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Active Learning

In the last week I have read two articles in the NY Times that echo similar sentiments. I am proud to say that both of these sentiments are understood and utilized in the Yeshiva system.

The first (earlier) article talks about the 4 R’s – wait I thought there were only 3 R’s  reading, writing and arithmetic – the fourth R is recess. I blogged about recess once before. I am on the case again today.

It seems that generally educators looked at recess as a necessary evil. It would inhumane to corral children in stuffy classrooms for 8 hours a day with no break so we are forced to provide some time for recess. Research shows a different attitude.According to the article, recess actually helps children learn. Not only does it help children learn about life and improve social skills, recess also help promote classroom learning. This is due to some nifty science which if you are interested in reading click here.

This means that recess is a tool for learning. This is the same attitude that Yeshivas employ. Really, all of Judaism employs this idea. We use our downtime as tools to improve our up time. We eat to live, we rest to be awake and we play to invigorate our minds. Recess is not a necessary evil. Recess is a necessary tool for good learning.

This comes back to the central idea that nothing is good or evil (similar to this post). Our world is full of tools. We choose how they are to be used. This gives them good or evil status for the action for which we have used them.

Which brings us to the second (more recent) article. If you go to most large Yeshivas you will see students studying from text across or next to a study partner. The book is usually on a table or more commonly on a device called a “shtender”.


Why do they use shtenders? Because it gives your body more freedom and this will help the mind to focus. They just figured this out in Minnesota.

In Minnesota classrooms, students are given tables that give the student the ability to sit or stand. “Teacher are seeing positive things”. Well of course they are. After years of suffering from behind desks it is time to set the students free. Not entirely free, but it is great to let students sit or stand depending on their mood and preference.

It is great to see schools fiddling with the status quo to find better, more efficient ways of learning. More recess and more freedom of movement in class are ancient Jewish ideas. They will only help the U.S. Public School Systems.

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February 2009

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