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How Does Learning Happen At The Primary Level – Part 1

The classroom is a dynamic environment, bringing together students from different backgrounds with various abilities and personalities.


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Being an effective teacher therefore requires the implementation of creative and innovative teaching strategies in order to meet students’ individual needs. 

As a teacher there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, so here is a range of effective teaching strategies you can use to inspire your classroom practice and understand how learning happens in children.

Teachers at Primary Level may not be subject specialists, but they need to be specialists in two important aspects.

  1. Understand what it means to learn
  2. Understand what it is to be a child coming to the schoolroom, children are taught as much as possible of whatever adults know. 
    The adult store of knowledge is poured into the child’s mind as quickly and in large quantities as possible. Learning means to learn what the adult knows. According to Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget among others, the child has her own perceptions and understanding develops in his own time. Learning means it is a mental activity for the child, it is a way the child thinks. 

  1. 1 One day at School


    Let us look at one of the real-life experiences. Once while I was teaching ..”I am going to teach the external and internal organs. I have my head, hands, stomach, legs, etc. My intention was that the children repeat after me the new vocabulary and learn to identify the parts of the body. Before even I could finish the instruction, a child exclaimed; “ Even I also!” "I have a head, hands, and stomach also. " I was instantly annoyed and much later I understood that the child was indeed learning something? Isn’t that so.? What was I trying to teach after all?

    The child was learning in his own ways by matching similar parts in his body. Every child learns differently at his pace in his unique way. This brought to my understanding that we think of Learning as a mental activity, as something that the child does in his mind rather than what we do to the child by asking her to write or speak precisely what we teach him, we must allow that there may be genuine problems of understanding between the teacher and the child, which the teacher must look for.

  2. 2 Teaching vs Learning


    Teaching is a public activity

    • A teacher can prepare for a class, she can choose what to teach, she can teach, repeat it, use methods such as demos, lectures, illustrations, etc. Test it, sequence it, mark the answer scripts. 


    Learning is a private activity

    Learning can happen in unexpected ways with unexpected results. 

    1. Learning can happen in the absence of teaching.
    2. Learning can happen in groups
    3. Learning can happen in a non-serious environment
    4. Learning can happen when approached in a fun way
    5. Learning can happen in recollecting previous experiences
    6. Learning can happen with connections with the neurons.
    7. Learning can happen when the emotions of kids are understood and assist them to discover themselves.

    For learning to grow in mind, I understood that I must provide the child with meaningful messages. This is actually what the child in our story was looking for when I said..’ I have ahead, my hands and my legs.

    Sai Leela Swaminathan


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8 Comments

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  1. @saileelaswaminathan.Very True. I really liked this part “Learning can happen in recollecting previous experiences”. If this part is more focussed on, then we will not make that same mistakes.

  2. Very well expressed ma’am. Learning and teaching are two different thing. Learning is a continuous process and it remains with us throughout our life. Children should be encouraged to discuss their perspective also in the class. With their in hand experience they learn more. Really liked and connect with your post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. A wonderful read ma’am …..”Learning can happen in the absence of teaching ” seems to be so apt when we talk about primary education as I feel most of the learning at this stage happens beyond the dimensions of a lesson plan .

  4. A wonderful read ma’am …”Learning can happen in the absence of teaching” is so true especially in the context of primary education …I feel most the learning at this level happens beyond the dimensions of a lesson plan .

  5. Wonderful Article. Thus the focus is on Learning rather than teaching. Teaching is an act or process which enables the students to learn from association , recollection ,recapitulation . Also one important factor in the learning process is the feelings of the student involved during the process. If the feelings are positive like fun enjoyable, participative , loving the learning is automatic , smooth, organic and long lasting. Thus in a positive congenial environment the learning becomes collaborative and every participant contributes positively in the process … be it student or teacher. Thus sharing , caring , helping are important in learning process. Therefore the Teacher needs to create an environment for the students …so that the learning for them is not dumped or poured to them but insteat the students absorb ,experience and inculcate automatically . Positive reaffirmations and encouragements are also important motivation factors in the learning process especially in the primary level. @saileelaswaminathan this articles is very relevant indeed. Thanks for sharing.

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