Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Love Literacy

As a boy I remember certain "art" processes that seemed like a kind of everyday magic. Fold-over paintings were one of those, as were cutting out snowflakes. At certain points in my childhood I put in significant hours experimenting with them, always slightly surprised at the results, even as I came to understand how the process worked. I guess it had to do with the mystery of not knowing exactly what you had created until unfolding the paper.

Cutting paper hearts is another of those and it's why we traditionally spend a session or two on it during the run-up to Valentine's Day. We start with the adult drawing lines to guide the kids' cutting, but typically they take that part over as well. Our younger children give it a go, but I've discovered that 4-5s seem to be the particular sweet spot, with many kids producing dozens in the spirit of my own childhood experiments.

As I've written repeatedly here, we don't engage in developmentally inappropriate literacy training, choosing to instead stick with what research and experience tells us, which is that formal literacy education should be saved for first grade and beyond, if it is ever needed, when reading and writing tend to naturally begin to emerge in most children. Of course, this isn't to say that it doesn't begin to emerge in many children at much younger ages, only that a play-based curriculum in a literacy rich environment with lots of dramatic play is the developmentally appropriate way to support children's earliest efforts.

At some point in the process of manufacturing these magic hearts, the subject of valentines always comes up with much of the discussion swirling around who is going to be the lucky recipient of their most personally satisfying creations. Children, when not bombarded with messages about receiving, almost always prefer giving. I usually finish the day with a nice stack of construction paper love, but many more are designated for moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and other relatives who are not present, which then leads to a need to mark them appropriately.

Some of the children are perfectly satisfied with allowing an adult to do the writing, perhaps saving their own name for their own hand, but those who are ready, those for whom writing is beginning to emerge, want the pens in their own hands, only needing an adult to coach them through the process of inscribing their hearts with personally meaningful words. And, of course, in every class there are one or two who have already moved on to invented spelling, foregoing adult support entirely.

This is how literacy looks in preschool. This is what giving looks like in preschool. This is what love looks like in preschool. We support them when asked, but otherwise, it's always best to allow children to explore mysteries as they see fit. That's how magic happens.

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Luba Vangelova said...

I enjoy your blog very much. This article of mine may interest you, as it's also about the topic at hand. It's about why pushing children to write or read English (in particular) can be counter-productive: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/how-the-english-language-is-holding-kids-back/385291/

Jessica - Growing Inch By Inch said...

"LOVE" this!

Rafer Nelsen said...

I am not sure exactly what it is about it, but I am particularly drawn to the kid's "off" hand in your photos, Tom; the hand not holding the pen or the scissors. The steadying hand, I suppose. What calm and purpose those off hands express.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely spot on! Thank you!