Category Archives: Education

Stress and Education

Stressed

Reference: Critical Thinking in Education

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The biggest challenge to education is the stressed child, or the stressed student. When a child is stressed his attention is introverted onto his personal issues and he cannot learn.

The education at SLS is successful because it is addressing the challenge of stress successfully through its special curriculum. Learning requires extroverted attention.  The SLS environment is very extroverting.

Rule: The school environment should be such that it extroverts attention.

The general stress in the current society is increasing. It is inevitable that a certain percentage of children coming to school have stressful situations that are holding their attention. Their introverted attention then does not allow them to learn.

It is absolutely necessary for school to provide a stress-free extroverting environment so that learning can take place. If the school’s environment is also stressful then the student becomes conditioned and robotic.

At SLS, the first half hour of the day is devoted to activities that extroverts attention. The following exercise may also be used to extrovert attention.

This exercise may be conducted with a group of students, or it could be applied to a student who has difficulty learning.

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EXERCISE: EXTROVERSION

PURPOSE: To extrovert the attention by exploring the five physical senses.

STEPS:

(Touch – 5 minutes minimum)

  1. Go to an environment where you can explore the sense of touch.

(a)  Touch two different surfaces and compare how they feel.

(b)  Touch them alternately until you can discern the uniqueness of each surface.

(c)  Touch a third surface repeatedly to get a feel of it. Then touch it alternately with one of the earlier surfaces, until you can discern how this third surface is unique.

(d)  Similarly touch additional surfaces carefully until you can discern their uniqueness.

  1. Explore the sensation of touch until you can do so happily without feeling any resistance inside you.

  2. Exercise the sense of touch for at least 5 minutes. You may do it for as long as you want.

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 (Sight – 5 minutes minimum)

  1. Go to an environment where you can explore the shapes and colors of things.

(a)  Look at two different objects and compare their shapes and colors.

(b)  Look at them alternately until you can discern the uniqueness of their shapes and colors.

(c)  Look at a third object repeatedly to get an idea of its shape and color. Then look at it alternately with one of the earlier objects, until you can discern how this third object is unique.

(d)  Similarly look at additional objects carefully until you can discern their unique shapes and colors.

  1. Explore the sight of objects until you can do so happily without feeling any resistance inside you.

  2. Exercise the sense of sight for at least 5 minutes. You may do it for as long as you want.

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 (Hearing, Smell & Taste – total 10 minutes minimum)

  1. Sit around a table and unpack your lunches and drinks. Don’t hold yourself back from talking.

  2. Start smelling and tasting little bits of your lunch, while listening to each other talk. You may even listen to your own voice.

(a)  Explore the different sounds that you hear as to their timbre, pitch, loudness and other qualities.

(b)  Explore the different odors as to how pleasant or pungent they are, and as to their other qualities.

(c)  Explore the different tastes as to how sweet or salty they are, and as to their other qualities.

  1. Explore the sounds, smells and tastes until you can do so happily without feeling any resistance inside you.

  2. Do this exploration for at least 10 minutes. You may do it for as long as you want.

  3. Take some deep breaths, appreciate what is around you, and get ready for your next school activity.

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The SLS Math Course

Supervisor

Reference: Critical Thinking in Education

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MATERIALS

The SLS Math curriculum is designed with the following rule in mind.

RULE # 1: The curriculum follows the sequence in which concepts are developed systematically in a subject.

The subject of mathematics starts with COUNTING. The next concept is PLACE VALUE. Place values allow one to write large numbers in a concise manner. The student must learn how to read and write large numbers before proceeding to the next concept of ADDITION.

Mathematics introduces the student to systematic learning. Counting and place values provide ways to think systematically.

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SELF-LEARNING

The SLS Math curriculum consists of lesson plans that are concise, relevant and easy to follow. The students are encouraged to read and understand the lessons on their own. Supervisors are there to help him as needed.

RULE # 2: The lesson plans are concise, relevant, and written in plain language that is easy to follow.

Each math lesson is followed by a large number of exercises for practice. Answers are provided for all exercise problems. The students are encouraged to do the exercises and check their answers. The correct answers reinforce the students’ confidence.

RULE # 3: Each lesson plan is followed by a large number of exercises, with answers provided for all exercise problems.

The students are encouraged to trace the incorrect answers back to the exact error made.  Supervisors are there to assist them in this effort. Once a student becomes aware of the exact error he is less likely to make it again.

