December 22, 2020
Being a parent has changed me in ways I could not have foreseen. At first, I looked forward to teaching our two-year-old son all the things. That’s why I continue to be shocked at just how much I learn from him. This example still has me smiling, and, really, inspired to dig deeper.
On a weekday morning in the spring of 2020, Mommy was out running errands. That gave me another precious opportunity to spend some quality time with Myals. I wanted to make the most of our father-son moments together.
The morning was full of playing with trucks, construction vehicles, and matchbox cars. We played a short game of hide-and-go-seek. And we definitely ran around the house a few… hundred times. Needless to say, we worked up an appetite.
I was careful to prepare Myals’ plate with baby-friendly portions of chopped fruits, vegetables, and even a main entree. I refilled his milk and added a few cheese cubes on the side. Daddy was eating leftovers from the fridge, and also whatever else might be leftover on Myals’ plate. Alas, it was time to eat!
A few bites in, and Myals said something that I’ll never forget:
Perplexed, I had to reply: “What did you say?” Even louder, he shouted:
“Bee witches?” I asked one more time. Frustrated that we couldn’t connect, he sounded off at the top of his lungs:
“No, Daddy! BEEEEEEEEE WITCHES!!!“
He left the table and started yelling it a few more times. Still at the table, I didn’t know what to do, except to eventually join him on the floor to play trucks with him again. We left lunch on the table to snack on till naptime.
Deep down, I was sad, concerned, and worried. My two-year-old son had shared something with me that he really wanted me to know. Yet, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. When I can’t connect with others due to my own misunderstanding, it truly breaks my heart. It makes me want to know what I can do better to sustain connection in the future.
It wasn’t until much, much later that I finally got it.
Contact the Experts
For nearly two decades, I taught elementary math, science, and STEM. Yet, the opportunities to integrate with all other disciplines, especially reading, are as far-reaching as the universe itself. And what better time to research our elementary reading programs, tools, and instructional strategies than during COVID shelter-in-place? There’s never a bad time to explore how the human brain learns to read. Reading is foundational to all other learning and life experiences.
Here’s another topic I want to know more about, and one more reason why I appreciate my professional learning network. When I don’t know something, I contact the experts. I’m grateful to have some in my immediate spaces. Through various Google Meets, I learned more about LetterLand, EL Education, and the methods in which children learn how to read.
Reading the Big Picture
Of all the valuable takeaways, this 30,000-foot view especially sticks with me. Please accept my very general paraphrasing, here…
Learning how to read goes in three major stages:
Memorize. Learn skills. Memorize.
1–A baby memorizes and repeats what’s heard.
2–As children grow, they learn reading skills. They identify symbols, learning that each symbol is a letter with its own individual sound. Combining letters forms blends and syllables to make words. Groups of words can form phrases, clauses, and sentences. And so much more…
3–Children memorize [site] words they’ve learned to read.
If Myals was in step 1 as a baby, where had our son heard something like Beeeeeeeee Witches?
And then it hit me…
With Myals on her lap, Grandma had modeled the joy of eating vegetables, circling with spoonfuls, and repeating: “Mmm, mmm, mmm…