Under ” The Great Kapok Tree” Thinking about “A Day’s Work” and Other Things

April 12, 2015

Today, Robert and I read The Great Kapok Tree.  I prepared myself for this book by getting ideas and a couple of graphic organizers from The Magic of Stories.  Of course neither ideas nor graphic organizers are ideal match for Robert.  I also looked for books and websites about trees and rain forest in particular.  To my surprise I found three books in Robert’s bookcase.  Two by Scholastic, and one in 3D I bought in Costco. All of them had many pictures but not many pages or words.  Robert didn’t read, we just talked (mainly I did the talking) about what we saw in the pictures in four books (Including The Great Kapok Tree).   In the afternoon, we finally read the book.  It had an easy to follow structure.  On each page, a different animal spoke to the sleeping woodcutter convincing him not to cut the tree. It was easy for Robert to retell the story,  He did that by turning pages and naming the animals appearing next to the man.

The next book I am planning to read with Robert is “A Day’s Work” . I don’t think it would be easy for Robert to understand the problem.  The boy lies about his grandfather’s skills to make sure that his grandpa finds a work. And yet, I would not know how to present the same general problem without any support from the book.  If we read and properly (?) analyze the book, Robert at least has a chance to become familiar with the issues the boy and his grandpa faced in the story. Without reading, there is no chance to enlarge Robert’s world.

This is similar to the problem I had when Robert was 3, 4, or 5 and I wanted to teach him to put pictures in a proper sequence.  At that time, Robert would not grasp the story behind the set of images, but he had much fewer difficulties placing in order pictures representing stages needed to complete simple drawing – be it a house or a basket with fruit.  At that time I didn’t use those cards to help Robert draw a picture but to help him learn the concept of a sequence.  From that we graduated toward images of children completing an action – building a snowman, carving Jack o’ Lantern, finishing a puzzle, or setting a table.

Retelling The Great Kapok Tree was like putting pictures in a sequence (Although it was also a great exercise in presenting  different perspectives.)  It would be much harder for Robert to understand and retell A Day’s Work. But as I said we have to try.

As I am leading Robert in learning, I also learn myself. I didn’t know what kapok tree was.  I saw pictures of it on web site for the first time. And thus inescapable question, “What is the point of teaching Robert things I haven’t learned myself despite my 61 years on Earth?”

I asked the same question yesterday, when Robert and I were learning new words about ships and boats.  I didn’t know what was hull, keel, or helm.  Of course, I appreciate learning myself as it at least helps me to understand the phrase of someone being at the helm. But if I survived without knowing, why does Robert need to know?  That might be completely useless knowledge for him. Why then I didn’t skip those words in the workbook?

Well, who am I to limit Robert’s exposure to new information.  If there is knowledge that could be accessible to him even in a minimal aspects of it, then I shouldn’t be the one who prohibit him from learning.  I met too many people who believing that if Robert learns one thing then his brain doesn’t have capacity for learning other , more important, things.  That is  why I was laughed at when I admitted, at one point or another, to teaching Robert counting by five,reading maps, understanding calendars, or fractions.

It was sad to see that many educators didn’t understand that learning one thing is not an obstacle to learning something else.  to the contrary, the things you have already learn help you better understand new connections and new concepts.

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