May 31, 2008


I was talking to Ben Slavic about how children learn. The typical textbook breaks languages down into neat little discrete boxes of information. First you learn this box, and then you are allowed to go on to the next one. Students are not exposed to the language in any real, meaningful way because it is always broken down into these little boxes - literally and figuratively. I told him that I think this approach is a lot like teaching about Seurat's paintings.

Either, you can show the students the dots and then branch out and show them how all the dots connect and make a picture, or you can show them the picture, let them see the rays of sunshine and the people strolling about on the lawn, and then zoom in on it to show them the dots.

Which way will get students interested? How interesting are dots? If we start with the dots, how can we expect kids to care about what happens to them? If we start with the picture, maybe they will fall in love with it.

Seurat was great, not because he used dots, but because he created light on canvas, and he happened to use dots to do that.

Languages are great, not because they use grammar, but because they connect people and they communicate and they happen to use grammar to do that.

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