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The Idea of Hands on Learning in The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara

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Hands on learning is a form of education in which the children learn something by actually doing it themselves. Instead of the teacher lecturing students about a certain subject or them taking tedious notes, the children engage in the subject and try to figure it out themselves by the use of their hands or experiencing it firsthand. Hands on learning has proven to be very beneficial to students. In “The Lesson” the author uses the literary device of characterization, through Sylvia’s character to greater develop the central idea that hands on learning is beneficial to students. Throughout the story it shows how her character further develops and she becomes more mature from learning the lesson Miss Moore tries to teach her. Miss Moore teaches her this lesson through hands on learning by taking the children to F.A.O Schwartz to experience the inequality first hand. At the end of the story the readers can see how Miss Moore opened her mind up to the inequalities in life and how Sylvia’s character has changed from it, proving hands on learning is beneficial.

The author develops this central idea when Miss Moore brings the children to F.A.O Schwartz, a toy store to teach them a lesson. There, Sylvia and the other children see other families able to buy $1,000 sailboats when in contrast they aren’t able to afford anything in the store and even struggle with affording life’s necessities. In the store, they see a $1,000 sailboat wealthy people are able to afford meanwhile if they wanted a sailboat they would “buy a sailboat set for a quarter at Pop’s, a tube of glue for a dime, and a ball of string for eight cents”. Sylvia sees what life is like outside of their poor little neighborhood and how wealthy people live. She is able to compare her life with others as seen in the quote before. Miss Moore takes the children to the city so they can experience the outside world first hand and see it for themselves, hands on learning. The use of this literary device, characterization, helps develop the central idea of the story because it shows how Sylvia learns/understands this lesson. It shows how she becomes more mature and aware of the world around her and it opens her mind to the world outside her neighborhood.

When Sylvia first sees how wealthy people live, she feels a sense of shame for living in poverty and not being able to afford what rich people can afford so easily. She says, “But I feel funny, shame. But what I got to be ashamed about? Got as much right to go in as anybody.” Initially, Sylvia refuses to acknowledge her inferior standing in society and that she is a victim of poverty. She is furious seeing how wealthy people live and is resistant to change. Sylvia is satisfied with her life, referring to herself and the other children as “the only ones just right” in the neighborhood. Miss Moore takes the children to the toy store so Sylvia is able to experience and see it for herself how other people live. She tries to teach the children the lesson of the inequality that exists in the world and if they want to be more than their parents in life, they must work hard and strive to become educated. Miss Moore wants Sylvia to look at her low social status as a bad thing, something she should desire to get out of and Sylvia “doesn’t feature that.” Sylvia doesn’t see anything wrong with how she lives now and does not refer to herself as poor or underprivileged. At the end of the story, the readers are able to see how she changes and she begins to accept the real state of things. This acceptance shows how her character has learned the lesson Miss Moore has taught her through hands on learning. Sylvia wants to take action against the inequalities in life that she experienced firsthand and ensures that “ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin.” She wants to rise above the inequalities in her life and wants to strive to get out of her low social standing.

The central idea of “The Lesson” is that hands on learning is beneficial which is proven throughout the story. The use of the literary device, characterization through Sylvia’s character further proves this idea. The readers are able to see how she matures and becomes more aware of the world around her after being able to experience how other people live for herself and seeing the inequalities that exist. Miss Moore uses the educational strategy of hands on learning, to help teach Sylvia this lesson. It shows how beneficial it is through Sylvia’s character development and awareness of the world around her at the end of the story.

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The Idea Of Hands On Learning In The Lesson By Toni Cade Bambara. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from
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