What does it mean to know something? What is learning?
We talk about rote learning and meaningful learning. It is true that both are learning, but they are very different. Is one better than the other?
Rote learning refers to things that can be, or are memorized, usually by continued repetition, and does not require/involve understanding. Singing the alphabet and/or saying numbers in order are examples of rote learning.
Meaningful or conceptual learning refers to learning with understanding attached; it is the ability to relate new information to prior knowledge. Being able to identify the alphabetic and numeric symbols alone will not lead to reading or math unless children develop the understanding that letters represent sounds and are put together to form words and that numbers represent quantity and order and there are patterns to the numerical system. Therefore, though rote learning is necessary, it is not enough. Connections must be drawn to make the information meaningful.
Our hands-on, experiential approach to preschool learning in The Experiential School of Tampa Bay goes hand-in-hand with the teachers’ open-ended questions. This leads to the students making connections and building a strong foundation of conceptual understanding upon which they will be able to continue to extend their knowledge.
How does this work? Letters and numerals are marks without meaning until related to spoken language or quantity. A child may be able to point out his name on a list, but not understand that the individual marks on the paper are the letters he recites. He may be able to say the letters in his name but not understand that the “A” he says relates to the symbol, “a.” He may say “A” when the letter is pointed out, but not yet have the understanding that “A” represents the sound “ah” or “ay.” He must have experiences that relate these symbols, letter names and sounds to each other.
The same is true of numerals and counting; the relationship between the spoken number and written numeral must be learned through actual counting experiences that demonstrate that each number represents and corresponds to one item. It is not by monotonous repetition that this happens.
For learning to be effective, lasting and meaningful, it should be varied, interesting and engaging. For children, that means making it fun! If you want to help your child develop cognitive skills and understand concepts, don’t rely on workbooks and flash cards – you'll find neither in The Experiential School.
Whether your child is developing his or her knowledge and understanding of letter names, sounds or familiar words, rhyming, opposites, positional words, numerals, counting with one-to-one correspondence, or recognizing and extending patterns, there are ways to do it that are more effective and fun. If you need ideas on how to do this, ask a teacher in The Experiential School. We’ll be happy to talk with you about it!