Teaching techniques have changed, but school can still be fun

NEIGHBORS

February 24, 1994|By JONI GUHNE

Before the last freeze, I was a guest at Grandparents Day in the fourth-grade classroom of my No. 1 granddaughter, Elizabeth. And, boy, have times changed.

The 9- and 10-year-old boys and girls were seated quietly at long tables. That was different from the individual desks in my fourth grade, rigidly arranged in straight lines, row upon row.

The style in which Lizzy's teacher led the class discussion seemed traditional, except that she was leaving in a few days to have a baby. What, no big deal? In my day, the word pregnant was taboo. Our expectant teachers were forced to leave the school system before they required maternity clothes, so as not to offend our delicate sensitivities. Lizzy's classmates, however, were busy planning a shower for their teacher.

Another successful change was apparent in the books the kids were reading. They read from paperbacks with fun covers and child-tempting subjects.

But the biggest surprise came during a teacher-led discussion about finding clues in writing. The teacher pointed to a Jeopardy-type board of clues, asked the class a question, and I waited for the routine raising of hands.

Instead, she looked at her students and said, "Discuss it." The children spun in their seats and the room burst into a beehive of participation, each table a team working to solve the problem. Only when the answer was agreed upon by each group did hands go up.

I felt I had witnessed the dawn of a new era. It's probably late morning in this development, but it was new to me.

Here are some of the ways in which the staff at Benfield Elementary School helps students organize information: List, Group, Label -- more brainstorming and grouping of words; Both Chart -- compare and identify items both similar and different; Web -- title of a topic becomes the hub of a wheel and all the supporting documentation becomes the spokes; and Story Map -- the basic elements of all stories are listed and recorded on an organizer: title, author, setting, problem, events, solution.

In my day, the best place on earth to be on a cold, winter day was in school. Apparently, it still is.

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The current run of the romantic tragedy "Quackenbush" by Joe Dennison continues at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at St. Martin's Community Theatre, 375 Benfield Road.

The play is most suitable for adult audiences.

Proceeds will benefit the Severna Park Assistance Network. Tickets are $8. Call 956-2315.

*

Also at 6 p.m. Saturday, a guaranteed sellout will be performed at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church: "The Great February Follies" food and talent show.

Information: 647-2550.

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