Thursday, May 10, 2012

Making Connections

If you want a child to learn & retain something, you have to teach it through connected & active repeated exposures. You cannot tell a child (especially a very young child), "Grass is green", and expect that they will retain that information. You must let them see it, feel it, hear it, do it, dance to it, smell it & recreate it.

 For example, to teach my son the color green, I used a book, a song & nature. We had recently been reading "City Dog, Country Frog", a book which includes the line, "City dog didn't stop to admire the green, green grass". This line is accompanied by a vivid watercolor illustration showing an expanse of very bright green grass. The next time we went for a walk outside, I took him to a strip of grass & repeated the line, "City dog didn't stop to admire the green, green grass..." His face lit up with recognition! I didn't belabor the point; we smiled & ran our fingers through the grass & went on with our walk. We continued to read the book and touch the grass and talk about things that were green. Then we found a great recording by Jewel of "The Green Grass Grows All Around" & started playing that for him & singing it to him. My husband burned it to a CD for car trips. We even attended a Mo Willems (author of "City Dog, Country Frog") book signing at Barnes & Noble.

 Some may call this overkill, but...Ollie has known every color, for a long time now, with 100% accuracy. 

 I usually use books as a starting point for learning something new, but you have to go beyond that & help kids make connections to real life, or the knowledge from a book won't stick. And this is coming from someone who adores books & writes The Book Blog, so trust me!

 To review, here are the keys to teaching a child something new:
  1. Read about the subject matter.
  2. Make connections through other modalities or intelligences to the subject.
  3. Provide repeated exposures over time.
  4. For young children - NO DRILLING or overly structured lessons. It's unnecessary & detrimental.
  5. Understand that motivation is central to all learning. If the method is boring, irrelevant & tedious, so will the subject matter be perceived to be boring, irrelevant & tedious, and very little real learning will occur.

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