Friday, 28 December 2012

Tips to study Chemistry - Lawrence High School

Chemistry is a very interesting subject, but often kids find the study of compounds, formulae and organic chemistry daunting. However there is no magic formula to master chemistry, but by not getting behind, doing your own work, and not stressing out it can become quite easy to understand concepts and remember concepts. Here are some practices that kids should incorporate to make the study of chemistry less taxing.

Don’t procrastinate

This suggestion applies to any subject for that matter. The more studying kids leave for the last minute the more difficult it will be understand and cover portions.  The practice of putting-ff-until tomorrow become a habit since as kids progress to higher classes there will be more to study. When studying Chemistry kids need ample to time to understand and practice concepts like Balancing equations, topics in Organic Chemistry and so on, and this is not possible if they decide to open their book the night before an exam.

Try flashcards

When it comes to learning formulae and such things it would be a good idea to use flashcards. Even if kids cannot buy flashcards they can make their own.  Some of the information gets learned while making the cards themselves and the rest while actually studying with the cards. The advantage of using flash cards is that kids can switch the order and study, something that text books don’t allow.

Highlight while studying

Another good habit is to highlight important points. But when using a highlighter kids must learn to use it judiciously. Most of the important concepts are already in bold. Most teachers also mention key topics to focus on tell students about questions that are likely to be asked, kids should learn to highlight these kinds of things.

Make mnemonic devices

At some point in school kids will be asked to memorize a portion of the periodic table. This can be quite difficult if the student is blindly trying to remember the names of elements. The best way to make this easier is to take the first letters of words in sequence and make a phrase out of it and this will make it easier to remember. These phrases don’t necessarily have to make sense, as long as they are easy to remember and recall.

By following these tips studying chemistry will become a whole lot easier. Lawrence school ensures that teachers spend sufficient time explaining concepts to students and also teachers try to make the subject as engaging and interesting as possible so that student most of the learning is done in class and students only have to revise after that.

Friday, 21 December 2012

A step towards improving our teaching methods and guiding our senior students towards the right career path - Lawrence School

An educational workshop
We, at Lawrence, believe in upgrading our teaching methodologies with the changing times and helping our teachers equip themselves with the most effective ways of teaching. In this regard, there was a workshop for the teachers on “Assessments” conducted by the Azim Premji Education Foundation on 17th November 2012.

Bloom’s Taxonomy formed the basis for the workshop. It refers to the classification of learning objectives under the main heads of Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor, loosely explained as knowing/head, feeling/heart and doing/hands respectively.

The idea is provide a holistic approach to education since each child understands a concept in a unique way, something that can also be broadly classified under the above mentioned domains. The assessment strategies vary for all the three domains and each was discussed.
Teachers at the workshop
Children learn and grow with the help of questions. The workshop dealt with the issues of who asks the questions and how a student responds to a particular question. The idea of posing a question by a teacher at the end of a lesson is to gauge the students’ understanding of the concept. So, the crux of the situation lies in how effectively the teachers frame the question. The questions need to be more open ended and they should facilitate more creativity rather than merely recalling the concepts taught.

The workshop had a lot of practical exercise thrown in which made the session extremely engaging and fun-filled.

Career guidance for 9th and 10th graders

In other news, we had ‘Edugroomers’ (Mumbai) conduct a career guidance workshop for our 9th and 10th graders to help them understand themselves better to chart out their future career goals. This workshop was held on the 24th and 25th November, 2012.

The workshop comprised of a personality test, an aptitude test and an interest test, at the end of which the test results were summarized to prepare an individual report for each participant. Parents accompanied the students on the second day of the workshop, when around 350 different career and further studies options were discussed briefly, culminating with an animated discussion on the varied career choices.

A sample report was discussed enabling the parents and students to have a better understanding of the report.  The parents found the report quite accurate vis-à-vis their own observation of their children.

The wealth of information provided has given these students a great platform to build their careers.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

An educational visit to Mysore - Lawrence School

Educational visits are an important part of the school curriculum since the children get to learn a lot from the field trips that may be missed in a classroom environment.  History becomes more interesting when we actually visit the places of importance and experience the beauty of the historical monuments.

Two busloads of happy teachers and students of classes of 5th, 6th and 7th left for Mysore on the morning of 8th November 2012 for an educational tour of the Mysore palace and Brindavan Gardens, stopping en route for piping hot breakfast. Bus journeys on such field trips are always memorable as they are spiced with fun, laughter, merry-making with the students dropping their guard around the teachers and the teachers too joining in the fun with equal fervor.

Our first stop was at Tipu’s Gumbaz where the guide explained to us the significance of the structure. The fine architecture was proof of how skilled the builders were.

Refreshed with the tour of the Gumbaz, we proceeded towards the Mysore Palace, art gallery and then the famous Mysore Zoo. The Zoo was quite an amazing experience for all of us since it is not every day that we get to see such varied, colourful birds and magnificent animals at such close quarters.

