Monday, February 19, 2018

The Problem With Needing To Read

       Suppose the children have unconsciously absorbed the notion of the importance of reading in daily life by seeing their relatives read letters, the newspaper, magazines, cook books, advertisements, books, etc.; suppose reading material and picture books have formed part of their environment; suppose they have been read to or told stories which they know are to be found in books; suppose on street cars, walks, or elsewhere the desire has come to them to decipher for themselves the large print on brilliantly colored background accompanied by pictures they do not understand. The problem comes to them in their own feeling, "I want to learn to read." * Learning to read/ then, becomes the large project or definite purpose to be worked out in concrete terms. During the process, however, minor problems arise, felt rather than clearly thought out by the children. Among these are, "How can I get what I want without asking older people?" This problem shows a 'felt need' and a proper time for the introduction of phonics. Another problem felt rather than thought out is: "How can I share what I like unless I can interpret the meaning of the page in such a way as to make people wish to listen to my reading?" This introduces the most vital motive for class reading, the social motive. That it is a real one to children is evidenced by the little girl, who persistently followed her elders about with a book under her arm, begging to be permitted to read to them and rejoicing when given the privilege to do so.
       These minor problems arising out of the pursuit of the main project demand lesser projects for their solution. So the ramification goes on as has been suggested in the simile of the tree with its twigs and branches and the sap coursing through all. To carry the picture somewhat farther in illustration of the point to follow in the next paragraph concerning standards for the selection of problems and projects, it may be said, that the dead twigs and branches, through which the sap no longer courses, and the individual twigs at the foot of the trunk which take from the strength of the tree without contributing to its growth had better be chopped off so as to conserve and concentrate the life of the whole in it's integral parts.
       Problems and projects arise in connection with the daily experience of children. Not all problems or projects need or should receive attention at school. The basis for determining which shall be utilized and which rejected includes the following questions:
  1. Does the problem or project appeal to the majority of the group?
  2. Is it of sufficient value to the individual to enable him to make by means of it a distinct contribution to himself or to the group?
  3. Does it open up to the individual or the group, consciously or unconsciously, visions of new problems to be solved and projects to be worked out in consequence?
  4. Does it help illumine some phase of child experience or activity worth preserving and fixing even temporarily?
  5. Does it help lengthen gradually the pupil's 'interest span,' his power of sustained attention?
  6. May a solution of the problem by means of a certain project, by contrast possibly, point the way better than a seemingly more profitable project may do at a particular time? To illustrate: If a child has his heart set on solving a problem by means of a certain project, might the experience gained in doing this and finding the result unsatisfactory more than offset a safe direction towards his immediate goal? (This, of course, opens up the questions of 'trial and error'; the validity and extent of the use of this method ; the basis for measuring results and the weighing of values ; the economy of time; the elimination of waste.)
       A word as to the complexity of projects for young children. There are, of course, inherent in the experience of children many larger units which hold their attention for days and weeks intermittently or consecutively. Such are the making and using of the play house; the school-garden fair, depending for its success upon the spring gardening, the care in the summer and the fall harvesting; playing store; the various social functions growing out of the utilization of garden products and the observance of holidays; the camping, either as white campers or as Indians in the living of that gem for primary grades Hiawatha; the life of indigenous man as revealed in Miss Dopp's books; the farmer's activities I carried through the year in a rural community, and other activities growing out of local conditions.
       It is, however, not necessary or even desirable that all projects undertaken by small children shall be large ones. Their interests are varied, their interest 'spans' are short; many of their legitimate desires are very simple and of short duration ; many of them are still enjoyed and valued as ends in themselves; some of them form a connected series in a larger unit held in mind only by the teacher. Some may cover merely a recitation or a day or two in point of time.
      The problem or the project may precede in point of time. With little children frequently the project precedes the problem, because of the unconsciousness of their reaction and the immediacy of their purpose. Since this is true and little children solve a large number of their problems by means of projects involving manipulation of materials, a separate chapter has been devoted to constructive activities. Play is given first place because of its irrepressibility and because of its value in all child activity. It is implied throughout, though it need hardly be said, that a school which provides opportunity for purposeful activity does most to build up the health of the children. This question of the health of herself and her children should be one of the purposeful activities of the teacher.

Playful ways to teach reading through short games/projects...

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