Monday, December 07, 2009

Learning to Teach

"The woman [or man or child] who DOES not read has little advantage over the woman [or man or child] who CANNOT read."
-Author Unknown
I am teaching my children. This is my life right now. But all of us, whether our kids are in public school or not, are the primary teacher for our children. In this task I'm assisted currently by some important books that have helped me immensely! Here's one of them:
Learning All the Time by John Holt "How small children begin to read, write, count, and investigate the world, without being taught."

This is an incredible and inspired book about harnessing a child's natural ability to learn, and teaching them by sharing the joy of learning with them, instead of cramming it down their throats while remaining separated emotionally from them. The act of sitting down and reading with a child, a book they are interested in, is the best teaching they can receive, and this tells why. When I read this, I realized, I can do that!!!! I don't have to have special training, I just have to share my heart with them and my love for reading! He also tells about how it takes a maximum of 30 cumulative hours of sitting and reading to and with someone before they, (adult or child) will take the reigns and begin to read on their own. Some instruction will still be needed, of course, but should only be given when they ask. The importance is not that they read certain words in a certain order, but that they want to be successful. He says not to teach or focus on the direction of reading left to right, top to bottom. That is the way we write, but reading need not be so strict. My grampa, Vearl McBride, a professor as well, has taught me the same principle.
He taught me: Do not assume kids know that left to right = before to after, and don't teach it. Just teach placement. This letter goes here, this letter goes here. This says this, that says that. Holt says the worst teacher of reading in the world is Big Bird. It doesn't matter that Bat and Ball and Boy start with B. So what! Kids don't care either. It doesn't help them want to read. Many people for several generations have learened to read the Big Bird way. Those kids, while they did learn to read, grew up to hate reading, unless some other parent or adult also taught them to love to read by reading to and with them, subjects the child and adult enjoyed.
He teaches that our TONE is crucial in this. Don't talk to them like they're stupid. I once said to my husband in front of the children, "DUH..." when annoyed with him. My daughter instantly learned that "DUH" means stupid or dumb. Just from my tone. Yikes! I've been more careful about my tone ever since. So when I take a tone of annoyance and drudgery when giving her instruction, she thinks, "You think I'm stupid, You think I'm dumb. You think I can't do this." Some kids will try anyway. My daughter will not. Instantly she will stop trying if any negative tone is used with her. I am so glad I understand why now, and I can make sure I am very careful to be positive and patient, and more patient, and then even more patient. I've learned to say in my mind, "She WILL learn. She WILL learn. She is bright and intelligent, and smart, and she WILL learn, because she wants to!" That is where all talents and intelligence is begun. With the desire to learn them. So, as Holt has taught me, I'm teaching my kids to read from the time they are in the womb and I read aloud to them. As they grow to be babies, I teach them to read by handing them a book and saying, "This is yours." From the time they're born, we sit and read with them, laugh at the characters, I delight in the truths I find, and I explore the pictures and colors with them, and teach them how to learn from these things by taking those things and applying them to their world. "Do we have a ball in our house too? Do we have something that color in this room? Do you feel that way too sometimes? What do you thing she should do?" Teaching them to learn IS teaching them to read, and teaching them to read IS teaching them to learn. So that is all we're focusing on right now. Everything else is frosting.
Holt says: We begin teaching children to read when we teach them that there are great treasures found in books, wonderful stories and excitement to be found
Mr. Rogers said, "To read to a child you don't have to be an actor. You just have to enjoy the book with them."
That is the key to all learning I believe.
Have fun! Love it! Live it! Share it!

Create an atmosphere of reading and learning. Find a good book to enjoy, and if the child asks, read it to him. If it's too boring for him, he'll walk away, and that is just fine. What is important, is that when the question is asked, "Mommy, will you read to me?" The answer, if at all possible, must always be a resounding,
"Yes! I'd love to!"

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