WRITING FOLKTALES: ABSTRACTION AND FORMALISATION IN TEACHING IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS
The pupils of a primary school are usually supposed to have low abstraction capabilities, so that teaching is often characterised by the presentation of contents step by step, with local rules and examples, using inductive approaches. In fact, such an inductive teaching approach can take advantages by parallel deductive methods, not only from the point of view of learning, but also in the acquired attitude to use models and “formal description”, in understanding the role of rules, in starting to cope with responsibility in choices while writing.
The paper presents the experience carried on with three classrooms (about seventy five pupils) of the third level of an Italian primary school.
A lesson-event has been organised, lasting three hours, in which:
- the concept of classification and the related rules and practices have been presented and experienced;
- the tool of formal grammars (in the version of the syntactic charts) has been introduced as a formal tool to represent the structure of the language;
- such a tool has been experienced, with direct involvement of the children, in creating, strictly following the formalised rules, sentences and proverbs (using playing cards or dice in a combinatorial generation, emphasizing the difference between grammatical correctness and meaning acceptability);
- the formal structure of a fairy tale (according to the works of Vladimir Propp) has been presented, together with a table classifying characters and roles; such a structure has been used directly by the pupils (driven by the teacher, and with a dice for choosing randomly among the various possibilities) to generate different tale structures, further transformed in linguistically richer versions;
- then, the table of characters and roles has been discussed, outlining its relationships to cultural aspects, and its independence from the narrative aspects described by the grammar;
- finally, the pupils were asked to carry on as a homework the following:
o to generate their own tale structure;
o to rewrite it with a fluent language and with drawings/pictures;
o to select a new context (science fiction, deep see, microscopic world, far west, etc.); to build a new table of characters and roles (respecting both of them within the chosen context); to repeat the generation and the writing process, as above.
The homework has been enthusiastically accepted, and the good results have been collected in a printed book.
The results presented:
• a complete understanding of the role of the formalisation;
• the capability of using with responsibility their freedom degrees (in choosing names, details, dialogs, etc.);
• an improved writing capability, being the writing a mean for reaching a goal and not a task;
• the understanding of the concept of a classifications, and using it in generating new coherent characters and roles tables; the acceptance of deadlines, with an autonomous organisation of the required homework (carried on in couples).
The paper will present with details the experience, showing the used formalisms and structures, will present some of the final results, and will discuss the pedagogical and educational aspects of the experience, together with their repeatability.