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close this bookPrimary School Agriculture: Volume I: Pedagogy (GTZ, 1985, 144 p.)
close this folderPart II: Teaching methods
close this folder3. Indoor activities
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.1 Classroom preparation of outdoor activities
View the document3.2 Follow-up of outdoor activities

3.1 Classroom preparation of outdoor activities

The introductory lessons do not present special problems. Their success depends on how well the teacher himself knows the overall course of the sub-unit he is going to teach. In some cases it might be possible to plan the whole unit beforehand so that the teacher can present a rough outline of the whole sub-unit to the class. But sometimes a teacher would want to give the class some say in deciding the course of study. He/she would concentrate on the practical activity in the introductory lessons, and would have one lesson devoted entirely to summarizing the practical activity, but would decide only afterwards which topics to stress and what to leave out. The latter approach is difficult and should only be tried by well experienced teachers. A few special problems will be discussed subsequently since they proved to raise problems during trial lessons. These are

- organizing a class for group work,
- defining tasks for teams or single pupils,
- designing observation schedules and recording sheets.

3.1.1 Organizing the Class for Group Work

Work in small groups or teams is nothing new in primary schools; school farm work is often done in teams of two to four pupils. But group work can be made more effective, and many of the follow-up lessons will profit from well-organized group work. Group work is the most effective way of teaching the social skills mentioned above. Another reason for group work is that it helps to avoid overworking the pupils. If two or three pupils form a team, the work load of the individual is reduced. Out of two or three children, one can always rest.

- Size of the Teams

Depending on the task at hand teams could consist of between two and five pupils. Team leaders cannot adequately supervise a large number of pupils. The more pupils there are in a team, the more important it is to define tasks carefully and to make sure that pupils do not interfere with each other. It would not make sense to assign five pupils to one row and have them start working close to each other. Observational tasks are best carried out in teams of two pupils.

- Team Leaders

Team leaders are responsible to the teacher and have to make sure that the tasks assigned to the team are carried out. This does not mean that they need not do the work themselves. It should be clear that team leaders must know how to do their group's task so that they are able to explain it to team members who might not have understood the teacher's instructions in class and at the work or observation site.

- Recording

Since all practical activities should yield data that can be used in later lessons, recording becomes an important part of any practical activity. Someone in the team should be responsible for taking notes. Sometimes this can be the team leader, sometimes someone else, sometimes team members may take turns in recording. If the task of recording is given to one pupil, he/she will later on report the team's observations and recordings in class.

- Sharing the Work in a Team

In a team there is always the question of who does what. There are two extreme situations:

1. Every team member does the same kind of work. This is the case where a plot is portioned out to a number of teams of clearing. Each team has an area to clear, and everyone in the team does exactly the same work, with the team leader recording the time spent on the job and the difficulties encountered.

2. Every team member has his own task which he specializes in. Take for instance maize planting along a straight line according to a standard planting distance: there is a team of three pupils; one takes charge of the rope and pegs for marking the straight line, one marks the planting holes using a stick cut to the planting distance, and one of them plants the maize and bean seeds and covers them with soil.

It depends on the size of the team and the complexity of the job whether one or the other of the above alternatives is to be preferred. Since all the pupils are to learn all the various activities, they should take turns in doing the various jobs.

Many teachers simply assign an overall task to the teams - "you clear this portion of the farm", "you plant that section with yams", "the three of you harvest these five rows". They leave it up to the teams to organize themselves appropriately. If pupils have learnt how to do it, this is ideal, since it fosters self-direction. But often, there has been no training in work organisation so that some teams do very well while others work very inefficiently. It is very important that teachers have a clear idea of how the work can best be divided within the teams. They can still leave them for a while to organize themselves. But where the teacher sees that a team is not organizing the work properly, he must be able to suggest better ways of doing things.

- Continuity of team work

One should keep the same teams for the follow-up lessons. If observations have been recorded, the team will report them in the first lesson after the practical activity. Usually, even relatively limited observation tasks yield so much data that it would become boring to analyse all of it with the whole class. Most of the time it is possible to define a number of tasks and problems which are shared out between the teams. You will find an example further on below.

- Effectiveness

Team work is usually more efficient than putting a whole class to work. Teams may be willing to compete with each other. This is especially so if the work to be done is divided among the teams, e.g. sections of the same size to be worked. Teams that have completed their job can rest. Task work is also possible with individual pupils, but with classes of 30 - 70 pupils it involves a lot of preparation to assign equal portions of work to so many pupils. Besides, it is easier to supervise ten teams of five pupils than 50 pupils working individually.

