This article has been published in Enabling Education 11
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Title: Making Pictorial Learning Aids, Liberia
Author: Linney, B and Röhr-Rouendaal, P
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2007

Making pictorial learning aids, Liberia

Bob Linney and Petra Röhr-Rouendaalo

There is a widespread absence of visual stimulation for young children in many education systems around the world. Stimulation of all the senses is beneficial for brain development in young children. In many countries, however, classrooms may have few books, no pictures on the walls and no learning aids. Teaching methods frequently involve rote learning and copying, which fail to engage and challenge children fully. Yet a few colourful pictures on the walls or some simple, attractive home-made pictorial learning aids can transform a classroom – without costing much.

We recently helped to facilitate a five-day workshop for teachers and student-teachers in Liberia. Participants learned how to make and use low-cost pictorial learning aids for pre-school and primary level children. These included picture cards, maps, discussion starters and educational games. Participants also practised using these aids in ways that encourage pupils to participate and interact with each other and the teacher.

The learning aids produced at our workshop were all made from paints, paper, etc, bought in Monrovia – such materials would be available in many other towns in developing countries. Some materials can even be obtained free (e.g. printing companies might give away off-cuts of paper or card). Also, the learning aids are generally small, so are easy to make in crowded classrooms.

Participants created a range of pictorial learning aids for use across the curriculum. For example, one set of picture cards was made to help children learn about how a fruit tree grows from seed. Pupils place the pictures in the correct sequence of growth. Their classmates can agree or disagree with any decisions. Picture cards were made to help children learn about or discuss numbers, the alphabet, food and nutrition, war, HIV/AIDS, palm oil production methods, transportation and religious education. Large maps of Africa were made into jigsaws for use in a geography class. One participant made a board game for learning about blood circulation. Another made a simple game to help young children match cut-out shapes with shapes drawn on paper.

Pictorial learning aids are intended for use in a participatory and interactive way. The teacher needs to use them to encourage all pupils – even those who are normally quiet – to ask questions, discuss topics and participate in class. The approach gives children a chance to move around and take an active, hands-on role in using their learning materials. Such learning aids can stimulate discussions, helping children learn how to make causal connections and develop their analytical and problem-solving skills. They gain confidence through interacting with each other and their teacher, and are less likely to get bored or distracted. Consequently, they learn more and have more fun doing so. The use of such aids helps pupils to improve visual literacy skills, helping them extract information or meaning from other images they encounter.

Only one participant had previously had training in drawing, yet they all made useful pictorial learning aids. Participants were shown some basic guidelines for drawing faces, figures and animals and were given further drawing advice when needed. After four days, all participants had designed and made at least one pictorial learning aid. Then they practised using these aids, demonstrating to the group how they would help pupils to learn by using their materials. Other participants provided feedback and suggestions on how to promote participation and interaction.

The teachers and student-teachers appreciated the usefulness of these materials. Such training is already being given in Liberia by workshop organiser Topiyoo Nya Blimie who teaches at a teacher training college in Monrovia and is planning to share these ideas with other colleges.

All teachers, with a little help, can make their own innovative pictorial learning aids at low-cost, using locally available materials. They can also teach their pupils how to make such aids.

More widespread use of such materials can help to make learning more fun. Schools can become more creative as pupils gain the confidence to ask more questions and play a more active role in their own education. Pictorial learning aids can help children to develop valuable thinking skills for use in adult life.

Bob and Petra are graphic artists and facilitators with the group Health Images, which provides training for people who want to make and use participatory, people-centred pictorial learning aids for formal and informal learning. Contact:
Bob Linney and Petra Röhr-Rouendaal,
Health Images
Holly Tree Farm, Walpole, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 9BD, UK.

Topiyoo Nya Blimie, LIVAP Community School, SKD Sports Complex, Elwa Road, Paynesville, Liberia.