Teaching and Learning at GALASA

Teachers should not only be superbly competent in their subject knowledge and schoolroom praxis; these skills are an essential prerequisite to be a GALASA teacher, with the added ability to offer their charges much, much more.

It is possible, practicable and preferable to provide the very young child with the essential basics (3R’s) without imposing a particular narrow methodology. Most young children love being read to, and many learn to read and count painlessly while sitting on the lap of a parent reading bed-time stories, rendering automatic that which is routinely pummelled into their heads by traditional teaching methods.

Nevertheless, there is a definite place for the rote learning of some subject content such as multiplication tables, correct spelling and grammar. These skills, concretely acquired, form a sound platform for that which comes later. Number concept formation is the most important factor in assuring a child’s mathematical competence in later school grades and the rest of the child’s school career is based on the extension and application of these two fundamentals.

All schools follow a syllabus (content) and do not, in the main attempt to exceed it, neither in scope nor depth. The grade 8 mathematics syllabus for example, can be taught, learned, drilled and assimilated in a matter of weeks.

What should follow is the next level of difficulty and application. Instead, schools spend weeks on one concept until the children are bored and dispirited because the challenge has gone.

The core of the problem is that teachers do not question why they do what they do, and worse still, teachers believe that their pupils cannot cope with more advanced work until a full academic year has passed.

This practice exemplifies the law of diminishing returns and is particularly toxic to the intellectual development of very bright children. Many teachers believe the fallacy that the longer they spend on a particular section, the more consolidated the knowledge and its application will become. In reality, the point is rapidly reached when most children will “get it” and the few who do not yet grasp the concepts and master them will not do so simply because more time is spent on the topic.

For these children, a differentiated, tailored approach must be implemented to take into account the individual child’s needs. One-on one attention in the classroom for a few minutes is often sufficient to bring a child to understanding and competence.

Children need to be given more, not less; the more we give them, the more they want!

This is true of all things, no less true for knowledge and understanding.
Why is it that the lessons children enjoy most, are those where they have caused the teacher to divert from the main theme of a particular lesson? Children ask these questions because they want to know the answers. It matters little whether or not the questions are directly related to the topic the teacher intended to present.

The reason teachers dismiss children and ignore this type of digression is either because they do not have sufficient knowledge to deal with question or they fear moving beyond the comfortable confines of a syllabus.

Children must be provided with the broadest knowledge base as possible, and by discouraging digressions, teachers often work against their own objectives. This does not imply a kind of classroom ‘free-for-all; rather it leads to a situation where broad-based, inter-linked ‘bits’ of knowledge are mixed and integrated to form a cognitive matrix within each child, into which limitless, rational information is welcomed and embedded.
The middle years of primary school, grades 4, 5 and 6 are critically important years for the development of a sound, disciplined academic work ethic. This is the phase in which children become uninterested in school.

The middle years of primary school, grades 4, 5 and 6 are critically important years for the development of a sound, disciplined academic work ethic. This is the phase in which children become uninterested in school, are overloaded with tedious repetitive homework tasks and under-stimulated with respect to that which is interesting, exciting and challenging.