Thursday, June 07, 2018

A paucity of experience

AT the end of this term, I’m taking my class on two trips in quick succession. The first is costing £4.00 per person but will, I expect, be an experience the likes of which many of the children in my class, possibly the school, have never had. It’s not entirely surprising as the Royal Highland Show and many of the families in the community in which I work are on vastly different orbits.
Tractors, chickens, cows, quad bikes, chainsaws, ducks, horses and all of the associated language, measures and sheer scale of things will, quite possibly, be overwhelming.
The smells, the sounds ... incidental learning and experience will come at them thick and fast. Some will struggle, others will thrive but it can’t help but add something to their experiential stock, even if it’s only the fact that they don’t like it; at least they’ll be able to say why.

The second trip is costing £1.60. Many of the children have, unsurprisingly, done it before. What is incredible is the number who haven’t.
We’re going to the beach. On the bus. We’re leaving in the monrning. Spending the day there and then coming back again.
Again, the sights, the smells, the sensations for those who’ve never been to the seaside will quite possibly be overwhelming. I get excited by the beach and I live a five minute walk from it. Imagine, if you can, going for the first time ...

Yesterday, as part of #30DaysWild, we ran and played in the school garden barefoot.
Grass and tarmac and a little bit of dirt, the odd upturned log for the brav; Common or garden barefoot sensations.
But sand!
Wet sand. Dry sand. Cold sand. Warm sand.
And seaweed. Seaweeds.
And shells.
And worm casts.
The sea and the waves.
Seagulls living up to their prefix and not grazing on Pringles in the playground.
Digging and delving.

Some of the children in my class have never been to the seaside.

Our children are measured and assessed on whether they can decode an assortment of letters. Whether they can spell the word when they’re asked to.

S A N D ...

We know that it’s so much more than a sum of its sounds. Our job must be to fill those phonemes with feelings, with meaning. Fill them with smells and sensations.

People I’ve spoken to remember days spent sitting on the grass with Mrs _____ reading them stories. They remember who they were sitting next to, how they felt and what the weather was like. They can’t  remember the story, the lesson or what went before or came after but the sensation of sitting in the grass with the sun on their face and the muted sounds of everything when you’re outside has stuck with them ...

Our job should at least involve an element of addressing the paucity of experience that so many of our children have. To help them to make sensory sense of the words they read and hear. Literacy, after all, isn't about sounding out or decoding, it’s about understanding; not in the dictionary definition way but experientially.

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