The student works to get the correct answers first, and then works on the speed. He learns the methods of arithmetic that make computations easier and faster.

The student may do every fifth or every tenth problem first to sample problems of different level of difficulties. He may then practice the problems that are at the right level of difficulty for him..

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COMPLETION OF A LESSON PLAN

When the student has studied and practiced a lesson plan he asks the supervisor to check him. The supervisor spot checks him on the concepts of the lesson and have him solve some exercise problems. If the student fails the spot-check the supervisor sends him back to study and practice some more, and come back for another spot-check. When the student passes the spot-check he goes to the class tutor to be examined on his understanding of the lesson plan.

The class tutor examines the student’s knowledge from the viewpoint of skill. He makes sure that the student has required skills. If the tutor finds some minor things missing in the student’s understanding then he tutors him on the spot. If he finds something major missing then he sends the student back to the supervisor with exact instructions on what the student must restudy and practice.

In the end, the class tutor requires the student to do three exercise problems correctly in a row. When the student answers all three problems correctly, the class tutor announces him complete on the lesson plan.

RULE # 4: In order to complete a lesson plan, the student must solve three exercise problems (of reasonable difficulty) correctly in a row.

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CLASSES & SUPERVISION

Classes are divided by the levels of the curriculum. Levels Pre-0 and 0 are written for skill levels learned in Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten respectively. Similarly, Levels 1 and 2 are written for skills learned in primary and middle school respectively. Each level consists of a number of lesson plans. When a student has completed all lesson plans for a level, he moves up to the next level.

If the student is found lacking the skills of a level he is assigned to that level. He is then examined for completion of each lesson plan on that level.

The SLS math course is performance based. The students can move through these levels rapidly. He is not held back because of age. Normally a student is allowed to advance through these levels at a pace most suitable for him. By the time a student has completed Level 2 he is deemed to be a self-learner. He then continues up through Level 3 and above rapidly with minimal supervision..

A higher level student is also trained on supervisor skills. He supervises at least one lower level student through to completion.

RULE # 5: A higher level student must be able to assist a lower level student to completion.

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Arts and Maths

Arts and Maths

Math and Arts are two very different subjects that lie at the opposite ends of a spectrum of “Expression of Life”. We express life in many different ways to explore and understand all different aspects of it. In my view, Arts is much more complex than Math. What is being expressed through music, theater and drama is millions of times more complicated than the expression of simple rules through arithmetic, algebra and geometry.

Mathematics is like trying to understand the dimensions of Arts in its atomic simplicity. A person who has mastered mathematics can truly appreciate Arts to its deepest dimensions. What an artist does intuitively, he can do it with much greater understanding and mastery, once he has understood mathematics.

We talk about being left-brained or right-brained… we talk about being analytical or intuitive… but these “opposites” are part of the same spectrum of understanding. Therefore, it is very possible that we can be both left and right brained, or both analytical and intuitive.

If you are an artist, just check out mathematics. You have some revelations coming your way.

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The Educational Approach

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Reference: Critical Thinking in Education

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There are two distinct educational approaches.

  1. The Greek Academy System: This educational approach believes in the student learning to think rationally on his own.

  2. The Scholastic Model: This educational approach believes in forcefully impressing data.

The scholastic model uses an examination system to forcefully impress data. It raises the student’s anxieties of what might happen if he does not “pass” an exam. The student becomes confused and unable to think rationally. He resorts to memorizing data without understanding. The system passes him with good grades if he can regurgitate data verbatim.

Under the scholastic system, a good grade is supposed to be synonymous with a bright mind. However, it is no more than the ability to memorize and recall data impressed by others. Such forcefully impressed data conditions the mind. It reduces the ability to understand and analyze data rationally.

Education must avoid becoming a mode of conditioning if it is to produce effective human beings. The first vital principle in teaching is to do everything possible to keep the student alert and aware of the subject on a rational plane.

The alert mind is extroverted and analytical. Its essential mode is self-learning. It thrives best when it is least “molded.”

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The Approach Needed

The approach needed in education today is to let the mind become alert, extroverted and able to self-learn. This is accomplished by resolving the existing confusions in the mind on major subjects.

In teaching a subject one should first check the key points of understanding, and clean up the confusion surrounding those points. For example, in mathematics, the key points of understanding in sequence are: (1) The purpose of learning mathematics, (2) reading and writing large numbers, (3) the operation of division, and (4) the use of fractions.

