Every now and then on the television we see shots if squirrels working very hard to solve problems for the reward of a few nuts. Zoologists have set squirrels tasks where they have to solve up to twenty tasks in order to reach food.
Very often the tasks the squirrels have to conquer are very different:
Balancing on thin wire
Work on a seesaw
Pulling nuts up on a string
It is highly entertaining for us to see these little animals solving quite complex problems.
Suppose we set our own Eleven Plus children a series of twenty tasks:
In a classroom the teacher would need to say:
“Open your books to Page 21.
Write down the date and underline it.
Look at the white board while I explain this exercise to you.”
A tutor, however, would:
Open the book to page 21 for the child
Write the date and underline the date for the pupil
Copy out an example and explain.
Parents would simply listen to their child:
Explain the need to have a drink.
Discuss the point behind having to underline headings and copy out examples.
Wish for a ready acceptance for once.
Naturally all three methods will land up with a similar result. This will give us a happy child, satisfied parents and a general feeling of good will.
But back to the squirrels - the squirrels can be drilled into learning a sequence. The squirrels have to solve problems and come up with solutions. But the squirrels do not have language. This is where our Eleven Plus children leap light years ahead. The power of speech and language enables our children to think and plan and do far more than follow a set of drilled instructions.
We have to make our teaching challenging and any lessons, however incidental, have to engage our children. Drilling children in methods of solving problems will not give them the tools to be able to be creative and think in an innovative manner in the actual examination.