Monthly Archives: September 2008

Writing with flair and ease

At child care, parents must sign in their children when they drop them off, but there is also a sign-in sheet from the children to write their own names.

Here’s how Lillian signed in this morning:

She put little “curly wurlies” on all the letters.  Notice how she did so consistently throughout – almost as if she’d invented her own font.

For comparison, this is how other students – who are mostly 6 months or more older than Lillian – are scrawling their names:

Lillian is clearly streets ahead.  And the interesting part is that she is developing her skills herself.  I’d been under the impression that while children spontaneously learn to talk, writing was something they had to be taught quite explicitly, with patient instruction and tedious exercises.   But Lillian is learning to write through play activities of her own devising.  We just participate in her language games.  So for example on the weekend Lillian asked Teresa to write out various phrases (pretty butterfly, two fairies, etc.) so she could copy them out.   And in the car we spent the better part of an hour playing the “Starts with” game – one person says the name of an animal, and the other has to say what letter it starts with – or the “Rhymes with” game – one person says a word, and the other person has to come up with other words that rhyme with it (tree: knee, free, key, etc.).  Other times we play the “is that a word?” game where Lillian puts together sequences of letters and we tell her whether they make a word or not.  It seems, the way things are going, that her learning to read and write will be almost effortless for us.

On the weekend we spent a while sitting on the verandah at the farm “reading” a book on weeds.  There was one weed per page, with a photo, the scientific name, the common name, and some information.  Heard through a child’s ears, the common names were often quite funny – black nightshade, hoary mustard, nodding thistle, etc..  I’d read one out and she’d repeat it to Mummy. One was called “Kiss me quick.”  That was hilarious.  She repeated that one over and over…

When we visited North Melbourne Primary, they said that they have – at least in the early years – a “play based” approach to learning.  That seems to me just what Lillian needs.  It would be awful for her to be put in some structured/formal/disciplined learning situation.  She would be bored and rebellious if she had to do specified tasks in a specified order, the same thing at the same time as all the other students who are just not as quick, confident and creative as her.  She loves learning and all she needs is contexts in which she can find interesting new challenges.

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Found in Lillian’s locker

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Reading and Writing

We’re reading Pinocchio at the moment.  Inside the front cover of copy we’re reading is written, in my mother’s handwriting,

Timothy van Gelder
860 Bridges Ave
Holsworthy

so it was mine when I was not much older than Lillian, and we were living at Holsworthy army base – around the time Dad was in Vietnam.  That was about 40 years ago.

Anyway, Pinocchio is timeless.  Lillian seems to be very engaged by it.  Chapters are only 4-5 pages long, and we read a couple each night.  

“Daddy, why is that a chapters book?”

“Well, its quite a long book, so it is broken up into chapters.”

“There’s a chapters book at school.  But its not as long as that book.”

Lillian also loves to hear made-up stories at the moment.  I’ve had to make up a few now.  One is about a little girl who doesn’t want to go to bed, so her parents put her outside.  She wanders into the forest and ends up in the pouch of a mother kangaroo.  Her daddy finds her there.  Another made-up story is about three possums – mummy possum, daddy possum, and baby possum – who need to find a new home.  They end up living in a tree at the Melbourne zoo, and next time we go to the zoo we can visit them there. 

On Sunday Lillian went to her friend Emma’s birthday party, and in her take-away pack was a little booklet for sticking stickers into.  Lillian stuck various stickers in it, then wanted to write her own story.  She started making it up:

“One upona (sic) time, there were three fairies, three butterflies, a possum, a kangaroo, and a mermaid…”

She started writing the story out.  She specified the words but asked me to spell each one for her so she could write it out:  

We didn’t get too far into the story – it takes quite a while and a lot of concentration!

On another note, tonight she was upset that the TV was showing the ABC News (she’d rather watch something else).  So in a very visible act of rebellion, she took one of her books, Pop-up Aesop, which Daddy had brought back from America for her, and started tearing it up.  Periodically she’d look in our direction to see if we were getting upset, or even noticing.  We deliberately ignored her, not wanting to encourage such bad behavior by allowing her to succeed in generating a strong reaction.  So that book is now history, but I doubt she’ll be doing much more book-tearing; there’s no point, it doesn’t seem to have the desired provocative effect.

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