On Language. His and Mine

A few months ago Robert was classifying vehicles. He was supposed to place  a picture of a vehicle in one of the three categories : air, land, or water.   I didn’t anticipate any mistakes.  Based on my previous experiences with teaching Robert, this activity should be almost mechanical.  I was using it only as a visual support for practicing speech.   While placing each object in a proper column Robert was expected to say for instance, ” Airplane goes in the air” . To my dismay, Robert was making mistakes.  Many of them.   I couldn’t understand. He should have known. Yet he didn’t. Why?  I decided to present Robert with just two categories . I removed “land” leaving only “air” and “water”.  No errors.  “Air” and “land” many errors.  “Land” and “water” no errors.

It was clear, Robert couldn’t differentiate between objects  moving through the air and those moving on land. Did he forget? I showed him proper answers and repeated the task.  No improvement.   Was I mistaken in assuming that he knew what vehicles could fly?  I decided to check if he could hand me all the flying objects. He could.  No errors.

I replaced the word “air”  with the word “sky” . Now the categories were: sky, land, and water. Robert classified all the vehicles correctly.

I understood my blunder.  I assumed that if Robert knew what flew in the sky he should have known what traveled through air.  Since he knew that airplanes flew in the sky he should have known that “air”, in this context,  meant “sky”.  But then I recognized that he also knew that the airport was on the land. So…

How confusing!

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