I’ve been mulling over some questions that floated my way on a sea of Boundless Learning talk. One was about teaching Greater Depth in Reading, the other was about how to fit in Reading for Enjoyment.
I am a reader-I can’t really remember learning to read, and I see coloured images in my head. I dream in colour too-I have only just realised not everyone dreams in colour. I have, however, had loads of conversations about not being able to visualise from stories written on a page.
One thing I do know though, is the power of communication, and how. riight from our earliest days, we mimic and explore our connections and relationships, and build our own schemas, and stories from our interactions. For our children, who come from a myriad of settings, who are their own unique beings who all interact with stories differently, what matters most is building emotional connection with stories, theirs and those of others.
Early years is a great example of this. The creation of story oozes through the walls in the chatter of our children. Great adults enter into their worlds and enable language, open up corners of curiosity and empower our children to construct new meaning.
Wide eyes follow picture book words, and more language and ideas flow. Classrooms brim over with representations of these stories, and playgrounds overflow with Gruffalos, Superpotatoes and Rainbow fish. Awe and wonder prevail, joy and curiosity spark across the room-and ‘Why’ predominates the questioning.
Skilful adults nurture dialogue, develop understanding and build on children’s foundations, irrespective of their own story paths. Reading is an adventure into worlds of possibility.
Where then, do we lose Reading for Enjoyment as an integral part of the day? Reasoning, developing debate, enquiry and creating ideas about the stories we encounter are actually a natural response if we make room and value this.So then, what is this Greater Depth? Is it development in thinking and learning dispositions, or is it an assessment criteria- or is it intrinsically bound up in reading for awe and wonder, the emotional and cognitive connection with other people’s stories, and. truly powerful thinking and learning.
What does this mean?
How do I feel about this? Why?
What makes me think that?
What do I now understand? How does this link with what I already know and what do I need to find out?
What effect does this have on me-why?
Just some questions that come to mind, but a big one is, “ Do I like this,? Am I enjoying this? If so, why? If not, why?” Now I’m not so idealistic to think that every book we use in school will be totally enjoyable, but the experience of interacting, exploring themes and engaging with them can be. This can inform what a child wants to read, or spur them on to find out more, seek more and enjoy more.
School for enjoyment, or Education for enjoyment is perhaps more in my vocabulary. Get away Fun Police…the neuroscience tells us emotional connection and cognitive success are interdependent. I’m not saying all fun leads to learning, but if we enjoy it, this implies we feel safe and engaged…head for some focused fun and Woah..imagine the possibilities!
I worry, in’ our endless quest to ‘get our children to “where we want them” we may lose sight of this in stranding elements to satisfy an assessment or accountability framework, when, if we focused on what we know works in terms of learning and creating the best environments for this, we’d tick most of the boxes anyway and create a cohesive, relevant and meaningful learning environment. I’m not talking fun for the sake of it. I’m talking real joy here.
What’s that I hear? Time- where do we find the time? Question what we are doing right now that isn’t useful-or is working against our purpose What really works? What really switches on our learners? What are we spending so much time on because it doesn’t go in the first time, because it’s not accessible or demotivating?
How can we use that then?
Start with stories-create the curiosity, explore what we know, what we want to know. Explore the language, connect with grammatical structures and patterns and reveal how they are used for effect (see inside the mind of the author). Taste the interesting words, use them, play with them.
Read together, read to others, share interesting moments – what is actually going on. Do we need to research anything? How does this connect with Science, History- Build and create images, models. Explore the words of your stories. Make sure you spend time revisiting and sharing in different ways ( this is repeated reading but more fun…could use it in art or music…build those pictures). Create the models. How many times do we expect generalised reasoning without models, images and experiential learning-bring on role play, dance, music.
Oh it’s so much more than sharing a book with a friend, not saying we shouldn’t do that too! If we plan, we can live in the stories and explore,we’ll naturally get bothered about the themes.Then starts the real fun. Lets do something about it! Who do we need to talk to? What do we think? Do we agree? If not, why not? What are the implications?
Let’s tell someone. Let’s take action.
Nowhere have we sat and answered a page of greater depth style questions…but I bet we could.
I’m not saying we might not need to integrate some of this, but oh my goodness, what rich learning would we have missed if we’d sat at our desks focusing solely on process. We’d probably also create the urge to read more. What I’m really looking at is getting a handle on what it is to be a child, how we learn best, and taking a good hard look at all the things we are juggling and synthesising it-
We build learning for enjoyment within meaningful, relevant and searching learning using stories to bring the world to life.
A whole new world…
Let’s get those magic carpets flying. The possibilities are Boundless.