Structured Yet Unstructured Learning – Is it Possible?

A school timetable tells you what subjects and lessons will be taught in class through the week. It gives predictability to students and teachers and ensures that all subjects are adequately covered. But, do timetables also bring about monotony in the school life? Do they take away the flexibility of customizing lessons for students? Do they make learning disconnected?

While timetables give a certain structure to learning, just simply following a timetable may not achieve high-levels of learning. Most often, timetables require teachers to follow the sequence of chapters given in the book. This would mean that a class begins with English Chapter 1, a passage about a boy’s visit to a farm. In the next session, the teacher covers EVS Chapter 1, concepts of floating and sinking; this is followed by Math Chapter 1, number names and Hindi Chapter 1, introduction to Hindi alphabets. If a teacher was to follow the timetable and sequence of chapters in the book, then learning will occur, but each chapter would be taught independently. At the end, the child will return home having learnt a little bit of each concept, but not sure how these concepts connect together.

Teachers should have the flexibility, especially at lower grades, to alter the flow of the timetable and chapters, such that together all concepts taught become a cohesive unit and make relevant sense to students. Also, very often teachers may need to alter the flow of subjects based on the response they receive from students or the mood of the students. For example, if students appear highly inattentive, then it may be a good idea to complete the session and then have them do some PE before resuming the next learning concept. Customizing learning would mean that teachers follow the time-table, just not in the order prescribed. Likewise, they would cover all the lessons from the books, but not necessarily in sequence.

Here’s an example of how teachers can cover subjects from the time-table yet incorporate unstructured learning.

Monday Timetable –

  1.  Eng Lit
  2. Math
  3. PE
  4. Performing Arts
  5. Recess
  6. Craft
  7. Hindi
  8. EVS
  9. EVS

Begin the class with English; read Chapter 1 from the book. If the lesson is about a girl and her pet, then lead the class to discuss about pet animals. Ask children to write and talk about their favorite animal/pet or write keywords from the book and discuss their meaning.

Next, open the EVS book and read the chapter on animals. Discuss which animals can be pet animals and which cannot. Children can make a mind map to sort wild animals, domestic animals and pet animals. Depending on the time, you can extend the discussion to animals living on land and water.

Then, as part of PE, do some warm-up exercises and have children move around like different animals – hop like rabbits, jump like kangaroos and other such animal moves.

After recess, arrange children into groups of four. Give each group a bag of plastic animal figurines.Ask each group to count the animals they have (one cow, two sheep, three goats) and write the count in their Math notebooks.

Then, line-up the animals on your desk, call out their Hindi names and ask children to repeat after you. Open the Hindi book to the chapter on animal names and read names of other animals. Have children practice writing one Hindi alphabet in their worksheets.

Finally, as part of Performing Arts, read a short passage from the jungle book and have children enact some scenes or characters from the story.

By following a custom learning path, teachers can make learning interesting and relevant to students, don’t you agree?


Kanchan Shine

Kanchan Shine

Passionate about everything related to education. I believe that the best kind of learning happens through play, experiments and fun! I love watching how children learn and love to implement play-based, hands-on teaching approaches. I get my thrill by planning activities for my children (6 yo girl & 3 yo boy) and watching them learn while having fun!

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