Humanising Language Teaching
"The Learning Adventure"
by Eva Hoffman and Zdzistaw Bartkowicz.
Reviewed by Martin Rinvolucri, Primary, UK
Eva Hoffman and Zdzistaw Bartkowicz have written a quite unique book - a book all about learning, aimed specifically at children (about 9 years and onwards). The book is written on the premise that children going through the current education system, may well be put under undue stress, suffer blows to their self-esteem and not be very aware of their own learning style. The book offers the child 'protection' or 'defence' against a flawed system of education, which does not value the individual as a whole. The book is a kind of 'damage limitation exercise'. I have taught in about fifteen primary schools and I think there is an increasing need for a book of this kind.
The book has been written in a very accessible, friendly style, with upbeat text in small chunks and lots of sketches and doodles. Each page has one idea or technique to try out, so the book is really easy to dip into, much like a teenager's magazine? It has attached a CD of Bach and Mozart flute/piano pieces, and a guided relaxation, entitled Ocean of Calm. Here are some ideas from the book to give you a flavour of it:
'The Magic Box' - which is full of things people have written about you, saying why they value you, or what they especially like about you. If you want to be really happy you need to appreciate who you are and what you have.
'Label-Proof Armour' - whenever someone tries to hurt you with nasty words or stick a label to you, put on a magic suit of invisible, label-proof armour. It's incredible how well it works! See in your minds eye all the negative labels hit the armour and helplesssly slide down and fall to the ground without even touching you (the authors stress that negative labels often stick for life - think of a label that was put on you in your childhood?).
'My teacher Mr Mistake' - when clever people make mistakes they say: A mistake?! Oops, no big deal. Let me correct it. Or, every time you make a mistake, wink at it and say: Giggle, giggle. Just you wait, I'll get you!
'A Smiling Board' - put a board on the wall over your desk, full of pictures and jokes, that make you smile and laugh. Smiling relaxes your muscles and your brain, improves your thinking and your ability to remember.
The book goes on to explain multiple intelligences, mind maps, brain gym and information on how the brain works, written in a way that children can relate to, with practical exercises to aid understanding. For instance, the chapter headings that cover these areas are called, 'The Way You Learn Best' and 'Your Magic Learning Tools'? Every suggestion in this book is designed to empower children, making them more appreciative of who they are, how they learn and how limitless their potential is. The child is left with the knowledge that s/he is beautifully unique.
My only question mark over the book is the cost (£22.50), which is bumped up by including a music CD. I would suggest leaving out the CD, otherwise it might only be teacher's children who benefit from the book's wisdom? To really access the target audience, perhaps it would make sense to include some of the exercises on websites aimed at children, or to try and get the message across in teenage magazines?
I recently had the pleasure of participating in a workshop run by Eva Hoffman, at the 1999 SEAL Conference. After ninety minutes, I left with a profound sense of her understanding, compassion and unconditional love for, the children she worked with. This love of children and delight in their individuality, springs out of every page. This is a book with a heart - if you have a child, or you know one, go and buy the book!!