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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Differences in Learning Over the Decades

Kaden with his younger brother, Zac
Kids learn very differently today than they did when I was a kid. When I was in first grade, I read things like, "Run, Jane, run." My first-grade grandkids, on the other hand, read interesting stories, and the books they read include words that span more than two syllables.

A couple of months ago, I opened Kaden's book bag. Kaden, 6, had homework due – a book report. So we sat down on the couch and he read the book to me. With no effort whatsoever, he smoothly read all the words, even gliding by "triceratops" as if he had read it a million times.

What made the book more interesting to me were his interruptions as he instructed me, "When you read, you make predictions. What do you predict will happen?"

OK, I admit, I couldn't help but laugh. He ignored my reaction and very seriously continued, "Check for understanding. If you don't understand something, we'll back up and reread."

Good, because I was kind of distracted by his pedagogic demeanor. He had memorized all of his teacher's instructions and knew exactly how to teach me the proper way to read.

"Now, as I read," he told me, "I want you to tune into interesting words." I was impressed. I wished my teachers had taught me as well.

"For fluency, we may need to reread the text. Accuracy is important." Again, I was impressed, not only by his ability to retain all of the information his teacher had taught him, not only by his comprehension of the book he was reading, but also by his vocabulary.

He continued to read, interrupting every so often to make sure I understood what he was reading. "Look at the pictures," he suggested. "They will give you a clue about the text." Another laugh erupted from Grandma. I wished I had learned that very helpful technique when I was a kid.

When I was about 9 years old, after my classmates and I had learned the two distinct sounds of the letter, "C," our teacher had us all read to ourselves a story from our books. Afterwards, she told us, we would discuss the story.

Page after page after page, the same word appeared with two C letters. I panicked. PLEASE DON'T CALL ON ME, I pleaded with my eyes, because I had no idea what a kirkus was, nor did I know what a sirsus was. I didn't know the rules of English allowed two DIFFERENT sounds of the same letter to appear in the same word, despite all of the pictures of clowns, tents, elephants, and acrobats on high wires that accompanied the words on EVERY SINGLE PAGE. (I later blamed my parents for my anxiety attack because they never took my sisters and me to a circus. If I had made up the name, circus, I would have spelled it C-I-R-K-U-S, to alleviate the anxiety of all children who didn't understand the same rule I didn't understand.)

But back to the story of Kaden. He read and we discussed and he continued to read and we continued to discuss the book as he measured my comprehension of the text. And when he wrote his book report, he faithfully placed one finger between each word to make sure he wasn't crowding the words.

Great teaching technique, Bourbonnais schools! We should all demand of our teachers this same type of instruction.


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1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you were able to keep a straight face during your impromptu lesson. Sometimes it hurts keeping the laughter in but it is worth it. Are all the children in your grandson's class reading so well? Could be your grandson is a genius.

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