Hunter Park Kindergarten

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What's in a word?

A past parent recently asked me, "what really is the point of teaching children Te Reo Maori, they'll never use it in the real world, they'd be better learning something like French or Mandarin."

It's a good question to which there are many answers.

One answer is words, think for a minute how you would say "nuclear missile" to an ancient celt? "Spear that strikes mountains as lightning strikes trees?"

When you learn a language you don't just learn sounds that come out of your mouth but concepts and ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world that other languages may simply not have the words to express. Remember hypotenuse? Perhaps that's why New Zealanders are seen as so creative, because we combine within ourselves ideas and words the rest of the world simply doesn't have access to.

A big part of learning to be an effective teacher is learning the language of teaching, most jobs have it their own special jargon and ways of thinking, that's one reason why a person straight off the street can't expect to be a fully effective teacher without training any more than I could become a world class chef overnight, even though I cook.

But what about jargon, what about your everyday words, the words you use every day! When did you learn most of the words and concepts you've spent the rest of your life relying on, the words of society, friendship, courage, contribution, exploration, communication, belonging and wellbeing?

In Early childhood of course. That's why it's so important to have a rich vocabulary around your children, but it must be in context. Children of this age are concrete thinkers, they learn best when they physically experience the concepts that go with the words. That's why I often prefer the label conceptary education to describe us that simply Early Childhood Education.

It's also why we have to ensure in our quest to keep kids safe we ensure they still get the full and rich experiences they deserve and not wrap them in bubble wrap. Kids need quality and quantity, experiences should be repeated so they can return to them and grow their understanding as they explore. Check out these snippets of some of the exploration this term.

Hear the words in the videos. "now it's my turn", "come back", think how you now use those words, think about what they're learning as they say the words that will set them up for life.

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