Monday, 24 March 2008

A Frame of Reference

Whenever I have taught, presented or demonstrated, it has been key for me to try to establish a frame of reference for my audience. It's not always easy, specially if an audience is big and the audience at different experience levels. But I feel without it, the listener has nothing to build onto and I might as well be talking a foreign language. No matter what the level, if the listener has a base to build new information onto, then I feel the learning is more solid. The learner or listener is filling in gaps into an already known base. I call them hooks. Without hooks, the information goes into free fall...

Suppose for example you are learning English, as a first language French speaker, I'd probably be able to ask you to describe your home using English terms and we could work on a vocabulary and fill in the gaps. In the same way we could talk about holidays, customs, school outings and eating out, trips to the movies, shopping, hobbies... Now consider a child who lives with 7 other people in a 10' square room. Where the sleepers take turns to sleep on the bed, and then it is width ways, not length ways. Where there is a TV set, fridge and small cooker, in the same room and the room next door, is the next house. There is no experience of a kitchen, and bedroom being 2 separate rooms. When a street address is a house number and block number, i.e R/21 - 29. That is Block R21, #29. Where the other side of the city is an unknown quantity and shopping and restaurants are vague distant things that people do, but have not been experienced in any way. Now let's work on a vocabulary! I need to be a sketch artist, mime, actor and gymnast! I do have a few pictures at the start of a lesson, but inevitably there is a word or something happens and I need a little impromptu action to try to explain the meaning. Not too difficult for concrete words, when they grow more abstract it becomes more interesting! This is more difficult for the little ones who have such a limited range of experiences, compared to many children in other parts of India and the world. Still a wonderful challenge and a suggestion for those who come in the future to bring loads of big bright pictures of buildings and lakes and mountains and snow... bring on the Internet for these kids. Let's show them more of the world.

No comments: