kitchen table math, the sequel: what is a consonant, Mommy?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

what is a consonant, Mommy?

le radical galoisien writes:
I do sometimes wonder about introducing linguistics topics early. I remember when I first went into it I did wonder often, "so why didn't I learn this in elementary school?" Things like what exactly is a consonant, what exactly is a vowel, or a liquid, and what's the exact difference between [p] and [k] and [s].
I agree.

I think Diane McGuinness makes the same point in her book, though I can't find the passage now: why would you deliberately withhold this knowledge from children?

on French:
I do think an emphasis on sound is helpful when you're trying to teach young children *foreign* languages in the classroom. Take French for example -- if you think English spelling is hard, wait till you see the homophony of French and I know French adults who regularly misspell basic conjugations because they all sound the same.

Comment en est-on arrivé là? 4.25.2008
French spelling 11.16.2008
Le scandale de l'illettrisme 9.14.2007
Dyslexie, vraiment? 9.14.2007
French spelling 11.16.2008


MagisterGreen said...

I can only speak from personal experience, but most of the high school students I teach in Latin had (before they came to me) no idea at all what the differences are between consonants and vowels, nevermind the distinctions between the types of consonants. When I explain the shift of 'n' to 'm' before plosives, and then explain what plosives are and why we call them that, it invariably prompts immediate "ooh"s and "aah"s before triggering a digression into all the English words they know that now "make sense" to them. There's also usually at least one student in the class for whom this revelation explains how the English prefix "im-" is the same as "in-" but they never knew it.

I'd give this all up and go teach basic English to small kids if I didn't know that I'd be drummed out in a week. But we do what we can, with a smile and a quiet sigh.

Catherine Johnson said...

Yes, well, I for one have no idea what plosives are or why we call them that.

I love this comment.

What these people just don't seem to grasp is that it's fun to know stuff!

It's not just helpful (essential) to learn the alphabetic principle, rather than glean it through incidental learning, when a child is learning to read.

It's fun.

K9Sasha said...

But Catherine, that's because you, and I, and everyone here at KTM, like to learn.

I had an surprisingly incurious class last year. Toward the end of the year I posted questions like
"What fruit has its seeds on the outside?"
"Why is it colder on top of a mountain when it's closer to the sun?"
and others of that type.

Not a single student in the class was curious enough to try to answer any of the questions. When I was in 5th grade and my teacher posted similar questions, I couldn't wait to try and find the answer. It was fun!

Catherine Johnson said...

Not a single student in the class was curious enough to try to answer any of the questions.

wow - that's interesting (see? I do like to learn!)

Any thoughts why that was?

Michael Weiss said...

See, to me, "curious" doesn't mean "wanting to know the answer to somebody else's questions". It means, asking questions of your own. The hardest thing to do in teaching is to get students to ask questions of their own. In fact many people think this is impossible -- that curiosity is an innate quality that you either have, or don't.

I think it's curious that people are generally willing to agree that curiosity can be crushed, but many doubt that curiosity can be cultivated.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm pretty curious about everything, including other people's questions!

Catherine Johnson said...

btw, curiosity is what Jaak Panksepp calls SEEKING.

It's one of the 5 core emotions. Barring brain and/or genetic damage, everyone has it.

I assume curiosity can be crushed or cultivated -- though it does seem as if people & animals probably have something like a 'set point' for characteristic levels of the various emotions....