Hangovers are never a positive experience and some are harder to shake than others, especially when it comes to education. We have so many bad (pedagogically speaking) ideas that seem to persist in the system. The crowning glory, of course, is the Leaving Cert, which is a terrible way to judge someone’s educational attainment, yet it persists and, worse, it is staunchly defended as being “fair” and, even, “up there with the best models.” However, there’s other things we keep on doing just because we’ve always done them – the morning news on the blackboard (or whiteboard or whatever colour the board is or will be), homework, religion, and Friday tests. Yes, for some peculiar reason, despite all the evidence that the Friday test in spellings and tables are, at best, completely meaningless, they can be harmful to most types of learners.
Most teachers don’t see the harm in them because, the likelihood, is that they did well in them, which is why they did well in the Leaving Cert, (because they were good at learning stuff off by heart), which is why they got into teacher training college. The old adage – it didn’t do me any harm, and all that.
However, think of those kids that never did well in these tests. What message was it giving them? These children aren’t necessarily unable to learn or are unintelligent, they simply learn in a different way.
We, as teachers, have the responsibility to ensure that we teach all children in a way that they can access what we are trying to get them to learn.
It is way too easy to outsource the learning of tables and spellings to the home. Anyone can do that. However, how do we teach spellings and how do we teach tables and, if we don’t, why are we not finding out why.
There’s plenty of ideas to be found on this site and other sites about teaching tables and spellings. Brendan Culligan is the guru on teaching spellings in Ireland and I really recommend looking up him. I’ve created a series of articles on how to teach tables, which I’ll go through in full on the podcast.