Learing Math and English using Coloured Rods
Mathematical reasoning is a skill that not only helps one to think consistently and to represent the world around us more formally but when practiced also helps improve one’s learning abilities. One of the ideas to be promoted among children is that mathematics helps our brain ‘grow’ rather than the widely held myth that the brain we are born with limits our ability in mathematics. Also children, before they reach school learn several complex skills and concepts through manipulating real objects and by interacting with their environment, their parents, and the objects around them. However, the school starts them off with abstract symbols like 1,2, 3 … and a,b,c … which have no correlation or place in the real world of pre-school children. Hence it is imperative that children are started off with the number system by actual objects that they can manipulate and experience.
In Gattegno’s method we use rods which are of different colors and sizes. Children are first given these set of rods as toys with which they play and get familiar with colors and lengths. They identify bigger and smaller rods and correlate the colors. They soon are able to identify a specific color rod without seeing and only based on its length. They are then taught to call the rods by their number and also to correlate the number and the color and the length. They then learn to combine two rods of different lengths to match that to a single rod of the combined length and so on. Soon they become very adept at addition and substraction. Gattegno’s book ‘ Teaching mathematics, Book 1’ available on line for free is an excellent guide to teach Mathematics to primary children.
Proficiency in multiple languages is known to develop a way of thinking that forms the foundation for higher forms of abstraction and creativity. Right from birth children want to expand their world through external inputs and also want to express their world through actions and language. They have a strong urge to listen and talk. They soon realize that reading and writing are even more powerful ways of learning to enrich their world and also to express it to others. Mentors need to understand and facilitate this process.
It is important to understand the motivation of children to learn a language, first to listen and speak, then to read and finally to write. Language again cannot be learned by memorizing and recognizing alphabets first and then words and then sentences as it is taught now. Particularly a language like English which is not phonetic and which has several exceptions is a very difficult language for those whose mother tongue is some other language.
Gattegno’s Silent way first starts off with a limited vocabulary of just 27 words. Students learn to pronounce and recognize these on a chart and construct sentences with just these 27 words to describe what the instructor is mimicking or expressing through gestures, using the color rods. The instructor rarely talks and when he/she does, utters only those English words, in the limited vocabulary.
During this process students get familiar with written forms of the word they see on the chart and hence learn to recognize the alphabets that form the words. They slowly learn to read the words first as a full image then in syllables and alphabets. At some point in time they are introduced to the Alphabets and later taught to write them. Learning to listen and speak greatly helps and motivates them to learn to read and write.
Currently, children at two of our centers (Hosahalli and Namakkal) have been introduced to this method. Teachers at both these centres have been trained by Lokalex to teach this method to the children. Lokalex conducts a 2 week intensive teacher training program for School teachers to become proficient in the Gettegno way. They are taught how to teach both English and Math using rods and and the sessions involve classroom training where the teachers conduct sessions to practice learnings. Lokalex supports the teachers over Skype to ensure sessions run smoothly.
Children have displayed tremendous progress both in Math and English. Learning with the rods has helped class I children become as proficient as class III children and it has also helped them open up and enjoy the learning process. Mentors willing to try this methodology will be trained to do so over skype. Lokalex also conducts crash courses/summer programs for children and teachers to implement the same in their schools.