How to Glue Concepts Together So Children Will Remember Them
Glue – the substance that sticks things to one another – plays a very important role in the education of young children. I’m not talking about Elmer’s glue. I’m talking about the function and value of the sticky stuff. Glue sticks things to other things. If something is stuck to another thing, it is likely to stay there and not fall off and get lost.
Take sticky notes, for instance. Without the glue on the back, you couldn’t write yourself “don't forget” notes and place them on the edge of your monitor as task reminders. Without the glue on the back, those “don't forget” notes would pile up, get shoved to the side of the desk, end up under papers to file or bills to pay, and eventually wind up fluttering to the floor to mix with the dust bunnies. (I know this from bitter experience ;)
Beyond sticky notes and fun crafts, how does glue play an important role in the education of young children?
How to Use Glue
1. Glue Concepts Together
Instead of teaching a child the whole alphabet, then teaching him or her to relate sounds to each letter, try picking up an A, sound it, then pick up a T, sound it, then glue them together to make a word!
Doing this will immediately show the child what letters and sounds are for, will show the child that combining letters together make words we can use to communicate with another person, and will encourage them to want to construct more words to use! Once the A and the T are glued together, you can pick up an F, sound it, and glue it to the front of AT. Eureka! Another word, and only three sounds used!
2. Glue Symbols to Real Objects
Symbols are really hard for many young children to handle. They are abstract, and to a young child might seem totally arbitrary. I mean why does E have three arms and not five or six? Why do they point right instead of left or even down? Why does an S have to open to the right on top instead of being face down? Face it - symbols are boring, UNLESS you glue them to objects from real life that are interesting to the child. For instance, the zig-zag that is letter M is confusing to many children. Some write it like this: W. Some add an extra zig or zag. Gluing the symbol to something real makes learning it fun, and remembering it easy. Glue a kinesthetic element to learning the symbol for M by saying, "Climbing UP the side of the mountain (puff, puff), whew! Made it to the top! Sit down, slide down the side…but wait! There is another mountain! So climb up the side (puff, puff, puff), whew! Made it to the top! Now, sit down, and slide all the way to the ground!"
3. Glue Letter Sounds to Fingers
Those same children that have a hard time keeping track of all the details of letters such as their shapes and their sounds, frequently have a difficult time manipulating the arrangement of letters/sounds into words. The letters that are available from which to make words float like disembodied fragments in space with nothing to anchor them together or to the paper. When you are helping a young child write a word, it will help a lot if they anchor those individual letters to their fingers so they can SEE the sequence all at one time, so they can see how many there are, what order they are in, etc. I call this practice “finger-mapping.” Just as a visual person will have an easier time with directions if they can see the route on a map – see the shape of the route on a map – children will enjoy seeing the map of the word they are going to write. (Read more about fingermapping here.)
Take the word CAT, for instance. Many young children, who are beginning to learn to read, mix up the sounds of a word when they write it, and very often they leave out the middle letter. If you hold up three fingers and assign each one to a sound, it will be easy for the child to see how many sounds there are, what order they go in, and they will be able to quickly identify which sound was left out by referring back to your finger map of the word.
4. Glue Parts to the Whole
It is far easier for a child to learn a concept if they can see where it fits into the general scheme of things. You might call it “locating the part within the global whole.” One problem children have with the way reading is traditionally taught is that they learn how to read or spell a word, but then before they know what has happened, that rule has CHANGED. It is so confusing! Good example: how many ways can you pronounce ough? A child will learn at some point that ENOUGH sounds like ENUF. So it would appear that ough really says UF. Another time, they will learn that THOUGH sounds like thō. In this case, ough really says ō. Another day comes and THOUGHT is the new word. This word sounds like THŎT, the ough sounding like ŎT. Many a valiant child would give up at this point; nothing makes any sense. It is a great idea to try introducing all the variables together in their global whole, as in the image to the right.
Once children know that is all and no more, they will have no problem absorbing the idea that there truly are six ways to pronounce OUGH.
These hints are all powerfully visual and tactile, and make for the friendliest way to teach a child so that learning is easy and fun! Using these types of methods to teach will act very much like glue, in that you will attract the child to learning, and the concept will stick in their memory unforgettably.
If you have any questions, we are here to help!