Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Practise Makes Proficient

Have you put yourself in a learning situation lately? Have you challenged your mind and been forced to learn something new?

Recently I've been brushing up on my extremely rusty Spanish language skills in preparation for a holiday in Spain (yay!....although.....not so happy to learn there are tarantulas there...). Putting myself in the position of a learner in this way has been very interesting. I've remembered a few things about how it feels to be a learner and what it takes to really feel like you know something well.
Here are 3 important things I remembered about being a learner:

Firstly, it's tiring and it takes real mental effort not to give up when the going gets hard.
Secondly, if you're faced with too much new information at once it all seems unachievable. Small chunks of learning are best.
Thirdly, it takes a lot of practise before you really know something...just when you think you know it, you find out you need more practise. I'll give you an example:

I know the numbers 1 - 10 in Spanish. I do. I learned them at University and I can recite them to you no problem. So I was most confused the other night when I sat down to learn the numbers 20 - 100 and found that 1 - 10 kept slipping from my mind. It fascinated me. I would get to 23 and then...mental blank...what is 4?! It kept happening. 55...56....blank...what is 7?!
I stopped and recited 1 - 10 a few more times. It helped a little - in that moment. But what I began to think of was those children in my class who would be counting forwards and get stuck in the same way. I would always wonder why when they clearly knew the numbers 1 - 10. Or did they?

When I think of the numbers 1 - 10 in Spanish, I realise I don't really KNOW them. I know what they are, I can tell you what they are, but they're not ingrained in my knowledge and memory bank. I haven't written them enough, used them enough in context, thought with them enough, seen them enough...I haven't practised them enough. I think I need to practise 1 - 10 a bit more before I can begin to get fluent with 20 - 100 and then I would have to do the same with 20 -100.

Do we spend enough time with children getting to know those numbers? Really getting to know them..forwards, backwards, upside down (ok not that far). Numbers 1 - 100 are so vital and yet I think we might not provide enough opportunity for practise as soon as the student demonstrates that they can tell you the number order. It makes you think.....I mean...I can count 1 -10 in Spanish.......

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