I was lying in bed listening to a podcast by Sally Clarkson. Emma came in and out of my room a couple of times, each time telling me something about watching a mama bird feeding her babies in a nest.
I turned off the podcast each time so I could listen to her. Finally, I turned it off and fully engaged with Emma about the mama and baby birds.
I’m so glad I did.
She told me that she watched the mama bird coming to the nest over and over again and how the baby birds kept chirping the whole time the mama was gone. She sat outside and watched them all day yesterday (that explains her sunburn). I said something about her making good observations. She said, “Maybe I should write this down.” “Yes,” I responded, “maybe you should.”
She quickly began searching for a piece of paper so she could write it down. I asked where her notebook was. She got excited and said, “Oh yeah,” and started looking for her notebook. She found it and then went to find a pencil. She was all excited. I gave her some ideas about how to organize her notes.
She started writing and asking how to spell different words. She wanted to write the word “babies”, so I got to teach her the rule about making a plural by changing the Y to I and adding ES.
I asked a few guiding questions to make her think more about what she had seen. I asked where the mother bird went to get the food. Emma said “north… west…” Then I asked her if she knew which direction north was. I showed her and then explained to her about the sun coming up in the east and setting in the west and pointed to those directions while explaining. She said that the mother bird went to her little friend Fama’s back yard a lot because they have lots of grubs and bugs.
Then she said she was going to put a period. I didn’t look at what she was writing. She did almost all of it on her own. I only helped her with spelling when she asked for it. She expressed one sentence as a question, so I told her to put a question mark at the end of that sentence.
I didn’t look at what she wrote until she was gone. That keeps me from being critical and discouraging while she’s working on it.
After she left I looked at what she had written. Here it is:
First day: Baby bird chirp untill mother bird brings food for her babies.
Second day: Mother has to work all day to keep her babie’s satisfied.
Where does the mother bird go to get food? West south east or north
She probably go’s to Fama’s yard for food
I loved that this was all her idea. She was extremely interested in the subject. She wanted to do it. I didn’t push her at all. I didn’t tell her what to write or how much or anything. She enjoyed it from beginning to end. She was proud of her work. She wants to add more to it as she observes more.
She also drew a picture of baby birds in a nest, but I forgot to take a picture of it.
I will talk to her about proper use of periods at another time. I will also talk to her about proper use of apostrophes later. I was very proud of her work.
I think this is the best way for a child to learn – for anybody to learn, for that matter.
That’s my learning theory in a nutshell. Let them learn about what they are interested in. Show interest in what they are learning. Make some helpful suggestions here and there with no pressure. Let the project be theirs alone so that they have complete ownership of it. Let them figure out how to organize it, but give some tips and pointers and help them as they ask for it. Act interested and make yourself really take interest in what they are excited about.
This has worked well for us many times.
I haven’t done any more than this sort of thing with any of my kids, and several of my older kids are very good writers. I have never used a writing curriculum or even a language arts curriculum. I just wait for opportunities like this one. Teachable moments that naturally lend themselves to learning new skills and concepts. And I read good books to them – lots of good books.
I just thought I would share it here so that others may get some ideas that may be helpful to them, too.
Does this help you at all? Please share similar experiences here or leave feedback if this generates ideas or helps you to take advantage of teachable moments, too.