Brindavan Gardens was our last stop late in the evening. The whole place was lit up so well that it was literally a festival of lights!

We returned to school almost at midnight, tired and aching, yet our spirits were soaring and our hearts filled with energy. We had such a wonderful time that we wished the day didn’t end so soon.

Some pictures from the trip: 

At Lawrence we believe in holistic learning and lay emphasis on extra-curricular activities that enhances student learning. Check out our website for further details about our institution

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Developing fine motor skills in toddlers - Lawrence High School

Recently, I met a mother of a three year old toddler and she narrated to me about how the school her son goes to stresses a lot on writing work, giving pages of written assignments as home work. It set me thinking as to what kind of skewed thinking can lead to forcing 3-4 year old kids to hold a pencil and write legibly?

Fine motor skills- the skills that aid a child to pick smaller objects, turn a knob, or use a scissor; basically the use of the finger, hand and wrist for finer movements along with eye coordination- are grossly neglected in the mad rush to churn out students that excel in academics. Fine motor skills need to be well-developed in a child as they are an important milestone and precursor to writing.

Instead of jumping head on into the bandwagon of writing, educational institutions must first focus on developing these skills. They can be developed by engaging toddlers (in the age group of 3-4) in activities that are fun and simple to carry out. One can even carry out these at home to strengthen the toddler’s hand and wrist muscles:

Play dough: Play dough is an interesting activity where the child carves out various shapes using child-friendly dough. You can even let your child help in kneading the dough at home to make rotis, rolling it out and making different shapes with the dough.
Cutting and sticking paper: invest in a pair of kid-friendly scissors and encourage the child to cut out different coloured paper in different shapes and sizes. The child can then stick these pieces of paper on a card paper to make an interesting collage.

Drawing rangoli: The act of using the fingers to draw using rice flour helps to fine tune the coordination between the fingers and hand.

Craft work: any craft work that uses a lot of painting, colouring, cutting and pasting.
Fold paper or clothes: Small cloths like a handkerchief or towel or socks can be given to the child to be folded.

Self-help activities: encourage the child to do by self the act of buttoning or unbuttoning clothes, pulling up or down the zipper, eating with hands and spoon, wearing shoes, etc.

While, each child develops these skills at his/her pace, it is imperative to concentrate first on developing these skills and then proceed to teach them write on paper.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Why academics is not everything? - Lawrence High School

We have all heard of the proverb- All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It cannot be truer in times like these when academic pressure pushes the student to the brink. In the face of cut-throat competition where scoring in exams is crucial to one’s career, one must stop and pause to think of what kind of generation are we nurturing where he/she is judged only by the performance in mainstream path.

It is also interesting to note the contradiction in the scenario where there is a lot of talent emerging in fields other than academics and the plethora of opportunities that are available today in various vocations- a thing that was absent a decade ago.  Why then does a Gen Y child feel desolate and depressed when faced with failure in examinations?

The reason could perhaps lie in the fact that while we are transitioning from an academic oriented society to a wider arena where careers in lesser known fields are coming out in the open, the change in the mindset of people is yet to be complete.  A failure in one’s exam is still seen as a blot on one’s life and career- something, that cannot be redeemed.

Educational institutions need to not only integrate co-curricular activities within the syllabus but also to educate students about the possibilities of a career in lesser known fields.  It would also help to facilitate an environment where stress on other vocations is equal, opening up opportunities to bring out other talents in students in areas like sports, music, arts and other creative fields.
 An alternate career-path 
As parents and as a society too, we need to accept that being an engineer, doctor or a chartered accountant is not everything. There are successful people in other fields too. The key lies in discovering your passion at an early stage.  Failure in a particular test does not mean that the person is a failure. Not everybody excels in academics. Each person has a unique talent that needs to be identified and nurtured. And, what better institution than the school could be more equipped to carry out this task?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Fun-activities to do with your child during school holidays - Lawrence High School

Come holidays and you can hear many parents groan at the thought of having the kids all day at home, having to deal with increased squabbles between siblings, unending hours spent in front of the idiot-box or games on the electronic gadgets and being at sea to keep the kids fruitfully occupied.

Holidays give the children the much needed respite from their crazy schedule of school work, after-school work and the very much in-vogue other activity classes. Unstructured time-out is actually beneficial and promotes the child’s growth in many ways.

Holidays need not be burdensome for the child with all the assorted holiday-homework and activity class-hopping. And, to help parents keep up their sanity levels and to ensure that the kids do not fall into the trap of indiscipline and over-indulgence, here are some fun activities to keep boredom away:

Vegetable stamp and colouring: Cut the favourite vegetable into a fun-shape, dip it into a bowl of coloured liquid and stamp your way to making creative designs on paper or even cloth. Learn more about it here.

Board games: The old monopoly or trade games are long forgotten in this age of technology and virtual games. Board games are a good way to teach the child a thing or two in patience and even learning to be a good loser at times.
Chores at home: Children can be involved in household chores as appropriate for their age. Children get a sense of achievement in doing things that adults do. This way they can also be taught an important lesson of being a self-reliant and responsible member in the household.

