Jul 7, 2011

Rote Learning...

As I sit in my living room, pondering over matters, a couple of neighbourhood voices take hold of my attention.

A little boy and his aunt are sitting in their balcony where a session of torture is underway. Mode of torture: Rote Learning. Of spellings. I cringe, I cry. I am so sad for the little boy.

L-A-P: Lap, S-A-D: Sad, W-E-B: Web. This has been going on for the past one hour or so. The boy is arrested to his table and made to repeat these 'mantras' over and over again. And yet, when he is asked to spell the words again, he is stuck at what letters to use.

This session is interspersed with occasional praise, "Very Good!" when he gets something right, but mostly its the same rote learning over and over again. The aunt keeps repeating "Look at my lips when I say: LAP, Look at my lips: LAP," as though the spellings are magically revealed when the boy looks at her lips contorted into different shapes.

I suppose she thinks she is teaching him phonetically, but it just isn't working. The boy just isn't getting it. And he's just being made to repeat spellings over and over, until its etched into his memory. I'm pretty sure he has no idea yet what a "WEB" is. In fact, I can hear faint pleas from him...

Aunt: "WEB"
Boy: "Web anaa?" (Web means?)
Aunt (Louder still and with a stern glare, I imagine): "WEBBB"

I have a good mind to go give the lady a proper shaking. The boy is now protesting that he's sleepy. And I don't blame him. I'm a little drowsy myself just listening to the proceedings.

I think of ways in which this situation can be remedied. What's the easiest way to teach a child to spell "BED?" Simple. Every night you put him/her to bed, just say, "It's time for B-E-D Bed now!" Make a silly little song out of it if you can get a little more creative. Show the kid a spider web (there's no shortage of those around here) and say "That's a W-E-B Web right there!" I'm sure that should be easier than being glued to a chair, and he should be able to learn the spellings within a day or two. And extend this to all commonly found objects in day-to-day life.

Such a seemingly simple activity of learning spellings turned into nightly torture sessions of repetitive recitations.

People need to think about what they're doing. But how could we expect that out of people who have done nothing but rote learning all their lives?