- Group work is a very effective way of teaching.
- It avoids overworking the pupils. It needs good team-leaders.
- Recording is part of team work and is useful for the classroom-lessons
- There should be a rotation of tasks among group members.
- Self-organization of pupils fosters self-direction

Group Organization

3.1.2 Defining Tasks

When pupils go to the farm for work or to the site where they have to do observations they should know exactly what to do and what to look for. This seems easy enough as far as farm work is concerned: pupils or teams are shown the area they have to care for with the instruction to clear, till, weed or harvest this part of the farm. It is simply assumed that they know the various steps involved in such an assignment. If they are doing it for the first time and the teacher wants them to do the work in a way that differs from what they might have learnt at home, he/she will have to give detailed instructions and demonstrate a few times how he/she wants the work done.

For learning to be effective, teachers not only have to explain what the pupils are to do but also why it is done at this time and in this or that way.

Clear instructions about the task are even more important for observation than for work, because teachers and pupils alike are not familiar with systematic observation.

Let us take as an example the observation of a crop of maize just before tassling. Teams may simply be told to go and count the number of healthy plants in a given row. In everyday conversation, the term "healthy plant" is perfectly all right. People have common understanding of what a healthy maize plant looks like. But for exact observation the instruction is not clear enough. Pupils need a few criteria in order to decide for each plant in a set of 20 - 30 maize plants whether to classify it as healthy or poor. In this case the teacher could, during the introductory lesson, discuss with pupils what a healthy maize plant looks like in terms of colour, size, thickness of the stem, appearance of the leaves etc. The pupils' task would be to record for a fixed number of plants the main characteristics previously defined. The various criteria can best be taught by using specimen plants. Depending on the level of the pupils, the teacher should not only explain what to look for but also why this is important. The latter discussion - why is dark green colour a sign of healthy plant development etc. - can safely be left for the follow-up lessons but must not be left out from the sub-unit in question. Apart from specimens, the usual teaching aids like drawings, wall charts or standard measurements may be used.

At harvesting, a typical task involving standard measurements is grading the harvested cobs, tubers or corms according to size. It would be much too tedious to measure all the harvested items with a metre. One team might do just this on a sample of say 40 - 60 maize cobs or 10 - 20 yam tubers. But the others only need a yardstick with which to classify cobs, tubers etc. as big, medium, or small. If the teacher indicates the respective limits - e.g. cobs longer than 25 cm are classified as big ones, cobs shorter than 15 cm are classified as small ones, and cobs in between as medium ones-, every team can easily cut a stick with two marks for the upper and lower limit. Even the instruction to measure the height of a maize plant (or any other plant) can be misleading unless the instruction states how the measuring has to be done.

To measure the height of a maize plant, one may

- measure from the soil up to the end of the sheath of the uppermost leaf, i.e. to the uppermost node,
- measure from the soil to the tip of the uppermost leaf stretched upwards,
- measure from the soil up to the point where the uppermost leaf starts bending downward.

Which method is used in the end does not matter very much. It is important, however, that everybody uses the same method in order to arrive at comparable results, and that. the method is clear. A few useful hints will close this section:

- Demonstrate every observational activity until you are sure that pupils have mastered it sufficiently, e.g. the use of the ruler in measuring; pegging the corners of a farm, a ridge, a bed; drawing to scale; measuring along a rope; filling in a form etc.
- Don't ask for too many different observations at a time. Going through a farm plot, class 5 might be asked to look for two to three different things, class 6 might observe four to five different things at a time. It is better to repeat observational activities than try to do too much in one period.

For learning to be effective, teachers not only have to explain what is to be done, but also why, when and how.

Concerning observation and measurement, the same methods should be used by everyone to arrive at comparable results.

It is better to repeat observational activities than to try to do too much in one period.

3.1.3 Designing Observation Sheets and Record Forms

Observation sheets and record forms are used for a number of reasons:

- relying on pupils' memory for the follow-up lessons is not sufficient;
- filling in forms provides another opportunity for writing;
- filling in forms is an important skill for whenever one has to deal with government offices in later life;
- the observation sheet reminds pupils of the things they have to look for;
- only information in figures can be integrated with mathematics teaching; observation sheet/record forms are instruments providing such information.

In order for the forms to be of any use, they have to fulfill certain conditions:

- they must have a title stating clearly the purpose of the observation and recording;
- they must provide headings or short questions for all the items to be observed and recorded;
- they must provide enough space for all the entries. This means that the teacher must have an idea of the space needed for the different entries. Before he/she suggests such a form to the class he/she should have tried it out on a small scale by him/herself. This handbook cannot suggest observation and record sheets for all the possible purposes a teacher might need. Teachers should therefore work through the examples given below in order to familiarize themselves with the way these forms are designed. By trying to design their own forms they will gradually gain experience and skill so that they can easily design the type of form they need.

How will the teams get their forms? In most cases, the teacher will develop them on the blackboard, discussing them with the class as he does so. When they are in their final form, those responsible for doing the recording will copy them into their exercise books. Before going out for work or observation, pupils must be sure about how to fill in these forms. Time spent on preparing and explaining them is well spent.

Here you find an example for an observation and record sheet (Maize Harvest). Other examples for observation sheets are to be found in Part III, text: "Record sheets".

The Quality of Maze Cobs at Harvesting