A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Too bad children are not crows
Previous entry: Butterfly Book in short supply
Saturday January 12 2008

Today, as flagged up yesterday here, I attended the Supplementary Schools training day.  There were several little talks by various teachers, all helpful, and one big one to start with, by Irina Tyk, the writer of the Butterfly Book (see below).  She said many interesting and helpful things.  I believe that I am now significantly better at teaching reading than I was.

To me, the most interesting thing she said concerned the matter of abstract knowledge.  The trend in education during recent decades has been, she said, to relate all learning to already existing feelings and sensory experiences of children.  If new abstract knowledge is being presented, it is done so by connecting it to sensory experience, like colours, feelings, shapes that they already know, gestures they can do.  This is a mistake, she said.  Learning to read means mastering the connections between abstract symbols and sounds.  Do not, she said, climbing onto what was clearly one of her hobby horses, confuse the letter S with a snake, as a lot of teachers apparently like to do.  (Can snakes be hobby horses?  Yes they can.) Doing that only confuses, by introducing N, A, K and E, with all the irrelevant and confusing thoughts those notions might provoke.  Keep it clear, and accurate, and stripped of gossip, trivia and irrelevance.  S says sssss.  Don’t “finally” (a favourite word of hers) say that.  Say that straight away.

At the end, she also said very interesting things about long words, like “grandiloquent”, and “phantasmagorical”, which she said quite small children could quite easily learn to spell out, even if they don’t know what such words mean and won’t for some time.