Sunday, March 6, 2011

How do you learn?

Q: ....Seventh car...

I: Yes, we are waiting for the seventh car to show up and drive by...

Q: Seventh car..., seven is lucky number.

I: Yes, you are right. Seven is a lucky number. I didn’t know you knew that.

Q: I know.

I: Thanks for sharing. I kinda forgot that seven is a lucky number.

Q: Silly Iris! Hee-hee-hee-hee.

I had this wonderful conversation with my little friend yesterday while we were out for a spring walk. The conversation was followed by more fun talk from my friend that really made me laugh and the “cream on the pie” was his statement that he was "Just, just, just so happy” while his bright shining eyes found mine to make sure I understood he was talking to me.

After our walk and the rest of my session with him in his playroom I had a conversation with his parents. We all cheered the enormous progress my friend is showing. He is making sentences, he is participating in conversation loops, he uses his eyes to check in with people, he knows how to use gestures and lately he's even started academics. He is totally into spelling with plastic letters that are spread everywhere in his room. He also loves counting and seems to understand the concept of summing.

The way my friend is learning is very different than most kids and in our conversation, dad, mom and I were in awe how the little man has found ways to learn new things. My little friend learns with repetition. Lots and lots and lots of repetition! He also learns by trying new things to ones he learned before.

So first he learned the letters; now he is spelling words. He still wants to point to the letters that he is working with. So, if we spell banana, he finds the letter B, then tells me B is the first letter, he will walk over to the board where he will point at first, then walk to the table and point at number one, touch the banana, walk over the alphabet tower and point the B after which he is ready to put down letter B. He'll then go to the second letter of the word and repeat his process.

In earlier stages of the playroom play where we were not so aware of his very functional way of learning, we tried to break the patterns and have him be more flexible in trying other ways of doing things; we wanted to teach him instead of allowing him to figure out things in his elaborate way! But over time we became aware that his unique way of structuring helps him to pick up new things faster and better than we could teach him in any other way. It is as if he's showing us the way the neurons in his brains are connecting together to make things stick.

So instead of teaching nowadays, we watch what he does, try to figure out why he does what he does and then offer new things that enhance his learning experience.

So spelling is combined with counting, walking is combined with talking, eating is combined with reading etc. It’s not a way of learning that he could get at school. We were talking about how the boy because of this unique way of learning is able to show his unique self and loves to explore and try new things. He's developed into this wonderful person that is “just, just, just so happy.”

What about you? Do you have ways in which you love to learn? Are these ways you have been taught at school, or ways you developed yourself? Have you tried new ways of learning that might work better for you? Were you a kid that liked to study in front of the television with also the radio on, while your parents made you go to your bedroom to study in a quiet space? Were you a kid that observed others for at least two hundred times before trying it yourself, or were you a kid that just jumped in and then learned from the results of the actions taken?

What is one new thing you have wanted to learn? If you had no teacher, how would you learn it? What about starting today, with that personalized learning structure?

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