Biggest giggles

Today was a “Lida Day,” a day that Flynn artist Lida Winfield comes in to work with us.

We’ve been working in our class on learning coins and on trying to foster creativity, to provide opportunities for students to make choices that are not just copying what someone else does.

This is such an essential part of being successful in the U.S. educational system. The graphic here from a presentation by researcher Andrea DeCapua shows what we’re up against.

SLIFE stands for Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education. It’s an acronym that is gaining attention nationwide as schools are starting to realize that they can’t just treat these learners the same as they would a foreign exchange student who comes to the United States with a solid educational background.

Even if our students had uninterrupted schooling, children of former refugees are experiencing potentially traumatic shifts when they come to the U.S. They have left everything they know behind. And then they jump in here and know that they are struggling. It’s really hard. And it’s really tough on teens.

So back to SLIFE… The left side is where they come from: lessons connect with their life as they know it. They work together toward a common goal. In classrooms literally stuffed with children, they may not have had ready access to writing materials. The language of instruction may not have been their first language, and in this case, most meaning is made through oral transmission, as they negotiate meaning between classroom language and the language they speak at home. To keep the students’ attention, the tasks are meaningful to them and their everyday lives. But in the U.S., we have a much more context-reduced education….

You may walk into a classroom and read about nuclear reactors. Does that translate to real life? Is it relevant to now? And when the math teacher is trying to give real-life examples as to why one might want to know how to estimate doesn’t reflect your reality (going to a restaurant, double-checking your paycheck stub), why should you care?

And that’s where Lida comes in. We play and we’re a little silly. And that makes it learning in the now. We reviewed coins. We talked about comparative and superlative forms of big and small. We tapped into our creativity as we tried to remember movement sequences that we practiced the week before and changed things up a bit. We didn’t change the movement, but we did change the delivery.

And isn’t that what all artists do? Study the experts to learn the techniques and then change the WHAT, not the HOW?


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