Friday, November 07, 2008

Remembering To Go Where The Learner Is

So we found this great learning resource. It’s called Study Dog. It is a online literacy game. (Fairly pricey, but, if you can round up 11 friends, they lower the cost.) Study Dog has taken over Winston's brain. He absolutely adores it. He would sit and teach himself to read all day, if I let him. I had to pry him off of the computer this morning to go to his violin lesson. Then, I added a caveat. “You will only get to play Study Dog later if you are very focused in violin today.” Well he was more than focused. He had his best lesson this year.

I should be glowing with excitement. But, this has been incredibly difficult for me. I prefer a more natural, organic approach. I’d like to form letters with dough; draw them in the dirt; dance their pattern on the floor while we said their sounds.

He is not interested in a single idea of mine. (And until we met the most wonderful librarian, Miss Leanne, he was a reluctant reader.) I was puzzled. My only back up for teaching reading was to read to him; talk about the concepts when the opportunity presented itself; attack the infrequent work sheet; and trust that he would eventually pick it up.

But, in two days, Winston has learned more than I have been able to teach him for months. The program kept urging him to stop. It praised him for working so hard. It said, “we’ve done a lot today.” But, he just wants to keep going! It is the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen. Suddenly, I am confronted with actually practising what I preach.

This child will draw letters in the dirt. He will dance the patterns on the floor. He will use the worksheets I’ve gotten for him. But, he craves the fun and adventure of a game and the neutral privacy it provides him. He has preferences about the way in which he prefers to learn.

And facilitating those choices is what I believe in doing. A long time back, I posted a quote from a teacher I admire. (I think it was Kit Crawford from The Antioch School. ) She says, “Learning begins where the learner is.” It made so much sense to me. And it still does.

But, here I am...he wants to learn in a completely different way than I prefer to facilitate. But, then just to back her colleague Kit Crawford up, Jeanne Felker adds this other favourite bit of wisdom, “We have to move out of the way, so knowledge can move in. We have to make space for learning to happen.”

So, now I’m on a mission. I'm looking for other game-like educational resources. I like Study Dog because they did an initial assessment of his skills; tailored the game to his level; track his progress, and gives me detailed assessment. The only thing I don’t like is that none of the characters I’ve met as non-white. (But, they have this other bonus of letting him use the points earned in his game to order little toys as a reward.) So any tips would be useful.


Ferocious Kitty said...

Have you rounded up 11 friends yet? If not, count me in!!


Karen James said...

We like:

The first one has reading and is free. The second is exploratory and is also free. The third has weekly videos that you don't have to sign up to see, but we did sign up because there are other lesson ideas and games. One game I think you guys might love is called Magic Pen, which uses geometry and physics to achieve a desired goal:

I think this Studydog is a great site. I could be friend #3 if you're hoping to find 11 people!


max said...

I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that girls and boys hate to put down. My web site is at and my Books for Boys blog is at I also have a short story in a new book called LAY UPS and LONG SHOTS, published by Darby Creek Publishing. I'm also featured in an article in the 2009 edition of Children's Writer Guide.

My other books are all ranked by Accelerated Reader

Max Elliot Anderson