Order in Learning
We live in an era when people believe they can do as they want, obey the laws if they want or disobey them if they are inconvenient. Change their opinions whenever they chose. Put anything together in the way of curriculum and it will work.
This is not so. To be effective, learning must follow a logical sequence. Each step must be mastered before progressing to the next step.
English must be taught in a specific order to be effective. There are four parts to English –reading, comprehension, written expression and grammar and these gradually overlap, however everything starts with phonics.
- Phonics—learning the sounds. There are over 100 of them and many of them have rules, e.g., a says o as in was, what or squash when it follows “w”, “wh”, or “qu”.
- Spelling—children learn to spell the words they can sound so they can change the sequence e.g., if you have learnt the “at” sounds then you can spell cat, hat, mat etc.
- Words—the sounds are then run together to make words.
- Sentences—words are then connected to make sentences
- These sentences combine to form reading passages.
- Comprehension—comprehension is a different skill from reading. Comprehension is about understanding exactly what the author has said. It is never about guessing or interpreting.
Teaching writing is teaching students how to think, to order and synthesise their thoughts, and gives them the skills to demonstrate what they know.
Research shows writing skills are linked to reading comprehension, thinking and speaking
- Writing words is the next logical step and this is generally mastered at the same time the child learns to read.
- Writing sentences—a child starts with a single sentence and learns to build on it.
- Writing paragraphs—progressing from a single sentence to three or more sentences on the same topic
- Writing a story that is made up of paragraphs and contains a beginning, middle and end
- Writing different genres
Grammar provides the structure of a sentence. It allows you to put words together in such a way that the meaning will not be misunderstood.
- A sentence must contain a noun and a verb, e.g., John ran.
- It will generally have a subject and a predicate, e.g., in John ran fast, John is the subject and ran fast is the predicate.
- The rules of grammar are gradually introduced so the complexity of the written work improves and the person is better able to communicate.
While a noun and a verb make a sentence, e.g., John ran, it gives you little information. If however you add an adverbial phrase, e.g., John ran to his uncle, you have doubled the information available to the reader. The sentence can be made more complex by adding an adverbial clause and adverbial phrase, e.g., John ran to his uncle because he was afraid of the dog. (“he was afraid” is the adverbial clause; “of the dog” is the adverbial phrase.)
Maths has its own order too. The second and third step listed below need to be learnt by heart so the child can progress to more advanced maths. The best calculator is your brain.
- Writing and counting to 20
- Adding and subtracting to first 10, then 20
- Multiplication—learning the tables
- Fractions—these are vitally important to any further maths as much of later maths is based on fractions.
- Decimals—at its most basic this is our currency, but few children in school have mastered this concept.
- Percentages—if one is to use a credit card or take out a loan, or even want to invest money, this is an essential skill.
I have illustrated some of the early steps in learning. Miss any of these and later work will not make sense. These are the foundations we use to function within society and express ourselves.
Whether you are learning spelling, english, maths or science the subject needs to be learnt in a logical order. People cannot just pick and choose the pieces they like and ignore those they don’t. Gaps in learning lead to a lack of understanding at higher levels which becomes worse and worse as the child grows. Better to know a little well, than have an education that is like a sieve. (We all know how much stays in a sieve.)