I wanted the children to practise their oral skills for PSLE. Fortuitiously, I came across a book of rhyming plays. Each child was assigned 3 roles to prepare. I was really pushing it here because even in a short play of 6 pages, 3 roles meant about 3 pages of lines to memorize and interpret.
There were some moans and groans when I assigned this homework last week. Clearly, no one likes to memorize. I mollycoddled the groaners and listened to the woes of the moaners... and eventually all the children committed to memorizing - rather unwillingly. The sheer number of lines to memorize was quite daunting I assure you.
Now why was I not surprised, this week, when I found that the kids didn't do their homework properly? They didn't memorize their lines or if they did, the recall was poor. Indeed, for one child, the parents got stressed up too... and there was a wee bit of panic in their email to me requesting politely for more guidance and gently questioning the necessity to prepare THREE roles. I didn't make things more comfortable for this set of poor parents. I just told them to "chill" without giving more detail.
Put it down to my habit of assigning Impossible Goals eh? Impossible goals are great for building confidence. Convince these little people to agree to do things that look difficult and then encourage them to achieve the goal.
When you conquer difficulty, confidence grows. Confidence is motivating. To have motivated children we must first build this foundation of confidence by giving them difficulty to conquer (and discreetly managing the environment to help them conquer it). Please note that I did not say to ACTIVELY HELP them conquer the difficulty (id est... do their work for them). I said to manage the environment in such a way as to help them conquer difficulty (id est... smile kindly, encourage warmly, then sit back and watch them suffer).
Please also note that I didn't say to FORCE children to do difficult things. I said to CONVINCE them to AGREE to do them.
When the kids got here, I set up a situation undergirded by motivation research done umpteen years ago by Professor B.F. Skinner and his esteemed colleagues. The whole thing began to look like a fast-paced TV game show. There was plenty of yelling. Points were deducted left right and centre. Points were added left right and centre. Then the children LOST one round... and then they WON another round with a HUGE surfeit of points. And the 3rd round was the tie-breaker.
Tie-breaker? Oh my goodness! The STRESS!
The children went from reading like corpses would... to flapping arms and jumping into closets (because the stage instructions said that Little Red's Grandma had to hop from bed to closet). We had one boy whose voice has broken but he had to be Grandma (and it offended his machismo greatly to be female)... and so he kept jumping in every now and then with the syllable "Pa" whenever his friends called him "Gran".
Out of nowhere a child produced a truncheon (Oh good grief! Which parent was it who provided her/his child with a weapon thus!!?) and began to run after the Big Bad Wolf with it. It was quite funny because the boy acting the Big Bad Wolf was rather smallish... Suffice to say that by this time, one child was rolling on the floor laughing and another had laughed so much that he had to be given peppermint tea for his coughing fit.
On her part, Dr Pet had a blast!! It's called reliving my childhood.
It was all very messy and funny but the kids had to meet a set of skills standards I had drawn up (which was important for PSLE Oral). At the end of it all, the children were all very keen to go home and memorize their lines ... and bring back more props (more truncheons?)... and I did get them to meet my set of skills standards for PSLE Oral.
So everyone is happy? Yes.
They STILL have a lotta lines to memorize but for some odd reason, no one is complaining anymore.
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