Sunday, 7 October 2012

Freedom To Express Learning In Informal Way

I always get confused whether I should let my boy express his learning always in an informal way or I wonder if I should deliver some formal learning instructions too. The little boy always clears all my doubts by asking questions such as, "Can we do some Math Art and have fun today?"  and teaches me that there is always a 'taking in - input' and 'expressing - output' way to how he wants to learn. Sometimes he prefers the 'taking in' part to be facilitated, particularly if it is about Math. I ask him if he would like to do something on his own or if he likes me to facilitate something for him. Answers are always different most times. Recently, he is all obsessed about measuring things. He roams around in the house with the measurement tape measuring the walls, toys and many other objects. He also measures things using interesting and fun measurement tools other than the tape. Take a look at my earlier post Measuring Fun With Jenga blocks

Lately, as usual, he expressed his interest to get involved in Math art. So, I planned a facilitation which is more formal. As far as I understand with whatever research that I have made about formal learning and informal learning, formal learning is nothing about the formality of the learning. It is all about who sets the learning objectives and goals of learning. It is intentional and may involve coaching and mentoring. On the other hand, informal learning is more about self motivation. It is unconsciously incidental and the educator or the learner is not conscious about learning goals and objectives. It is very natural for the learner to do something informally and it happens in a spontaneous manner in the natural world. I have noticed that in our case, there are many formal learning moments which corresponds to more 'taking in' has led to informal 'expression'. And I like this balance. 

When he asked me to facilitate some Math art, I set some learning goals for him related to his favourite recent passion which is 'Measuring'. I discussed with him that that we will do an abstract art work that will relate to learning measuring skills, scissors skills and learning to use rulers and to understand the measurement unit - centimetre. He was excited about the idea. 

I cut a thin strip of coloured construction paper that will span only one part of the sheet's length and pasted it.    

His job was to measure the rest of the area's length in centimetres, and mark the same in the construction paper, cut and paste the other strip of paper to complete the whole row.

We continued to repeat the same until we completed several rows to fill the whole sheet. I pasted the first half and he went on to paste the second half in each row. Simple it might seem, though it needs a lot of patience on the facilitator's part. For an adult, the skills involved in this activity might seem so simple, but for a child learner, there might be skills that they are probably demonstrating it for the first time such as trying to hold a ruler, measuring and marking. They might be improving on skills such as using the scissors and pasting. In our case, it took a full one hour to complete the following abstract art which involved 'Measurement' as a key concept.

At the end, he evaluated his own art and decided that he needed to fill the gaps by colouring it red. I let him evaluate his creations because evaluation is the highest order of thinking skills and it helps children to assess oneself, paves the way for improvement and further development and growth. As you see that you could also notice some imperfection in the way he has measured and that is just fine with us. I would share with you about my ideas about embracing imperfection and allowing the child to be imperfect, in another post. But for now, I will focus on what I intend to share, more on the balance that we were able to create with both formal and informal learning. 

So, this was some formal learning that we did. As I said earlier, formal learning always and naturally leads to some informal learning that follows up. The very next day, S was so very excited to apply the skills that he learnt. As soon as he woke up, he said he is going to make a bus and jumped into actions. For at least 4 hours,  he was playing and running around, eating, watching his favourite programs in television in between and was also focusing in a very sincere manner to just create this.

The main thing I would like to share here is not about the craft work itself. It is about the application of a new skill that he learnt while creating something new. He has created many craft work other than this and those did not involve using a ruler and measurement skills. In the past, he used to place the paper on top of the cardboard and cut the paper directly. This is the first time he used a ruler to measure the length of the box and cut a paper of similar length. He very carefully measured the length and breadth of the box on all sides  using the ruler, repeated the same on a construction paper, marked carefully and cut a paper of similar dimensions. It clearly seemed to me that his focus was not to create a fantastic good looking bus, but he was more keen on applying his newly learnt skill which is - to use a ruler, measure and mark length in centimetres. So, the main thing that I want to share with you is how a skill learnt in formal set up might naturally lead a learner to apply the same skills in an informal way resulting in a creation which is more self motivated.

Hence, I am curious to find out from you whether you allow the freedom and time for your learner to apply and express the skills learnt, in an informal way? Last but not the least, needless to say, we always love to integrate Math and art. 

Enjoy Learning and Sharing. 

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