Besides mathematics, the other major subject is language and grammar.

The resolving of confusions in major subjects helps students become self-learners.

The students must learn to think rationally on their own.

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Supervising Self-learning

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Reference: Critical Thinking in Education

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The purpose of supervision is to help students learn directly from study materials.

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MATERIALS

Given proper study material, the students should be able to self-learn. If a student is unable to focus, it is because he is unable to study the materials. The job of the supervisor is to quickly isolate the student’s confusion and give him the right materials to study. Sometimes it may require a bit of troubleshooting to set the student up properly.

Here is an actual example of a troubleshooting session.

SUPERVISOR:     “Is there something in math you don’t feel quite comfortable with?”

STUDENT:            “Yes… multiplication.”

SUPERVISOR:     “Alright.  What does the word MULTIPLY mean?”

STUDENT:            “Umm…”

(The SUPERVISOR explained the process of multiplication as “repeated addition.”)

SUPERVISOR:     “I am going to check you out on the multiplication of two single-digit numbers.  What is ‘three times two’?”

STUDENT:            “Six.”

SUPERVISOR:     “What is ‘four times three’?”

STUDENT:            “Twelve.”

SUPERVISOR:     “What is ‘six times six’?”

STUDENT:            “Oh, that’s a big number.”

(The student could multiply with very small numbers, but got nervous when larger numbers were asked.)

SUPERVISOR:     “Six times six would be adding six to itself six times.  Can you do this addition and tell me the sum?”

STUDENT:            (Pause) “Oh! I don’t like adding either.”

(The SUPERVISOR then demonstrated the process of addition as “counting together.”)

SUPERVISOR:     “Adding is counting numbers together. Are you comfortable with counting?”

STUDENT:            “Yes, I can count.  One, two, three, …”

SUPERVISOR:     (Stops her at the count of twenty) “Very good.  Now count for me starting from eight hundred ninety five.”

STUDENT:            (Taken aback) “Oh! That is a big number… (thinking) eight hundred ninety-six, eight hundred ninety-seven, eight hundred ninety-eight, eight hundred ninety-nine (long pause) two hundred, two hundred one…”

The student did not know what number followed eight hundred ninety-nine.  By this time it was evident that the student was shaky in her understanding of the numbering system itself.  The student was then assigned appropriate materials to study. She was then able to focus and make rapid progress.

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SUPERVISION

In the normal course the supervisor applies the principle of gradient (as demonstrated below) to help the student overcome his difficulties. Here is an actual example of assisting a young child write numbers.

SUPERVISOR:     “Is it ok if I ask you to write some numbers for me?”

STUDENT:            “Yes.”

SUPERVISOR:     “Alright.  Can you write six thousand, seven hundred eighty-three?”

STUDENT:            “Umm…”

SUPERVISOR:     “That’s ok.  See if you can write seven hundred eighty-three?”

(The student thinks for a moment and writes “700 83”.  The SUPERVISOR noticed that she could write eighty-three correctly.)

SUPERVISOR:     “Ok.  Can you write eighty-three for me?”

(The student smiles and writes “83”.)

SUPERVISOR:     “Excellent.  Can you write one hundred?”

(The student writes “100” correctly.)

SUPERVISOR:     “Very good.  Now, can you write one hundred one?”

(The student writes “101” correctly.  The SUPERVISOR then asked the student to write “one hundred nine” and “one hundred ten”.  The student wrote them correctly.)

SUPERVISOR:     “Excellent.  Can you write one hundred eighty-three?”

(The student pauses then writes “183” correctly.)

SUPERVISOR:     “That is correct.  Now write seven hundred eighty-three for me?”

(The student feeling more confident writes “783”.)

And so on…

The general supervision is basically devoted to helping the students develop better study habits. The supervisor encourages the student not to go past any word he does not understand. He must get that word defined. Supervisor helps him with the definition of the word. Gradually, the student learns to look up such words himself from dictionary.

Sometimes the student cannot understand a sentence even after he has looked up the words in that sentence for their definitions. In this case the supervisor helps the student make examples of what that sentence is saying. If the student disagrees then he makes examples of how that sentence is incorrect, and how it could be correct. The student may find that he was using the wrong definition for a common, simple word in that sentence.

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