Monday, November 06, 2006

Do they need to walk before they fly?

Two weeks ago, a colleague of mine said something to me which has been playing on my mind ever since. We mentioned the students' difficulties with spelling and grammar. As an English teacher, he said that there were two schools of thought: one which insisted on correctness and one which preferred to engage the students in high-level thinking. He was of the second school, and said "you cannot do both".

I tend to agree that you have to favour (blogger does not like my non-US spelling of this word!) one approach over the other, due to lack of time. As we are asked to engage the students in higher-order thinking and as we are encouraged to deliver the curriculum using multiple media, should we let go of the rigours of the past?

One model I would like to present for your consideration is the French education system. Everything I say here may have changed of late, so feel free to correct me. French grammar, with its difficulty, is taught to the nth degree until grade 9 (troisième). In the last three grades, everyone is assumed to know the rules of the language and studies literature and themes.

What do you think? Should we build a solid foundation and then let them fly, or would we be holding them back for the sake of an ideal that is no longer important?