3 August 1997
Some New Methods
Unlike hundreds of other profoundly accelerative or enhancing
techniques developed by Project Renaissance, these are two methods of
teaching and learning which have not yet been tried. We'd like to see what
you can do with them. Let us hear from you.
Some untried new methods to experiment with and report on, to
improve: learning, perception, and conceptual ability in young
- 1. Sherlock Cruises The GEOGRAPHIC
- Organize children into tables or teams of 3-4. Provide each team
with a selection of 2-3 or more pictures from The National Geographic or
- Level One:
- A] One child describes as much as s/he can of the one selected
picture while the other children either look away or "rest their eyes"
and try to picture in their own mind's eye what's being described.
- B] Each of the listening children then tries to tell everything that
that description suggests to them about the location, climate, culture,
demographics, whatever else about who and what is depicted in that
picture, from the one child's description.
- C] Now everyone looks at the picture, and the former listeners
describe what differences it makes for them actually seeing the picture,
in what they were guessing or speculating about who and what were in the
picture. Example: the steep roofs of buildings suggesting the climate
has much heavy rain or snow; clothing that suggests a hot time of year
in an otherwise cool climate.....
Caption and brief digest of article from which the picture was
excerpted, provides feedback. Each child gets his/her turn as
observer-describer, on a different picture. Emphasize this as game and
treat, not as a lesson.
- Level Two:
- Most of my techniques are intended for easy use by teachers, without
time and effort spent in special preparation. In Level Two, however,
this could be made into somewhat more of a scored game if the teacher
has points of geography he/she wants to teach with this, or to give a
little more formal structure and/or competitive impetus w/o actual
competition. If the 3-4 pictures cycled are on the same locale and
people, a simple checklist or "test" of who, what, where and how at the
end of the cycle could lend an informal scorecard so long as the teacher
goes to some lengths to keep this an informal game and not a "lesson."
More important by far than any particulars of correct or incorrect will
be getting children used to looking at all sorts of things with an
increasingly perceptive eye and being entertained by what they can
figure out. Letting this become a lesson or a real competition would
kill such a development in all but a few, whereas we want everyone to
become more observant, and more entertained by what s/he can figure out
from what s/he sees.
- An easy further step is to get children to "go meta" to their own
perceptual and thought and languaging processes. This greatly encourages
the growth and development of their higher-level functions, to such a
splendid extent that it is one of my own major objectives to get young
children, especially, to start looking at their own perceptions and
thinking analytically and creatively about their own thinking.
- Variance: Some few young individuals will stand out spectacularly
well in the above activity; others will not. We need to find some ways
to support these few individuals in the further development and upper
ranges of their success, without daunting the other children before they
can bring their own functions up. Prediction: without exception, these
few young individuals will usually also be voracious, wide-ranging
readers who have built a broad information base through their
irrepressible reading-for-entertainment. Problem: if that prediction
holds true: how to use that outcome to motivate voracious reading in
other children without targeting one-another's differences and without
daunting some of the children whose initial "Sherlockian" performances
are much more modest.
- 2. How did they DO that? - an art-related
- Arrange children in pairs; the pairs also paired closely enough to
overhear each other but not interacting formally. Only within their own
pair will the children interact formally. Taking turns, each with a
different picture work of art--
- A. One child describes in as much detail as s/he can the one
picture. The other looks away or "rests his/her eyes," then asks
questions about the picture and/or tries to "predict" other aspects or
features of that picture from that description.
- B. Describer then identifies 2-3 special features about the painting
and speculates what the artist did which enabled him/her to so create or
execute that feature. Did he sketch first and paint over; did he use
such-&-such a brush stroke or other technique? Did he lay down one
color first and then daub over it? Just guessing, how did the artist DO
- C. Listener now looks at the painting, and describes--
- 1. What's now in his awareness about the painting that wasn't before
he looked at it?
- 2. Counter-speculations about how the artist executed each of those
- 3. 1-2 further such features in the painting and speculations how
the artist achieved those effects.
- D. Both children now begin experimenting onto paper testing their
hypotheses how the artist may have created each of those special feature
effects. Then go on to free-form their own paintings, with or without
regard to the foregoing.
- E. The paired groups de-brief to each other.
- Note: encourage children to describe in detail everything that went
through their minds as they painted their pictures and while they were
creating this or that feature.
- Objectives: To engage the power of description to enrich and inform
vision in the context of art. To make it real for children how there are
different ways of seeing things, and different ways of creating effects
in and out of art. Also to start especially young children thinking in
terms of how they might portray this or that effect, and to let that
thought further inform their vision. Becoming more effective
representational artists can be a further objective - the ease with
which this is achieved by this and similar approaches can be important
to self-esteem and thus to achievement and performance in all other
areas of the curriculum. The previous objectives are, however, the more
important and must be protected from any tendency of students to either
formally compete or to become invidiously self-critical.
If you perform such an experiment as either of these: inform me of the
details and as much on the results as possible. If you get up anything at
all worthwhile, I will help you publish, on several levels.
I will also welcome suggested procedures from you which extend the
range, interest and variety of colorful activities wherein children
develop their conscious minds, their language, their intelligence, their
vision, and their independence of vision, by interactive, expressive,
increasingly articulate means. Between us, perhaps we finally can fire up
our children and our schools with better methods and better results - in
time to help the ones you care about!!!
Unlike hundreds of other profoundly accelerative or
enhancing techniques developed by Project Renaissance, the above two
methods have not yet been tried. We'd like to see what you can do with
them. Let us hear from you.