mean with open ended learning. This style of teaching is successfully used by thousands of people across the world. Home based educators use it effectively and successfully. Some innovative teachers in public and private schools use it economically and have proven it is an efficient way to teach students. Thousands of dollars are saved by utilizing the open ended learning method and avoiding, to a certain degree, set textbooks and curricular. Yes, we need structured learning and standard textbooks but if you can mix these with the open ended learning method you will acquire students who enjoy learning, are enthusiastic, eager to discover more, are ready to overcome a few hurdles and obstacles, willing to participate, become more observant, develop better interpersonal skills and will become responsible active citizens.

The best part of open ended learning is that it is adaptable for all ages and learning levels. No matter if you are teaching a five year old or a fifteen year old child. Simply set a few guidelines to follow and the students will learn at their level with little help from you. They do the research, they document their findings and present it to you in their style. It really brings out the best and most creative aspect of each student and teacher in all learning and teaching areas. Younger children will need more help from you to start with, but after a while of conducting this type of learning you will notice a great improvement in students' academic skills and they will become more independent pupils.

Check out the worksheets in the PET and many in the Teaching tools area. These are specifically written using the open ended learning strategy. You will find worksheets and answer keys suitable for ages 5 to 13. I wish you all the best in your teaching endeavours, the fruits of your labour will be visible in time to come. You will reap what you sow. Ensure you sow well. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

To view a student's owl project click HERE >>> OWLS

Owl worksheets: Lower Primary | Middle Primary | Upper Primary and High School these are listed under the Science category


© 2004 Griggs I. M. - Teaching Treasures Publications other articles by Ingrid Griggs

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