Thursday, April 4, 2013

Accidental Experiment

Sometimes things just do not go as planned.  Monday evening was one of those times, but it was a good thing!

As you may know, I am currently working and living at a boarding school for poor and orphaned children in Guatemala.  In my current position, I teach English and tutor in Spanish in the mornings and I work in the office in the afternoon.  I also run evening programming two to three times a week.  The students, especially the boys, are really struggling in school.  Part of it is simple motivation.  The other part is that they have not learned how learning permeates their whole life.  Their schedule has become learn in school and play outside of school.  I am slowly transforming that mentality through educational evening programming.  I often disguise learning outside of the classroom in games, songs, and thought provoking questions.  Have you ever randomly asked a kid if the Earth is round and how do they know?  It really makes a kid stop and think!

Well, on Monday I had planned to introduce the boys to some new educational games I had brought from the United States.  I had just returned from my Spring Break trip to visit family in the States and so the boys had not had evening programming for about a week and a half.  They were so excited to have evening game time again and with new games!  I tried to get them to be orderly by having them set up the tables and chairs while I brought out the games.  Then, knowing I had only 40 minutes to introduce two new games, engage the children in learning, and give them time for a few rounds of fussball, I quickly handed out the game pieces to the "addition math memory" game.  There is where I went wrong.  I had too much planned and not enough time, so I rushed and gave the kids the tools before the directions. 

One group (the two boys in the background of the above photos) did not bother to listen to the directions and instead invented their own game.  They flipped two pieces over and added up all the numbers.  It was a very interesting take on the "rules" as the students were actually doing three digit addition instead of two digit addition and matching the sum.  (I hope that makes sense!)  Instead of matching "2+4" and "6" they would add 2+4+6.  If they got the answer correct, they kept the pair.  It helped that they had a nanny helping to solve disputes.  So, I unintentionally learned a more challenging twist on the game.  Thank you, boys!

The other group that taught me a lesson were the two seen below playing "go fish" with the pieces.  They are seen in the above photo playing according to my rules, but about 15 minutes into play they had completed the memory match and had the brilliant idea to play "go fish."  They taught me to look at the pieces more flexibly and to not be confined by the name on the box of the game or the rules a company decides on.  Thank you, again, students for not following my rules.  I have to admire their innovation.

So, the evening did not go as I had planned, but the students learned a lot, exercised their creativity, and even found that math can be enjoyable.  Sometimes just giving kids the pieces is all they need to be learners.  In fact, if we leave the rules up to them, they might just become more creative, better communicators, and more motivated learners.


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  2. This is a great story. We learn from our students all the time. Sometimes, they teach us to think outside of the box.

  3. his is a great story. We learn from our students all the time. Sometimes, they teach us to think outside of the box.