Monday, October 6, 2008

Teaching and Learning

Lily is sitting in the living room with a page of alphabet letters she copied off the toy chest. She is showing the letters to Esther and, in a very good "teacher" voice, telling her: "The A says a, the B says b, the C says c,..." It's pretty cute. Esther isn't much interested though. She's pretty sure the toy chest is for climbing on, not learning letters from. This morning I heard her squeal and went in to finding standing up on top of it, very pleased with herself. I wasn't quite so pleased; she's getting better and better at standing but I don't have enough confidence in her balance yet to feel comfortable with her standing on anything but the ground!
I'm not sure that Esther, at 9 months, is ready to learn the alphabet, but I do see some potential for the general principle of one child teaching another. They say that the best way to really learn something is to teach it to someone else, which is one reason that narration works so well as a learning technique. The child who is narrating is essentially teaching you what they have just learned, and so reinforcing the learning in their own mind. I have heard of parents encouraging children to teach a difficult concept to a doll or stuffed animal, or perhaps a puppet, to allow the child that opportunity to make the knowledge their own. With older and younger children in a family, I also see opportunities for the older ones to review things they already know while taking some of the teaching load off of my shoulders. But of course it will only work if the entire context is that of one child helping another, not one child bossing the other. Hmm, I see challenges ahead...

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