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Balagokulam Guide
How Kids Learn

Understanding How Children Learn

In Balagokulams, children should learn good values and leadership skills along with knowledge about Hindu culture.

Shikshaks make the Balagokulam a place where children enjoy coming to or a boring place. It is important that Shikshaks understand how children learn and how learning can be made enjoyable to the children as well as for Shikshaks.

Learning through Role models

Children are influenced by the people in their lives - especially the adults who are important to them, such as parents, other relatives, and teachers. Children learn values and habits mostly by imitating their role models. These things cannot be 'taught'. Shikshaks should be like role models in all aspects. If we sing shlokas and bhajans with devotion and shraddhaa, children will also do. If we are punctual, children will be.

Children select those people as role models whom they like, whom they respect, admire and adore. We should mold our personalities so that we are 'likeable', we are 'affectionate' and 'friendly' with children while setting up examples. A smiling face and affectionate way of talking to them helps. Playing with them informally after the Balagokulam session brings the Shikshaks closer to the children. Sampark - visiting their houses make the children feel that you are part of his family.


Learning and having fun

Children should have both. They should enjoy leaning as well as the group. More friendship they develop with other children, more they feel like coming back. Games play a very important role in building that friendship and bonding.


Keep it simple and yet challenging

Children enjoy activities that are within their ability to master. Try to simplify, maintain or expand your activities in response to the level of understanding the children demonstrate. A healthy competitive spirit and a sense of achievement are good to cultivate for faster learning.

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Each child is different

Each child has different learning ability in different areas. We should recognize the strength of each child and make them feel that they can achieve. Do not compare children.

Children's learning proceeds in predictable directions.

Simple ----------> Complex

Known ---------> Unknown

Self -------------> Other

Concrete -------> Abstract

Exploratory -----> Goal Directed

Inaccurate ------> More accurate

Impulsive -------> Self-controlled

Children of different age groups are different. These are some general observations on different age groups. Each child is different. These are only some general observations.


Early Elementary (Age 6 to 8)

More story telling and visual aids make it interesting to children of this age. They enjoy affectionate Shikshaks. Simple crafts can work but difficult ones can get messy.

Rhythm and repetition are two techniques that work for this group. Teaching shlokas, simple songs should follow these two techniques.

Thinking is very concrete at this time. If they have never seen it, heard it, felt it, tasted it, or smelled it, they have a hard time thinking of it. So more visual descriptions in stories should be used. While telling the story of Puranas, Amar-Chitra-Katha books can be used to make them imagine who a 'rishi' is. Ideas of palace, king, queen, rakshasa, throne, chariot, etc. needs a visual aid in the beginning.

While teaching Yogasanas or conducting games, rather than simply giving instructions verbally, Shikshaks should demonstrate the activity. Doing is important for both the children and the Shikshak.

Children are just learning how to be friends and may have several "best friends" at a time. Fights, although occurring often, seldom have lasting effects.

Children at this stage like to play games. Rules and rituals become fascinating, but the children are not yet ready to accept losing. Cooperative games in which every child wins can be especially enjoyable at this age. Failures should be minimized, and some measure of success should be found in every experience to ease the blows to young egos. Too much of competition with others is inappropriate at this age.


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Middle School (Age 9 to 11)

Activities for the middle school-age children should encourage physical involvement.

Children at this stage are beginning to think logically. They still think in terms of concrete objects and can handle ideas better if they are related to some thing they can do or experience with their senses, but they are moving toward understanding abstract ideas. As they begin to deal with ideas, they think of things as black or white. Something is either right or wrong, fabulous or disgusting, fun or boring. There is very little middle ground.

Although middle school-age children still have difficulty understanding another person's thinking, the 9- to 11-year-olds are beginning to discover the benefits of making other people happy. Near the end of this age range they begin to realize the joy of helping others and start looking for some idealism.

Middle-school-age children have a strong need to feel accepted and worthwhile. School becomes increasingly difficult and demanding for these children. Other pressures are added, too. Successes, even small ones, should continue to be emphasized. Failures should be minimized. (All people learn better and try harder if they believe in themselves and think they can succeed!)

Comparison with the success of others is difficult for children at this age. It tends to erode self-confidence. In addition, it can cause problems in dealing with peers at a time when they are trying to understand and build friendships. Instead of comparing children with each other, build positive self-concepts by comparing present to past performance for the individual.


Young Teens (Age 12 to 14)

This is the age where idealism and activism enters the minds of children. Many young teens turn in to animal rights activists, environmental activists, etc. Stories of great people like Swami Vivekananda and Bhagini Nivedita can provide the right idealism for children at this age.

Young teens enjoy playing with ideas as much as playing sports. Young teens move from concrete to more abstract thinking during this time. If a subject is of interest, it will be intensely explored. Ready-made solutions from adults often are rejected in favor of the young teens finding solutions on their own. In Balagokulam have more group discussions where they are made to think and share their opinions. Give them projects of their interest where they can explore and create their own.

They can be made to understand the complexities in judging and making the right decisions.

Develop leadership skills in this age group. They should be encouraged to tell stories to small children, co-ordinate a skit, write the script for the skit, conduct games, organize a picnic, a program, etc.

Shikshak should be more like a friend to these children.

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