Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Teachng Complex Ideas

Since children are products of their environments, should parents expose them to a variety of complex concepts while they are young, perhaps frequently, to minimize they perceived difficulty when they are older?

Learning this is overwhelming to me. But is it to kids?
That sounds silly, but I've observed a few instances where it might make sense.

Ty and Za sometimes watch "Martha Speaks." As we watched yesterday, the characters causally used the terms "noun and "adjective." The characters defined them too. I highlighted that, and told Ty and Za that was what I teach. They nodded, not thinking much of these concepts, which are perceived as difficult by older students. I explained a few other grammatical terms, and they didn't pay much attention to me.

A few hours later, I was working on a lesson plan for verbs. Za wanted to know what I was doing, and I told her "verb phrases." She responded, "like 'don't break'?" I couldn't believe it. (Sure she included an adverb, but she's three, so I was excited). I told her yes, exactly like that.

These two separate observations happened really close together, which made me wonder. As a high school English teacher, my students stare at me with "why do you hate us?"-eyes when we discuss grammar. Grammar is really just the words that we speak and read though. They find it difficult, and foreign. Those grammatical terms, they are difficult for older students to understand.

What if these terms were just natural parts of kids' environments? My kids probably are more exposed to language arts terms since I use them very naturally, just as doctors' kids use the correct anatomical terms, or photographers' kids know the difference between memory card sizes.

For years I have heard that teaching children foreign languages should happen at a young age. Is that the situation with everything, or just perceived difficult concepts? Are all concepts difficult, or all simple? Do we expose kids to everything, hoping some of sticks, or hoping that it doesn't intimidate them when they are older?

Or is it a bit of all that?