The Road to Intelligence

For so long, it seems that most of us in the world think that knowledge and intelligence are one and the same thing.

Education will bring knowledge and knowledge connotes intelligence, right?

Those who know better may say: ‘What’s the big deal? We know they are not the same, and if we do and others don’t, does it matter?’

Yes, it does, and this is why.

In the Montessori setting we usually say: ‘Education prepares a child for life.’

The reasoning and goal behind all we do is to enable the child grow into an adult that can cope with whatever life throws at him or her. We want the adult produced to be able to use all faculties available to them to live a fulfilled and capable life.

The expectation is that they would have been able to grow the knowledge base imbibed and understood to the extent that they can analyse and synthesis and finally evaluate. They need all these skills and much more to make the knowledge gained theirs ready for use in whatever situations they may encounter.

This is where intelligence breathes.

It is important to get this because, intelligence is not being able to list, match, mention and define things, this is knowledge, and it is simply the foundation.

Is knowledge important? Yes, it is. Without knowledge we cannot move on to the higher levels of learning.

The problem is knowledge is never usually taken to the next level of understanding and that is where we need to get to.

The people who lead in the various spheres of life on earth, are those who have been able to take their knowledge a step further and use it to move themselves and humanity forwards.

Those are our critical thinkers, our problem solvers!

They need intelligence to do this and not just knowledge!

As parents and educators, we must ensure that our children are moving forward into the right realms of thinking and learning.

Now how do we carry children forward to get to the next level of learning?

Once children have the basic knowledge in place then we need to move forward to helping them understand, apply, and implement facts gained. We can get them to do this by doing various activities in classification, comparisons, as well as using and discussing the facts gained.

Let us say the children learnt about leaves and their different shapes. They can go out on a walk to collect the leaves around the school, or you could ask them to collect leaves around their home. They can then put everything they have gathered and classify them into their different shapes. They can compare the different leaf shapes, describe, and discuss the leaves and their shapes, and illustrate their findings.

This takes their understanding to another level and they will not forget easily what they have learnt.

It is true that a lot of the work done at the Montessori Nursery level is based on helping the children learn names and then definitions of things around them, but even then, the best methods I have seen play out is teaching names and then letting the child define the concept themselves, through the experience of the concept or object.

Names are taught in the Montessori setting through a method called The Three Period lesson, this is done in 3 simple steps:

  1. Teach the name: ‘This is a pen.’
  2. See if the child can identify the name taught, put a pen, pencil and eraser on the table and ask: ‘Show me the pen?’
  3. Assess if the child can recall the name without any help: ‘What is this?’

There is a correct way and many wrong ways of doing this and it relates to how much we understand the child. (This is one of the reasons why quality teacher training is so important.)

Now that the child has the name down, we can now move on to definitions, which at this point are simple words that help describe the object or concept taught.

For example, with your Nursery 3 children whom you may have shown different objects to and asked them to name them, you can now tell them that,

‘All these are called nouns?’

Then ask them their names and say: ‘These are also nouns, or all our names are nouns.’

Ask them about animals and different places, tell them they are nouns. Now ask them to tell you what nouns are. Their answers are a child’s definition of a noun.

It could be as simple as: ‘Nouns are names.’ That is more than enough as a beginning point.

They understand and can define or describe in their own words. Do not try and put your own words in their heads. There will come a time when definitions will be learnt. But to tell you the truth if a child can say things in their own words, it will be remembered.

Other things you can do to help move the child on the road of higher learning could include activities like:

Let us investigate this…

Running small experiments…

Extending the topics of the lessons into everyday life issues, for example:

Bio – degradable plastics mentioned in Primary school Basic Science classes can become the steppingstone to discussing and implementing recycling.

As we delve into the deeper road to learning this way, the child will be able to use important skills to do the tasks discussed above, skills such as: research, cognition, creativity, communication, collaboration, and presentation.

From the above we can see that asking children to memorize bare facts alone is not doing justice to their learning process. We must go beyond this level.

We must make progress and help our children make use of the body of knowledge they have gained, so that they can make it their own.

As children progress to Secondary school level, they must be able to move on to the beginning processes of analysing information, synthesising and evaluating the facts learnt so that they can reuse it to provide answers in similar and even different new situations.

This is not going to happen overnight; it is a process, and it is important as educators to be aware that education is a journey, that knowledge is the starting point of intelligence.

Knowledge may lead to intelligence, it is part of the road to intelligence, we must take our children on this journey.


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