Wednesday, March 9, 2011


As the girls are on the verge of becoming fluent early readers, parents can help watch out for a pitfall that most new learners fall into. Learning is a skill. It's a new skill for your girls. It's a very exciting skill. They are suddenly awakening to the fact that they are able to learn things they don't know. The temptation and pitfall we want to help them avoid is guessing. It's so exciting to know something new that often children will "guess" an answer to show off their knowledge rather than take the time to use their new skills and actually discover the true answer.

At this point in the learning process children need to start recognizing what real learning is and is not. Learning something is not the same as remembering. The temptation for the girls will be to think they remember a word or math fact or answer to a new problem because it looks similar to something they've already learned. It's so tempting to shout out, "set!" when they see their new word "sit" and to be so proud that they, "already knew it!" Young learners rush to an answer after seeing just the first sound, without looking at the full word.

You can help your girls grow through this phase of acquiring new knowledge by encouraging them to learn and not to guess. If they are guessing at words at home, encourage them to "read it, don't guess," or "sound it out." If they pretend to know the answer to something because they want you to be proud of how much they know, show your pride in their ability to figure it out instead. It's very important at this point for children know that what is praiseworthy is taking the time to figure out and learn something unknown. Learning is just as praiseworthy as knowing.
Of course, they are learning enough that they may often guess correctly. However, guessing correctly can become a crutch used to avoid the work of actually understanding what they are doing. True learning comes by understanding. Young children can memorize very quickly and so make many good guesses. However, what we're looking for is the ability to understand how to do the work so that they don't need to guess. If they develop a bad habit of relying on guessing first, they will get pretty stuck when it comes to building new concepts on previous knowledge. 

Make your new favorite phrases at home,
"sound it out!" 
"read it!" 
"how much do you have altogether?" 
"how much more do you need?"
and help your daughter be a good learner of knowledge and not merely a quoter of facts. 

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