Taking out an impromptu picnic to the near-by park: Mall outings are a common but the old charm of carrying a picnic basket to the near-by park is a different and enriching experience in its own way. Children are capable of finding happiness in small pleasures of life and being amidst nature is one of them. It would burn a lot more of their energy and far less holes in the wallet!

So, go ahead and enjoy the holidays with your child.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Early reading habit keeps your child in good stead in later life - Lawrence High School

"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all."

— Jacqueline Kennedy

This article in the TOI only states the obvious. Children who develop friendship with books early on have a significant advantage over their peers in terms of vocabulary, general knowledge and even oratory skills.

It is not rare to hear complaints about how a child seems disinterested in books.  While some part of the disinterest can be attributed to the child’s inherent nature, for most part the love of books can be cultivated in the infancy stage that can be fueled further as the child grows up.

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."

— Emilie Buchwald

Experts opine that it is never too early to start reading out to the child. One can start as early as 6 months. There is a wide variety of books available in the market that caters to various age-groups. One can start with board books with bright and bold pictures to get the child interested and later on graduate to higher level books depending on the child’s interest.
A book definitely serves as a better distraction than the television in getting the child to eat his food. You can devote a “book-reading” time when the child can pick his favourite book to read. It doesn’t matter if the child wants to read the same book day after day. A bedtime story is also a good way to inculcate good behavior via stories.

You can make a book-reading session more interesting by making appropriate animated sounds, pausing at strategic places to give the child a chance to complete the sentence out of memory or creative thinking or even by enacting out a certain story with your child and his friends, if the child is older.

Books need not be expensive at all. It just needs to be age-appropriate with impeccable language quality. We have some lovely books by Indian authors under publications like Pratham, Tulika and Karadi Tales. The Sesame Street series, Barney series and Pepper series are also favourites with children and adults alike.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Learning and educating the Zen way - Lawrence High School

“In the Zen way we focus upon each breath, each day, each moment and experience it totally. One complete breath brings the next”- Brenda Shoshanna
Sometimes we have to unlearn what we have learnt so far to create openness and space within us to accept fresh ideas, to look at life in a different way. Our traditional forms of education have sadly bridled our minds with preconceived ideas and notions and we have formed a nasty habit of rejecting all that does not fit into the accepted mould of beliefs. This article here is a lovely exercise that we need to practice on a daily basis to perhaps get rid of the cobwebs accumulated in our thoughts. Interestingly, these are the very practices that are taught in yoga camps and forms of meditation.

This other one here again reinforces the belief in the Montessori way of teaching. Keeping the child as the focus, rather than the syllabus is the way to go ahead. A subject can be presented in various forms-audio, visual, through stories, art, craft- to enable the child grasp the concept in the manner the child is naturally inclined to learn rather than forcing the child to learn the method in which the concept is presented. Creative learning needs to find place in our education system. Challenging the traditional way of looking at and presenting ideas need to be done away with.

Yes, as the article says, all this comes with the challenge of having trained teachers at all levels and until this happens, at least a resource room needs to be encouraged in all schools. 

There is a serious need for change in our education system. Hope that, these methods will be a part of teaching methods soon and there is never a time in our children's lives where they need to unlearn what has been learnt and that learning becomes a seamless and continuous process that does not pose a challenge in finding solutions in practical life.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Is Homework a necessary evil? - Lawrence High School

A daily tug-of-war with a second or third grader, with you cajoling, coaxing and threatening to complete school homework in time and a reluctant, tired and irritable child in turn pleading, crying and throwing tantrums. Is there something wrong with the child or is the real culprit the amount of homework itself?

Points in favour of homework include the idea of reinforcing the lessons learnt in school, inculcating a sense of discipline in the child along with a healthy habit of going over what has been taught on a daily basis. When you look at homework thus, it is difficult to understand why it is abhorred by children and parents alike. 
According to the National Education Association, children should not be assigned more than 10 minutes of homework per grade. This means, a third grader should not be working on home assignments for more than 30 minutes a day.  Since they already spend 6-7 hours at school, plus an hour or even more travelling, when they are asked to work for yet another couple of hours at home, there is no time left for play or cultivating other hobbies or even to bond with the family. The result need not be stated as we are creating a frustrated, unhappy and restless child and even pushing the child towards early burnout.

Setting homework is actually a methodical process that needs to be done with a set goal in sight. Mindless non-age appropriate project work that forces the parents to do the homework on behalf of the kid just to gain marks defeats the very purpose of project-making. Many a times, homework is outsourced to professionals which is unfair on children who slog over it themselves but will naturally fall short of the finesse achieved by adults.

What can be achieved by brief, yet effective exercise can become overkill when heaps of the same activity is dumped on the child. A child can devote only so much attention to one activity. We have to also remember that children are also dealing with a number of subjects on a daily basis.