Discovery Part 2: The Backbone of Literacy




The ability to read and write is complex and involves the integration of numerous foundational skills. Learning to read and write, children must wade through the landscape of phonology (word sounds), orthography (word patterns), morphology (word classifications) and then tackle the more treacherous path through the land of syntax (word patterning) and semantics (grammar) to gather tools that enable them to practice the art of reading and writing. But that’s not all, not at all! We must not discount the child’s EQ when it comes to literacy. Soft skills such as emotional insight, curiosity, and attitude all contribute to motivation and motivation impacts learning. Exposing children to a vast array of language arts experiences in an environment that is brimming with opportunities to enact language from a young age cultivates natural curiosity  and promotes peaceful acquisition of skill over time. This is the magic of the tortoise versus the hare in action! And, just to complicate matters just a tiny bit more, literacy is much more than being able to read and write. True literacy is not just the ability to decode and encode language, true literacy occurs when the child moves from the foundational to the realm of creation, the realm of original communication.

Providing prepared opportunities for children to independently discover the tools of literacy across all domains of learning promotes the ability to enact language. It is vitally important that children not lose heart or become discouraged when mistakes occur. Self-correcting materials allow children to learn through their own errors to make the correct decision without having the teacher point it out to them. When encouraged to discover, children are simultaneously empowered to practice such complex skills as:

  • scrutinizing to make confident decisions
  • self-critiquing to assert thoughtful opinions
  • hypothesizing to draw informed conclusions

When Nelson chose the “Bones of the Body” work during our Discovery session, not only did he work through identifying the Latin names for a selection the election of the human skeleton, he was intrigued and invested in the work and, consequently, rewarded intrinsically. This child, while hard at work, was calm, confidently focused, and enthusiastic about learning. I have no doubt that this little exercise had less to do with learning the names of bones and more about strengthening the backbone of literacy. Discovery provides opportunities for children to, not only gather tools, but to encounter and practice the processes through which great ideas are conceived and forged.

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