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Friday, January 17, 2014

27. Practice makes the master

Everybody was with that winter break feeling, so I try to stay calmed, and I started a little more artistic activities with children. It was easy to notice the importance of art in the classroom, children feel relaxed and they can explode their personal abilities, some discovered to be good to sing, while others prefer to play instruments. At the end if the language depends on the sounds, singing and music are part of the same sensory system.
That evening as usual, I went to talk to my friend. It is interesting how much our talks were shaping my ideas about teaching. I still have fear of damaging children minds, how much is too much to ask to them?, May I ask to little?, If they laugh too much it means I'm not a good teacher... perhaps there is no a way to measure success, except with tests, or hoping that one day they become successful people, but I had to wait many years to answer my questions.

We started our discussion about the exaggerated amount of content in books, seeking to create skills in students, which lost motivation sometimes,  and  it doesn’t allow to repeat what should be learn.
-   Sometimes I would like that children could enjoy the home works and not just going from one lesson to another, I told her with reluctance.

-  Many persons wish the same, It is not only boring, it goes against the most basic principles of learning, which shows you the distance between education and learning.

-       Then, should we repeat things more?

-  When you look histories of great athletes, artists or anyone whom you admire, you discover there is something in common: they began to build their skills from a very early age, and took baby steps before becoming masters.

-       It is true, although the competency model describes that slow pace towards goals that allow children to be fit in your environment...

-       Thus they should be designed, but actually only mark the goal, for example think about reading, it only says that children must be capable of developing a verbally communicative competence to understand ideas of other persons, but you don't shred the process.

-       Where does the process begin?

-       It begins in the ability to listen and clearly differentiate sounds of natural language. However you hear one and other environmental sounds at the same time, like birds singing, or leaves falling, dogs barking, then you must  give them meaning and associate them with words to every sound. The brain works combining all that information, but it does work from nothing, it needs to discriminate between a word, a melody or a noise. That helps you to discriminate sounds better when you are exposed to each stimulus.

-       Then should we allow to children to listen other stimuli to support them in reading?.

-       Of course!, and let them sing, encouraging them aurally, let them do play with words, because the next big step is to see the sound, through signs and symbols that represent those sounds.
-       I have always thought that reading is a visual process, I have never thought it was a acoustic task.

-       You are not the only one!, but when you work with children, you discover if they have failed to differentiate sounds, they are not able to relate the sound with the symbol, and that produce a writing with spelling mistakes. This explains why foreigners can write well, because we also have tools to check spelling, but when we listen to others and we should talk it is obvious that we are not native speakers.

-       It's true!, I have seen that foreigner children are good when they write, but it’s painful for them to talk sometimes, because they do not understand some words.

-   Sometimes they feel shame to say: I am sorry, but I don't understand!, but if they overcome that fear and try over and over and over again, usually they finish being capable of  understanding not only words, but meanings, and that is the language, which eventually turns into written words.

-      Then, they should practice a lot, and we should not to change content sometimes arbitrarily.

-       I agree!, if you read about persons who have been excellent in something, you realize  that they began with a very different activity, sometimes far away from what we know, but eventually those persons find both taste and motivation to try something new, then if you look at biological models, any one, you can find two important aspects: one is the motivation to repeat and repeat and repeat something that ending being automating such conduct that becomes easy.

-       It is true, but in school sometimes we do not encourage it and we don't allow them to do it a thousand times...

-       When cellist Pablo Casals was asked why  he continued playing his beloved instrument after 90 years, his reply was that he wanted to "keep making progress", even if his his talent was recognized 60 years before that. He also said that the art of interpretation and not exactly following what is written...

-       Then there comes a time in which every one seeks to advance and evolve...

-       Yes, it occurs naturally, but you must give the chance to your  child and forget to say: "You shouldn’t do that", " Do it again this way"... you should let them experiment a bit, to look for new solutions, other ways of saying things, and above all, enjoy...

This talk made me clear in my mind what Iwanted for Christmas: I asked that one day we could give kids more freedom to find their own talent, because there is no doubt everybody has one, something in which we are excellent, but there are those who never find it.

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