OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (23)

In order to afford the best opportunities possible to our student cohort, we planned and programmed in a way that developed logical and sequenced learning. Engagement by students in learning was also a priority, with this adding a dimension to what might other wise have been a chalk and talk approach.

We followed the WA Education Department curriculum requirements but took into account the need to adjust content in a way that recognised the learning of children to date. There were learning shortfalls that result from sporadic school attendance and we worked to make up for gaps in learning by revisiting subject areas where students needed remediation.

In order to familiarise senior students with community contexts, we developed a wall and ceiling dictionary organised in an A-Z manner. This was an exercise with a time daily commitment. Students drew a picture of the object, person or subject on a large sheet of cartridge paper. The name or title of the picture was then added, with that dictionary/ identity sheet being added to the dictionary. All wall space was eventually covered. When writing, students wanting spelling assistance relating to items covered by the dictionary, were able to check the walls and ceiling until they found what they were seeking. This added to both student independence and confidence when they were writing.

Creative and imaginative writing was a focus. I found that older students, both females and male, came to derive quite a lot of enjoyment from producing written text. On occasion, children were given pictures and photographs to incorporate as illustrations into stories. Correct spelling of words was encouraged.

There was a focus on handwriting including the ‘three p’s’ of pencil/pen hold, paper position and posture.

Maths, as far as possible, was situational with examples supporting operations drawn from local experience and the environment of Warburton and its surrounds.

Children were encouraged to read orally and also to develop skills of understanding and comprehension from the written word.

I kept records of student progress in key learning areas (long, long before the concept of KLA’s was formalised) and we had a good understanding of how well children were doing. While the interest in school by adults was somewhat remote, we offered anecdotal comment and feedback, but in the social context of informal discussion.

Practical and focussed learning opportunities were offered For instance, the use of and understanding of money was aided by the setting up of a pretend shop with goods for sale. Goods (empty cans, packets and so on) were provided and money was used. An understanding of adding, subtraction and money management ways an outcome of this program.

There was a focus on both art and drama to reinforce other learning areas, particularly literature.

Doing the best we could for the betterment of students was uppermost in our minds. As will be revealed later, this motivation was not one that met with the approval of educational authorities.

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