Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nurturing Excellent Writers

Mr Bird and I attended a TJed conference this weekend.
It was truly phenomenal.
I came away totally refocused and re-energized and ready to implement some amazing things in our home school that I am so excited about.
One of the classes I attended was by a man named Andrew Pudewa.
He is amazing. I wish I could remember the huge list of his accomplishments, but I can't.
I do know that he has worked in public schools, created his own private preschools and he has 7 children that he and his wife home school.
When he was in his early 20's he went to Japan and lived for 3 years and studied with Suzuki, of the Suzuki method for learning music. Andrew studied violin for 3 years from arguably the best in the world.
I was captivated by Andrew's way of speaking.
He has developed a theory about how to get children to grow up to be great writers and to use reliably correct and sophisticated English.
The fact is you can't get something out of a brain that is not in there to begin with.
The question then becomes, how do you get reliably correct and sophisticated English into our children's brains?
There is a myth that says Good Readers Will Automatically Become Good Writers.
Not so.
And here's why.
What is our definition of a' good reader'?
We all know children who devour books like water in the dessert. They read huge, thick novels in a short amount of time, usually several per week. They read 3-5 levels above their grade level with amazing comprehension.
This does not mean these great readers will be able to use reliably correct and sophisticated English.
The problem is the sheer speed.
Think about it.
What do we do when we read fast?
We skim a lot.
If there are words or concepts that we don't understand we either skip over them or assign our own, perhaps incorrect, meanings to the words or ideas.
The biggest problem is that we are not hearing the English language the way it's supposed to be heard. We don't speak every word in our mind as we see it. We don't audiate the language.
Now let's think about another aspect to this problem.
When do parents typically stop or at least slow way down on reading to their children?
When the child starts to become really proficient at reading on their own.
We figure, they got it. Now I can focus on reading to the littler ones or we pick up books we want to read ourselves.
This causes a problem.
Besides reading, what are the main sources of language our children are getting?
1. Peers
2. Media
3. Parents or other BUSY adults
4. Reading
If you think about these 4 sources, none of them provide a database of reliably correct and sophisticated English, not even if the child reads well on their own.
There are 2 things we need to do to build a huge database of reliably correct and sophisticated English in our children's brains.

Number One:Don't stop reading to them just because they can read well on their own!
When you read out loud you don't skip stuff, you read every word that is printed.
You use the proper intonations and syntax that children may not use on their own.
You can stop to define or look up words and geographical locations.
You can make connections that you may not have made on your own.
You can build comprehension, even in children that already have great comprehension.
When children start to read well on their own is the precise time they need to be read to out loud above their level in large quantities of time.
If you read to them above their level they will rise to it.
A large quantity of time is defined as 2-3 hours a day, non optional.
That's a lot of time.
It is OK for some, not all, of that time to include recorded books.
We almost always have an audio book going in the car. We download them from Librivox or borrow them from the library and put them on the ipod. We pause the book at our destination and start it every time we are traveling together.
The kids love it.
You would be amazed at how much reliably correct and sophisticated English you can add to your child's brain just by adding audio books to your life.
Add to that a great novel after dinner and scriptures before bed and they will be ahead by leaps and bounds.
Number Two: Memorization
This seems to be a lost art in our educational system.
We have moved away from memorization and started focusing more on grammar rules at such a young age.
We used to memorize poetry and verse and great speeches in huge quantities.
Now we learn nouns, verbs and adjectives before 2nd grade.
Here's why memorization is so phenomenal for ourselves as well as our children.
Memorization grows the brain. It does not matter what we memorize, the process of memorization makes connections in the brain. The more connections we have in our brain the better and faster we will be able to learn and retain any concept.
The more connections our brains have, the more RAM in our PC.
The Suzuki method works very well for memorization as well.
Suzuki method is a way to not only memorize, but retain what we have learned.
We start by memorizing just one piece.
Once we know that one, we add another.
Everyday we repeat all the pieces we have memorized, adding a new one.
As we add new pieces to our repertoire we continue to recite the first ones we learned.
Obviously by the time we learn over 10 or so pieces we will not be able to repeat all of them everyday.
At that time we should be repeating many of them everyday, we should repeat the one we are working on 3-5 times per day.
If we keep up this pattern we should be able to memorize and retain 80 pieces in about a year.
Imagine the knowledge and language data base of reliably correct and sophisticated English!
The kids and I have already gotten to work.
I can't wait to see where this leads us!


Jessica said...

I'm not sure how I stumbled upon your blog but I really love it. I have bookmarked a number of posts that I want to refer back to. As a young mother of just two little girls I have recently felt promptings that have lead me to feeling like I should and want to Homeschool. Having said that, it's a whole new idea to me and I feel somewhat overwhelemd, as well as truly excited! I know that I am going to need to pray and rely on Heavenly Father to lead me in what direction to go, but I was wondering what you might recommend for a "newbie?" What books or curriculum ideas or.....?I have a stack of books from the library and there is just too much information out their for a Mom who only has a small amount of personal reading time. If you happen to have a moment to e-mail me any ideas I would greatly appreciate it:) If not, I understand as you are a very busy Mother. Thanks for your inspiration thus far. -Jessica Kauffman

Karen said...

I went to this one as well - I was planning on writing a little about it too because it was so inspiring! Maybe I'll just link to your post instead :-) We'll have to get together soon and talk about what we learned from the conference - I'd love to hear what else you went to.

Emma said...

This is so true. Even though my boys know how to read, I read to them just about every night. I hadn't thought about having them memorize things. I should start doing that! I know my 4th grade teacher had us memorize tons of poems! But who says we have to wait until then?

Kristin said...

Remember Mrs. Doubtfire. I loved that they read a chapter from a novel to the little girl every night. I'm going to do that with my little dude when he's a bit older!

The Lazy Organizer said...

Cyndee was telling me about that class today. I'm excited to listen to the down load. I realized that my children haven't been stretching themselves in their reading because I have mostly been reading things on their level. I picked something a little harder tonight and my daughter complained but she stuck around and ended up loving it.