Monday, January 27, 2014

The Charlotte Conundrum

SPOILER: If you haven't read Charlotte's Web, information about the end of that classic book follows. Don't read on if that's going to ruin things for you.


We have been reading aloud Charlotte's Web for...well, forever. I tried to get into a regular routine with it, but things have intervened throughout these weeks, so it's taken us a long time to get through it.

We reached the big moment toward the end of the book. I read, "Charlotte died." A few gasps. One of my guys said, "Who died? Charlotte? Who's Charlotte?"

WHAT? Who's Charlotte?!!? The title character of this book we've been reading for weeks and weeks! The one that makes a web! She's the most important one in this book...the one driving the action! She's the spider!

"The spider," I said. And continued reading.

Of course, I pondered on this as I drove home that day (and since). So many times I work on ways to engage kids in learning...to help them discover and explore and learn important stuff. They seem to get it. Until they don't.

They can talk about a story or vocabulary words. They can talk about numbers and decompose them. They can add, subtract, and bubble in answers.

Until a few weeks later when they can't.

Did they learn it? Yes...and no.

My Charlotte experience reminds me that I need to continue to talk and explore and engage on things we've already "learned." They did know it when we did the test or activity. But now they may not remember it. After all, we've talked and explored and engaged on other things since then.

They may ask, "Who's that? What's that?" I'll take a deep breath (suppress the "We've done that") and help them rediscover the answer. Using, applying, relearning. That's the way to build understanding.

We'll keep building, brick by brick.

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