People say that when you learn something in childhood you don’t forget it ever. How true that is, is debatable. How many of us remember the scientific names of all the flowers or the names of different clouds in the sky? Learning or rather ’mugging’ before the exams is what I remember doing. Isn’t that what all of us who studied in India did way back then?
When my daughter came home from school one day and recited the names of all the bones in her body, explaining their use or function in the body, I was awed. She was in her 6th grade. After 6 three years she still remembers them,”mom, my patella (knee bone) is hurting” or “she hit my scapula(shoulder bone)”, she shouts at the top of her voice when she has a fight with her sis. I fall in a dilemma then, whether to check the dictionary or run to her and physically see where it hurts.
It is impressive how things are taught to kids here in the US schools, unlike how we have learned in India. Pictorial teaching is very effective especially when it is science. They remember things for a long time. After every lesson, they are asked to present some project to the class on that chapter. It could be a diorama, a chart presentation or powerpoint, anything that is part of the chapter and is interesting to the student as well as the class.
All the kids here know their Periodic table completely as they are taught systematically. All of them know their multiplications too though they don’t learn the tables by heart. All subjects are taught in a way that they are retained for ages, and hence, kids remember how to solve a probability problem as well as how to write a chemical formula. At least, I can say this confidently about my kids, though there could be exceptions too.
I remember, as a kid, I liked only two subjects, Grammar , and Math, as they came easily to me, and I didn’t have to learn them by rote. All it needed was practice and I was good at that. Dry subjects like Physics or Geography , History or Economics, didn’t interest me as they were taught in a monotonous way, from the textbook.But kids in the US like those subjects too, as they are taught in an easy-to-understand-and-retain-in-your-memory way. They are asked to research on the topics taught, make charts of them, have class quizzes and do a penultimate project. Since all of these are graded too, kids pay attention to what they are doing and hence, remember what they are learning.
My younger daughter, in her third grade, made her year-end book report on France in the form of a diorama. For that, she looked up on the internet, information about France, in addition to the book she was reading. Facts like how the statue of liberty was presented to the USA by France fascinated me, enriching my knowledge too.Crafting the Eiffel tower along with my kid and the color chart paper engaged me for two best days of my life! And now I also know the difference between a baguette and a beret too, know them enough to eat one and wear the other!
Another very surprising thing for me is book reading projects in every grade. The kids read a book in the class, and then,either make a model of one scene from the book or make a chart about the book, including the characters, scenes and some pictures. And in high school, when they have to study Shakespeare’s dramas, they enact each scene once a week, so that that scene is taken care of. The kids in the US do not sit up in the night and study for exams or tests. Their lessons in the class every day makes them remember their chapters and lessons well enough, enabling them to face their tests well.
Learning-by-rote, cramming, mugging, whatever you may call it, sure gets you grades but doesn’t retain knowledge; practical learning does. A lot of young parents, first-timers to the education system in the US, fear that there is not much competition in this way of studies in the US. But, believe me, I have taught students here as well as in India, and competition is there here in the US too. Getting ‘A’ grade is as important for students here as getting 95% and above is for students in India!!