Student talk

13th March 2009 at 00:00

I never knew there was so much to teaching," my partner's mother remarked with a heavy sigh recently. She caught me mid-flow as I enthused about Vygotsky's theories on the social nature of learning and the joys of reciprocal teaching.

I should have noticed her eyes glazing over. At this stage in my training, nothing should escape my radar-like scanning skills. It dawned on me that I would probably be eaten alive on my next placement.

But, as it happens, I have not so much been eaten alive, as pawed to within an inch of my life by the swarm of ankle biters (as a teacher friend affectionately calls the early years) that make up my charges.

I never thought, when I started out on this lark, that I would one day find myself prowling and growling like a hungry fox during a maths lesson. Or, that while pursuing the child-centred learning theories I have been reading about, I would be on a hiding-to-nothing trying to persuade a sceptical bunch of four-year-olds that counting floating, plastic ducks is MUCH more fun than using them to squirt water at each other. Who was I trying to kid!

As my partner's mother said, I never knew there was so much to teaching. I have been told that in the early years the trick is to go with the flow. Every learning opportunity must be child-led and adult interference kept to a minimum.

So, for example, if you plan an art activity to make a duck pond collage (linked in a cleverly cross-curricular fashion with the earlier maths lesson), then all you should do is provide the necessary resources - glue, tissue paper, sticky shapes, that sort of thing - talk a bit about ducks, then leave the children to express themselves. Whatever you do, you do not show them what to do.

Returning briefly - I promise - to Vygotsky, I cannot work out how this fits in with his "zone of proximal development", or ideas about scaffolding children's learning to help them achieve more than they can do alone. I realise that, with this tender age group, any control freak tendencies must be curbed. And I am more than willing to accept a variety of oddly shaped ducks, or even splodges that are meant to be ducks. But what I want is ducks. Is that too much to ask?

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today