Thursday, April 10, 2014

Using Your Write Brain---Guest Post

Have you heard of Grammarly? There is more to them than just great memes on Facebook! It is actually an automated proofreading program.

Well, today I have a guest post from 
Using your Write Brain

Let’s face it: the bane of your existence when you were in school really was the entire school bit. It was so difficult to comprehend why we couldn’t play outdoors for extended periods of time, especially since countless studies reached the same conclusion emphasizing the importance of play. Clearly, playing trumped the studying card. Yet perhaps the reason why children scorn learning with a hatred is simply because it isn’t fun, or rather, it is perceived as being dull and somewhat ‘important’ for the distant future if we didn’t want to be a road sweeper.

However, with today’s advancements, coupled with decades of experience and feedback from millions of bored-to-death students, not improving the method we use to educate will simply be laziness on our part.

Since I’ve started working at Grammarly, an instant online grammar checking proofreader, I’ve been researching on organic learning methods to facilitate the introduction of English for children. What I’ve discovered is far from what takes place within four white walls. Though there are tons of approaches to take, I found that interest and interaction are key in tapping into a child’s natural learning processes; it’s all about using their write brain.

Let’s start off with the greatest favour you can do for any child: don’t box them in, constantly encourage, and give them the benefit of the doubt when they insist that elephants can fly. Imagination and creativity are essential in injecting enjoyment in learning.

Involve all their senses when it comes to writing. This simple application will magically do loads to enhance learning. Writing about the weather, bring them outdoors; writing about culture, let them come to class in their traditional costumes and conduct a show and tell. Try this exercise. First, get them to imagine eating a mint candy with a molten chocolate centre. Tell them to write about what they taste, how it feels in their mouth, how it smells, their emotions while eating the candy, and anything that comes to their mind. Then re-do the exercise with them, giving each child a mint candy with a molten chocolate centre and get them to write down what they see, feel, and smell. Believe me, the vast improvement in their writing will take you aback; it’ll almost seem as though a different kid walked into your classroom.

Ever heard of ‘Secret Santa’? Give each child an envelope with their name on it, and assign a ‘Secret Santa’ to each of them. Instead of giving their friends more cavities, get them to write letters to each other daily. Not only will this break the ice in a classroom full of new faces, it’ll also give each child a reason to write daily. The best part is that there isn’t any topic to write about; the sky’s the limit. I’ve heard of teachers taking this a step further and getting global ‘penpals’ for their students, matching their age to other students of their age. I’m pretty sure many kids would be thrilled to have an exotic friend.

‌Now for the tricky bit – making grammar interactive. Rules that are black and white usually don’t sit well with kids or anyone for that matter. But you know what they say, “If you can’t beat them, join them”. Let the kids be in the position of authority to grade their friends’ work. Scouring the page to identify spelling and grammatical mistakes is a brilliant start for them to identify what other people are getting wrong. After manual grading, they can run the written text through a comprehensible software such as Grammarly to see which errors they missed out. The best part about this program is the detailed explanations given to clarify why certain sentences may be wrong. The software picks up on literally everything, from grammar to spelling, and even sentence structures.

The purpose of education shouldn’t be to teach children what to think, but rather how to think; not to dull, but to excite their senses; and ultimately, not to believe there’s a right way to think, but simply by using their write brain.


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